Saturday, October 10, 2009

mini haha

An unusual vehicle got our attention when my wife and I stopped for dinner on our way home last Sunday. We were at Chipotle near the Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem. A minivan festooned with Mickey Mouse heads pulled into a parking space outside. I had finished eating, so I went to my own car and got the camera. The shapes reflected the camera flash, creating an unusual image.

The man with the van said he was a fan of all things Disney. His family visits Walt Disney World every year. He got the idea for his van's decorations when he had some excess reflective material from the ambulance he drives. He designed the bubbling Mickey heads on his computer and had a friend at an auto signage shop cut the pieces by using the design. The man likes being noticed. Before owning a minivan, he used to have a truck with the most neon in North Carolina. At least that's what he said.

When I got back to our table inside the restaurant, my wife commented that things like this happen to me often. She said we can go just about anywhere and a blog topic will fall into my lap. I think my natural curiosity helps me to take notice of things that interest me. When my wife and I went to see the World's Largest Rocking Chair, I saw a man with a welding torch and asked him what was going on. If we had merely taken a quick picture and gotten back in our car, we would have missed seeing the one and only time the chair actually rocked. It was worth waiting a few minutes to experience kitsch history. It's also possible that I am somewhat more approachable than most people. I feel that people often ask me for directions at a traffic light or for help in a store. In all fairness, I'm just as likely to be the one asking someone else for help.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

thanks for noticin'

A couple of things struck me as weird on store shelves in St. Louis. My wife and I went to Lowe's to make a copy of the key to Aunt Dee's apartment. It was the first time we had seen Disney's latest effort to reach the latchkey kid market. Several characters were represented but we felt that Eeyore was the most appropriate.

At a Shop 'n Save, we saw another product targeted toward children. The bottled water label must have said "Aquapod," however it looked worse. You tell me what you think it says. I was reminded of the Clean Smart sign and of the brave Alcoa lifeguards that I wrote about last year.

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Friday, May 29, 2009


"Up" is not a children's movie. It is a tearjerking, tenderhearted comedy that will resonate most with the middle-aged and the elderly. It is also a masterpiece of film making and of storytelling. My teenage son loved it too. He put "Up"in his top 3 of all Pixar movies, which means that either "Toy Story," "Monsters, Inc." or "The Incredibles" has to drop to number 4.

My wife, our son and I saw a preview screening of the movie last night at the Regal Pinnacle Stadium 18. Fortunately, I knew very little about the plot beforehand, which meant I was constantly surprised by the twists and turns of the tale. The review in USA Today yesterday indicated that there was an amazing montage at the beginning of the movie. They undersold it. The exquisite encapsulation of the life of curmudgeon Carl Fredricksen was so moving that I found myself laughing, crying and everything in between. Those eight minutes are as good a love story as any film I can remember.

However "Up" couldn't hold the attention of some of the youngest kids in the audience last night. They simply didn't have the life experience to appreciate the heartwarming and heartbreaking aspects of Carl's relationship with his precious wife. The television ads emphasize that the movie is "funny, funny, funny." It would be more accurate to say "funny, sad, exciting." I was reminded of the trailer for "Miracle on 34th Street," in which the studio executives didn't know how to market a movie that hits the full range of emotions.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

me gotta go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009


A bootleg DVD caught my daughter's eye this past weekend. As she told me about it, I was reminded of the bunch of bootlegs I saw at a well-known knife store in Sevierville about three years ago. She knew that "Song of the South" is permanently locked away in the Disney Vault and shouldn't have been on display at the Capital Home & Garden Show at the Dulles Expo Center. However it was another title that made her think of me and take a picture with her camera phone.

For years I have been futilely awaiting a DVD release of the 1960s TV classic, "Batman." As far as we can tell, there seems to be either a stalemate between Fox and Warner Bros. or there are too many guest stars and others whose estates deserve royalties. Apparently some people have given up waiting and have been making and selling their own DVDs on the circuit. My daughter saw at least three volumes of "Batman" episodes for sale at the Expo Center. While I wanted it, I would still rather wait for the real thing.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

come out to socialize

The antique hearse out front reminded me of a display outside the Haunted Mansion. However I wasn't back at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. I was at Stevens Mortuary in Knoxville. The hearse is inside a gazebo-like structure with glass walls and doors.

The Internet has many more photos of horse-drawn hearses still in use today. One site states that Roy Rogers was a collector of horse-drawn hearses. Too bad Trigger predeceased him.

Inside the mortuary I picked up a magnet commemorating Stevens' 50th anniversary. The magnet got me thinking about other promotional products for funeral homes. I found places online that sell euchre score cards, hand fans, tote bags and other miscellaneous items.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

holy hurdles!

A couple of years ago Disney and Universal traded Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to settle a dispute. Universal had the rights to the cartoon character Walt created before Mickey Mouse. Disney got the rights to Oswald by allowing Al Michaels to move from Disney-owned ABC to Universal-owned NBC.

I was reminded of Oswald when my friend Bean sent me a link to an article at the Comic Book Resources site. He knew I would be interested in a potential bargaining chip that could help resolve a lawsuit between 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. over the upcoming movie "Watchmen." So, who might save the day? TV's Batman! According to the article, Fox wants to get some rights from Warner to finally release my favorite show on DVD. They might then drop their suit to block the release of "Watchmen."

Before I get my hopes too high and bust open my piggy bank, TV Shows on DVD reports that there are still many more issues that also need to be settled before the 120 episodes of campy fun can be put on disc. At least Adam West has started working on his own version of DVD extras that could be released separately from the series.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008


First of all, "WALL-E" is a very good movie, despite what happened. We went to see it yesterday to escape the heat at the Smoky Mountain Invitational swim meet, just like last year when we saw "Ratatouille." If this weren't our fourth and final year going to the meet, we could have started our own Pixar tradition.

Our son had to be at the Springbrook Pool in time for team warm ups at 7:30 a.m. While he hit the water, my wife bought a heat sheet and checked his schedule. With 33 teams and a ton of swimmers participating, there would be a lot of time between his four events. He was due to swim at 9:49 a.m., 1:15 p.m., 6:44 p.m. and 8:46 p.m. The five and a half hour window between his second and third races gave us the perfect opportunity to get away for a while. The well-run meet had gotten 25 minutes ahead of schedule by 11:45 a.m. but that time vanished when everything stopped for half an hour.

Although it's an older theater, all the screens at the Carmike Foothills 12 offer digital projection. I now find it hard to watch movies without DLP. The beginning sequence of "WALL-E" is as good as all the critics said it was. I especially got a kick out of hearing a song from "Hello, Dolly!" that mentioned my old hometown of Yonkers in the first few seconds. Maybe it was the hours we had already spent in the sun or perhaps the cool air in the dark theatre or maybe it was the scarcity of dialogue in the story that made my eyelids start getting heavy toward the middle of the movie. I'll have to watch the whole thing again when it's on satellite next year.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

now conceals, now discloses

That flag billboard has a rodent on it, said my wife as we drove west on I-40. The rest of us in the car weren't looking the same way and didn't see it. Perhaps it was a patriotic message from Brown Squirrel Furniture, I suggested. The billboard is west of Cedar Bluff Road but east of Brown Squirrel's location. No, it didn't have a bushy tail, she said.

On our next trip past it, I too saw the rodent shape. It almost could have been a hidden Ratatouille, similar to the hidden Mickey Mouse images around the Disney theme parks. Upon closer inspection, it's merely a shadow on the billowing flag to give the photograph some depth, not a political commentary from Lamar Advertising. Happy Independence Day!

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Monday, June 30, 2008

no joke

The bad news came via the Google Alert I have set up for comedy improv information. One of my favorite venues for improv, the Comedy Warehouse (and the other five nightclubs) at Walt Disney World's Pleasure Island will close in September.

A Virginia-based blogger had the official Disney press release and a theory that it was Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville at Universal City Walk that killed Pleasure Island. Another "Mouse expert" wrote that the Comedy Warehouse was sparsely attended on weeknights. He also says that some performers at the Adventurers Club were encouraged to audition for a job at the new American Idol Experience. Yet another Mouse blogger believes that Disney crippled Pleasure Island before killing it. Readers who posted comments on the Orlando Sentinel site aren't happy about the closures either.

When radio is done with me, I had thought I might move to Orlando and watch improv everyday, much like the people complaining on a Disney-themed message board. Some of them chose time shares based on their proximity to the Comedy Warehouse and the Adventurers Club.

I hope that the Comedy Warehouse cast members (especially Lisa) can get jobs doing improv in the theme parks, like the group I saw in March. At the very least, they should be able to perform with one of the talented Orlando troupes like SAK. The closing makes me especially blue that I was too tired to go to the Comedy Warehouse on my last visit to Walt Disney World. My one ticket might have kept them in business a little longer.

The name of the Comedy Warehouse makes me think of a quote from Adam Carolla that I read on his Wikipedia page. He describes himself as a comedy factory, not a comedy warehouse. Like Adam, improvisers are comedy factories, always making up new material. Stand-up comics are comedy warehouses, with a supply of well-rehearsed jokes that they reuse night after night. Ironically the Comedy Warehouse featured improv while the Laugh Factory showcases stand-ups.

Here in Knoxville, I have noticed an increase in attendance at our Tuesday night improv shows. Then I noticed that Patrick Sullivan's has started to occasionally mention Einstein Simplified in their weekly Metro Pulse ad. I'm no genius but I think there might be a correlation.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008


There are a few random thoughts still in my notebook from Walt Disney World. I'll unload them here.

I noticed a lot of areas around the theme parks set aside for the Disney Vacation Club time share pitch. At each place, a lonely cast member stood by with brochures while a video screen played an infomercial. I'm thankful that they hadn't moved the sales presentations into the ride queues where they would alienate a captive audience. I'll bet that somebody suggested it in a meeting though.

While trying to find an easier way to get from the Magic Kingdom to Disney's Hollywood Studios, I saw a sign at the Transportation Center for buses headed to Shades of Green. Being unfamiliar with the concept, I asked a waiting lady what it meant. I was pleased to hear that it's a military hotel known as an Armed Forces Recreation Center.

The only flaw in an otherwise perfect vacation was the long wait for Disney Transport. One of the other people at our convention thought that higher gas prices may have forced Disney to cut back on the frequency of the buses that take guests from the hotel to the theme parks and back. While we waited for a bus to Epcot, we saw at least three buses going to the Magic Kingdom. The next day when we were going to the Magic Kingdom, we saw at least three buses going to Epcot. Each time we waited over half an hour for our bus. Once we got one, it was packed full of passengers.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

the good, the bad and the ugly

While at Walt Disney World this weekend, my wife and I tried to visit some attractions we didn't see last year. We got home last night but the blog posts about the trip continue.

My wife was interested in the Test Track ride at Epcot. We saved a lot of time by using the single riders line. As long as you don't mind riding in separate cars, it's better than waiting in the long regular line. Because a light rain had started to fall, they made several announcements that the ride might have to close at any time. Since our line was moving fast, we didn't miss out.

When we went to the Magic Kingdom, I wanted to ride the Carousel of Progress, which was originally part of the 1964 World's Fair. The voice of the audio-animatronic father seemed familiar to me. It was Jean Shepherd, who I remember from childhood as a great storyteller on WOR-AM. Most people know his voice from "A Christmas Story." Last night my wife was complaining that the song "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" was stuck in her head. As much as I wanted to enjoy it, I had trouble keeping my eyes open during the show.

Two years ago I went on a face character photo safari. Instead of Disney princesses, this year I saw Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella. They seem to have a lot more fun teasing the guests than Cinderella ever could.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

have to make it up

Faced with the choice of using my Park Hopper pass to visit any of the Walt Disney World theme parks or going to a convention seminar with only a vague description in the brochure, the answer seemed simple, I was theme park bound. Then I bumped into Charna Halpern in the hallway. She said that her team would be running the 2:30 session. I knew that's where I had to be yesterday afternoon instead.

The highlight of last year's Children's Miracle Network convention was the workshop run by Charna and the group from improvOlympic. I remember being amazed at the difficulty some radio guys from other markets had with telling a story one word at a time. Joe Bill, who led our small group, arranged us in a circle and came up with a story title. We had to make up the story but we could each only say one word. The key is to listen to what's been said so far and when it gets to be your turn, the next word just comes to you. Sometimes the next word needs to be "the" or "and." Other times you get to use a more exciting noun, verb or adjective. That's where many of the deejays fell apart. They tried to overthink it, perhaps wanting to get a laugh with their word. They unsuccessfully tried to anticipate where the story was going and decided on their word before it was their turn. When their word didn't fit the story, they looked foolish and were frustrated by the game. In this exercise, the group is more important than the individual. Don't try to control it, let it control you.

This year's training session was completely different and just as worthwhile. There wasn't as much interaction on our part. Instead the actors from I.O. used improv games to show the important elements of telling a story. They told a Conducted Story that was heavy on facts and another that was nothing but descriptive details. Neither story was compelling. The third attempt was a nice balance of facts and details. Later they did a scene in two minutes and asked the audience to identify the essential and extraneous parts. They redid the scene in one minute and again in thirty seconds, each time paring the story down to its most important elements.

Because my appetite for watching improv is seemingly insatiable, my wife and I had planned to get over to the Comedy Warehouse at Pleasure Island tonight like we did last year and the year before. We ended up having too much fun at the Magic Kingdom and at the recently re-named Disney's Hollywood Studios. As a result we didn't make it back out to Downtown Disney. However I did get to see some unexpected improv by a group of street performers dressed up in old-fashioned Hollywood costumes. Their characters were trying to be named the funniest person in Hollywood. They did an improv game I know as "185" although the number they used was 99. A director got nouns from the surrounding crowd and the comedians had to complete the joke that goes "99 (nouns) walk into a bar. The bartender says we can't serve 99 (nouns) in here and the 99 (nouns) say (punchline)." I picked up a trick from them that I may have to use some Tuesday night at an Einstein Simplified show. A couple of the Disney improvisers added a line by having the nouns ask "Why not?" and then having the bartender deliver the punchline. If I ever can afford to retire, I'll have to move someplace where I can watch improv everyday.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

who doesn't?

When they said the Osmonds would be on stage tonight, they really meant it. By the end of their concert, the stage was completely packed with Osmonds, performing and otherwise. They were the headline entertainment at the Children's Miracle Awards, part of the Children's Miracle Network Celebration going on this week at Walt Disney World.

My wife and I wanted to see the performance but we wanted to skip the black-tie dinner that preceded it for two reasons. First, we didn't bring any formal wear with us to Florida. Second, the entrée was filet mignon on a Lenten Friday. Instead we went to Epcot to get fish for dinner. And by fish, I mean sushi at Tokyo Dining.

After dinner we tried to hurry back to the Coronado Springs Resort. Because it took us a long time to find a bus going from the hotel to Epcot before dinner, we thought it might be faster to make our return trip via Monorail from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom and then by bus back to the hotel. It wasn't. We worried that we might miss the Osmonds. Instead that fortunate mistake put us in the right place at the right time to have our pictures taken with Donny Osmond, who was crossing the hallway outside the ballroom about half an hour before showtime.

We used our ticket to the formal dinner to slip in to the back of the ballroom where we found a lone empty table just waiting for us. The award ceremony was almost over. Before long, the Osmonds (including Alan) came on and sang shortened versions of their hits. To mark their 50th anniversary in show business, the four original Osmond Brothers sang an old barbershop song about an auction. Donny & Marie came on to sing a medley of their most famous songs including "Little Bit Country / Rock and Roll," "Soldier of Love," "Paper Roses" and "Puppy Love." Marie stepped aside to let her brothers sing a medley. The only song of theirs that I recognized was "One Bad Apple." They had an odd song about horses and some loud pyrotechnics that took the crowd by surprise.

For their finale, the performing Osmonds brought on their two oldest brothers who are deaf. Jimmy was given the task of explaining how the performing Osmond Brothers got their start as a way to raise money for the education of the two deaf brothers. The serious mood was broken by a series of Wayne's corny jokes (wear two pair of pants when golfing in case you get a hole-in-one). Marie got choked up and got the crowd feeling the same way as she talked about what it must be like to be born deaf into a musical family. Then Donny invited all the other Osmonds in the audience to join them as they sang "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother." The two eldest signed as the others sang.

I had a chance to chat separately with Donny and Marie during my remote broadcast on Star 102.1 this morning. It's been about four and a half years since I last saw Donny at a Morning Show Bootcamp convention and about ten years since I booked him as a guest on KLOS. Every time I see him, Donny remembers me from when he would visit the Don & Mike show at WAVA. We were one of the first stations to play "Soldier of Love." One memorable morning we had Donny ride through DC in a limo while standing in the sunroof opening and shouting to passersby "I'm Donny Osmond, don't you wish you were me?"

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Friday, April 06, 2007

tonight on CSI: Toontown

While at Walt Disney World this past weekend, I noticed something in a gift shop that might make a perfect present for the couple who have their wedding or honeymoon at a Disney resort. I suggest a full set of plates from the "Dismembered Mickey" pattern:

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

no fooling

After last year's trip to Walt Disney World, my family decided that if we returned, EPCOT would stand for Experienced People Can Omit This. We were fortunate to be invited back to the Children's Miracle Network Celebration, which begins tomorrow morning. Over the weekend, we visited the Magic Kingdom, Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney-MGM Studios.

I was enjoying the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride at Animal Kingdom until the end when the natural beauty was spoiled by some corny storytelling. I have no problem with the ride's anti-poaching message, it's just that the mannequin in the airplane and the fake elephant in the truck detract from the experience. The fictional story tells you that a real animal has been injured. If they want to add entertainment value to the safari, use some retired jokes from the Jungle Cruise like "I don't recognize those animals over there behind the baby giraffe, they must be gnu."

We planned yesterday around attending the 10:00 p.m. show of "Fantasmic," which was a favorite of ours at Disneyland. I remember hearing some stories about people fleeing the previews of the show in 1992 because they didn't expect to get soaking wet. Last night, many people seated in front of us ran for higher ground once the water started spraying. We were seated in row M and still got wetter than we would have liked. Perhaps the seats in the splash zone should be painted with a warning, like at Sea World. The flash on my camera illuminated the water in the air:

The show has been updated somewhat since we last saw it in Anaheim. Unfortunately the updates are no improvement. Many of the most well known characters have been removed and replaced by a long segment with the villain from "Pocahontas." He leads a group of extras in a song about digging ditches. Nothing says fantasy like digging ditches. Why did they have to insert a history lesson into "Fantasmic?" It's supposed to be escapist entertainment about the battle between good and evil inside Mickey's imagination. If Ratcliffe stayed on any longer, I was going to suggest Mickey get a prescription for a good anti-psychotic from his psychiatrist.

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