Wednesday, March 24, 2010

obscure little research facility

Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass autographed each of their first four Body Farm novels when I interviewed them about the books. Because our interview for "The Bone Thief" was recorded before the finished products were back from the printer, my copy is not yet signed. Neither is the extra copy that HarperCollins sent me as a donation for the silent auction at the Star 102.1 Radiothon to benefit East Tennessee Children's Hospital. I will get both signed on Thursday night at Books-A-Million in Oak Ridge.

Fans of the Body Farm are happy that "The Bone Thief" got a nice mention in the current Entertainment Weekly. The magazine gave it a solid B.

While I was clicking around on the WBIR website, I found an extended interview with Dr. Bass that was fun to watch. He says a lot of the same type of stuff that we talk about in our radio conversations, which seemed to surprise the off-camera interviewer. You can hear Jim Matheny say that the joke about putting road kill under your computer would be web-only content.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

griddle me this

Each year Entertainment Weekly publishes a chart of which primetime TV shows to watch live and which to record on your DVR. It operates under the assumption that you can watch TV for three hours per night for a total of 21 hours per week. Their tastes are only a partial match with mine with 8½ hours of overlap. I decided to make my own grid. I was surprised that my total added up to only 16 hours per week. Well, 16½ if you count "Entourage," which ends its season in two weeks. Of course there will be an occasional special or primetime football game that will cause some reconfiguring.

The Amazing Race
Curb Your Enthusiasm

Dancing With the Stars
How I Met Your Mother
The Big Bang Theory

Dancing With the Stars

The Middle
Modern Family
Cougar Town

The Mentalist
The Office
30 Rock

After all the positive press, I am willing to give "Big Bang Theory" another try. I didn't like it when it debuted two years ago.

I have listed some new shows that I am going to sample. If I don't like "Hank," for example, it will get dropped quickly from my list. "Hank" gets a tryout because of its placement in the new ABC Wednesday comedy block despite its early reviews. I hope that "Better Off Ted" joins that lineup when something gets canceled.

"Community" is still on the bubble with me. The first episode was just okay. I hope that the arrival of Ken Jeong in episode two will be an improvement.

I am undecided about whether or not to sample "FlashForward."

As in years past, there is nothing on the Friday or Saturday primetime schedule that interests me. I'll take that opportunity to watch the stuff I recorded throughout the week, especially on Thursdays.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

prawn shop

The trailer and television ads did not make me want to see "District 9." Instead it was the Entertainment Weekly story that motivated me to get tickets to a preview screening. The magazine cover called it "the must-see movie of the summer."

Security personnel had to turn people away from the packed theatre. The only trailer before our screening was for "Zombieland," which looks like a lot of fun. Then again, I laughed at "Night of the Living Dead."

The people next to me left about an hour into the film. An usher later told me that they weren't the only ones. About thirty people left, some complaining that the cinéma vérité style gave them motion sickness. The filmmakers wanted the science fiction plot to be believable. One person I know left early because his last row seat was uncomfortable and his back hurt. He plans to go back to see the rest.

Another person I know stayed to the end but didn't like the shaky camera or the gory scenes. My son and I reacted differently. We said "ohh" in mock horror every time something gross splattered on the camera lens. My son said it might be his favorite movie of the summer. I liked it too but wouldn't rank it above "Star Trek" or "Up." Come to think of it, I also really enjoyed "The Proposal" and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and "Julie & Julia." It's been a good year for movies.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

corpse out front should have told you

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

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

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

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

to the Batcave

Perhaps the best place for me to be this week is in an honest-to-goodness cave. Where else can I go to avoid the hype surrounding the new Batman movie? With all the publicity I've seen so far, until yesterday I really thought "The Dark Knight" was opening tomorrow (or tonight at midnight). There's actually another week to wait. Or more if it's sold out on opening day.

Christian Bale and Heath Ledger were on the cover of the Entertainment Weekly that came in the mail last Saturday. There's a review of the movie in the Time magazine with Mark Twain on the cover. I had to take my wife's advice and stop reading it when it started to reveal more about the film than I want to know. She knows how I can be. When I'm really looking forward to a movie, I'll watch and read too much about it. "Get Smart" was a disappointment for me because I had seen all the best jokes in the trailers.

To a certain extent, I can't help it. Batman stuff is everywhere. Today on the Knoxville Blog Network, I saw an interesting entry from The Screening Log about the Bat Signal in Manhattan. In my on-screen satellite guide I saw a listing for a show on History called "Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight." I set it up to record.

The aforementioned Entertainment Weekly had a Batman reference that didn't spoil anything. Under the heading "Even the Darkest of Knights Shines Brightly on Blu-ray" was a near-silhouette of Adam West as Batman standing on a Gotham rooftop. It was an ad for the Blu-ray edition of "Batman: The Movie." I enjoyed the connection between the old and the new. By the way, when Adam West appeared on the "Today" show recently, it was to promote that same Blu-ray disc.

It's clear that Christian Bale is the best Batman since Adam West. Oh alright, Bale is the best Batman since Kevin Conroy, who was the best Batman since Adam West.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

foghorn langhorne

The face on the cover of Time magazine is usually that of a current newsmaker. Although he's been dead for nearly a hundred years, the man on this week's issue is still relevant today. My wife picked up a copy of the annual "Making of America" issue for me because of my distant relation to the cover subject. Mark Twain is my first cousin, four generations removed. My great-great-grandmother was a first cousin of Samuel Clemens. Her mother and his father were siblings. I called my grandmother tonight to make sure I had remembered it correctly.

Instead of automatically opening up my laptop after dinner, I picked up the magazine and read about Mark Twain. A long essay by Roy Blount Jr. makes it easy to draw parallels between then and now. It is only one of four pieces about Twain in the magazine. I like knowing that Twain kept a deadpan facial expression when telling funny stories. A world map illustrates the many countries on five continents that he visited. My favorite line in the whole feature is on the same page as the map. Twain once said that a life of travel was "fatal to prejudice."

During our cross-country drive in 2002, my family and I visited Mark Twain's boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri. Here's a photo of our late pet tortoise Mo in Hannibal, with the Mississippi river and a big riverboat in the background.

After the enjoyable experience we had with the Harry Potter book last summer, I recently started looking for an audiobook to entertain us on our next road trip. If my wife doesn't mind, I think I'll download a free Mark Twain title that's in the public domain and give it a try. Any recommendations?

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

weakly reader

The only magazine subscription I have is to Entertainment Weekly. I enjoy reading about the latest movies, books, DVDs, television shows and more. I especially like their coverage of the business side of the industry.

I knew I would have about two hours to wait before the start of my son's graduation ceremony this morning. I grabbed the new Entertainment Weekly out of the mailbox and brought it with me. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that almost the entire issue is devoted to "Sex and the City." The front cover boasts that they have 63 pages worth of articles and photos. Why do I need 63 pages of that?

Sure I'm cranky. Maybe it's from exhaustion.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

tip of the iceberg

The "Stuff (blank) People Like" phenomenon hasn't grabbed my full attention. I had heard about the original site, Stuff White People Like but didn't spend a lot of time looking at it, much less the various copycat sites.

Today I found that I had been added to the blogroll on Confessions of a Worshipper (thanks!). One of their recent entries linked to a list of Stuff Christians Like. On the flip side of the coin, All Access posted a link to Stuff Radio People Like. Comparing the two is somewhat reminiscent of the old Goofus and Gallant cartoons in Highlights Magazine.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

of ice and men

The two most interesting stories from Oscar night had nothing to do with the awards themselves. One happened before and one after.

On Sunday night I mentioned that I was looking to see Stuart Weitzman's million dollar shoes on the red carpet. It's become an annual tradition for him to adorn a pair with diamonds and let an actress or nominee wear them to the ceremony. Diablo Cody was fitted for the shoes but decided at the last minute that wearing them would ruin her street cred or something. I think it backfired on her. She looks more foolish now than if she had just worn the pumps. Maybe she'll offer a better explanation in her next Entertainment Weekly column. I cannot believe that a pop culture maven like Diablo never heard about the million dollar shoes. I've known about them for at least six years.

On Monday morning, a couple of the entertainment blogs and I were all about Jimmy Kimmel's star-studded music video with his new pal Ben Affleck. It aired on his post-Oscar special, which will be repeated Friday night. The rest of the world caught up last night and today. There are great articles about the making of the clip in the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, People and on

On the same day that Jimmy's show is the most talked-about late-night program, Bill Carter writes in the New York Times that ABC is interested in hiring Jay Leno. Boo! Carter says that if ABC landed Leno, he would replace "Nightline." I guess that means Jimmy could be pushed to 12:30. Boo! Fortunately there are a couple of other deep-pocketed suitors also interested in hiring Jay when his NBC contract expires in January 2010. There is also enough time for "Jimmy Kimmel Live" to continue gaining momentum and to solidify its place in the late-night lineup. By the time all is said and done, Carter will have enough material for a sequel to his book "The Late Shift."

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

still have to go through Dallas

Nobody wants their frequent flyer miles to go to waste. Almost every week there are people searching the Internet who find my blog entries from 2005 about cashing in miles for unnecessary magazine subscriptions.

Last fall I realized that I finally had enough miles for a free trip. I tried to plan a trip to see my friend Bean in Seattle but there were no free tickets available on the date I could fly. I put it off and put it off until I was faced with the fact that my miles would expire at the end of February. The only way to save them was to have some activity on my account. Because I don't yet know when I can make the trip, I needed to do something other than book a flight.

I called American Airlines to explore my options. Fortunately, they had something that sounded great to me. I could extend the expiration date for the remainder of my miles by donating some of them to one of two charities. The Make-A-Wish Foundation does nice things for sick kids and would be a worthy recipient. However I chose to donate to the airline's own charity called Miles for Kids in Need. Instead of flying sick children off to their favorite theme park, my miles will help send a child to get needed medical treatment. Not as much fun for them but it made me feel better.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

banter wait

A couple of my favorite topics turned up in the entertainment news today. Matt Lauer reassured reporters that the writers strike will not affect NBC's coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Every year, he and Meredith Vieira are saddled with a hackneyed script. They say it will be written by non-union writers. They could have just as easily arranged for the script to have been written months ago, well before the strike began.

Jimmy Kimmel ends his show each night with a tongue-in-cheek apology to Matt Damon. Now that Matt has been chosen as the Sexiest Man Alive, People Magazine asked Jimmy what he would have done had he been chosen instead. I'll bet the magazine is second guessing their decision.

I also read that NBC will be auctioning off some props from "The Office" and "30 Rock," both of which were very funny tonight. Let me know if "The Office" was just as funny for those of you who haven't already given several depositions.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

don't fear the

"The Loop" was one of those shows that never found an audience, which is too bad because it was very funny. Maybe it had the wrong time slot. Maybe it was on the wrong network. It starred Bret Harrison as Sam, the youngest executive at an airline. I was amused to see that actor playing another character named Sam in a new series on The CW.

The local CW station let me watch some DVDs of their new shows. "Gossip Girl" and "Life Is Wild" are not for me. But "Aliens in America" and "Reaper" are both terrific.

"Reaper" is about Sam Oliver (Harrison), a slacker who finds out on his 21st birthday that his parents sold his soul to the devil. As dark as the premise sounds, there's still plenty of action and comedy. The pilot that I watched had Nikki Reed in the part of Andi, Sam's potential love interest. She was great and very believable in the role yet they replaced her with Missy Peregrym. The video previews on the Internet show that all of Andi's scenes have been reshot with the new actress. Missy's good looks make her character just a little less plausible as the girl with low standards who works with Sam and his funny pal Sock.

I noticed that they recast the father on "Aliens in America" too. Based on the online preview, I once again wish they had kept the original actor.

Entertainment Weekly, USA Today and TV Guide all pick "Reaper" as one of the best new shows of the season. TV Guide put it at number 8 on their "Hot List." USA Today's Robert Bianco ranked it second in his top ten. Unfortunately I have to question Bianco's taste because he also put the not so good CBS show "Big Bang Theory" on his list.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

can I get an amen?

It wasn't that long ago that I would have expected to see Mike Piazza on the cover of publications like Us Weekly or Star Magazine. His wedding to model Alicia Rickter made a splash in People Magazine. She already had plenty of magazine exposure herself, if you know what I mean.

I haven't been keeping up with Piazza's career. It was a little bit of a surprise therefore to see him on the cover of the new issue of Catholic Digest. The article mentions his marriage to Alicia, the birth of their daughter Nicoletta and her baptism. No reference is made to Alicia's pictorial past. In the online supplement to the interview he talks about his participation in the "Champions of Faith" DVD. The print edition has a quote from Mike that spoke to me:
"It's so easy to criticize the Church. And we're not trying to preach to say we're perfect. That's one thing about being Catholic -- we realize we fall down. That's part of being human. But we pick ourselves up, and we go to confession, and God's always there for us. No one's claiming that everybody who's come through the Catholic Church is perfect and without fault. But at the end of the day it's a great institution. There's nothing else like it, and I'm proud to be part of it."

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

to geek or not to geek

An article in last week's Entertainment Weekly gave an update on the cast members of the under-appreciated "Freaks and Geeks.'' That show and other projects by Judd Apatow give a realistic portrayal of nerdy characters. "The 40 Year Old Virgin," "Knocked Up" and "Superbad" all made big money at the box office. Nerds are hot right now.

A couple of new TV shows feature nerds in a leading role. "Chuck" on NBC and "Big Bang Theory" on CBS will both air during the 8pm hour on Mondays starting September 24. One show gets it right, the other gets it very wrong.

Chuck is a likable guy, working for a thinly disguised version of the Geek Squad at a thinly disguised version of Best Buy. His super-talented college roommate has gone on to become a secret agent. Chuck receives an email from his former roommate that turns him into a valuable resource for the CIA and NSA. A smokin' hottie shows up at the store and wants to get to know Chuck better. Turns out that she's a secret agent too, trying to find out what Chuck did with the email. The visual images from the email are now in Chuck's brain.

Meanwhile over on CBS, Leonard and Sheldon are a couple of Caltech scientists living together with their dueling dry-erase boards full of complicated mathematical formulas. When a smokin' hottie moves in across the hall, they attempt to convince her (and the viewers) that they are straight. It's not very convincing because Leonard and Sheldon are played too effeminately. Everything about the show seems wrong to me. Even the character's names. Calling the lead nerds Leonard and Sheldon is as much of a cliché as calling a gay character Bruce. The writers couldn't possibly be attempting an homage to the late Sheldon Leonard, could they? The old time movie tough guy would turn over in his grave. The whole time I was watching, I kept wondering why they canceled "The Class" for this.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

then God said, "let there be evolution"

Russell Biven's face stared back at me from the free magazine rack at Wal-Mart. I had reached down to grab a Metro Pulse from the middle of the stack when I saw Russell and his wife on the cover of the premiere issue of Tennessee Christian Living magazine. The two page profile focuses on Russell's family, faith and career. I hope the magazine eventually puts its content online. They would get a lot of page hits from posting the photos that accompany the article, especially the one of the "Live at Five" team in their Halloween costumes. Russell is dressed as Mr. Incredible, Beth Haynes is Wonder Woman and Todd Howell is Robin, the Boy Wonder. Did I mention that Beth Haynes was dressed as Wonder Woman?

Toward the back of the magazine is a calendar of upcoming events. It says that Lisa Whelchel will be speaking at a church in Loudon on August 17 and 18. They also have a listing for a new exhibit called "Hatching the Past: Dinosaur Eggs, Nests and Young" at the McClung Museum. Somewhat ironically, that calendar listing is only a few pages after a two page spread on the Creation Museum in Kentucky.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

first day of the rest of your life

After a long day yesterday, I took today off. Completely off. It was great. I didn't have to leave home at all. Instead, I went for a swim and then read most of the new issue of Entertainment Weekly. It features the list of 100 stars they love right now. I also gave the TiVo a rest and watched a couple of DVDs that have been on my stack for a while. They both looked great on the plasma screen even though they contained footage from a time before anyone had dreamed of that technology. First I watched highlights of the New York Mets World Series victories in 1969 and 1986. Then I popped in a disc of lost episodes of "You Bet Your Life," a show that went off the air a week after I was born. I remember watching reruns of Groucho's show when I was in seventh and eighth grades. Finally, I turned on the computer to look for Mass times and to search for any Roadside America attractions along the route of a trip we are planning for later this summer. Oh and best of all, I had a slice of leftover cake with lunch.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

comparison shopping

Kroger is missing an opportunity. Instead of giving their store brand the simple name "Kroger Yogurt," I think they should call it "Krogurt."

While I was shopping at Kroger, I noticed that they were selling the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue right next to the alcoholic beverages. Why not in the produce or bakery sections too?

Just in time for Lent, I spotted a product at Sam's Club for kids who are reluctant to try seafood. Who can resist a fish and cheese nugget with a name stolen from a "SpongeBob SquarePants" cartoon?

Meanwhile back at Kroger, they're ready for Easter with the new green Marshmallow Peeps. Why wait? The Peeps website says they're perfect for St. Patrick's Day. You can see them just over the shoulder of the inflatable Hershey's Bunny.

Food City is now offering Peeps brand sugar-free marshmallow chicks. The package has the same warning as most sugar-free candies: may cause laxative effect.

Now for a comedy quiz. Did you catch the add-your-own-punchline opportunities? You should have at least come up with melons, buns and poops. Any more? Post them in the comments.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

reading list

The penultimate issue of my Newsweek subscription arrived Tuesday. It's one of the magazines I ordered in exchange for airline miles a year ago. In it is an article about OJ Simpson's canceled book deal. An unnamed source reveals details from the chapter in which OJ describes the vicious murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. The magazine writer describes it as "a seeming confession in Simpson's own voice." At least that's what I think it said. My copy of the magazine was missing the first page of the article. My lovely wife made a copy of the missing page for me while she was at the library.

I don't know how anyone who followed the Simpson trial could reach any conclusion other than OJ's guilt. The renewed attention to the case has got me thinking about re-reading all or part of Vincent Bugliosi's great book, "Outrage: The Five Reasons Why OJ Simpson Got Away With Murder." The book explains how the prosecution lost the case in the face of overwhelming proof that OJ murdered two people.

The next two books I had planned on reading were "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" and "Dearly Devoted Dexter." Can I use the Simon giftcard I got for Christmas to buy them from Amazon or can I only use the card at the mall?

There's another book on the horizon that I may want to read before the Dexter series. Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass have teamed up to write another Body Farm novel using the name Jefferson Bass. "Flesh and Bone" will be released on January 23rd. I liked their first novel and had the opportunity to interview Dr. Bass about it. I should check their press tour schedule to see if I can get another interview.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

share with the whole class

Games Magazine has a feature that I would always enjoy. I even had a subscription when I was young but I haven't seen a copy of the magazine in years. The first page I usually turned to had the Eyeball Benders, extreme close-up photographs of somewhat ordinary objects. In that spirit, see if you know what's in the photo below that I snapped at home last night. Once I get 10 or so guesses in the comments section, I'll reveal the answer. Don't be anonymous. The least you can do is to choose "other" and make up a name for yourself.

Hey, speaking of comments, guess which super attractive news anchor left one on Saturday's post?

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Monday, August 22, 2005

spoiled rotten

WARNING: clicking on any links in this blog entry could reveal Harry Potter spoilers

Friday morning we did a radio prank that got some people riled up. I wrote a fake ending to the latest Harry Potter book and read it aloud on Star 102.1. Listeners who haven't read the book (mostly adults) were upset at us for spoiling the ending. Those who have read the book (mostly kids) got the joke right away. You can read my fake ending by clicking here. Although some lines are copied verbatim, I made sure to steer readers away from what actually happens in the book. Those who heard the bit and have yet to read the book should still be surprised.

The whole bit was partly inspired by my frustration with the Harry Potter spoilers that are out there. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that most critics were keeping the ending of the sixth book a secret. Since then, several clues have popped up.

A popular online t-shirt shop sells a shirt that gives away a major plot point and then says "I just saved you 4 hours and $30."

Within a couple of weeks of the book's release, the geniuses at one of our radio showprep services posted a domain name in big, bold print as their daily "Site For Sore Eyes." The domain name allows you to figure out the same major plot point.

Entertainment Weekly devoted two whole pages to discussing the ending of the "Half Blood Prince" but they put big spoiler warnings on the pages.

One of my favorite TV shows even got in on the spoiling action. "Best Week Ever" had a joke by Doug Benson in which they bleeped the name of one character involved in the climactic scene but they didn't bleep the other name.

Is there a better way to avoid spoilers?

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