Wednesday, February 24, 2010

not everybody loves Raymond

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, December 12, 2009


The actors in "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" at Dollywood are better than the material they have to work with. To be honest, the material isn't all that bad. The simple story revolves around a young girl who wishes that Santa will help her brother and sister travel home for Christmas. All the cast members have excellent singing voices, so the more music the better.

A corny subplot with some mice looking for cookies didn't work for me. The two lead mice imitated Abbott & Costello, including part of the famous "Who's On First?" routine. My other gripe was with a supporting cast member who played several parts including a mouse, a sailor and a neighbor of the main characters. He looked to be a better dancer than the others but I felt that he was trying to steal the spotlight by turning his er... flamboyance up to eleven.

My wife knows the family of gifted ten-year-old actress Amelia Bryant, who plays Grace Baxter in the show. Her acting is natural and her singing voice is strong. We sat with Amelia's parents and siblings at one of the three performances tonight. We were supposed to be there for the 5:00 p.m. show but ended up at the 7:00 show after we got stuck in traffic on Chapman Highway. Apparently the road was closed for the annual Seymour Christmas Parade. I'm kicking myself for not knowing about the parade. I could have either avoided it or volunteered to be in it.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

acid redux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

did it all for the Wookie

The Village of Saugerties has a fairly lengthy 4th of July parade. We found ourselves not at the official reviewing stand on Main Street, but farther down the parade route at a private home on Market Street. Since 1989, Greg DeCelle and his extended family have provided their own parade commentary during a beer-fueled block party that started well before the parade arrived at their house and continued until the fourth keg was emptied, long after the parade was gone.

Each year the DeCelles choose a parade theme of their own. In the past they've been cowboys or pirates, for example. Last year they dressed in superhero costumes. This year they dressed as "Star Wars" characters. Greg, the homeowner and ringleader, was in an Obi-Wan Kenobi outfit. His fellow commentators were Chewbacca and Darth Vader. Obi-Wan and Chewbacca were on a platform with audio equipment and two computers loaded with music and sound effects. Darth Vader stood on the street with a wireless microphone.

Some politicians, including Rep. Maurice Hinchey, looked uncomfortable as they walked past with forced smiles, waving as they went. Others embraced the insanity and spoke with Darth Vader on the microphone. I found out later the ones who walked by fast were possibly the same ones who couldn't answer any of the questions about the Constitution posed to them in previous years.

Each of the passing firetrucks was exhorted to sound their horn. Some played along right away. Others had to be repeatedly goaded. I like parade balloons as much as anybody but the inflatable Quisp head being used to promote the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival needs to be replaced with a new one.

Whenever there was a slight break in the parade, Obi-Wan would announce that it was time for the Chicken Dance. Spectators spilled out into the street to flap their elbows and wiggle their bottoms, with Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper leading the way.

Darth tried to interact with several of the parade entries, none more successfully than an equestrian unit. The family recognized a woman riding her horse in the parade. As she approached, one of them announced that a beer was to be brought to the street. The rider dismounted, accepted the cup and let Darth Vader climb onto her horse. It looked more "Spaceballs" than "Star Wars."

When a the driver of a private vehicle cut into the parade route, the fans on Market Street covered his vehicle with Silly String. They also sprayed a firetruck whose rider dared shoot some water from a fire extinguisher. Apparently this was mild compared to a few years ago when a similar exchange erupted into a full-blown water fight with a garden hose and water balloons. I heard they had to promise the Village not to do that again.

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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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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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Saturday, December 06, 2008

ebony and ivory

A small crowd of country music fans found themselves in the audience for a Poetry Slam on Friday night. Of course they weren't there for the poetry, they were waiting to see Julianne Hough, the true star of "Dancing with the Stars."

I had tried to catch a glimpse of Julianne at the WIVK Fowler's Furniture Christmas Parade along Gay Street. The sidewalks were packed with people who had gotten there a lot earlier than me to reserve their spot. After barely seeing Julianne's float pass by, I made the tough decision to bail on the parade and head over to the World Grotto, where my wife was waiting with our Tele-buddy Terry Morrow. He had interviewed Julianne earlier in the day and joined us for dinner on Market Square. The three of us got good seats on the cushioned benches along the wall near the stage just as the Poetry Slam began. Others sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the stage.

The Poetry Slam is a regular event produced by Black Sunshine Arts and Entertainment. As we waited for Julianne, we heard recitations from local poets RheaSunshine, Dawg, Jump Drive and Black Atticus. We also heard the evening's featured poet Carlos Robson, who had traveled from Charlotte to perform. Most of the country fans listened politely to the poets' left-leaning monologues. However the woman seated behind me spent most of the time chatting with her friends both in person and on the phone. Carlos was quite good and was able to command the audience's full attention. The emcee, RheaSunshine, repeatedly entreated the crowd to stay for more poetry after Julianne's concert. On the whole, t
he experience made me think of an improv game called "Performance Art" and a new variation we've recently started doing at Einstein Simplified shows called "Beatnik Coffeehouse."

As Rhea began to wrap up their first set, I went to the bathroom, thinking that I might catch a glimpse of Julianne's entourage in one of the other Grotto rooms down the same hallway. Instead I saw County Commissioner Mike Hammond, who greeted me warmly and allowed me to step in to the area reserved for WIVK's meet and greet with Julianne. After Mike introduced me to Julianne, I spied Jimmy Holt, who I knew to be a good guy from my time working at WOKI. I offered to take a picture of him with Julianne if he would return the favor. I told Julianne that I used to work with her former dance partner Adam Carolla.

Julianne was in good voice as she sang selections from her self-titled album and her "Sounds of the Season" disc. I thought she sounded better than she did on the various television shows where I've seen her sing. We had a good view of the stage until Julianne sang "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and asked everyone to stand. Those who were seated on the floor were very happy to get up and stretch their legs.

I've been a fan of Julianne since she first danced with the stars. I now have both her CDs and have already programmed the DVR to catch her on the annual "Christmas in Washington" special on the 17th.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

ort report

For several days after each Thanksgiving, all my meals include leftovers. The cranberry sauce is always the first thing to get used up while the turkey lasts the longest. I've discovered that my new favorite condiment makes a great replacement for cranberry sauce. After I reheat four ounces of turkey for lunch or dinner, I pour some Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce on top. Its sweetness and spiciness give an extra zing that takes the boredom out of leftovers. I've been going through the stuff so fast that while at Sam's Club yesterday, I bought two more bottles without remembering that I still had one in the pantry.

I found some interesting Internet leftovers too. My friend Sandy posted some of her Thanksgiving recipes last week. While tracking back a link to my post about free symphony tickets for bloggers, I happened across a cute story about a kid who thinks sweet potato casserole is called "marshmallow basagna." Byron Chesney posted a picture of Thanksgiving cakes and pies that had me wanting to take a bite out of my screen.

As if my review of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade weren't complete enough, let me point you to somebody at NPR who wrote a blog post about the great Rickroll at the parade. Another blogger did a "live blog" of the event. I've thought about doing that but I ended up sitting back on the couch and jotting a note on a legal pad when something struck me as noteworthy.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

never gonna give you up

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will always be a major part of my holiday. We could vary the dinner menu and I could miss a football game (as long as the Redskins aren't playing) but I cannot miss the parade and have it still feel like Thanksgiving.

Why does CBS bother to cover the parade each year? Better yet, why do I bother to watch? The broadcast is not in high definition, the camera angles are terrible, none of the bands or singers perform and the anchors often give erroneous information. For example, they said that Horton the Elephant was from Whoville, when everybody knows that all the Whos live in the speck of dust on the clover Horton carries.

Actually I do know why I tune in. I always hope to see additional coverage of the giant helium-filled balloons. This year CBS replaced Hannah Storm with Maggie Rodriguez who, like Hannah, referred to the balloons as "floats." She referred to the floats as "floats" as well. When a balloon did pass by, Maggie and co-anchor Dave Price would turn their backs to the camera to get a look. Can't say that I blame them for that.

Maggie and Dave seemed to spend more time interviewing random guests than describing the parade. Some of the celebrities who dropped by were Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Broadway star Roger Bart and singer Clay Aiken. A soap opera actress named Julie Pinson brought photos of the European vacation she and Maggie took together about eight years ago. Maggie revealed that she and Julie have blackmail-able photos of each other that were snapped on a beach in the south of France. I think we know what she means.

To truly enjoy the parade, you needed to watch the good-looking HD coverage on NBC and not pay attention to the corny scripted lines that Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer were reading. They deviated from the script twice today that I noticed. Meredith got the stuffing scared out of her when the Keith Haring Heart balloon got too close and brushed their broadcast booth. We only heard her distress because the camera was already focused on the next entry. Later, there was some confusion over what paragraph to read when Andy Williams was about to perform. How come my man Andy didn't get a float or even a car to ride? I doubt they made an almost-81-year-old walk the parade route. If Andy did have a float that broke down, it might explain the mistake in the NBC booth.

Without question, the greatest moment of the parade was when the "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" float Rickrolled us viewers. NBC tried to spoil it twice by listing Rick Astley's name in the opening credits and by having Matt Lauer say, "watch carefully, we hear there is a special musical surprise." I had just called my wife into the room to hear the Friends' version of the theme from "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" when Astley interrupted with his '80s classic.

For the uninformed few among us, Rickrolling is an Internet sensation where you expect one thing but get Rick Astley. My friend Bean did a great job of explaining it on March 31 and then executing it on April 1 of this year.

I feel for the guy in the photo below. The good news is that he gets to be in the best parade in the country. The bad news is that he had to wear the most ridiculous costume and ride on the Jimmy Dean sausage float with some country singer. What's he supposed to be, a pat of butter?

Let's "dot dot dot" our way through the rest of my notes... my daughter heard that the Rockettes must all have the same length inseam... James Taylor's electric guitar looked like a really thin acoustic guitar... the NYPD band got ripped off when the network ran a recorded drum track instead of the band's audio... Shontelle almost fell off the Rhino Mountain float twice... the Clique Girlz send the exact opposite message I would want my children to get from a group targeting kids... there's an "Internet phenom" named Charice?... when these same balloons appear in the Macy's Holiday Parade at Universal Orlando Resort, do they get deflated and re-inflated every day?... did Varsity Fanclub take the place of the Cheetah Girls in the line of march?... my wife is happy because the best sounding band in the parade, the JMU Marching Royal Dukes, is from her alma mater... Al Roker apparently pulled some strings to get his kid aboard the Santa float... did I mention that the fools at CBS wasted the first ten minutes of their broadcast talking about nothing?

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

strings attached

Somebody fixed the Wikipedia entry for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. When I looked at it a couple of weeks ago, a contributor had mistakenly written that one of this year's new balloons would be Bolt, the dog in a new animated Disney film. I think they got the idea from a poorly worded press release that has since been rewritten. It's also possible that they didn't know the difference between a balloon and a float. Bolt is part of a new float.

The major balloons that will debut on Thursday are Buzz Lightyear, Horton the Elephant, and a Smurf. I found a good web video that shows some of the steps in creating these giant helium-filled creatures. The returning balloons are Abby Cadabby, Beethoven (the dog, not the guy although that would have been amusing), Dora the Explorer, Energizer Bunny, Kermit the Frog, Pikachu, Ronald McDonald and Shrek. Hmph. Still no Underdog.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

meant what I said

It's too early to think about Thanksgiving and Christmas. However a press release NBC sent yesterday got me doing just that. The release runs down the network's holiday programming for 2008. Maybe the timing is understandable. While at KROQ, I would experience a bit of a Christmas rush in September. I suspect that part of the reason my friend Bean put his blog on hiatus is because of the workload for the annual Kevin & Bean Christmas CD, which probably needs to be turned in soon.

NBC will broadcast the 82nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I remember reading over the summer that this year's parade would feature a new Horton (as in "Horton Hears a Who") balloon. I'm still waiting to hear what other characters will make their helium-filled debut in November.

In addition to the return of some traditional holiday specials, the NBC release lists several new shows. They will crank out three countdowns that sound similar to the stuff you see on Vh1 and elsewhere. I will watch at least one, maybe two of these:
"Greatest Holiday TV Specials and Movies" features clips from the most-loved holiday TV specials and films. From animated TV classics to the must see holiday films of the past and present, we'll rank the greatest holiday moments that ever graced the screen.

"Greatest Holiday Songs" will count down the best performances of both classic and contemporary Christmas songs. From timeless tunes from the great crooners to recent essentials from the more modern pop stars, we will recount the greatest songs of the season.

"Greatest Holiday Home Videos" goes home for the holidays as we count down the most hilarious and entertaining holiday moments sent in from families' home videos across the country. This special will be an hour of non-stop family fun where we choose from thousands of submissions, and rank the best America has to offer from holiday mishaps to memorable moments to classic Christmas season chaos.
Of the three, I'm most interested in "Greatest Holiday Songs" although it would be funnier to make a countdown show of the worst Christmas songs. I've mentioned several of my favorite Christmas songs in the past. Maybe I'll arrange them in a numbered list before the NBC special airs. I doubt our lists will be very similar. Except for "Last Christmas." Everybody loves that one. If you also enjoy Christmas songs, you should know that the aforementioned Bean posts some Christmas Music Everyday.

There was no mention in the NBC press release of "Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican." However the Catholic blog Whispers in the Loggia revealed today that Cardinal John Foley will return as "the voice of Christmas." Foley had indicated that maybe it was time for him to step down but higher ups in the Church and at the network urged him to stay.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008


A family errand kept me from napping yesterday. I was very tired and almost didn't bother going to see the Dogwood Arts Festival Parade. Besides, the parade is usually televised, right? Well, not this year but more on that later. My trip downtown was made completely worthwhile when I saw a certain gigantic nose rounding the corner onto Gay Street (not a euphemism).

Right there, behind The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club was a copy of my favorite parade balloon ever. What a surprise! Not plane nor bird nor even frog. It was none other than Underdog!

When a bad weather forecast caused the rescheduling of the parade to last night, it pushed the event into the May television sweeps period. WVLT couldn't clear the inventory to broadcast the parade. They aired their regularly scheduled programming instead. Only Dino Cartwright, the station's promotion director, was there to announce the parade entries as they passed the reviewing stand. The April 11th parade was supposed to last an hour. Tonight's event was over in half that time. I suspect that several groups couldn't make it on the new date. The News Sentinel says that only four of the ten originally scheduled bands showed up.

Across the street from where I was, Brittany Bailey from WBIR was operating her own small camera. I guess her report on the parade is an example of the "one-man band" or "backpack journalism" we've been hearing about.

By definition a parade means road closures. My wife needed to get to the Tennessee Theatre for the second performance of the Berlioz Requiem. My son and I rode with her, which got us downtown early for the parade and the concert. Shortly after we found our spot along the parade route, a guy with a protest sign sat down next to us. He was protesting some judge over some issue related to somebody's divorce. He tried telling me about it but I couldn't make out most of what he was saying. It was like listening to Boomhauer. A festival official came over and told him that he couldn't be there. He replied "free speech." Unable to dispute that fundamental right, the parade marshal changed her tack. In rapid succession she told him that the parade wouldn't be televised, that the specific judge wouldn't be there, that it was an event for children and that this wasn't the appropriate place for his protest sign. He correctly replied that it was a public space. They left him alone after that.

Underdog wasn't the only balloon in the parade. Like last year, there was a big pink dogwood blossom. Curious George got a hole in his hand from dragging his knuckles on the street. A wind gust blew him very close to my camera which left me with a weird shot of his mouth.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

sure as heckfire

This is an actual conversation that took place while waiting for the light to change at the intersection of Walnut Street and Summit Hill Drive tonight. My son and I were driving home from the Dogwood Arts Festival Parade. I looked out the window at the driver in the next lane and said:
"Phil! Phil Williams..."


"It's Frank... Frank Murphy."

"I didn't even remember recognize you! Who's driving your car?"

"That's my son."

"He's not supposed to be that old."
I'll admit I was a little surprised, even if there is a logical explanation. By the way, my parade coverage is postponed until tomorrow. I need to sleep.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

little lambs eat ivy

Thursday nights mean big crowds downtown. My wife sings with the Knoxville Choral Society and didn't want to be late for their performance with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra tonight. The show didn't start until 8:00 but we pulled into the State Street garage at 6:00. There was still plenty of time to walk to Market Square and get a big salad at Trio. Meanwhile, outside the restaurant, people were arriving for Smokedown Sundown in the City. Because Sundown is an open air event, the smokers come out in droves.

While we got to the Tennessee Theatre with plenty of time to spare, several audience members and two violinists took their seats well after the concert started. Tonight and tomorrow night the Symphony is presenting the "Requiem" by Berlioz. It basically follows the format of a Catholic funeral Mass. In fact, the piece was commissioned for a state funeral in Paris in 1837.

I was impressed that there was too much music for the stage to contain. The KSO brought in musicians from surrounding areas on a "per-service" basis. In addition to several extra tympani players, there were about 140 members of the Knoxville Choral Society (including my lovely wife) packed onto six rows of risers. A soloist named Andrew Skoog had a chair near Maestro Lucas Richman. Best of all, there were four brass choirs surrounding the audience, two on either side of the stage and two more in the back of the auditorium. Horns, trombones and tubas in the four corners of the theatre created a great surround sound effect.

The Berlioz Requiem will be performed again on Friday night. My wife will have to get there early because of the rescheduled Dogwood Arts Parade that runs right past the Tennessee Theatre starting at 7:00 p.m.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

in this world the headlines read

The Giants were trailing 7-3 in the Super Bowl last night. Their defense was playing well but the offense had only managed one field goal. As I said I would the other day, I got into a New York state of mind by enjoying a Mallomar during the game. Shortly thereafter the Giants scored a touchdown. New England came back to take the lead again and it looked like they might actually achieve the 19-0 record we've heard so much about. When Eli Manning avoided that sack and threw the ball to David Tyree, it occurred to me to have a second Mallomar. Sure enough, the Giants responded with the game winning touchdown.

My mother and her siblings all grew up in the Bronx. They were exchanging emails all weekend as they make plans for Grandma's birthday party this Spring. All of their messages ended with the words "Go Giants!" The biggest Giants fan in our family was my dad. He even sent me to the same Catholic school as some of the Mara kids. Wellington Mara is buried in the same cemetery as several of my relatives. Within minutes of the game's end, people had posted congratulatory notes on Mara's page at

Meanwhile my wife and the rest of the Redskins fans in our family happily recall that both previous Super Bowl wins by the Giants were followed by Redskins wins.

My favorite Super Bowl commercial has been getting favorable reviews. It featured computer generated images of balloons at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The greatest balloon of all time, Underdog fought for a Coca-Cola bottle with Stewie from "Family Guy." To my knowledge, there has never been a Stewie balloon in the parade. Do you think there will be one in the future? I'm not sure that I want to see him there. Although Underdog clearly deserved the soda, Charlie Brown rises up over Central Park and gets the bottle instead. Good grief!

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

big rose, small thorn

Four networks offered high definition broadcasts of the Rose Parade this morning. Two of those were commercial free. In Los Angeles, almost everyone watches the parade on KTLA with Bob Eubanks and Michaela Pereira. The rest of us could watch KTLA's coverage on either the HD Theater channel or in SD on the Travel Channel but with commercials.

Last year I wrote that I wouldn't be disappointed if Eubanks retired from covering the parade. He seemed a little better this year than last but I didn't care for the way he used his deep announcer voice to drag out the last syllable of many words. It sounded like "Wells Fargoooo" and "pinata dot commmm." As the Trader Joe's float passed by, Bob said, "I'm always amazed how these designers come up with these new ideas year after year after year." Of course he is. He can barely come up with new sentences year after year. I got a strong feeling of déjà vu while Bob was talking about the equestrian units.

Every time I flipped over to ABC, I heard the announcers remind each other that every part of the floats are covered with organic material. Yeah, we get it. Other than that, their coverage was pretty good. They had a decent camera position and their HD broadcast looked fine. NBC's picture looked nice too. I liked their coverage better last year when Billy Bush filled in for Al Roker.

The best of all the broadcasts turned out to be on HGTV. They had the first camera position along the parade route. Their picture quality was superior. I heard surround sound and stereo separation as the marching bands played. The announcing team of Robb Weller, Paul James and Jann Carl did a good job, without being annoying. My one frustration with HGTV was when they put the marching bands into a small box while most of the screen was filled with a promo for an upcoming show. The band sound was turned down during the promo too, which was a waste of their excellent microphone placement. If they need to run their promos again next year, they should only air them when an equestrian unit passes by.

Did you watch the parade? On which channel? Did you see the City of Burbank float? Isn't Emeril Lagasse starting to look like Jackie Gleason? Aren't you glad the Stanley Cup was exempt from being covered in organic material? Did you see any of that outdoor hockey game in Buffalo today? Oh c'mon. I know you were watching the Vols. I recorded the parade so I could flip over to the game.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

will it float?

Maybe it was the amazing HD picture that helped me be less critical of NBC's coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade than in years past. This morning I decided that Meredith Vieira has a warmth and a sincerity in her voice that makes her better at reading the Macy's approved script than Katie Couric. In 2005, I was less than enthusiastic about the Katie and Matt Lauer combination. The cheese factor increased today once Al Roker joined Meredith and Matt at the table. Voiceover announcer Joel Godard's pronunciation of "Menudo" was oddly entertaining every time he attempted it.

In 2006, I focused on CBS's coverage. This year I am too frustrated to deal with them because Hannah Storm still doesn't know the difference between a parade float and a balloon. Hannah might have been a little embarrassed when Hannah Jr. used her whole palm to wipe her nose on live TV. Dave Price was definitely embarrassed when he said that Tom Osborne had coached Oklahoma and when he said "you're watching The Early Show... no you're not, you're watching the Thanksgiving Day parade!"

The Ooltewah High School Marching Band dressed in clown costumes and played a medley that included a little bit of music from "Big Top Pee-wee." They finished their performance and started playing "Rocky Top" as NBC moved on to the Ronald McDonald balloon. From the aerial view, Ronald's hair looked more like his brain. The Ooltewah band posted their itinerary online. The students had to wake up at 1:30 this morning, get on their bus by 2:30 and line up for rehearsal at 3:00 a.m.

One of the foot-juggling Huesca Brothers almost neutered his sibling on live TV. One brother was on his back, feet in the air. The other brother was supposed to plant his soles on his brother's. He missed.

Matt Lauer said that the girl on the Care Bears float was "one of rock's foremost vocalists, Kay Hanley." That impressive descriptor didn't help me at all. Besides, she looked too young. Matt might have mentioned that Kay was in the band Letters to Cleo and that she's 39.

You can vote for your favorite float or balloon at, assuming you know the difference.

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Monday, November 19, 2007


It took some searching to find two articles about the test flight of the balloons that will make their debut in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday. WNBC's story includes video. The Herald News wrote about a New Jersey woman becoming a balloon handler.

While looking for news about the new balloons, I found a story about some of my favorite old balloons. The widow of a Goodyear balloon designer loaned photos of his creations for a display at the library in Akron. Naturally I liked the Underdog photo best.

Don't forget that "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" is on ABC tomorrow night. I'll probably record it for my wife, just like I did last month with "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" even though she hasn't had time to watch it yet.

In addition to everything else she does, my wife had a Martha Stewart moment today. She made some turkey-shaped place card holders out of pipe cleaners and Ferrero Rondnoir dark chocolates.

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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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Thursday, November 08, 2007

methods of inflation

Thanksgiving is only two weeks away! Over the years the things I have loved most about the holiday are: watching the parade, eating and having the next day off. I get two out of three again this year.

Today we received a See's Candies holiday catalog in the mail that barely mentioned Christmas. Instead it was pushing Thanksgiving chocolates. As I ate my salad at dinner, I pored over that catalog like other men look at a Playboy centerfold. I was fascinated by the two page spread with cross sections of the various confections. I saw some old favorites like the Scotchmallow and some that were new to me like the Apple Pie truffle.

It's about the time each year when I start to wonder which new balloons will fly in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The information was a little harder to find than I had anticipated. My friend Bean will be happy to know that Hello Kitty will be taking flight. The other new helium-filled characters are Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street and Shrek. There will also be a balloon version of a modern art sculpture called Rabbit by Jeff Koons. The original sculpture looks like a Mylar balloon. It might be considered a sequel to an earlier metal sculpture called Balloon Dog.

I wonder if either NBC or CBS shows the parade in HD. If so, it gives me yet another reason to love Thanksgiving.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

hot air and helium

Attendance was light at today's Dogwood Arts Festival Parade, probably due to threatening weather. Except for a little bit of drizzle, the rain held off until after the parade. After seeing Mayor Haslam and his wife, we walked down Gay Street toward the cameras from WVLT's secondary channel, myVLT2.

The crowd's enthusiasm grew when the National Champion Lady Vols rode past. My enthusiasm grew when the Tennessee Traveler SUV rode past. Gordon Boyd was at the wheel with Chef Walter riding shotgun. My camera was pointed at Stacy McCloud.

The backs of Alan Williams and Kelli Parker can be seen across the street behind the Knoxville Zoo float. Seeing local TV news people and giant balloons made the trip downtown worth my while.

I photographed the Garfield and Friends balloon at the intersection of Gay and Union. (Knoxville also has an intersection of Church and State.) The parade ended with a green serpent balloon. I'm pretty sure the PA announcer called it Cecil, as in "Beany & Cecil."

Three years ago, I thought being in the Dogwood Parade would be good publicity for Einstein Simplified's tenth anniversary. We paid the entry fee and got permission from the city to ride in their REO truck. We had signs made for the truck and rented two bullhorns so we could yell at the spectators, which turned out to be a lot of fun. My hopes of being on TV were dashed when they had us roll past the cameras during a commercial break.

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