Thursday, February 18, 2010

is my soul prepared

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, February 15, 2010

horse and carriage

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

think globally

Are local politicians supposed to be homers? I received an email today from an elected official in Knox County. The message suggested donating to charity instead of buying gifts for Christmas. The politician highlighted a worthy organization, the Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation, with a focus on their indentured daughters program.
During this holiday season, our family is looking for a different way to celebrate - instead of exchanging the usual gifts that no one really needs, we are sharing our love and good fortune with girls and families in Nepal.
As I read the five or six paragraphs about NYOF, which included a link to a PBS video on the topic, I found no fault with such a deserving cause. It was a nice sentiment which educated me about the plight of others. However the last line of the email gave me pause. If the elected official had not included it, I would not have thought something was amiss.
P.S. If you would rather contribute to an organization that helps children here in the United States, we also contribute to Share Our Strength and Remote Area Medical.
Since moving to Tennessee, I have been continually amazed and impressed by the work of Remote Area Medical. You may have seen them on "60 Minutes." Maybe that's why my knee-jerk reaction was that the local politician should be focused on the Tennessee group, perhaps with a P.S. about Nepal. Can you help me figure out why I felt that way and then felt guilty about feeling that way?

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

middle class

Two weeks ago, I did a little church sightseeing in Norfolk. Last Sunday I did the same thing in Middleburg. My wife and I went to Mass with our friend Maureen at St. Stephen the Martyr Catholic Church. The colonial style structure was built with some special accommodations for President John F. Kennedy. According to "The Middleburg Mystique," the church had a special room with a direct phone line to the White House.

The Kennedys would often spend weekends in Middleburg. JFK probably attended Mass at St. Stephen's only two or three times before his death. The church opened in the Spring of 1963. An Associated Press article from late October described the First Family's initial visit to the church, complete with details of the fidgety children and which pew they used. "The Middleburg Mystique" says they last went to Mass there twelve days before his death. Their pew is marked by a small plaque.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

lex men

Eleven days before the anniversary of the moon landing, I went to the place where I watched the historic moonwalk as a child. My grandparent's cottage in Noyac was unrecognizable after the renovations by the new owner. While we were on Long Island, we were able to visit with my sister.

She had accumulated several old family photos that I hadn't seen in years. When she went into the city to run an errand, my wife and I removed some of the pictures out of their frames and took them to the CVS in Southampton. We scanned them at the Kodak Picture Kiosk and had them back in their frames before my sister returned.

Here are three pictures of my father from three stages of his career. He started as a newspaperman, eventually covering the New York State legislature for UPI. He served as assistant press secretary to Governor Nelson Rockefeller for a couple of years before moving into public relations. I liked the dramatic lighting in the third shot. My sister thought it might have been taken at the Cloud Club atop the Chrysler Building. I think the other man on the stairs is probably William Gaskill, my dad's boss at the p.r. firm.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

lunar love good

Today is the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest days in American history. Thank goodness things didn't go horribly wrong. Some foolish doubters still think incorrectly that it was faked.

Three years ago, I wrote about my memories of the Apollo 11 landing and linked to NASA's 30th anniversary website, which was the most current at the time. They now have a great new 40th anniversary site.

We Choose the Moon is a site that is streaming the Apollo 11 mission in real time. My family and I will be gathered around the computer screen at 4:17 p.m. for the landing and 10:56 p.m. for Neil Armstrong's first step.

Several other sites are also worth a look. The Smithsonian Institution has terrific photos and more. The Lunar and Planetary Institute is impressive too. I will be spending more time on the Popular Mechanics pages. What I've read so far of the "Untold Story" is fascinating. has 40 photographs in their Big Picture feature.

I didn't realize until yesterday that Mary Jo Kopechne was killed while Apollo 11 was en route to the moon. My wife and I learned that fact as we watched most of "Teddy: In His Own Words" on HBO.

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Monday, July 06, 2009

green mountains

Number 41 in my ongoing quest to visit all fifty states is... Vermont.

First stop was Sugarbush Farm, a working maple syrup farm. They also sell locally made cheese, which they age and package right there on the farm. The free tour includes samples of fourteen cheeses and four maple syrups. A few farm animals are on display for the kids to feed. I saw a suggestion box for visitors to come up with a name for a female calf. In honor of Rev. Spooner, I submitted "Booger Shush."

To get to and from Sugarbush, we crossed the Taftsville covered bridge. On the way to Waterbury, we stopped to see the beautiful Quechee Gorge.

Everything I had read about the Ben & Jerry's factory tour said it was a disappointment but we went anyway. It was as lame as promised, if not more so. The so-called tour gives you less information than half an episode of "Unwrapped." The real reason to take the $3 tour is for the "free" scoop at the end. We went into the tasting room and found we had no choice of flavors. We were stuck with a white ice cream that had peppermint-infused chocolate chunks. It might have seemed better if they hadn't worked us up to try one of the new flavors like Mission to Marzipan. I couldn't even buy a cone of Mission to Marzipan at the Scoop Shop outside. It was only available in pints.

I always heard that Ben & Jerry had very strong political views. However I was surprised that they leaned so far to the left that the video presentation on the tour didn't even identify which president awarded them with a plaque as U.S. Small Business Persons of the Year in 1988. The video showed a close-up of somebody holding the plaque. Why not zoom out and show Ben & Jerry standing there with Ronald Reagan? At least the video did mention that Ben & Jerry sold their company to Unilever and no longer have anything to do with it. How capitalistic of them. Speaking of Ronald Reagan, I thought of him later when we drove past the Berlin Mall. Get it?

After dessert, we had some dinner in The Lounge at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. The three of us were able to each get a salad and then split an order of wiener schnitzel with spätzle. As you can see, it's a veal cutlet not a hot dog franchise.

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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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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

file footage

Lloyd Bentsen will always be remembered for his famous put-down of Dan Quayle: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." See if you can guess why that quote came to mind while I was watching the 11:00 p.m. news on Monday night.

First of all, I was surprised to see a much heavier version of myself on WBIR. The report started with video from six years ago of the last Phil & Murphy Show on 100.3 The River. They were reporting on a radio station licensed to Oliver Springs that has started using the same name. The angle on the story was that The River is back. Not so fast.

The fault lies more with WBIR than with the new radio station. They wrote their news story to make it sound like my old station was back, even though the manager of the new station made it clear that their name is really just a coincidence. To me, their "'80s, '90s and Now" slogan sounds more like another defunct station, The Point, than the "World Class Rock" once offered by The River.

Here is the video of me trying to hide my weight under an untucked shirt. Don't blink, I'm on there a couple of times but only for a second or two each.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

smelly pizza face

There is still more to share from my recent Florida vacation. Here are a few leftover photos that didn't quite rate their own blog entries.

Is it so embarrassing to buy ProActiv that you can't face the sales clerk? The Treasure Coast Square Mall has a ProActiv vending machine. Once your skin clears up, you can have your picture made at the booth next to it.

Dan Quayle never lived down the way he misspelled potato by adding an e at the end. The folks at Nick's Tomatoe Pie don't seem to care about Quayle's mishap. They have a restaurant in Jupiter and a bar inside Palm Beach International Airport.

The neon sign at Jimmy John's got a smile from me. They offer free smells to passersby.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009


An article in the Washington Post yesterday described how the government messed up the conversion to digital TV, which was supposed to happen on Tuesday. A big part of the problem was that the responsibility for the changeover was split between the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. It probably would have been better to let the "bad cop" FCC handle the whole thing. I think that most of the viewers who wouldn't be ready on February 17th won't be ready on June 12th either.

The article concludes by saying that over 400 stations still plan to turn off their analog signals on Tuesday. Stations that wait until the new June deadline face about $10,000 a month in additional electric bills. Here in Knoxville, WATE plans to keep their analog signal on until June 12th. Considering that their parent company just filed for bankruptcy, they might be forced to rethink that decision.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

not Sonic or Fiona

It took years for me to figure out that I was a hare who needed to learn the ways of the tortoise. Fortunately my children heeded the lesson and made it a habit to start working on their school assignments right away rather than procrastinate like I did at their age.

Today I read about another animal analogy that has me pondering whether I am a fox or a hedgehog. The concept comes from a quote attributed to ancient Greek poet Archilochus: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."

Jim Collins writes about the positive aspects of "The Hedgehog Concept." The fox is cunning but the hedgehog is focused and able to ignore what is not essential. Most of the articles I've seen today conclude that recent Republican presidents are hedgehogs while recent Democrats are foxes.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

clap on

The promise of free cake brought a crowd to Gay Street this evening. The city closed off a block to accommodate all the people. The cake came from MagPies Cakes, which has sent a competitor to a Food Network Challenge in the past. A chewy white fondant covered two layers of chocolate cake. The best part was the chocolate stuff between the cake layers. The cake itself was a bit too dry, like most wedding cakes.

While we were all there, the Bijou Theatre board threw the switch to illuminate their new marquee and vertical blade sign. Fans can buy a bulb and get their name on a plaque in the theatre as part of the "Light Up the Bijou" campaign. Einstein Simplified bought two bulbs to commemorate our performance at the Bijou on Friday at 5:00 p.m.

To me, it looked like all three television stations sent their own cameras to the press event. WBIR's story is already online. State Senator Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam both read from proclamations honoring the Bijou's 100th anniversary. Burchett chose to fist bump everyone rather than shake hands while joking that he had originated the move. Haslam got a big laugh when he mentioned that throughout its history, the Bijou's building had housed movies, parked cars and ladies of the evening.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

serious name dropping

The History Channel has been running presidential-themed programming all day. Earlier I watched a segment about James Madison on a show called "The Presidents." Tonight I was completely drawn in by a show called "Secret Access: Air Force One." As nice as the plane is, the couch that converts into the president's bed made me think that the customized 747 is actually the world's fanciest R.V.

Air Force One delayed my flight in April, 2005. President Bush was supposed to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park for Earth Day. Bad weather kept him at McGhee Tyson Airport instead. While he was here, I was waiting to go to the Washington, D.C. area via the late great Independence Air, which I still miss.

In all the years I lived in the D.C. suburbs, I only had two presidential encounters. Jimmy Carter waved at the box office staff when I worked at Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts. I later met Mr. Carter a couple of times when I booked him as a guest on KLOS. He came in at least twice to promote books he had written.

I've already written about the time my friend Bean and I broadcast from the White House lawn for a Redskins victory celebration. We saw Ronald Reagan throw a pass to Ricky Sanders. Yes kids, there was a time when the Redskins were that good.

I shook hands with George H.W. Bush, but not while he was president and not while in D.C. He made a campaign stop at Villanova University. I foolishly spent two semesters there as a math major and soon realized that I fit in better at the student newspaper and student radio station. Mr. Bush had a luncheon with student leaders in the Connelly Center as many of us looked on from an upper level. He made some remarks and acknowledged the people he was with, including Villanovan editor Marianne Lavelle. I started a chant of "Marianne, Marianne," which prompted Mr. Bush to call her to his side for a hug. Cameras flashed and a big picture of the two of them was splashed above the fold on the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer the next day. That's when Marianne told me that her family members were leaders in the local Democratic party and that she now had a lot of explaining to do.

Bill Clinton came to Los Angeles after his term to speak at the Radio & Records convention. I was working at the convention for my friend Pam Baker. She assigned me to be the liaison for "Access Hollywood" anchors Nancy O'Dell and Pat O'Brien. I had known Pat for years from his frequent guest appearances on KROQ. He felt comfortable telling me that he really wanted to be introduced to Mr. Clinton, which wasn't on the official agenda. I was aware of the path that the former president would take through the kitchen to the ballroom so I positioned Pat and Nancy in the corridor until the time was right. As Mr. Clinton was chatting with some people in his entourage, I saw my opening and took it. "Mr. Clinton, I'd like you to meet Nancy O'Dell and Pat O'Brien," I said. He quickly turned to greet them, as I thought he would, especially since Nancy is gorgeous.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

crusty cur

The flags were at half-staff at a rest stop in Illinois on Saturday. While the real reason was to honor a deceased retired judge, I thought that Governor Blagojevich might have ordered the flags lowered in mourning over his career. He had been impeached the day before.

Inside the rest stop I saw some funny tourism posters for Illinois attractions. The sign for White Squirrel Town says they have nothing to fear but stubborn grass stains. They sell t-shirts and other items with the same design.

The poster that amused me (and others) the most was for the Cozy Dog Drive In. It shows a nurse feeding a bottle to a corn dog with the caption "Visit the Birthplace of the Corn Dog." There's no need to wait until National Corn Dog Month to get yourself a t-shirt with the poster on it.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

perpetual light skype upon them

In this Internet era, everyone could benefit from having a Google Alert for their own name. I've had one in my name for a while and I've recently suggested that my wife and kids set up some for themselves. This past January, Stacy McCloud got a laugh when a Google Alert showed her name in my blog post titled "local news anchor on pot."

When I first set up my own Google Alert, I would get a lot of links to pages about the late politician and judge Frank Murphy and to news stories mentioning the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. The famous Michigander turned up recently in a story on George Mason University's History News Network. Sometimes I got news of former NFL player Frank Murphy. Lately there have been even more Frank Murphys turning up on the Alert.

There's a Frank Murphy who is a "streetwise scrum half," whatever that means. In Florida, there's a Frank Murphy who is the president of Catholic Charities, Diocese of St. Petersburg. A Dr. Frank Murphy is vice-president of the South Carolina Animal Care and Control Association. However it was yet another Frank Murphy who gave me reason to write this post.

He's a funeral director in Salem, Massachusetts who has started using the Internet to help grieving families. He sets up video streaming to allow far-off relatives to view funeral services online.
The process requires only a single camera, a laptop and an Internet connection. There is a 40-second delay, but viewers are essentially watching the proceedings in "real time" through a link to a secure page or by logging in to a password-protected portion on the Murphy Funeral Home Web site.

The biggest challenge was practical, not philosophical. The church lacks an Internet connection, and Murphy is not ready to take the service wireless — at least not yet. Fortunately, a benevolent neighbor of the church allowed a cable to be run from his router, enabling the broadcast to happen.
As an aside, I thought it funny that the website for the local newspaper in Massachusetts is called

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

see you at the dipping cabinets

There was only a short wait for the free Ben & Jerry's coupons they were handing out at Bearden Middle School today. The little slips of paper also contain a code that lets you operate a voting machine. Seriously though, the people with opposing viewpoints are out there casting their ballots, so you may as well go cast yours.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

duck and cover

Let's assume for a minute that the results of Tuesday's election leave half the population unhappy and worried about the future. What will they think when the U.S. Department of Energy's Public Warning Siren System is activated on Wednesday near the Y-12 National Security Complex?

Don't panic. The Oak Ridge sirens are tested on the first Wednesday of every month. Oh by the way, in the event of an actual emergency, go inside and close all your windows and ventilation systems. Unless of course the actual emergency occurs during the test. Then how would you know?

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

unequal time

Although the late-night comics would seem to favor the Democratic ticket, I think several of them must secretly hope for a Republican victory. They get much more material from the GOP. Their jokes about McCain and Palin outnumbered their jokes about Obama and Biden 475 to 69 according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University. The Center's website keeps a tally of the people targeted by some of the TV comedians.

While out of town over the the weekend, I saw a political yard sign that attempted to make a joke about Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney. It shows Cheney with pit-bullish lipstick and says that Palin would be "more of the same." I disagree. Palin shot a moose, Cheney shot a lawyer.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

change is just around the corner

During the heated political campaigns of my youth, I would ride my bicycle down to the local Republican and Democrat headquarters to get free campaign buttons for my collection. Amidst all the Nixon, McGovern, Ford and Carter pins that I stored in a huge maraschino cherry jar from Baskin-Robbins were my two of my favorite buttons: "Wally Ballou for Mayor" and "Wintergreen for President." Both are fictional candidates. Wally Ballou was a creation of radio greats Bob & Ray. John P. Wintergreen is the lead character in a musical by George & Ira Gershwin and George S. Kaufman & Morrie Ryskind.

"Of Thee I Sing"
is about a presidential candidate who knew he was unelectable based on the issues and decided to run on emotion instead. His advisers choose a one-word platform that, "everybody's interested in and that doesn't matter a damn!" John P. Wintergreen was swept into office on a platform of "love." The satirical show features songs such as "Love Is Sweeping the Country" and "Who Cares?"

My wife and I took in a student performance of the Gershwin musical while visiting with family members over the weekend. I knew I had seen a televised production of the play back in the '70s but could not recall any of the plot points or songs. As I watched the students sing and dance, I kept trying to remember who played those same parts in the TV version. The president was easy. I could picture Carroll O'Connor's face on my Wintergreen campaign button. However his running mate, Alexander Throttlebottom, and his First Lady, Mary Turner, stumped me. The young lady we saw playing Mary had a beautiful, operatic singing voice.

Thankfully IMDB came to my rescue. Throttlebottom was played by Jack Gilford, who I mainly remember from some old Cracker Jack commercials. During the play I kept thinking that Wintergreen's wife was played by another television star, maybe even O'Connor's "All in the Family" costar Jean Stapleton. However her off-key singing as Edith Bunker made me think it had to be someone else. Still, I was quite surprised to find out that the lovely Mary Turner was played by the same woman dancing across my TV tonight, Cloris Leachman.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

you betcha

The real Sarah Palin was on "Saturday Night Live" last night showing a good sense of humor about herself. Although both of her sketches turned out okay, they started with similar unfunny premises. In the show open, Palin was backstage with Lorne Michaels while Tina Fey reprised her impersonation of the candidate in a press conference setting. Palin finds out that she will not get to perform the "30 Rock" spoof she had supposedly written. It finally got funny when Alec Baldwin showed up and repeatedly addressed Palin as Tina.

During the Weekend Update segment, Palin said she didn't want to do the bit they had rehearsed because it might reflect poorly on the campaign. Seth Meyers asked Amy Poehler if she "remembered" what Palin was supposed to do. Poehler then rapped a song about Alaska, McCain, Obama and the like while Palin bobbed her head in rhythm.

In the first sketch, Palin's thunder was stolen by Mark Wahlberg, who showed up to complain about Andy Samberg's portrayal of him on the October 4th show. They could have had Palin and Wahlberg show up simultaneously and skipped the part about Palin writing a "30 Rock" skit. In her second appearance, I would have preferred for Palin to have been given some way to introduce the rap song other than pretending that she was originally going to perform it. How about a simple sketch where she was auditioning rappers to help her reach a younger audience?

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

the other forensics

This is not usually a blog about politics but occasionally something political catches my interest. For example, a Catholic blogger posted a link to an NPR story which reports that Starbucks customers prefer Obama while Walmart shoppers prefer McCain.

Meanwhile my wife's Aunt Ginny and some of our other family members in St. Louis will be affected by street closures for Thursday's vice-presidential debate. People visiting the site of the debate can buy donkey or elephant shaped cookies as a way of showing their preference. The elephant cookies won in 2004, which makes perfect sense to me. You get more cookie for your $1.25 with a big elephant than with a little donkey.

My recent posts about St. Louis restaurants must have caught the attention of somebody important. That's the only way I can explain why I got a press release about St. Louis Fashion Week from the Convention & Visitors Commission.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

shore thing

Sean Hannity's radio show used to be on a local AM station every afternoon at 3:00 p.m. I would often hear the beginning of it while scanning the dial and waiting to pick up my son from school. One day Hannity's show was gone. Another station picked up the show and buried it in an evening timeslot via tape delay.

Last night I heard some of Hannity's show as I drove to the Maryville vs. Alcoa football game. He was extremely energized over John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate. Palin's selection has made the October 2nd vice presidential debate in St. Louis a lot more interesting too.

I wonder if Lorne Michaels has already asked Tina Fey to come back to "Saturday Night Live" just to play Palin. You have to admit there's a resemblance. My wife is hoping that the our favorite cast member, Kristen Wiig, will portray Palin. I'm sure Wiig could nail the voice, especially on phrases like "He's a world champion snow machine racer!"

As a radio guy, I get a kick out of hearing Scott Shannon voice the segment intros on Hannity's show. Almost everyone I knew in DC radio had a Scott Shannon story from his time at WPGC. Something I heard Shannon say last night made me laugh and wonder if I had anything to do with it. I think he said that the broadcast had been "Hannitized for your protection."

In February of 2007, I sent a one-minute audio clip to Sean's staff. His producer, James Grisham, wrote back to say thanks. In the clip, Kim Hansard does an inadvertent spoonerism on the words "hand sanitizer." Listen to it yourself and tell me if you think I planted an idea in the heads of the Hannity folks.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

liberal media bias

Barack Obama did not get equal time in Knoxville last night. Most of the country saw him and John McCain on the finale of "Last Comic Standing." Here, we got McCain only. The two candidates each did a short bit to showcase their sense of humor. From what I've read, Obama's piece may have been a little funnier than McCain's, depending on his delivery.

Obama got preempted by some very early local election returns from Sevier, Jefferson and Loudon counties. WBIR cut in at 8:43 p.m. for about a minute. In most cases only 2% of the precincts were reporting by that time. They cut in again 20 minutes later with some Knox County results. Only 1% of those precincts were reporting. At least they did a better job with the second cut-in by fitting it within the confines of a commercial break. If they had done it right the first time, they could have replaced promos for "Heroes" and "America's Toughest Jobs" and not missed any of the show. By the time they made it back to "Last Comic Standing," Jon Lovitz was starting his stand-up set.

The LCS finale was a typically inflated results show with 89½ minutes of build-up to 30 second announcement. I was happy that Iliza Schlesinger won the competition. She really earned it by performing almost every week. The other comics sent her to the elimination round a couple of times. Their strategy backfired as Iliza won each early vote by a landslide and gained many new fans along the way. Find more Iliza videos on her site and at YouTube.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

taking it on the chin

A story in The Hollywood Reporter suggests that the best post-"Tonight Show" option for Jay Leno is to join ABC. We've heard this idea again and again and again over the past year and a half. The article also spells out scenarios for Leno to move to Fox, CBS and into syndication. Their conclusion is that the only job Leno really wants is "The Tonight Show."

As bad as Leno's show is, it would make a better lead-in to Jimmy Kimmel's show than "Nightline." However I think that if "Nightline" were to go away, Jimmy should get the chance to compete with Conan O'Brien's new "Tonight Show" at 11:35. If ABC ends up hiring Leno, they should only give him a half-hour show. He can do his monologue and his Jaywalking (or whatever) and skip the celebrity interviews that are not his strong point.

Quick side note: It bugs me when the "Nightline" anchors sign off by saying "good night America" followed by ten seconds of instrumental theme music as they show the New York skyline. Their tone of voice and the dark picture also seem to say "and now, ABC ends its broadcast day. Join us tomorrow for 'Sunrise Semester.'" It reminds me of something I learned about in college. Two political candidates each bought an hour of radio time, back-to-back. The first candidate ended his speech after forty-five minutes, said good night to America, and then deliberately ran fifteen minutes of dead air before his opponent could begin.

Because I always record "Jimmy Kimmel Live," it doesn't matter to me all that much whether it starts at 11:35, 12:05 or 12:35. It will still look the same when I watch it the next day. However it would be easiest for me if NBC figured out a way to keep Jay Leno, even if it means a big payment to Conan O'Brien for delaying the start of his "Tonight Show" era. That way I won't have to modify the Season Pass for "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on my TiVo.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

faith of our fathers

Writing about my father's birthday yesterday got me wondering what he would look like if he were still alive. He would be about the same age as Ted Kennedy, Gene Shalit and Casey Kasem. Of the three, he would probably look most like Kennedy. On this Memorial Day weekend, I can make a virtual visit to the cemetery where my father is buried, thanks to a blog entry I posted two years ago.

A blog post I read this past week mentioned a priest named Fr. Michael Whelan of Australia. Seeing that last name reminded me that my father had a friend named Fr. Charlie Whelan (of New York). Like my father, Fr. Whelan was a writer. He worked for a Catholic magazine called America. A quick search revealed that Fr. Whelan retired from the magazine a year ago after 40 years of service. Best of all, they have posted a video of Fr. Whelan speaking about the first article he wrote for America. I can see and hear what one of my father's contemporaries looks and sounds like today. I didn't realize until now that Fr. Whelan was about five or six years older than my father.

In the video, Fr. Whelan mentions President John F. Kennedy and the relationship between church and state. That became his area of expertise both as a writer and as a professor at Fordham Law School. He successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court in 1971 on behalf of a Baptist church. The Fordham Law Review published a couple of tributes to him last May.

This morning at church I picked up a free copy of a newsletter called Catholic Update. The June issue deals with church and state too. It emphasizes that the Church does not endorse candidates or tell people how to vote. It merely reminds voters of the 7 key themes to keep in mind when making their own choices. Catholics are not single-issue voters. One sentence summed up my problem with politics:
In today’s environment, Catholics may feel politically disenfranchised, sensing that no party and few candidates fully share our comprehensive commitment to human life and dignity.
The newsletter directed me to a website on Faithful Citizenship that will warrant further reading on my part.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

the more things change

Tonight's entry comes from a very special guest blogger, my father. How is that possible, you ask, considering that he's been dead for twenty-five years? My mother recently gave me copies of some letters he wrote during the mid to late 1970s. He's no Ted L. Nancy but I was amused nevertheless. I am as much interested in his style of writing as I am in the content of the letters. I plan to eventually share three with you. Look for a missive to a member of the New York Giants this fall and a baseball related letter later this spring.

We'll start with a thirty-year-old message to Jimmy Carter's press secretary, Jody Powell. I don't have the clipping that was originally enclosed. We'll have to guess what it was about.

March 16, 1978

Mr. Jody Powell
Press Secretary
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr.Powell:

I know you are overwhelmed with problems, and I hesitate to send you "just another clipping," but I thought this letter to The New York Times is particularly significant in light of the many issues that confront our society today.

I have not attempted to target on any specific piece of legislation or advance any similar cause, but I do wish to direct your attention to the increasing burden that the middle class -- that is, the producer group -- is being asked to carry for those others in our society who are solely consumers.

If the size of the middle class continues to diminish, if its ability to function and educate its children is further inhibited by ever increasing tax burdens and government programs, the ability of our economy to create sufficient wealth to take care of the needs of all will be critically undermined.

I seriously do not think I overstate the case.


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Sunday, March 30, 2008

where to stick it

Campaign buttons used to be free. When I was a kid, I would occasionally stop by the local Republican and Democratic headquarters to pick up a few pins for my collection. My interest waned as I grew older and came to realize that I would never have a complete set. The buttons I did collect are in a big jar at my mother's house. If I had stuck with it, I might be like Ken Gustafson of Yakima or Graylen Becker of Rochester whose collections got them in their local newspapers. Or like Jordan Wright, who wrote a book about his political memorabilia.

I saw two things at Weigel's that surprised me this morning. One, that campaign buttons and bumper stickers were available for $1.99 each. That's at least $2 more than they're worth. And two, that some candidates who had dropped out were still represented. If I were so inclined, I could have bought a Giuliani or Edwards button or a Huckabee sticker. To prove that these pictures aren't from January, I posed hostage-style with today's News Sentinel.

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Friday, February 08, 2008


Did you vote on Super Tuesday? Did you eat anything that day? Apparently IHOP thought we couldn't do both. In addition to voting, I went to work, posted a blog entry, went to a business lunch at a client's, bought some salad at Sam's Club, picked up my son from school, took a nap and performed with Einstein Simplified. Who's to say I couldn't have eaten a short stack as well?

Pancakes were traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday as people used up the fresh ingredients that would go to waste during Lent. Because several states had their primaries on Shrove Tuesday this year, IHOP moved their celebration of National Pancake Day to February 12. Too bad the voters in Virginia, Maryland and DC will be too busy to enjoy free pancakes that day.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

you've got to rearrange

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

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

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

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

poll vault

Internet traffic must have been busy tonight at I repeatedly got error messages when I tried to load the page during prime time. I finally got through but not until late in the evening. My son told me about the site as he and I were talking about next week's election and about his AP Government class, which I mentioned here two weeks ago.

Because I don't know how I'm going to vote, my son suggested that I answer a brief questionnaire to see which presidential candidate best matched my views. Since I couldn't connect to OnTheIssues, I sought out some similar sites. A Sacramento Bee article listed several.

The various quiz results weren't quite as helpful as I had hoped. USA Today's Candidate Match Game was perhaps too simple. With only eleven questions, it omitted some issues that are important to me. It told me that my best match was a candidate who has already dropped out. Glassbooth had me assign points to issues, which was an extra step I didn't want. As a result, it pointed me to a long-shot candidate. Once I was able to get to OnTheIssues, it was hard to find the link to their survey. The Sacramento Bee article said their quiz was actually hosted on, so I just went straight there. My match scores there were pretty low. I think it's because my views don't line up neatly with either political party. I would be considered to be liberal on some issues yet conservative on others. Too bad I can't vote in both primaries.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

strange bedfellows

There are plenty of reasons for me to be proud of my son. He works hard on his school assignments and tries to improve his time at each swim meet. Without taking anything away from his academic or athletic accomplishments, I have to say that his sense of humor gives me the most gratification. I love it when he makes me laugh. The other day he told me that he and his classmates in AP Government were wishing that Ralph Nader could somehow be chosen as Barack Obama's running mate. It's got nothing to do with politics. They just want to see an "Obama-Nader" bumper sticker.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

no transfusion confusion

At first glance, the guy on the motorcycle next to me looked familiar. I was sitting at a traffic light near West Town Mall this afternoon. I looked again and realized that it was State Senator Tim Burchett in the next lane. He was wearing goggles and a helmet with some unusual markings on the side.

I've interviewed Tim a couple of times. One time at the oldies station on Sharp's Ridge, it was still dark when the senator arrived early for his 7:00 a.m. segment. Burchett was dressed in a suit and tie but that didn't stop him from using an air conditioning unit to give himself a boost onto the roof. From there he could jump up and knock on the window of our broadcast studio to let us know he had arrived. Since then, I've always said hello to Tim when I've seen him around town at high school football games, parades and other events.

While we waited for the light to turn green, I yelled hello over the sound of his motorcycle. It looked to be a classic bike. I think he said it was a '57 or '59. I asked about the squiggles on the sides of his helmet. I'm pretty sure he said that he had gotten the Pettys to autograph it. I am positive that he said he had written his blood type on the back of his helmet. In fact, I saw it as he drove away.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

random updates on recent postings

My lucky guess about Jim and Pam on "The Office" looks to be partially accurate. This week's episode is entitled "Branch Closing" and the following week's is called "The Merger." Right after the broadcast of this Thursday's episode, will offer a "producer's cut" of it with some extra scenes and footage.

Local deejay Gretchen did turn up on the Ralphie May special. I
f you TiVo-ed it, you can see a close up of her sitting in the audience at about 23 minutes into the show. The Tennessee Theatre looks great on TV. More specials should be filmed there.

After I mentioned John D. Becker and the Oregon Catholic Press, I remembered that the new anchorman at WBIR was also named John Becker and that he had moved here from Oregon. Was he any relation? I sent him an email through the station's website to find out. He replied promptly to say that he wasn't related to John D. but hoped to somehow claim a relation to Boris.

Because he retired his own blog, my friend Bean sent me an email so I could be the one to tell you about International Save Pluto Day. Mark your calendars for February 4, 2007.

I saw a commercial for a video game at the movie theatre while I waited for the early screening of "Borat" to start yesterday. The ad showed scenes from a fairly violent game called "Gears of War" while a soft, sad song played. It was "Mad World" by Gary Jules, which I wrote about when it was used on an episode of "C.S.I." Several people have found their way to my site after searching for information about that song.

There were long lines at my polling place today. I think it was partly due to voter turnout and partly due to the amount of time it takes to dial through all the choices on the eSlate machines.
Now that it's Election Day, the political telemarketing calls will finally stop. There are things I do like and don't like about each of the U.S. Senate candidates which made my decision in that race difficult. What about the company they keep? Over the past weeks, I've picked up the phone to hear famous voices from both parties urging me to vote for their man. Would I rather vote for the candidate endorsed by Phil Bredesen or the one endorsed by Laura Bush? Hmm... still undecided. How about the one endorsed by Bill Clinton or the one endorsed by Rudy Giuliani? That could be enough to sway me.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

hanging on the telephone

The phone has been ringing a lot this campaign season. A couple of weeks ago I got a call from Bob Corker's mother. It was prerecorded of course. In recent days I've gotten taped calls from Governor Phil Bredesen and from a candidate for the state house. Just after 9:00 tonight the phone rang again. This time it was the voice of Congressman Harold Ford Jr. urging me to show up on the UT campus tomorrow afternoon for a taping (or is it live?) of "Hardball with Chris Matthews." He must want people to stand in the background and cheer for him during MSNBC's "Battleground America" coverage.

Both parties seem to have done enough research to know that my vote is still up for grabs. Somehow I am slightly relieved that they haven't dug deep enough to realize it's a waste of time to ask me to be anywhere during nap time. Even if it means that I'll miss a chance to see Norah O'Donnell in person.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006


My daughter will cast her vote by absentee ballot this year. Like every Tennessee voter, she's very interested in the U.S. Senate race between Bob Corker and Harold Ford, Jr. I spoke with both candidates on the half-hour public affairs show that airs on all four stations in the cluster. The audio files are too big for me to email to my daughter, so I'll post them here instead for her to hear. Ford was recorded when he visited the studio on October 9 and Corker on October 12. The first show was broadcast last Sunday and the second aired this morning. Each file is 12MB for your podcasting pleasure.

Harold Ford Jr.

Bob Corker

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