Tuesday, March 16, 2010

unlucky charms

It's time to call B.S. on Gibson Greeting Cards. Last week when I was buying my wife a birthday card, I saw two cards in the St. Patrick's Day section that said "Happy Shamrock Day." That's just wrong. It would be less offensive if they discontinued all their St. Patrick's cards rather than publish ones that celebrate clover.

Back in the prehistoric days before I started this blog, I noticed some napkins with the same offending phrase on them. The idiotic marketing scheme has picked up more negative press since then, including a bit of a dust-up in Waco last year.

"Happy Shamrock Day" is as stupid as "Happy Turkey Day" on Thanksgiving. Not everyone eats turkey then. Maybe I should expect to see "Happy Hard-Boiled Egg Day" or "Happy Firecracker Day" in the near future. Would Gibson dare market a Passover card that said "Happy Flatbread Days?" I don't think so.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

mad magazine

The big news at All Saints Church this morning was that Fr. Tony Dickerson has asked Bishop Stika for a leave of absence from the priesthood. We were all asked to pray for Tony, who is a favorite of my family. It's got to be a tough job. There are many former priests out there including one of my mother's relatives. Fr. Tony got a big laugh a couple of months ago when he told the congregation at 8:15 a.m. Mass that he suspected they liked to go to church early so they can beat the Baptists to Cracker Barrel.

Bishop Stika has been in my thoughts for two other reasons this past week. In the newest edition of the East Tennessee Catholic, the Bishop responds to some hateful anti-Catholic propaganda that was recently distributed in Pigeon Forge. The story hit the local news just before my wife and I headed out of town, coincidentally to the Bishop's hometown of St. Louis. Because of our travels, we didn't realize that it made the national news too.

The ridiculous pamphlets falsely allege that Catholics are not Christians and that our belief in the Holy Eucharist was stolen from ancient Egyptian sun worshipers. I wonder if the author has ever driven past a Catholic church, much less opened a book to do any research about it. I found a great blog post written by a priest who is a convert to Catholicism. He quotes Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen who said there are very few people who disagree with what Catholics believe, but there are millions who disagree with what they think Catholics believe. I was reminded of my late grandfather who used to question what it was that modern-day Protestants were protesting.

The last bit of Bishop Stika news to cross my desk last week involves me more directly. The annual Catholic Charities dinner is this Thursday. I was invited to auction off dinner for ten with Bishop Stika at The Chop House. Given my experience, I hope I can get away with a joke or two about fasting and abstinence during Lent.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

having a laugh

The last few minutes of a conversation with Ricky Gervais were winding down when I flipped on the radio the other day. I find the British comedian consistently amusing, so I made a mental note to find the rest of the interview online. Gervais and David Bianculli talked about the new HBO series which takes audio from the comic’s BBC podcasts and adds animation designed to resemble the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons. They spent a little time on "The Office" and maybe a tiny bit more time on "Extras." He chose to have his "Extras" character espouse atheism, the same way he does in real life. Obviously, I disagree with his atheistic beliefs but I wasn’t going to let that ruin my day. At the end of the show, Gervais had me laughing again and wanting to see the episode of "The Marriage Ref" featuring him, Madonna and Larry David.

Locally, the Gervais interview was followed by a monthly public affairs show. The topic for March was social media. My favorite part was a phone call from an enthusiastic listener who wanted to know how to use a blog or Facebook to build his lawn mowing business. The panel said he could use a blog to share his landscaping knowledge, thereby making himself known as an expert on the subject.

I have been taking advantage of the free coffee coupons offered on the Facebook page for Pilot Travel Centers. The coupons that expired at the end of February were good at any Pilot location. The new coupons, valid through the end of May, are buy-one-get-one-free coupons for any hot beverage at Pilot Food Mart stores, which are all over East Tennessee. There is a second coupon for a free coffee, but to use it, I have to leave my immediate area and find a Pilot Travel Center. I guess they’re on to me.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

can't spell omega without omg

Darwin Day passed me by with no fanfare this year. I was aware that last Friday was the 201st birthday of both Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln but had other things to do. In fact, my wife and I were sharing a table at the World Marriage Day dinner with Dr. Kelly Kearse and his wife. Dr. Kearse was my son's chemistry teacher in high school.

During the course of the evening, Dr. Kearse mentioned that he had downloaded and listened to my interview with Bishop Stika from last year. I told him about some of my other interviews online, including those with Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass. By the way, the two will be coming in soon to record an interview about their new book, "The Bone Thief."

Dr. Kearse emailed me the other day to say thanks for a photo I sent him from that night. He also told me that he had downloaded seven more interviews from my site. He had just listened to the interview with the author of "Thank God for Evolution."

The conversation with Dr. Kearse, coupled with the start of Lent, inspired me to use my WiFi clock radio to listen to podcasts of some online homilies as I settle in for bed. One of the files turned out to be not a homily but a lecture by Fr. Don Goergen about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. I've heard the first half-hour a couple of times as I drifted off to sleep. The whole podcast is an hour and 25 minutes long. I plugged in some headphones and have been listening to the rest of it tonight while watching the Olympics on TV.

It's pretty heady stuff about cosmogenesis, biogenesis, psychogenesis and Christogenesis. A few of Fr. Goergen's quotes stood out for me:
  • God creates the universe evolutably.
  • The world is evolving and that evolution is a manifestation of God's creative activity.
  • The world is moving in the direction of increased complexity and increased consciousness.
  • Darwinism doesn't necessarily mean atheism.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

on fire!

David Letterman and Jay Leno get all the attention but the best gig in television may actually belong to Regis Philbin. The hours aren't bad and he gets to work with a great co-host, Kelly Ripa. Philbin was born a year before my father and has been on the air since before I was born. Like my parents, he is from The Bronx. In fact, he went to the same high school as two of my uncles.

This morning I got to live out a little bit of my Regis fantasy right here in Knoxville. Two months ago when I was a guest on "Eleven O'clock Rock," the producers at Knoxivi told me that co-host Brent Thompson would be taking a few days off when his wife delivered their baby. They offered me the opportunity to fill in as one of their guest co-hosts. I got the call last week that today would be the day.

It was an absolute pleasure to work with Lauren Lazarus, who made things very easy for me. She was willing to go along with my idea for a cold open that referenced couple of yesterday's Super Bowl ads, especially the commercial for Snickers.

The show streams live each weekday at 11:00 a.m. To view today's episode in the archives, go to http://knoxivi.com/eleven/ and click on Monday and then on 02/08/2010. You can also get information about the show on Facebook and Twitter.

The musical guest was Davis Mitchell from the band Dishwater Blonde. He performed some of his solo material, which had a nice Christian feel to it. Mitchell is a music minister at Knoxlife Church, which usually meets at Remedy Coffee in the Old City.

During the show, I got to interview Jeff Joslin, who directed the movie I was in last year. We talked about how Jeff got "Fish Bait" off the ground and how he is writing a sequel. Before the show ended, Jeff texted me and offered up a special link for viewers to buy the DVD and soundtrack for only ten bucks.

Jeff told me that he and his New York-based pals plan to make another spoof music video soon. He recently posted an amusing parody of Jordin Sparks' "No Air" on YouTube. It's about a follically challenged man and it's called (you guessed it) "No Hair."

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

once was lost, now is found

Each December, the news is full of stories about baby Jesus figures that have been stolen from nativity scenes around the world. The phenomenon is so common, it has its own Wikipedia page!

Today I received a phone call from a listener who had discovered a plastic Jesus close to her home. It was abandoned in the Kings Gate subdivision, near the Ingles in Farragut. She said it has a hole in the back for a light bulb. I asked her to send me a picture so I could post it online and perhaps find the rightful owner. You can help by forwarding this blog post to anyone you know in the area.

PS: I did not ask why her bedsheets resemble a Twister board.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

sync or swim

The technological challenge of presenting the Living Christmas Tree in a basketball arena is mind-boggling. I was impressed with the professional caliber of the performance. It's as good a show as you would expect to see at a theater in Nashville or a theme park in Orlando. Was it too good to be true?

As I watched the program yesterday, I wondered where they placed the microphones for all the singers in the enormous, tree-shaped riser. Some of the soloists had flesh-colored headset mics on their cheeks. I thought about how many wireless channels it would take to collect the sound from the hundreds of cast members.

My suspicions were confirmed today by someone who attended the matinee performance on Sunday. She has a friend who played in the sizable live orchestra. The friend told her that the acoustics of Thompson-Boling Arena would make it impossible for all the musicians and singers to play and sing together. The distance between the orchestra pit and the singers in the tree would create an audio delay. As a result, the musicians and most of the singers pre-record their parts in October. A few of the soloists sing live with the recorded track. The rest of the singers and musicians aren't just mouthing the words or playing air guitar. They do actually sing along and play along with themselves but without microphones.

Armed with this information, am I surprised? A little. Am I disappointed? No. Do I regret going to the show last year or this year? No. Will I go again next year? Absolutely.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

under (-utilized) the tree

Christmas is the second most important celebration in Christianity. The annual Living Christmas Tree performance recognized that fact as their nativity pageant turned into a passion play. I had a great time at last year's show and was anxious to see it again.

Imagine that your church decided to put on a nativity pageant and that it grew in popularity over time. It relocated from the church to a theater that still wasn't big enough. Eventually it found a home at a large basketball arena. The demand for tickets is so great that five shows are scheduled each year. That's what happened at Sevier Heights Baptist Church, which works all year to prepare for their annual festivities at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The show started with a series of songs that would fit right in on a secular all-Christmas radio station. A huge group of kids sang about toys and Santa sang that he was "back in town." They segued quickly into a reenactment of the first Christmas. My son wondered how they chose the real baby who played Jesus. Rehearsals for the Living Christmas Tree begin each July. They must put out a casting call for pregnant women who are due around Thanksgiving.

The story didn't stop with the infant Jesus. It picked up with John the Baptist (duh) who sang a solo before he immersed Jesus in a pool of real water. Jesus cast out demons, cured a blind girl and raised another girl from the dead during an upbeat musical number. During the Last Supper, they sang "I Am the Bread of Life," which I recognized from the Catholic hymnals. It was a little odd to see the giant Christmas tree as the backdrop for scenes of the crucifixion and the resurrection.

There is one more performance of this year's Living Christmas Tree. In addition to everything I've mentioned, there is also a good sermon from evangelist Jose Zayas. The only thing I don't understand is why they ask people to leave the arena for one-on-one counseling before the much-hyped grand finale featuring the Hallelujah Chorus. As usual, the audience stood.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

called home

The death of Oral Roberts will make most people think of the time in 1987 when he said he was going to die. I am no exception. When my phone buzzed with the Twitter message from Celebrity Death Beeper, I immediately thought of my trip to Oklahoma.

After Rev. Roberts announced that the Lord would take him if he didn't raise enough money, Don & Mike began a countdown to his anticipated death date. As we got closer, someone suggested that it would be funny to broadcast live from the gates of Oral Roberts University. It sounds like something The Daily Show would do if it happened today.

Don & Mike, our engineer Chip and I flew to Tulsa and checked in to a hotel not far from the huge statue of praying hands. Chip had arranged for a satellite uplink truck to meet us there for the broadcast. That's when people started getting nervous. Our intention was to do the show from the hotel parking lot. The management refused to allow the satellite truck on their property. We were told that Rev. Roberts owned the land under the hotel.

With our fancy, expensive satellite broadcast scrapped, all we could do was phone it in. My friend Bean and Shadow Smith anchored the show back at WAVA. Don & Mike called the studio from their hotel rooms. To add some local flavor, I went to a nearby Waffle House, talked with some customers and then called in a report from a pay phone. It was the first time I had ever been to a Waffle House, a feat I didn't repeat until 15 years later when I moved to Knoxville.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

a cheerful giver

Today's blog entry has been, in a manner of speaking, donated to charity. I received a couple of emails asking for help. One gives you a chance to get some exercise before eating your Thanksgiving dinner. The other lets you spend big money on a one-of-a-kind item.

I remember your post about Bible Across America and I wanted to give you a heads up, Zondervan is auctioning off one of the Bible Across America handwritten originals.

The Bible Zondervan is auctioning is actually in three volumes. Each is leather-bound, and cumulatively contain 2,200 pages at 11x17 inches. It is the actual Bible that people wrote into and includes the handwriting of more than 31,000 Americans from all ages and walks of life during the course of the nine month campaign.

The auction is currently open on eBay at the following link: http://stores.shop.ebay.com/Bible-Across-America-Charity-Sale. It will end on November 22, 2009 at 11:11 AM EST.

All proceeds of the auction will benefit Colorado Springs-based Biblica, the translation sponsor of the New International Version (NIV) translation, the translation used for Bible Across America.

I was hoping you could check out the auction, make a bid if you want to, and give a shout out on your blog. If you have any questions I'm happy to answer them.

Brian Burch
Here's another one.
Hey Frank,

If you think it's appropriate, would you consider mentioning something about the Hot to Trot race on your blog? Proceeds benefit Catholic Charities and Sister Martha's Food Pantry. Great way to get active on Thanksgiving Day, while giving back to the community.

If you can't, no big deal. I'm just trying to get the word out.

Gretchen Crawley

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

forgive them, Father

The parishioners of All Saints Catholic Church received some disturbing news this weekend. Dozens of consecrated hosts were found stuck to the underside of the pews last Sunday. Fr. Michael Woods celebrated all the Masses this weekend so he could deliver a homily explaining that desecration of the hosts is punishable by excommunication from the church. The same message was conveyed to the students of Knoxville Catholic High School on Thursday morning during their Mass at All Saints.

There are some Christians who take the beginning of the Bible literally. They believe that creation happened in seven days, just like the book of Genesis says. As a Catholic, I was taught that the creation story was a nice way of explaining the world to early humans and that the process took considerably longer than a week. I summarize my belief in three words: "God created evolution."

There are also some Christians who take the words of Jesus figuratively, especially at the Last Supper. As a Catholic, I believe that Jesus meant what he said and said what he meant when he took bread and said, "this is my body. Do this in memory of me." To this day, Catholics believe that the bread and wine at Mass become the body and blood of Jesus. Just because I can't see the difference doesn't mean it hasn't changed. I once heard a priest draw an analogy between the transubstantiation and the exposure of an item to radiation. It looks the same as before but is now very different.

One of the people I sponsored in the RCIA program at St. Finbar Catholic Church asked me why Jesus would want us to eat his flesh and drink his blood. I responded that the Lord wants us to be one with him, to be in communion, on a cellular level. He becomes food that nourishes us spiritually. I believe that Jesus has the power to take any form he wishes, including that which appears to be bread and wine.

Because Catholics believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the consecrated hosts and wine must be treated with the utmost respect. Those that are not consumed at Mass are kept in a tabernacle. During hours of adoration, a host may be displayed in a monstrance. The desecrated hosts at All Saints had to be disposed of in a sacrarium.

At St. Finbar, ushers were positioned to watch the communion lines. They made sure that the communicants consumed the hosts and did not take them outside. At the time, there was a rumor that Satanists were stealing the Body of Christ from local churches and desecrating it on their altars of evil. Somehow that is easier to understand than whatever compelled someone to stick the hosts to the underside of a pew.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

swine tasting

To get a little publicity for their product or service, companies will sometimes send a free sample to media types like me. Last year I got some different flavors of Fischer & Wieser condiments after I professed my love for their Original Raspberry Chipotle Sauce.

I recently got another condiment in the mail. The name "Baconnaise" made me think it would be too rich for my diet. The nutritional information for Baconnaise Lite convinced me otherwise. It compared favorably to the Hellmann's Light Mayonnaise that I am allowed to have. Hellmann's actually has 5 more calories and 25 more milligrams of sodium.

I found the taste very enjoyable. I sometimes put a dollop of Baconnaise on the chicken I have for breakfast or lunch. It's not an everyday thing but a nice alternative to the cheapo barbecue sauce I get at Food City and the super-expensive raspberry chipotle sauce, which is sold at Earth Fare and Kroger Marketplace.

Along with the Baconnaise, the company sent a sample of their Bacon Salt. While my blood pressure should rise just by saying the name aloud, the product is actually low in sodium. Perhaps most surprising is that Bacon Salt is kosher. The inventors were inspired to share the taste of bacon with some Jewish friends who are prohibited from eating it.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

tea totals

Many of the people who see my updates on Facebook and Twitter thought I was at the liquor store all day Friday. In fact, I only stopped by on the spur of the moment hoping to find the same type of sweet tea vodka that my wife tasted and liked at this year's Feast With the Beasts. I took two pictures of the available brands and sent them to my wife and to another friend who had been at the Knoxville Zoo that night too. For fun I also sent the pictures to Twitpic.com, which automatically posts them on my Twitter feed.

By the time I got home to my computer, there were several comments from people recommending the Firefly brand. I had already purchased a bottle of Sweet Carolina because my wife was pretty sure she recognized it from the photo. I posted an update to that effect but reattached a picture of the store shelf. Some people were fooled into thinking I was still at the package store.
BattLady @FrankMurphyCom Dang you have been shopping for vodka ALL day. I wish I could help you find the brand you are hunting, poor thing. LOL
While cleaning the house on Thursday to prepare for our weekend guests, my wife found a check my aunt had sent for my birthday. I took it to the bank Friday and cashed it, instead of depositing it as I normally would. With cash in pocket, I left the bank and realized I was right next to Bob's Package Store. I remembered that my wife had planned to get the sweet tea vodka to share with our company and I thought I could save her an errand by going myself.

As soon as I got out of the car, I saw two co-workers who were headed inside to buy libations for a client party inside the Sunsphere on Boomsday. On my way to the cashier, I encountered someone I have interviewed on the weekly public affairs show. There's an old joke about Protestants not recognizing the Pope and Baptists not recognizing each other at the liquor store. I made reference to that without mentioning Baptists on my Selective Twitter Status:
Talked with three people I know while shopping for vodka. What happened to Southerners "not recognizing each other" at the liquor store?
A flurry of comments pointed out that it is the Baptists who allegedly look the other way should they be spotted near the alcohol. Another mentioned that Catholics have no such difficulty. Two fellow Facebookers wrote "That rule only applies to certain Christian denominations ;)" and "What does it say about the people you know if you were all hanging out at the liquor store today??"

I got a good laugh out of the whole thing. The people who truly know me know that I will probably not even taste the vodka. I'm not opposed to drinking (or cooking with it), I just don't have any interest in getting drunk. During my swim, I thought of another status update to post. I wrote that I was like a hobo because I spent the birthday cash from my aunt to buy liquor but that I was different because it was for our guests, not me. Knoxville Dotcom had solid advice for me:
KnoxvilleDotcom @FrankMurphyCom Just be careful when you go to hoppin' trains.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

a matter of life and death

Capital punishment has been the main topic of discussion in Knoxville recently. The first of the trials of the accused killers of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom concluded today. The disgusting, horrific crimes have grabbed the attention of East Tennesseeans to such a degree that jurors had to be selected from the Nashville area. Letalvis Cobbins was eligible for the death penalty after being convicted of first degree murder. The jury sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Social networks are buzzing with news updates and opinions on the trial. I couldn't help but notice that many of my Facebook friends were very vocal about their desire to see Cobbins sentenced to death. On more mundane political issues, I usually agree with their views. However I was moved to post the following status update: "My unpopular opinion: glad for the guilty verdicts for Cobbins but still opposed to the death penalty. My FB friends want an execution."

I found out that not all my Facebook friends support capital punishment. While the jury was deliberating the sentence, I received several great comments from both points of view that are worth reading now and re-reading as each of the other defendants face their juries. I will refer to the author of each comment by first initial only. However if any of them contact me and ask that their names be used, I will happily revise the post to identify them.
A: The death penalty is not something to be taken lightly. I don't side with you on this one (well, glad for the guilty verdicts), but I can respect anyone with a different opinion on an execution. That's a touchy subject.

R: The government can't manage to run a car buy back program effectively. Why on earth should we trust them with the power of life and death?

N: The Government does not have the "power" to execute this trash, the jury and judge do. And they are us.
Frank, look at it from another angle, with children and good people going hungry, why waste the thousands upon thousands of dollars, housing this animal? Compassion is not "babysitting" this animal for the next 50 to 60 years, it is taking that needed energy and money and helping victims of them.

J: If a person commits a crime and is caught and convicted they forfeit their liberty. If the crime is truly horrific they forfeit their life. The state may be the instrument of their death but the responsibility lies with the perpetrator of the crime. That's how I see it and I think this crime certainly qualifies for the death penalty.

S: Count me among the FB friends that do NOT want an execution. Do you have a link for the back story on Cobbins? I don't know the case.

Frank: The details of this horrific case will turn your stomach.

R: Do judges and juries get things wrong? Do prosecutors engage in misconduct? Are cases pushed or dropped for political reasons? If the answer to any of these questions is "Yes," then our criminal justice system does not perform to the standard required to allow it to take a life.

N: No, the judge and jury did not get THIS case wrong!

T: Well, the problem with your argument is that it costs far more to exhaust the appeals process than to simply house a convict. Also, it's disingenuous to not recognize the jury and the judge are merely arms of the state.
The US Constitution, however, clearly contemplates the death the penalty ("no person shall be deprived of life ...."). Of course, the US Constitution is a floor, not a ceiling, so each state can decide the issue. Still, the death penalty is an ancient and barbaric practice that provides no deterrence and should be abolished.

S: No offense to N, I don't know you.... But one of the fundamental flaws with humanity is the ability to allow a desire for revenge to cloud judgment. If you didn't sit on the jury and hear all of the evidence in the case, you are making an opinion based judgment rather than a fact based judgment. While he hasn't stated such as yet, I would guess that Frank's opposition to the DP is that only God can truly judge the actions of man. Only God has all the facts and only God can claim the right to judge who should live or die.

R: I supported the death penalty for a long time. I reasoned that if I'm willing to take a life in order to defend my own, then the state should be allowed to do the same, take a life to defend the group.
Then I realized that was a flawed comparison. For example, I have the right to use lethal force to defend myself when attacked, or to defend another who is being attacked. I don't have the right to kill somebody because they attacked me yesterday, or might attack somebody tomorrow. And if I don't have the right, then why should I give it to the state?
Particularly when the state has not demonstrated the level of competence required to handle such an imposing responsibility.

N: Disingenuous? Lets read the rest of the sentence together. "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of the law". Also, Sometimes the appeals process is used to stop justice from being completed.
S, I am sorry that you think justice is revenge. I assume that like me you are not on this jury, correct? Then your opinion is also not a fact based judgment? That is why it is called a discussion. God? God did not take Channon's life, this man did.
I am not arrogant enough to suggest what Frank believes, I merely suggested another view. Frank is a good friend and I will stand by him.
What is breaking my heart is that there is more disdain for me in my beliefs than the monster that committed this unparalleled crime.
I must now go back to work so I can help feed this trash for the next 20 to 60 years, so I will be unable and unwilling to comment any further, so say what you will.

AB: The only reason I oppose the death penalty is because we cannot guarantee that no innocent life will be lost. As soon as one innocent person is killed, the whole system has/is failed.

S: I didn't say that justice was revenge. I said that the desire for revenge can cloud judgment (clear reasoning). I also didn't make a statement about the outcome of the case, you did. My point was that people who aren't involved intimately with the case don't have enough information to say if the defendant is guilty or innocent. Your statement that the jury didn't make a mistake was an overstatement because you didn't have the same information as they did.
As for Frank, I was merely extrapolating on his previously expressed Catholicism. I would never say that I spoke on his behalf. I was just pointing out that for some people (like PERHAPS Frank) this is a religious issue and should be respected as such.

T: The purpose of the appeals process is to, hopefully, ensure that the law, including procedural issues, is followed and applied correctly. You either agree to adhere to our civil liberties or you don't. I'm unclear why your being pissy with me. While I disagree with the death penalty, clearly, the US Constitution contemplates that someone can be put to death. What you were being disingenuous about was saying the "government can't put someone to death." Of course, the government -- more appropriately the State -- can put someone to death. The Constitution says so.

L: With the exception of self-defense or defense of another, it is not the province of man to mete out decisions of life or death. That said, I think those that perpetrated the horrific torture on those two kids deserve to have the same treatment done to them. But it is not our place to make it so.

Frank: I appreciate and respect all your comments, on both sides of the issue. Obviously my Catholicism is a big factor in my opposition to the death penalty. To me, capital punishment is the Old Testament way of thinking.
However, I used to feel differently. It changed when Ted Bundy was executed. I got a sick feeling in my stomach and realized that his death would do nothing to bring back the victims he killed.
The arguments about the cost of death row legal appeals and the possibility of executing even one innocent man are powerful to me. Ultimately I think killing is wrong, whether done by a criminal or by the government or by a doctor.

AB: The Catholic Church does not consider the death penalty to be intrinsically evil, nor limited to any particular era or dispensation. However, it does not support the death penalty in a society that has other means to effectively suppress the offender. So according to the Church, it isn't a proper option in the vast majority of cases, if not all cases, in the western world.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

opening of an envelope

The last thing I really needed after my vacation was a scoop of ice cream but I couldn't say no to the invitation. Josh and Kara Lovett, owners of Soups and Scoops Café, wrote to say that their five-year-old son would be especially thrilled if I showed up. Of all the people there, little Joshua was the only one who knew the full names of the morning show and radio station where I work.

The invitation also indicated that there would be prayer service at 1:00 p.m. last Sunday. My wife and I made sure to arrive in time for that. Josh's father David read a blessing for businesses from St. Brigid in three parts. He started outside on the sidewalk, continued just inside the front door and then concluded in the work area. David appeared to have a rosary made from knotted cord in his hands. He showed me that each "decade" had only seven knots instead of the ten that I expected. It was an Anglican Rosary, which he gets from the Sisters of the Transfiguration in Cincinnati.

The Lovetts bought the business a few months ago. They are celebrating their grand re-opening this week with different specials each day. Thursdays are Bring Your Own Banana Day for discounts on banana splits. This weekend they are offering buy-one-get-one-free deals on Hilton Head Ice Cream. Soups and Scoops is the only place around selling Hilton Head. The Lovetts make the ice cream in their shop. I asked for a half-scoop of Bananas Foster and a half-scoop of Death by Godiva. Fortunately it was a less-than-lethal dose.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

plate off

Paul Oscar Anderson passed away on Friday. Like many, I learned of his death from Knoxville Radio History 101. During his radio career, he was on the air at dozens of stations from Knoxville to Portland to Los Angeles.

When I first moved to Knoxville, Don Barrett of LARadio.com put me in touch with Paul. We exchanged emails and had several phone conversations while he still lived at home. His health continued to deteriorate and he moved into a nursing home.

I went to the Highland Memorial Funeral Home last night to pay my respects. Paul's widow Bobbie told me that radio was his first love. As a child, he would play with a microphone instead of a toy gun like the other kids. She also said she had heard that a radio station in California was going to do an on-air tribute to Paul that morning.

The service began as four men wearing white aprons processed into the chapel. They recited the Last Masonic Rites and placed an apron on Paul's coffin. I think they called it a lambskin. The light blue casket had the words "Going Home" on the inside of the open lid.

Paul's daughter Teresa sang one of the songs at the service. In his remarks, Preacher Guy Milam of North Knoxville Baptist Church said "our paths lead not to, but through the grave." Another song included the lyrics "though your sins be as scarlet, they will be as white as snow."

When I got home from the funeral I powered up my old laptop to see if I had saved any of the emails Paul and I exchanged. Here are a few of the things he wrote to me in 2003 and 2004:
Hey Frank,
Thanks for the note. It seems that the best and brightest broadcasters at least came through the South and Midwest. I'm sure that you were one of them. Thanks the offers of goodies, Frank, but I am a diabetic and on a very strict diet. I have myriad other medical hassles which keep me homebound.

Sorry about WOKI. I knew a number off your compadres, including Johnny P. It saddens me to say it, but broadcasting, especially radio, is a ball-busting, low paying job, which takes and rarely gives. I say that after having worked at 37 radio/TV stations over a period of almost 40 years. I let the job take four wives and my self-respect. I wound up in a treatment center for boozers at The Hazleden Foundation in Minnesota. I am a native of Knoxville and have been back home with my childhood sweetheart for almost 29 years. I worked at almost every station in town. Ask Phil Williams about my work here. Despite it all, I still have goose bumps when I think of radio. I really miss the mic, although I have been retired eleven years.

Let me know what's happening at WOKI now -- if you know -- and what your plans are. If I can be of help in any way, let me know.

The best,
POA (Paul Brown)

What a pleasure talking with (AT) you this morning. I could tell within a minute that you were a real broadcaster, kicked in the stomach enough, and been around the horn enough times to have earned the title.

I apologize for talking so much. It is rare that I get to talk to anyone who knows radio like you do. Once in a while I hear from Neil Ross, Tom Murphy, Buzz Barr (KISN) and a couple of others.

If we don't get a chance to meet in person, don't forget me, and remember that I am praying for you. I feel that you will be glad that you were booted at WOKI. You sound like you have the experience and smarts for ANY market.

I know it doesn't often work like this, but I never sent a tape or resume in my long and checkered career. I got the program director or G.M. on the telephone and that worked for me. I really hope for you the very best. I know right where you are. I was there a great number of times and always came out better off than I was when the travails descended upon me. I know that you will do well.

God bless

Hey Frank,

I had already read in the local scandal sheet that you had connected. And then, you were on the LARP. I just cleared my e-mail, some of which was a week old. I had 73 when I got busy this morning.

Hang in there, pal. Instead of moving every time I was offered a bigger market and a couple of bucks more than I was earning, I would have been dollars and serene times ahead had I stayed put. Can't tell yourself the truth when it WOULD have set you free.

You are smarter than I. Good luck to you and your family. If I can ever be of service, please call or write.

God bless,

I am just going through my old e-mail and ran across one you sent when first I was out of the hospital. I have just now returned from another open heart operation, and the addition of a defibrillator to my pacemaker. I am hanging on -- barely. I now have diabetes (the worst of my ailments, I feel), prostate cancer, heart failure to the point that I stay in bed most of the time. No energy. I fell perhaps a couple of dozen times, leaving me with several visible skull fractures. Other than a couple of other minor ailments, all is well with me. I am too damn mean to die.

Speaking of which, I thought of the good guys who were with me in the sixties at KISN who have passed in recent years. Tom Matthews, Don Kennedy, Bobby Simon, Whitey Coker, whom I spoke to just a couple of days before his throat cancer took him away. (God, I loved him.) I guess we are too tough to buy the farm just yet.

I am 73 last October. I don't sweat it, since I have not control over when and where I will go. I am ready whenever the Big Guy calls. I have lived a hell of a life, so I can't complain if I go today. I have done everything I thought I was big enough to do. Can't ask for more in one life.

God Bless,

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

backstage with the Bible

Here's an email and my reply:
Hey Frank,

I remember some time ago you doing a little song about the Ten Commandments that was to the tune of Burger King's "Have It Your Way" jingle. I really liked it and I have been looking on your blog but could not find it. Could you send me the lyrics or a link if you can? That would be great. I want to use it at summer Bible school.

Anthony H.


Hi Anthony,

As I recall, I had posted the lyrics to the Star 102.1 website rather than my own. Unfortunately it looks like the station site doesn't have archives that old. I will take a look for it in my files.

Thanks for listening,

The segment Anthony wants to hear is from October 12, 2007. A news story about more people knowing the ingredients of a Big Mac than the Ten Commandments prompted me to say that it might be more evenly matched if the Commandments also had a catchy jingle. Marc & Kim challenged me to make one up. The Burger King Whopper jingle gave me more to work with, so I used it instead. They were surprised that it only took me an hour. I felt that Wayne Brady could have done better in a minute. Take a listen and tell me what you think. Will it be heard at Vacation Bible School?

Ten Commandments jingle
(to the tune of "hold the pickle hold the lettuce")

No false gods, no name in vain
Or you'll have eternal pain
All we ask is that you follow His holy way

Keep the Sabbath like no other
Honor your father and your mother
All we ask is that you follow His holy way

No killing, cheating, stealing, lying
You'll regret it when you're dying
All we ask is that you follow His holy way

Last of all you should not covet
Life's important, you should love it
All we ask is that you follow His holy way

Live it His way, His holy Way
Live it His way, His holy Way!

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

chai there

Blog reader Cassie was disappointed that there weren't any photos in my post about the grand opening of Menchie's Frozen Yogurt at Turkey Creek. My wife, our son and I made a return visit to Menchie's after we saw the spectacular movie "Up" on Thursday night. This time, I had the camera.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

angels 1, demons 0

"Angels & Demons" is better at being an action movie than "The Da Vinci Code" was. I started to remember a few things from the book as the movie unfolded during a preview screening last night. It's been several years since I read all of Dan Brown's books. The filmmakers changed enough plot points to keep me guessing. Fortunately they omitted a ridiculous scene in the book in which Robert Langdon uses his blazer as a parachute. The story conveniently calls for the lights to be turned off in sectors of the city, always just as Langdon arrives to investigate. The darkness covers the fact that they couldn't use the actual locations portrayed.

It didn't feel like an anti-Catholic movie to me. Granted there are bad guys attacking the Vatican but there is also respect shown to Catholic ceremonies, such as a papal conclave. They try to make you think that the church is anti-science because of the way they treated Galileo in the 17th century. In reality the modern Catholic church is known for its education system from kindergarten through college. At least one character in the movie points out that science and religion can co-exist. I'm one of those people who believe that God created evolution and that science will ultimately prove the existence of God.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

hosanna hey sanna

The theme of my interview with newly ordained Bishop Richard Stika was, "what is the mission of the church outside of the church?" I wanted to know how the Bishop saw his role in the community at large. In the program, which airs Sunday morning, we discuss the interfaith community in East Tennessee, the homeless, last year's church shooting and other local issues.

Obviously there is plenty of church chat too. We talked about Bishop Stika's ordination and the brand new cathedra that made its debut at that Mass. I also wanted to know what the Bishop thought of the fancy new building at St. John Neumann parish, which was the subject of a recent cover story in the Metro Pulse. So, would he consider making that building his cathedral? Probably not. Bishop Stika said he likes the location of Sacred Heart Cathedral and drops a subtle hint that he might someday be open to a new building on that site.

To celebrate Palm Sunday, I have posted a podcast of the half-hour interview. I think cradle Catholics and converts alike will enjoy the lightning round at the end of the interview when I ask the Bishop, "bells at the consecration, yes or no?"

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Monday, March 16, 2009


After the town hall meeting at All Saints Church on Saturday, my wife and I made a beeline for the mountains in an effort to catch a movie at the Gatlinburg Screenfest. The meeting had run long and the rainy weather slowed our drive which made us miss the beginning of the film. Fortunately, my pal Brad Bumgardner is one of the festival organizers. After the screening room cleared, he restarted it for us. He happens to be in "Boys of Summerville," the movie we drove all that way to see. Most of his screen time comes early in the film including the corn dog scene that I mentioned last year. Brad stole the show, as expected. I told him I would have enjoyed seeing his character more. How about a "Summerville Origins: Murr" prequel?

After the movie, we looked for a place to get something for dinner. Driving past all the pancake joints in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge left me with a craving. I hadn't had a pancake since that Oreo concoction last summer. Obviously I wasn't going to wait six or seven hours for one of the breakfast restaurants to open. The problem was solved as a familiar sign came into view.

The only Denny's within 50 miles of my house is in Pigeon Forge. We walked in around midnight, thinking that getting a table would be easy. Not so much. The place was packed with church group kids who were in town for the Smoky Mountain Winterfest at Thompson-Boling Arena. Note to the KTSC: the chaperones told us that even though the event moved to Knoxville, they continue to stay at hotels in Pigeon Forge because there is more there for the kids to do.

The large groups taxed the restaurant staff. Our waitress disappeared after taking our order. She had to serve a group of 70 kids from Georgia who were wearing matching t-shirts. Half an hour after we placed our order, another server delivered our Grand Slam Breakfasts and refilled our water glasses. While we waited, some women approached a large man with Elvis hair and glasses at an adjacent table. They wanted a picture with him.

The delay gave me plenty of time to study the amusing Rockstar menu featuring items named after alternative bands and a plug for the Warped Tour. The menu got me thinking that the last time I was at a Denny's was either in Burbank or maybe at the rock 'n' roll Denny's on Sunset Boulevard. Oh, and the two pancakes satisfied my craving for another six months or so.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

it's fun to pray at the RCIA

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

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

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

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

prayer palace

The beautiful new church building at St. John Neumann parish opened on Christmas Eve. WBIR got it right in their report however the anchors on WVLT mistakenly called the building a cathedral. I dashed off an email to a couple of people there but unfortunately the same script was used in the 7:00 p.m. newscast that night. A cathedral is the building that houses the bishop's chair, which is called a cathedra.

After seeing the new building with my own eyes today, I wondered if our next bishop could decide to pick up his cathedra and move it to Farragut. Although it's probably just as likely that they would continue to spruce up Sacred Heart Cathedral, which is right next door to the diocesan offices. The religious artwork in the new place looks much better in context than it did in the photos I saw online in August. The more contemporary looking figures inside the ceiling dome are complimented by classic-looking paintings of saints and Stations of the Cross that look like mosaics. They must be relieved to have made the deadline on the cornerstone. I had read that the church was supposed to open last January.

The former chancellor of the Diocese of Knoxville was elevated to bishop this past Spring. Bishop Vann Johnston now shepherds the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. The Knoxville native was home for the holidays and celebrated the 10:30 Mass today at St. John Neumann. The bishop told me that the pastor, Fr. John Dowling, was inspired by the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Coincidentally, that is where my family and I went to Mass a week ago. I told Bishop Johnston that my wife and I had briefly been in his new diocese when we went to Branson this summer.

Fr. Dowling made some announcements before Mass began. They are moving the Saturday vigil Mass from 6:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. He said it would take too long to explain why. After Mass I heard some parishioners speculating that the church could book more Saturday evening weddings after the change. My wife had heard months ago that some families were registering in the parish so their daughters could get married in the new building.

The other big announcement was that the parish would no longer serve communion in both species. Apparently they feel that parishioners sipping from the cup takes too long. Because of the acoustics, they have decided to start singing slower and preaching slower, which will make the Masses run longer. The cavernous space and the hard surfaces create lots of echo.

I've been to several other churches where the problem of slow communion lines was solved by adding more cups, not by removing them. To me, the lack of communion in both species and a few other things made it feel like they were trying to turn back the clock. They rang a bell at the start of Mass and during the consecration. Some parts of the Mass were sung in Latin. When I hear the "Holy Holy Holy" and the "Lamb of God" I know it's time to lower the kneeler. At this Mass they sang "Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus" and "Agnus Dei." I lowered the brand new kneeler only to find that it had a child's muddy boot prints on it, probably from Christmas Eve when the weather outside was frightful wet. After Mass, I brushed it off as best I could with my hand.

The pew where I sat was in one of the transepts, near the ambo. The last person to receive communion in our section was a man carrying a fidgety toddler. A moment or two after the man received the host, I thought I saw the child drop something. I wasn't positive because neither the parent nor the deacon serving communion reacted. The man carried the boy back to their seats and the deacon went off to help distribute communion in the main section of the church. I had an inkling of a suspicion about what had fallen to the floor so I got up from my kneeler to investigate. It was only a few steps over to the spot where the communicants had stood. I didn't see anything until I knelt down to look more closely at the beige marble floor and tilted my head at an angle to see it in a different light. Half a host lay on the floor, barely visible because it was almost the exact same color as the marble. I picked it up and reverently put it in the palm of my hand. I thought about my options for a second and realized that the best thing for me to do in this circumstance was to consume the partial host myself. It would have been terribly disruptive for me to bring the host to the deacon or the bishop and say "look what I found."

I don't know if the deacon had broken the host in half because he was running out of them or if the man had broken the host in half himself, which he shouldn't have done. Either way, the child should not have had the opportunity to take the host from his father or to knock it out of his father's hand. In a situation like that, the man should have received the host directly on his tongue instead of in his hands. I wondered if he was a non-Catholic and didn't know the rules. Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the host. We take his words at the Last Supper literally. A fancy church building like St. John Neumann's will attract tourists of all faiths. The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis has the following paragraph on the back cover of their weekly bulletin:
All visitors who are not of the Catholic faith are welcome to join us in prayer but not to receive Holy Communion. Reception of Holy Communion is a sign of unity of faith and full membership in the Catholic community. Together let us pray for the eventual unity of all believers.
After feeling discouraged about the muddy shoe prints and the behavior of the child at communion, I'm glad that as I left the church after Mass, I turned back to read the inscriptions above the three doors. One of them reminds us of Jesus' words in the gospel of Mark: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them."

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

on the first day of

Merry Christmas! I hope you've taken time to reflect on the true meaning of this holy day. I could try to write a thoughtful blog post (like Rich did) about how I am amazed that of all the ways God could have chosen to come to this earth -- as a fire-breathing dragon or a mighty warrior, for instance -- He instead became a fetus, born of an unwed mother.

But I want to get back to having a great time doing nothing with my family, so I'll just share some photos of Christmas treats that I've collected over the past week. Here are some reindeer cupcakes I saw at Food City, some Santas made by Nirvana Chocolates and some awesome gingerbread cookies made by my kids.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

full of grace

Several Baptist churches around the country present Living Christmas Trees but few, if any, do so in as spectacular a fashion as the Sevier Heights Baptist Church in Knoxville. Their presentation outgrew their sanctuary and then the Tennessee Theatre years ago. Five performances of the Knoxville Living Christmas Tree filled Thompson-Boling Arena this weekend.

My wife and I had never seen the LCT, as those in the know call it. It is actually a gigantic choir riser in the shape of a Christmas tree. A segment on the noon news one day last week got me interested in going although our previous commitments didn't make it easy. We already had plans for Saturday. Tonight, my wife and I went to Mass at our own church for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation and the national feast of the USA. It comes nine months before the celebration of Mary's birth. There was only one performance that fit our schedule, Sunday at 3:00 p.m. I went to the website to request a pair of free tickets only to find out that they were "sold out." I gave up my plans to attend and started thinking about going to the Knoxville Nativity Pageant next week instead.

After the Julianne Hough concert on Friday night, my wife and I went to Rita's Ice to share a dessert. As we paid for our Blendini, I saw tickets to the Living Christmas Tree on the counter. There were a few tickets for each of Sunday's two performances. Nancy, the store owner, told me that she had gotten the tickets through her church and that they were free for the taking. I grabbed a pair for the matinee. Call it fate, karma or good luck.

We got there about 45 minutes early. I dropped off Jere at the door and went to park the car. As I got out of my car, I realized that I had parked next to Matt Hinkin. He said that it had been a couple of years since he last saw the LCT. I found my wife in section 105 and sat down. I had brought my copy of "Thank God for Evolution" to read while waiting for the show to start. As the singers began to fill in the 16 levels of the tree, I noticed that their choir robes were just drapes that only covered their shoulders and upper bodies.

I went to the Living Christmas Tree expecting a musical performance. I didn't know it would also include a Nativity pageant, a Passion play, a sermon and a passing of the collection plate. The show was so entertaining that even I was moved to toss in a couple of bucks. In addition to all the other elements, there was a contemporary Christmas story, reminiscent of a schmaltzy TV movie. Hollywood producer Garrett returns to his hometown to expose what he thinks is the hypocrisy of their Christmas celebration. He has a change of heart after his assistant prays for him.

The best parts of the event were the singing and the sermon by guest speaker Scott Dawson. I could have done with slightly shorter talking scenes and more songs during the drama portion. However the show did have first class production values. In a way, it was like a slice of Pigeon Forge right here in Knoxville. In fact, the comic relief characters, Bobby Earl and Skeeter, were a lot like some I saw at the Dixie Stampede last year.

Before the performance, Shannon Leigh from Love 89 welcomed the crowd. She said that they were playing only Christmas music this month. On the way home, I switched back and forth between Love 89 and B97.5. The religious station beat the commercial station on each song I heard. The tunes that gave them the win were "Jingle Bells" by Denver & the Mile High Orchestra and "Sleigh Ride" by Relient K while the B was playing "Do They Know It's Christmas" yet again. You can compare the two station's playlists yourself here and here.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

and party every day

There's an old joke that says Jews don't recognize Jesus, Protestants don't recognize the Pope and Baptists don't recognize each other in the liquor store. Which is why it's funny that two former Baptists I know both sing the praises of a liqueur called Rock & Rye.

The two women do not know each other. Both are very active in their respective church choirs. They take a little Rock & Rye if they have a sore throat the night before they have to make their joyful noise. I thought that maybe it was a Southern thing but I found a reference to the use of the liqueur as a cold remedy in a 1934 New Yorker article.

My wife bought a small bottle of the drink a few years ago. I never tried it until recently when I had a mild cold that didn't respond to Nyquil. I finished off our old bottle which meant there was none left when my wife needed some a few days later. That's how I found myself in two liquor stores, looking for a replacement bottle.

I couldn't remember the brand name of the bottle we had at home. I just knew that it had an orange rind in the bottom. The first store had small bottles of Leroux Rock & Rye, which had no orange rind. I drove over to Bob's Package Store and found a small bottle of Leroux and several large bottles of Mr. Boston Rock & Rye. It had the rind but I didn't think I needed a bottle that big. I got the bigger bottle not only for the rind but because I recognized the picture of Mr. Boston. However I didn't see any people I knew, Baptist or otherwise.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

evenings came and mornings followed

As a former pastor, Michael Dowd is a great interviewee. As the interviewer, all I had to do was ask a few simple questions, reset who the guest was at regular intervals and make sure the show ended on time. Dowd, the author of "Thank God for Evolution", could have easily filled the half-hour without me.

To say that I was extremely enthusiastic about the topic would be an understatement. The idea of The Great Story, or Evolutionary Epic, fascinates me. I have long believed in both the concept of creation and the facts of evolution. Simply put, six of God's days equal about 14 billion of our years.

At the end of the interview that aired this morning, I felt that there was still plenty of ground to cover. I asked Michael if he could stay for another thirty-minute show, which will air next Sunday. I should have used this technique to extend my interviews with Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass, which always seem to end too soon. Since I enjoyed the conversation so much, I thought you might too. Here are both shows, for your podcasting pleasure.

Part 1: Part 2:

Michael Dowd was in town to speak at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church last Tuesday. He and his wife have no permanent address. They live on the road, traveling from one speaking engagement to the next. That's one way to get to all 50 states.

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