Wednesday, April 30, 2008

LOST Update!

I made the claim last Friday that "Lost" is the best TV show on Planet Earth. Well, Entertainment Weekly has not gone QUITE that far this week, but it has come darn close. By the way, for all of you Losties out there, I highly recommend as a regular source of news, reviews and mild spoilers for not only Lost, but also Survivor, Dancing With The Stars, House and most other popular TV shows... Don't leave the couch without it!

You Think There's Only ONE John Matthews? Think Again!

I've been spending a lot of time lately Googling myself. Now before you say to yourselves "that John Matthews is an ego-maniac" (you'd be right, by the way), please note that the main reason for this is to see if my website and blog are popping up properly on search engines. I have found so far that combining the name "John Matthews" with "WMAL" or "news" or "Disney" makes my site pop up right away. However, just googling my name alone has proven there are a LOT of Mamas who have enjoyed naming their children "John Matthews"!

This baby is one of the newer John Matthews in the world.

This is one of the oldest John Matthews I found. Judge John "Bud" Matthews was a rancher in West Texas at the turn of the 20th Century.

And there are dead John Matthews, too.

Some John Matthews are black. This one was a Vegas lounge singer. How cool is THAT?

And this John Matthews is a champion fisherman!

Some John Matthews are politicians! I found a couple of state Senators named John Matthews, but this guy is a Green party candidate in Wales!

And this John Matthews was a British soccer star in the 1970's.

Some John Matthews are writers. This one wrote a book about Goat Disease!

And then there's this teenage John Matthews... Wait a minute - that's ME! I found this while looking up the others, and it did not come from any of my family's websites... There's a fun story behind this... but more on THAT tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gee - All MY Wife Did On Our Wedding Night Was Fall Asleep!

For all of you brides and grooms who found that your wedding night was somewhat less than advertised, this one's for you!

Please accept my apology in advance if an ad airs BEFORE the video, but I think it's worth the wait...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Readin, Writin, 'Rithmatic... And Multiple Shots Of Tequila!

A juicy little job story popped up on the front page of the Washington Post this morning... It turns out more and more young teachers are getting in trouble or even fired for having racy thoughts and sometimes even racier photos on their personal Facebook or Myspace pages. It seems these teachers are practicing education by day and fornication (among other things) by night... and they are not shy about it, either!

This phenomenon does not just apply to school teachers. Way back in the day, when I was hiring people myself instead of trying to get hired, it became a routine part of my vetting process to google job candidates to find out what I could find out about them. I can tell you that more than one person lost out on jobs because their personal lives were far too indiscreet! I really don't mind if young 20-somethings are having a wild time when they're off the clock - in fact, I applaud it. However, if they are naive or stupid enough to lay it all out there for their bosses and prospective future employers to see, then I'm not at all sure they are smart or mature enough to be working for me.

Some people apparently think they can control how much of their personal information gets out on Facebook and other similar pages... But loopholes abound, and besides - your privacy only extends as far as your online friends allow it to. In other words - even if you DO want to show discretion about yourself, it doesn't mean your "friends" will!

Some of the teachers in the Post article said they felt their personal lives are no one else's business. I totally agree. But the privacy rule only applies if you keep your private life private!

Hannah Bares Her Montanas!

If you don't have a pre-teenage daughter, you might find it a bit difficult to connect to this story, but please read on:

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Miley Cyrus said she's embarrassed by an apparently racy photo spread appearing in the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair..

"I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be 'artistic' and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about," Cyrus said Sunday in a statement through her publicist

The photos, by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, were taken to accompany an interview with the 15-year-old pop star and her father, singer Billy Ray Cyrus. They include shots of the teen reportedly topless and wrapped in a blanket.

The Disney Channel, which airs Cyrus' TV show "Hannah Montana," was also critical of Vanity Fair.

"Unfortunately, as the article suggests, a situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines," a network statement said.

It's quite apparent that the Pop Tart and her family are racing to conduct damage control here. They probably got in over their heads with Annie Leibovitz, who is perhaps the most gifted portrait photographer in Earth and who herself also has ties to Disney.

I have seen the photo in question, and, by description, all of the hubbub seems to be more smoke than fire. The 15-year-old appears to be naked, but she is seen with a blanket wrapped around her, and really, none of her naughty bits can be seen. So, of course, I'm sure you're wondering by now where the photo is... Well, you won't find it here. You can easily find it by getting your Google on.

I am by no means a prude, but the fact is that Miley Cyrus is 15 years old. Why is the world in such a hurry to sexualize her? The photo of Miley would, to me, be just fine a couple of years from now. But there's no need to turn her into a sex object before she's old enough to drive!

Think I'm overreacting? Not so long ago, Lindsey Lohan was a 15-year-old budding Disney star, prettier and probably more gifted artistically than Miley Cyrus will ever be. But no one tried to put the brakes on Lindsey... she grew up way too fast. Now, at 21, she has been through rehab three times, spent time in jail, damaged her career and aged herself terribly... And don't even get me started with Britany Spears!

Miley - do yourself a favor and spend more time worrying about prom than promoting yourself!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Let's Go, Orange!

Please humor your blogger just long enough to send a shout out of congratulations to Rachel R. ! Rachel is the oldest daughter of our good friends, Dan and Lisa, and was the youngest person to attend my wedding... gestating away in her mother's belly! I am pleased to announce that Rachel will be starting college in the fall, and she has chosen my alma mater, Syracuse University! I will spare Rachel's Mom and Dad all of my college drinking horror stories (you could drink legally in New York at 18 back then anyway, so it's apples and oranges, Dan and Lisa!) , and instead present the Syracuse Fight Song, "Down, Down The Field", as performed by the Syracuse University Marching Band:

Rachel - Please be sure to have a slice or two at the Varsity for me!

If "Lost" Has Lost You As A Viewer, That's Your Loss!

The best TV show on Planet Earth returned to ABC last night after a five-week break, and it no doubt will suffer in the ratings because of the strike-induced hiatus... But who cares? Those of us who are still devoted to "Lost" have moved well beyond TV ratings. We no longer need Nielsen families to validate our faith in the program. Because "Lost" has survived its initial tentative years as a cultural phenomenon and journeyed safely into the realm of cult TV, ABC will stay with the show to its conclusion. And that's all I care about.

I have many friends who ventured to "Lost" with me nearly four years ago... watching the program every week and dissecting it ad nauseum in the office the next day. That lasted through season one and into the first half of season two.... After that, however, many of my friends figuratively "left the island". They grew tired of not having their questions answered.... They wanted "Lost" to be like every other show on TV. In this short attention span world of ours, they wanted the conflict raised before the first commercial break, and resolved by the end of the hour. Thank God the producers didn't go for that, because Lost would have never survived.

I do have a couple of friends who managed to jump in late to the game, thanks to DVDs... Watching "Lost" by DVD is like mainlining heroin, though. You spend a couple of weeks watching episodes back to back... then once you get caught up, you go through excruciating withdrawal immediately. Even in-season, you only get a fix once a week... and then once May comes, you have to wait another eight months!

Anyway - for those of you who once watched and have now fallen off the wagon, let me assure you that "Lost" is alive and well. If your justification for falling off the bandwagon was that the show left too many plotlines unresolved, I can assure you that your justification still works. But I will also tell you that the "Lost" experience is as rich as ever for those of us still watching. We have placed our faith in the producers of the program to guide us to its conclusion in another 41 episodes. If I see a polar bear running on the beach, I will not ask why. I'm confident the show will tell me why it its own time.

Google tells me it was Faust who said "It's not the destination, it's the journey that matters"... I don't know - I thought it might have been Arthur Frommer who said it... but it any case, when it comes to "Lost", it's the truth. No matter what happens at the end of the program, it certainly won't be as sweet as the ride on the rollercoaster that will get us to the end.

And with all that said, here's a tasty taste of next week's fix:

The Shape Of Things To Come

Note - I stole the title for this blog entry from the title of last night's "Lost" episode, but this entry is NOT about "Lost"... I'll be blogging about THAT later today!

No, this entry is about the shape of the anti-illegal immigration sentiments that have swept the nation, and most specifically, Northern Virginia, over the past 2 or 3 years. For pretty much all of 2007, it was the ONLY thing being discussed in Prince William, as the county's top elected official whipped his one and only issue like a flea-bitten nag in a horserace. He won the race, but may have killed the nag in the process. The rest of the board of supervisors went along and unanimously ordered police to check the immigration status of all criminal suspects, and turn over all illegals to ICE for deportation. Well, what happened? The county jail is now filled beyond capacity with illegals, the federal government says it can't keep up with the county's pace of arrests, and now lawmakers are discovering the cure may be worse than the disease... enforcing immigration policy at the local level is proving to be too damn expensive.

How much longer will the residents of Prince William County be willing to fund this loser of a social experiment? Well, guess what? There are already cracks forming in the resolve of the county board:

MANASSAS, Va. (AP) _ Prince William County supervisor Frank Principi says he will propose that the county repeal a policy that directs police to check the citizenship or immigration status of criminal suspects they believe might be in the country unlawfully.
Principi is the first member of the board of supervisors to challenge the enforcement element of the county’s recent crackdown on illegal immigration. The crackdown was approved in October, when Principi was not on the board. The policy denies services to illegal immigrants.
Since the policy took effect in March, the county jail has become more crowded and police have asked for video cameras in patrol cars to protect officers from allegations of racial profiling.
Supervisors voted Tuesday to cut more than $3 million from the next budget that was to be allotted for the cameras and enforcement of the policy.

At a time when inflation is on the verge of explosion (by the way, read THIS if you want a good scare about that!), and taxes are rising for everyone, will people really want to pay to warehouse illegal immigrants who are not going to be moved out anytime soon? And what about the cost of paying for services that are currently being provided on the cheap by illegals? If you scare them away from Prince William, who's going to clean your house or cut your grass? Be ready to pay MUCH more for services like those.

For all of the people who think they've taken the high moral ground by demanding that illegal immigrants be driven out of the country, let's see where that political resolve is when gas hits four bucks a gallon and a loaf of bread costs five bucks. Frank Principi is on to something. It's probably too late in the long run to salvage the political careers of those lawmakers who were elected in the glow of the anti-illegal immigration movement, but here's a piece of advice for you anyway -

It's STILL the economy, STUPID!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Happy Take Your Child To Work Day!

As you know, one of the major running themes of this blog is to share what it feels like to be unemployed for the first time ever.
Well, today we run smack into the annual "Take Your Child To Work" day. That's never been an issue for me because I used to go to the office at 4:30 in the morning, so it was never very tempting for my kids to see what it was like at Dad's job. Now, I AM going to take Spencer to his Mom's job today - he'll sit in Robin's classroom and watch her teach her pre-schoolers. Meanwhile, my older son, Brad, has practically begged for me to take him to MY job today... ha ha ha. Smart ass.

Still - things could be worse. To be honest, I always hated "Take Your Child To Work Day", because having kids around the office is a big distraction. At least in my experience, they always seemed more bored than engaged, and it always seemed like a good excuse for their parents to take a long lunch and/or skip out early. But boy, I'd sure love the opportunity to take my kids to the office now!

Well - They Love Me In Kiev!

When you're signed up to Careerbuilder, Monster and other job websites, you never know what kind of offers will roll in. I've probably received 20 offers to sell life insurance, but trying to get a response from a company I've actually applied to? Well, that's another story!

But now, I believe opportunity has come a knockin'! Read on:

Dear John Matthews,
I am the representative of the large Ukrainian firm, which is engaged in software development . At the moment regional representatives are required to us. Good payment, flexible operating conditions. If you are interested to work with us , please send your resume(CV) to e-mail .Our managers will contact you in the nearest time.

--Best regards, HRM.

You know - I think perhaps I've always wanted to work for the large Ukrainian firm... I just didn't realize it until now!

Have a good day, comrades!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ocho Cinco? Dios Mio, No!!!

Well, it's April 23rd... No better time than now to kiss the Redskins' season goodbye! Forget the fact that they don't start playing for real until September... The truth is that with Joe Gibbs gone to NASCAR-land, the idiots are once again ruling the asylum. Danny(Snyder) and Vinny(Cerrato) are back to playing fantasy football... offering the Skins' first round pick this year and a third rounder (that could elevate to a top pick) in 2009 for one of the biggest loudmouths in the NFL - Bengals wideout Chad Johnson.

THANKFULLY - the Bengals have turned down the Redskins' offer. But that may not really be good news. Dan Snyder usually doesn't take no for an answer. What happens if he offers MORE picks to the Bengals for Johnson? Oy.
For you non-football fans, Chad Johnson is a receiver from the same mold as Terrell Owens... a guy who has mighty talent... and a need to suck every bit of oxygen out of a locker room. His ego is super-sized, and it takes a great quarterback, and a lot of coaching savvy to keep someone liek that happy and productive. Jason Campbell is not a great quarterback, and first year coach Jim Zorn has an offense that may need most of the season to learn his system. You think Ocho Cinco will stay patient through that?
Thank goodness for the resurgence of the Caps and the Wizards... because if the Redskins go back to playing Star Search, you can stick a fork in the Hogs for this year.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Man After My Own Heart!

As the Democratic presidential race drones on ENDLESSLY following Hillary Clinton's win in Pennsylvania, GOP candidate John McCain continues to sit back and enjoy watching Clinton and Obama beat the crap out of each other. I made a decision some time ago to NOT make my choice for this election until shortly before election day in November. In fact, I'm just barely paying attention to the hoopla right now... Why? We have to pace ourselves friends, and what's being discussed right now today will mean nothing come November. Think about it. A year ago, the election was all about Iraq. Who the hell is discussing Iraq now? It's still the economy, stupid - and as long as gas prices are rising, housing prices are falling and jobs are being lost, that's going to remain the story right up to election day. We'll have plenty of time to sort out who's saying what come October.

Having said that... you've gotta love a guy with a sense of humor, who doesn't mind putting himself out there to make a point. For those of you who have not seen John McCain's sendup of Barbra Streisand, this might just help to sway your vote. Enjoy!

Happy Birthday - And Earth Day!

To paraphrase my good friend Bill Shakespeare - "What's in a date? That which we call a birthday by any other name would smell as sweet." Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but today, April 22nd, has different meanings to different people.

To the Prius-driving, granola-crunching, tree-hugging, birkenstock-wearing, carbon-footprint-reducing, Al Gore-loving crowd, today is Earth Day, founded more or less on this day in 1970(thanks, Wikipedia!). I really appreciate all the environmentalists who observe this day so I don't have to. I've never looked good in earth tones myself.

To my teenage son, whose brain may be filled with more useless trivia than mine, today is Vladimir Lenin's birthday. I would be worried about Brad becoming a dirty red commie, except that I know he doesn't share stuff very easily, and I just don't see socialism working out very well for him!

For me, today marks the tenth anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World's fourth theme park, Disney's Animal Kingdom. I remember it well, because it was the first Disney park opening I had ever covered as a reporter, and I would not have missed it for the world. Robin was a little nervous to see me go, because our youngest son, Spencer, was just two months old, but she also knew that was not going to stop me. I remember they held the opening ceremonies in the Animal Kingdom parking lot... there was a lot of African-themed dancing, and the big highlight of the event came when a bald eagle came swooping in and landed on the arm of his trainer right on cue with the musical crescendo at the end of "Circle of Life".

I have covered literally dozens of Disney media events as a reporter, from the openings of the Disney Cruise Line and the Disney Institute to Walt's 100th birthday and the Year of a Million Dreams. I used to take them for granted, but now that my access to those kind of events has been dashed in my current state of unemployment, I have a real appreciation for those days! For a Disney fan, getting to see Roy Disney rededicate Walt Disney World on its 25th birthday in person, or to ride "Expedition:Everest" on its official opening day - those really were "dreams come true".

When I lost my job at WMAL, it wasn't the loss of income - it was the loss of this kind of access that bothered my son, Spencer, the most. He said, "But Dad - you'll no longer be 'John Matthews'" - an allusion to a family joke about my former "superpower" ability to gain backstage access to Disney events. Don't worry Spence - hopefully Dad will be "John Matthews" again someday soon... Until then, Clark Kent wants you to clean up the basement!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Oprah's Big Joke

I had the misfortune last night of channelsurfing my way to the finale of "Oprah's Big Give", Oprah Winfrey's bid to extend her brand to the world of reality television. I'm a bit ashamed to say I stayed for the full hour. I should have kept on moving, but like a rubbernecker at a bad car crash, I just couldn't avert my gaze.

The show followed your typical "Survivor/Big Brother/Amazing Race" template... Every week, some poor soul was tossed off the show... But in this case, all of the contestants were competing to see who could be the best fundraiser for charity. Since this was the finale, you had the final three contestants more or less stabbing each other in the back to show what humanitarians they are, while racing against an arbitrary clock to "give" as much to the community as possible before time ran out. It was all very distasteful, but unfortunately, I've just scratched the surface... The show also included:
  • Oprah Winfrey hosting on auto-pilot. You can tell she devoted absolutely no time to the show. She read everything off of a teleprompter, and she more or less played the role of Santa Claus on the show... handing out cash to the contestants as though they had been touched by the hand of God.
  • A completely meaningless cameo appearance by Jennifer Aniston. She was brought in just long enough to help Oprah give away some cash. She walked on... played the role of Jennifer Aniston, and walked off. She did nothing for charity or nothing else on the show. She was merely Jennifer Aniston.
  • Two of the final three contestants raised piles of cash for charity - about 160 grand - in the final episode... But the third finalist - a beauty pageant queen - decided the best thing she could do to make a difference in the world was to beg a chef at a high-end restaurant to give a cooking lesson to some wheelchair-bound children in a hospital. The chef made something with a gooey white cheddar sauce. I'm not sure how this was supposed to give these children a better life - Perhaps they had one more product placement obligation to squeeze into the show.
  • The "purpose" of the show was supposedly to demonstrate that anyone can raise money for charity and make the world a better place... But let's face it. The only reason ANY of these people were able to get anything done was because Oprah Winfrey's name was attached to the whole thing. Last night, they were supposedly able to get "Blue Man Group" to put on a free show AND to donate 100,000 dollars for charity - all on less than 24 hours notice. Do you suppose any of that could have happened without them dropping "the big O"?
  • The biggest sin of all - especially for someone who has at least a little knowledge about how the media works - is that the show had AWFUL production value. Oprah's voice was dubbed in in several places, and you could tell it was done to cover up for badly shot or missing video. The dubs were apparent, not seamless... and the editing was awful. On more than one occasion, the scene went from applause to silence instantly, obviously because they either had to make up a different ending or attempt to make the show's ending more palatable than originally envisioned.

Is it just me, or do you agree that Oprah could have had a much bigger impact if she had taken all the money invested on this stinker and given it directly to charity herself? Let's hope "the Big Give" does NOT spawn a sequel someday!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Happy Pesach, Y'all!

For all of my Jewish friends and family (and Randy Bernstein, too!), here's a timely Passover greeting:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Odds and Ends (Mostly Odds!)

If you have school age children, you know there's nothing more "fun" than "helping" your kid finish up a major school project. Our 10-year-old son, Spencer, had a social studies project due today - the class is doing biographies, so who do you think he chose? You get one guess, and here's a clue. It's a Matthews family obsession. OK. So we (sorry, I meant HE) had to make a lifesize representation of Walt... Most kids pulled out the crayons and went to work. Mrs. Matthews, being the perfectionist uberMom she is, pulled out the construction paper, and together we (HE) cut a suit for Walt... I tied one of my Disney ties, and scanned it at real size for the chest, and Robin gave him suit pockets and cuffs for the pants... Oh, and his "shirt" was real fabric, too. We spent the entire night constructing it on the island in the kitchen. So, what do you think of our creation? We (HE) better get an "A", that's all I've gotta say!

After more than a year of being pestered by me, my friend and former work associate Jen Richer, has joined the TiVo universe. As readers of my new website already know, I consider TiVo to be one of the great turn of the century inventions. Note, I endorsed TiVo, not your generic cable company DVRs... TiVo is simply more user-friendly and has better search functions than brand X, and those enlightened enough to have it connected through wifi also have access to a full array of nifty features, including the ability to send and receive home movies, view snapshots on your TV, download movie rentals, listen to internet radio and a bunch of other stuff you can't do with other DVRs. If this sounds like a paid endorsement for TiVo, unfortunately it isn't. It is an endorsement, but I wasn't paid!

Finally... When we moved into our current house four years ago, I made Robin get rid of all of our old record albums, because we had not played a single one of them in the 13 years we lived in our old house, and we had long ago replaced most of them with compact discs. However, I did save ONE album... a 1981 recording of Syracuse University's Hendricks Chapel Choir (Hear a clip of the 2007 version of the choir here). If you look at the liner notes on the album, you will see my name in the choir directory, along with that of Jonathan Greene, one of my best friends and the guy who introduced me to my wife! My friend, John Patti of WBAL has one of those turntables that can hook up directly to a computer, and he has agreed to transfer that old album to digital music files for me, so I can annoy the family by playing 18th century music on road trips. And I'm sure you'll soon be able to hear some old clips here at Life on The Beach as well! Lucky you!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Makes Me Laugh EVERY Time!

There is nothing I like more than shopping at Giant Food and using the self-checkout aisles... especially when the people around me are checking out fresh produce.

Nothing gives me the giggles more than hearing the automated attendant say in a loud, clear voice, "Please move your - YAMS - to the belt..." or "Please move your - GREEN BEANS - to the belt...". Of course, some fruits and veggies are funnier than others. Apples... Oranges... meh. Cherries... better. Zucchini... Bananas... a slight chortle, perhaps. Cantalopes? Melons? Gets me every time!

I'm Going Postal On The US Postal Service!

For reasons that are unimportant (except to say it was NOT my fault!), I had to wait until last night to mail my tax return. I knew this would be a pain in the ass, so I made sure yesterday morning to go to the U.S. Postal Service website to find which post offices would be open late. Sure enough, I was greeted by a banner on the USPS site promoting extended hours and extra help for April 15th tax filers.... But when I tried to find out which post offices were open late, was that information available? NO! I spent 15 minutes turning that website inside out, and the single most important piece of information that anyone would need was not there! So I went to the next step... I looked up my nearest post office, and found the phone number, which turned out to be an automated national USPS voice mail system. I needed to call three times to get the information I needed, because the first two times, the recorded message did not work.

Eventually, I did find an acceptable place to make my delivery - The Leisure World post office, which was closing at 6:30 pm. I pulled into the parking lot at 6:20 and found a line going out the door. Fair enough... I had expected a line. What I did NOT expect was to find that there was no one available to tell the customers what to do... No signs telling people where to drop their mail. No encouraging notices telling them that their letters WOULD be postmarked April 15th. There were two lines, and two postal employees scrambling to keep up with the traffic. In the line, people were asking each other what to do, because there was no information available.

At the stroke of 6:30, one of the two postal employees walked to the front door, and told everyone outside they would have to come inside because the post office was closing. Imagine about 40 people cramming inside a shop that's about the size of an average Starbucks. After everyone came inside, the postal worker locked the front door. Now - this was surely a CLEAR fire code violation, but I wasn't going to say anything. For the next few minutes, as two or three customers were ready to leave, the same postal worker had to stop what she was doing, and go unlock the front door so the customers could exit. Eventually, one of the customers volunteered to stand watch at the front door so it could remain unlocked and keep out the straggling late arrivals.

I need to mention here that the postal employees were doing the best they could do given the circumstances. This was not their failure... This was a big-time management problem. The USPS promised to deliver a service that ultimately it could not deliver. April 15th should be the one day a year that the USPS proves its value... but instead, it proved its incompetence!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Here Comes The Pope!

Pope Benedict will arrive in Washington tonight for a visit that will include a Mass to be celebrated at Nationals Park later this week. There was a time that an event like this would have merited live and locally-produced wall-to-wall coverage on WMAL. I would have been the manager in charge of putting the coverage together, just as I coordinated inaugurations, major funerals and state visits in the past. Those days are over for me for now, and for the first time in 20 years, I will be watching an event of this scale from the sidelines.

I must say I'm enjoying that fact just a bit. It's been a thrill to work through major news events, but you definitely miss something when you are caught up in trying to get people to the scene of the crime, or to get to the scene of the crime yourself. As tragic as that day was, September 11th was one of the pivotal moments of my career - yet in many ways, I wish I could have experienced it the way the rest of America did, by watching it on TV and sharing the experience in my neighborhood.

As I've mentioned before, I'd also REALLY like to enjoy a big snow storm from the comfort of my own home - I've literally never been able to do that, because I've always had to work. Hopefully, if I can enjoy the snow next winter, it'll be because I've found a job outside of news, NOT because I still don't HAVE a job!

You're So STUPID, Rose! (But You're HOT!)

Well, today is tax day... April 15th - which, for me, is always a reminder that it is also the anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, which sank in the North Atlantic on its maiden voyage from Southhampton, England to New York on this date in 1912. I became interested in the Titanic saga after James Cameron's blockbuster film was released in 1996, and have read several books about the tragedy. I also became interested in Kate Winslet after the film was released, and with all due respect to the Missus, I am still interested in Kate Winslet to this day. You jump, I jump... right, Kate? Woof!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hello, Stranger!

Faithful Life On The Beach readers (all 3 of you, including me) will recall that I recently joined Facebook, and found it to be a fascinating way to find people. I am now discovering that not only can I find people , they can also find me. I received an email today from Facebook, advising me that a Ms. Mandy Strasik (This is her Facebook photo to the right) was requesting to be made one of my online "friends". Now, I've never met Ms. Mandy Strasik, but I am a friendly sort, and I'm always telling my boys that they can never make too many friends in life, so I went ahead and made Mandy Strasik my official friend... although I'm pretty sure we're still a bit young in our budding friendship to go out and pick furniture or anything like that.

Now I must confess - although I have never met Ms. Mandy Strasik, I had a strong suspicion she was THE Mandy from Chez Copa - a.k.a. the women who party and sometimes cohabit with my young former associate Jennifer T. (Don't call me Jenny) Richer, who works at WMAL. A few clicks of the keyboard did confirm this to be the case. I am, in fact, delighted at my age, married with two kids, to be able to be part of any club made up almost entirely of attractive 20-something women. Just don't wake me up from this dream!
However, this situation does beg one question of Facebook etiquette that puzzles me. If I am going to receive unsolicited requests for friendship, am I bound by 21st Century mores to accept them all? I mean, how insulting would it be to say "no" to someone requesting an online friendship? I know in the short time I've been perusing Facebook, I have run across people from my past who I want to remain in my past... but there's no assurance they are not going to seek ME out to be friends. Is there such a thing as a "Facebook Witness Protection Program"? Maybe there should be! In the meantime, Mandy... let's do lunch!

Not To Be A Pest, But the (G)nats Aint Drawing Flies!

I noticed this morning that Grandy and Andy have gotten around to discussing what I've been reporting for the past week (here and here)... that the Nationals are having real problems drawing fans. For the record, the team has played seven games now at its new 43,000 seat ballpark, including a weekend set against the Braves... On Friday night, a beautiful night for baseball, 28,051 tickets were sold... 32,532 on Saturday... and on Sunday, the teams drew 29,151. Seven games... one sellout.

Now, I'm sure there are still plenty of fans out there who will eventually make their way down there to catch a game, and that some folks may be waiting for the initial traffic problems to shake out before they venture forth. But here's the real truth, folks. 1/ There is not enough, and there will never BE enough affordable parking... and 2/ They've already expanded the Navy Yard Metro station to handle subway traffic, but even with the expansion, the station can only handle 15,000 people an hour. That means it could take 2 hours to get every fan on a train on a busy night.

Now let me ask you... If you had to wait 2 hours just to get ON a train after a game, how many games would YOU go to? I thought so. I'm telling you - We've got trouble my friends... right here in (Anacostia) River City...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Thank You, Honda!

This is my 1997 Honda Civic. We bought it new in July of that year, trading in my wife's old Plymouth Horizon for 500 dollars, and walking away with this car for just a couple of hundred bucks over cost. I had a choice between the optional cassette deck or the optional CD player, and of course went with the more popular option... the cassette deck! After all, I had all those mix tapes at my disposal... and no one had ever heard of burning their own CDs! The sales manager at Sport Honda in Silver Spring gave me a good deal because I had just purchased two Hondas from him for WMAL that are still being used today as news vehicles. This practice tells us two things, but since I am sworn to take the high road, I will only make the second observation. Hondas are built to last!

I love my Civic. It is neither plush nor cool, and it has a couple of battle scars thanks to a couple of scrapes with pillers in the Jenifer Street garage over the years. However - it gets nearly 30 miles to the gallon, and it is reliable with a capital R. It could also make the drive to Connecticut Avenue to my old job by memory after more than a decade of commuting. The reason I'm writing about my Civic now is that we have observed an important milestone - Today, it reached the big 100 K.

The milestone was reached in Gaithersburg, near the Quince Orchard Swim Club, where I was dropping Brad off for a community service project he was involved in. We reached the pool with a mile or so to spare, so I drove around a traffic circle at a nearby school a half dozen times so we could experience the big flip together. A true father-and-son bonding experience!

It was especially signficant that I shared this moment with my oldest son. He is going to be 15 this fall, and it is certainly possible, if not likely, that the Civic will someday be Brad's first car. My first car was my grandfather's 1972 Ford Maverick, which was on its last legs when I inherited it, and which was spewing oil and smoke within a few months on its way to the scrap heap. I'm betting Brad will be getting a much better deal a couple of years from now!

Add This To Your List Of Things To See Before You Die!

Well, I rolled out of bed this morning, and fired up the desktop to look for something to blog about, and Yahoo had my answer for me right on the front page:

Kilauea Volcano has exploded again. Officials say a small explosion that sent rocks more than 200 feet up onto the rim of the volcano's main Halemaumau crater occurred Wednesday night, hours before the park reopened.
The park was evacuated Tuesday and remained closed Wednesday because of elevated sulfur dioxide emissions.
The U.S. Geological Survey says Wednesday's blast at Halemaumau crater was much smaller than a similar explosion in March, but still enlarged the new vent in the wall of the crater about 15 to 30 feet.
Scientists say they found lava splatters and rocks ejected by the blast, which also contained volcanic glass shards.
They say there is increasing evidence that molten lava is collecting about 300 to 600 feet below the new vent.

Now - this might sound pretty frightening and dangerous (and it is), but that's what makes Volcanoes National Park so fascinating to visit. I've been a lot of interesting places... Luray Caverns... Colonial Williamsburg... even South of the Border! - But none of them can possibly compare to the site of seeing and feeling hot steam venting from the ground or watching fountains of boiling lava explode as it pours into the sea.

Unfortunately, the last time we visited the volcano last summer, it was during a quiet period, and there was no visible lava flowing at the park. But in previous trips, we were able to hike in from the end of the road and watch nature's fireworks. There is no Disney theme park ride (yes, I said it, dammit!) on Earth that can match the thrill of seeing the goddess Pele do her thing!

Now, as I mentioned, we did not see live lava on the last trip, but Mrs. Matthews did manage to find several small pieces of shiny lava rock known as "Pele's tears". These are valued because they are smooth and shiny, as opposed to most lava, which is rough and dull. Mrs. Matthews was tempted to pocket the pebbles, but the boys and I forced her to toss the rocks down a vent shaft instead. It is considered KAPU (forbidden) to take lava away from the volcano. Whether that's merely an old wive's tale or not is unclear... But you remember what happened to Bobby and Cindy Brady when they took that idol from the construction site in Hawaii... Big time KAPU! We weren't taking any chances!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ponder THIS Around The Flavia Machine!

This story requires no further comment from me. From The Daily Mail of London:

World's most expensive coffee at £50 a cup comes to British stores...and it's made from cats' droppings

It might not be to everyone's taste - and that's not just because at £50 a cup it's the most expensive coffee in the world.
The secret behind the special blend about to go on sale at an upmarket department store is that it is made from cats' droppings.
While such an ingredient might leave many spluttering into their cups, Peter Jones thinks it is on to a winner.
For the rest of April, it is serving espressos, Americanos and lattes made from the droppings in its in-store coffee shop in Sloane Square, central London.
And for those who want the ultimate talking point over the after-dinner mints, the coffee beans are also on sale at £50 for 100 grams.
The store, part of the John Lewis partnership, has bought 60 packets of the exclusive blend of Jamaican Blue Mountain and the Kupi Luwak bean.
The bean is rare, with less than 450lb harvested each year.
The beans are extracted from the droppings of the palm civet, a cross between a cat and a monkey which lives in Indonesia.
The civets eat the soft coffee cherries, digest the fruit pulp and excrete the beans on the forest floor, because they cannot digest the beans.
Plantation workers then collect the beans, which are sold as Luwak coffee.
The civets are said to pick the best and ripest coffee berries.
It is also thought that their gastric juices may add to the flavour.
Now Peter Jones customers can taste flavour for themselves, with all proceeds from sales going to a cancer charity.
One, 23-year-old Hannah Silver, said: "I was a little apprehensive before I tried it but I actually really liked it. It was very earthy and it tastes very smooth.
"It wasn't too bitter and the earthiness really came through - probably because of where the beans have come from.
"It is a delicacy so I can definitely see someone wanting to pay £50 for this, perhaps for a present."
A Peter Jones spokesman said: "We wanted to give our customers a really special experience."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Katie - Don't Bar The Door, USE The Door!

It looks like Katie Couric's days as anchor of the CBS Evening News are more or less officially numbered now, as it has become apparent she is never going to rise out of the basement in the ratings race against NBC and ABC. I say the sooner she leaves, the better, and that she never should have been hired to begin with. This is nothing against Katie Couric. I think she is a fine journalist. I must also confess to having a sentimental affection for her because, like me, she is both a DC area native and a former WMAL intern. But the fact is that no one, man or woman, would have brought CBS out of the ashes in the post-Dan Rather era, and handing that task to Katie Couric was simply a disservice to her. CBS would have been better off shelving the Evening News altogether, and that's what they should do now.

Look at the demographics - Very few people under the age of 60 faithfully watch network evening newscasts, and many of the seniors who do tune in do it out of habit. They're not going to change their routines. My 72-year-old mother-in-law watched Cronkite and Rather, and she watches Couric now. If Bozo the clown replaces Katie, she'll watch him, too. There's virtually no potential for building a new audience there, so why pay Katie Couric 15 million dollars a year to inevitably fail?

Between NBC, ABC and CBS, about 19 million people watch traditional evening newscasts, so there is still, for now, a viable market for that particular product. But for how much longer? The future is digital, not TV news. In a speech earlier this week, Disney chief Bob Iger waxed wishfully that ABC News had the same level of resources as CNN, so it could even the playing field in online news. Iger doesn't seem to be too occupied with the future of TV news, does he? Meanwhile, CBS is considering making a deal to outsource much of its news product to CNN.

Am I, a traditional media person, shooting myself in the foot by discussing all of this? Perhaps, but I'm adapting to the present. New blog... New website (coming soon).... New Facebook account... Social media is the future. What is NOT the future is the CBS Evening News. It, in fact, IS your father's Oldsmobile.

How 'Bout Them Nats?

A quick update this morning to my Tuesday blog, in which I discussed the inevitability that the Nationals season attendance in their new stadium will be a disappointment. The park is tough to get to after the evening rush hour, and DC has fairweather fans. Last night, with the temperatures in the 60's under balmy skies, the announced crowd was 23,340 - that's tickets sold, not butts in seats. The stadium looked much emptier than than that when I flipped past the game on TV, but by then, of course, the Nats were trailing the Marlins, 10 - 2. I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Making Myself Younger Is Making Me Old!

After studiously avoiding it for most of my career, I am now belatedly learning the value of networking... that the next person I meet may be the source of my next job. With that in mind, and after a prodigious amount of prodding by my millennial associate, Jen Richer, I have joined the world of Facebook! What an eye-opening experience this has been! In a matter of minutes, I found myself potentially in touch with hundreds of people - many of whom I do not know... and many of whom I'd like to forget! Just by enrolling, it gave me a much better grasp as to the marketing potential and potential reach of social media - how each individual person has the ability now to slice and dice and customize his or her world according to his or her interests, yet at the same time, reach out globally to virtually everyone they've ever known. Surfing around, it quickly became clear just how much of a generation gap exists in the world of communications. I did a search for people in my high school class - Springbrook '79 - and found about a dozen of my classmates have discovered Facebook. By the same measure, I bet if my friend, Jen, did a similar search, she'd be able to account for virtually her entire class!

This whole Facebook affair has caused quite a stir in Chez Matthews. When the Missus heard that I'd signed up, she became immediately suspicious. It's that generation gap thing again.... Robin hears the word Facebook, and it conjures up visions of perverts trying to arrange sex online with cops posing as teenage girls... Meanwhile, when my 14-year-old son found out Dad had a Facebook account, he immediately asked for an account of his own. He was disappointed to learn that Dad signed up purely for "business reasons", and that even in my newly enlightened state, I'm not ready to supervise my OWN account yet, let alone worry about what his hormone-afflicted brain would do with his own page!

There's gotta be a way to marry my traditional media background to this new-ish concept of personal social media. At the crossroads where those two forms meet may very well be where my future career will be waiting... I hope.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Talk About Your Fair Weather Fans!

We spent more than 30 years without baseball in DC, and many people in our area found that to be an outrage. I was not one of them. Except for the Redskins, Washington has always been a lukewarm sports town - in part, because a lot of the people who came through our area are transients (actually, that's more myth than fact), and in part because DC has always been a roll-up-the-sidewalks-at-6 pm kind of town. The Senators left in 1971, but within a year or two, I became an Orioles fan and never looked back. Memorial Stadium was closer to my home in Montgomery County than RFK was anyway... Fast forward to 1992 - Orioles Park at Camden Yards opened to hugely successful reviews, and suddenly, the baseball world became enamored with the whole "Field Of Dreams" notion that "if you build it, they will come". New stadiums started popping up all over the place, and in most, but not ALL cities, they were also key to driving up attendance. So how about the new Nationals park? It opened to rave reviews, and a near-sellout (that's right - there were a few empty seats for the debut)... And for game two? Well, the announced paid attendance was 20,487 - less than half of the stadium's 43,000 seat capacity. Mind you, major league rules dictate that attendance be counted by number of tickets sold, NOT actual butts in seats... So it's VERY likely there were fewer than 20,000 people in the place last night. Now, I will grant you... It was a chilly night and the game was played against the NCAA basketball championship. But if the Nats, current owners of a five-game losing streak, are in the basement of the NL East by the all-star break, it's going to be a long, QUIET summer along the Anacostia... Hope DC got it's money's worth!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Thanks, But No Thanks!

If looking for a job is a new experience for me (and it is), then so is facing my first rejection notice. The envelope arrived in Friday's mail, and at first, I had no suspicion at all of what might be inside... another form to fill out for a drug test, perhaps? Nah. It was your standard "thanks, but no thanks" letter, complete with a promise to retain my resume in case something more suitable comes up. I had been through two interviews with the company in question, and had actually made the mistake of putting the odds of being hired in my favor... But the biggest shock to me, frankly, was that I actually received the letter via snail mail! I've hired probably 25 people in my career, and I never mailed out letters to the people I didn't hire (shame on me!). I usually DID drop emails in later years, but the notion of paper letters seems so... 20th Century! The application process today is so intertwined with email and websites, that the thought of using a letter carrier to bring me the news had simply never occured to me. Still, bully to my non-employer for rejecting me quickly and with a minimum of pain. Knowing I did NOT get the job makes it much easier for me to plow ahead with more applications - online, of course!

Friday, April 4, 2008

I'm Too Cool For The Room - Jobless Is The New Black!

I lost my job on the last day of February, but guess what... Joblessness didn't hit a new 2.5 year high until March... Which means once again, John Matthews is ahead of the curve!

From Reuters(a possible, if unlikely, future employer of mine):

Employers cut payrolls for a third consecutive month in March and the jobless rate jumped to a 2-1/2 year high, adding more evidence that a housing downturn and credit crisis may have pushed the economy into recession.

It was the first time the U.S. economy shed jobs for three straight months since a five-month string in 2003, when the economy was mired in a jobless recovery from the 2001 recession.

Adding to the bleak picture, the department said a combined 152,000 jobs were lost in January and February, compared with a previous estimate of 85,000. The unemployment rate jumped to 5.1 percent from 4.8 percent, the highest since September 2005.

"There doesn't appear to be any silver lining. It shows that we're right in the middle of a recession," said Carl Lantz, U.S. interest rate strategist at Credit Suisse in New York. "Our expectation is that it will be a longer recession than the last two, and we're just in the beginning."

The White House said it was "not happy" with the jobs report, saying it expected growth to be flat in the first quarter, but pick up later in the year.

On a happier note, I spent some of my jobless time today replacing most of the old incandescent light bulbs in my house with those new model florescent jobs. I may be a bit late to the conversion, but we had tried "green" bulbs once before - buying up a schissel of them at IKEA about four years ago - and those earlier models just didn't shine bright enough for us. Today's models work just fine, though... and they save a ton of electricity. I wish I could tell you I am being a good earthling doing my part for Al Gore and the environment, but I'm not. I'm being cheap!

There's NO WAY This Boy Comes From My Loins!

A proud papa shout out today for our oldest son, Brad, who, for the first time in high school, has achieved straight A's! This was, of course, de rigueur in middle school, but it took until the third quarter of freshman year to reach the top at Sherwood. By doing this, Matthews fils has reached an achievement level that Matthews pere certainly never achieved! Brad is a budding member of the Sherwood "It's Academic" team, and while he did not make the TV squad this season, we're hopeful of him perhaps being quizzed by Mac McGarry himself in his sophomore year! Congrats, Brad... Now clean your room!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

WMAL - The Way It Was

The picture you see here has special significance to me - This was the exact air staff in place when I arrived at WMAL in 1982. I rescued this photo from the trash can, along with several of WMAL's hard-earned Peabody awards, during an office swap about 10 years ago. I managed to get the Peabodys (Peabodies? nah.) to their rightful owners, but I saved the photograph, which was framed in a 1970's vintage burnt orange picture frame, for myself, and it spent several years hanging in my office. When I left WMAL, I deeded the photo to the station's de facto historian, Chief Engineer David Sproul, and he was kind enough to scan a copy and forward it to me. The people you see before you made WMAL the top station in Washington for most of the 60's, all of the 70's and about the first third of the 80's. I was lucky to be a part of the team back at a time when people would have KILLED to work at WMAL. In columns, from left to right, top to bottom, Bill Mayhugh, Felix Grant, Ken Beatrice, Frank Harden, Jackson Weaver, Tom Gauger, John Lyon, Chris Core, Ed Walker and Bill Trumbull.

Reason # 108 On Why I Want A Job Soon!

I have applied for several dozen jobs in the past month, and I'm generally encouraged by the progress I've made so far. Some of the possible careers are in news (radio and otherwise)... some are in media relations... and there are others involving varying degrees of writing and P.R., among other things. I'm really anxious to see how this search is going to turn out for many reasons. First and foremost, of course, is that I could use the money! But beyond the obvious, there is also this... Friends, you may find this hard to believe (ha!), but I have opinions! The problem is, because I've worked in news, I have not been able to share most of those opinions publicly. Instead, the patient people I worked with in the WMAL newsroom had to endure my diatribes over the years.

So where am I going with this? See - I'm still reading the newspaper and scanning the internet on a daily basis, and I'm seeing plenty of foolish stories involving foolish politicians and other public figures out there. I'm anxious to find my next career path, because if it's not in news, I'm gonna open my mouth and let it GO! If I do go back into news, you won't hear a peep, because I can't be slamming people who I might have to cover again someday...

I can say this... Lord, there are a lot of TOOLS running our governments... and we only have ourselves to blame.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

This Aint No Disney Channel!

Have you seen the latest kiddie TV show that is airing on Hamas Television? In the show, a child murders President Bush... I don't know which is more shameful... the message or the production value!