Thursday, May 29, 2008

R.I.P. Harvey Korman

Comedian Harvey Korman is dead. When I was at WMAL, I once had a Program Director who insisted that stories about all celebrities be preceded by a title such as "singer" or "actor" or "comedian" because he didn't think our listeners were smart enough to know who these celebrities are. He literally told me that if Bob Hope dies (this was before Bob Hope actually DID die), we should call him "comedian Bob Hope". How insulting. So let me amend my opening remarks.

Harvey Korman is dead. He had an aneurysm. He was 81. You may remember him best as Carol Burnett's TV sidekick who could never manage to keep from giggling during the sketches on her TV show. But I prefer to recall the Harvey Korman who managed to exude an air of taking himself too seriously when, in fact, he was doing quite the opposite. Korman was at his most brilliant in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles", playing corrupt politician Hedy Lamarr:

I know... I know... It's HEDLEY!

Rest In Peace, Harvey.

Scott McClellan is No Hero.

Former Bush White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan is padding his pockets this morning with money earned from his new book, What Happened, a hatchet job about the Bush White House, and McClellan's role in selling the administration's spin on stories ranging from the start of the War in Iraq to the late response to Hurricane Katrina. In the book, McClellan declares the war was unnecessary, and claims the White House just stood by and watched for the first week following Katrina.

I can't argue with many of the points McClellan made. History will no doubt be unkind to the Bush administration, and to many of the political operatives who served under Mr. Bush. But the person at the top of that "undesirables" list should be Scott McClellan himself.

I am a First Amendment hawk, and I certainly agree that McClellan has the right to write what he wrote. But as Grandma always said, "just because you can, it doesn't mean you should". In writing this book and releasing it now, Scott McClellan has revealed himself to be a cynical, disloyal, petty and bitter man. He has sold himself out, and even a long, long stay on the New York Times best seller list won't make up for that.

I would have no problem with McClellan's book if he had released it on January 21st, 2009, after President Bush left office. But by releasing it now, McClellan is not only screwing over an administration that gave him a career-changing job opportunity, he is also throwing many of his former White House colleagues under the bus on the eve of a change in administrations. These people are going to need jobs soon, and most of them will not have the benefit of the title "White House Press Secretary" on their resumes. McClellan also further undermines the U.S.' reputation on the world stage at a time when America is struggling to maintain its leadership position.

So why now? Money, of course. McClellan's book will certainly sell more copies in an election year than he ever would have once President Bush became yesterday's news. And, as a bonus, he still has both Hillary and Barack around to sell his books for him! McClellan better hope he makes enough money off of this to make working an option for the forseeable future, because I can't think of anyone in either party who would want to hire him.

You can be tardy... you can be sloppy... you can be dim... you can have no sense of humor... you can even have body odor. NONE of those traits is worse in an employee than disloyalty.

Was it worth it, Scott?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thanks, Sophie!

The creator of "It's Academic", Sophie Altman, has died at the tender age of 95. If you can even manage to live to 95, God bless you, but Sophie continued to produce the high school quiz show at Channel 4 until just three weeks before her death! Thousands of America's brightest scholars got their starts on It's Academic, and the roster has also included an astronaut, two U.S. Senators (find Hillary Clinton in this picture!), scores of doctors and lawyers, and hopefully, next school year, my son, Brad!

"It's Academic" levels the high school playing field for those kids who don't find their niche in sports, but in academics. My son doesn't watch MTV... he watches the History Channel, and "It's Academic" provides him with an outlet to hone his craft - to make him want to excel in education. What a blessing it's been!

In its heyday, "It's Academic" was syndicated to 24 other cities, and it is still aired in eight markets, from Washington to San Diego. The DC version is the original, of course, and it's still hosted by the ageless Mac McGarry, himself a D.C. institution as a broadcaster and the longtime announcer voice of both Channel 4 and many NBC programs. I had a chance to meet Mac at a taping of "It's Academic" earlier this year, and it was a thrill. He is not that far behind Sophie Altman in age, but I think Mac has many more miles in his tank!

You can and should read about Sophie Altman's fascinating life and career in this obit in the Washington Post. She even had Hollywood connections - her daughter-in-law is Wonder Woman Lynda Carter!

Thank you, Sophie, for giving geek squads a fighting chance in this world!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Indiana Jones And The Raiders Of Madison Avenue!

The Matthews caught the new Indy flick at a nearly-sold out show at 10:40 in the morning yesterday... Other folks obviously had the same idea to try and avoid the sellout crowds. I am happy to report without giving away any plot lines that the movie was, as predicted, thoroughly enjoyable and a fun family bonding moment! There were fun homages to earlier Indy movies, and even to George Lucas' very first film, American Graffiti (which also happened to feature a very young Harrison Ford)! I thought there WERE parts that were over-the-top and more than a little bit of a stretch, but hey - we're talking about a senior citizen superhero here... From that point-of-view, it's ALL over the top!

I'm glad we finally saw the film, because the inevitable burnout factor over Indy is coming sooner than ever! I literally could not walk into a store over the weekend without hearing the Indy theme playing somewhere, or an Indiana Jones promotional tie-in for SOMETHING on display... And then there was THIS - which Mrs. Matthews just HAD to have!

Yes - it's "Taters of The Lost Ark", from the same folks who brought you "Darth Tater"!

You think it's EASY being married to a pre-school teacher?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Double Feature - Why I Lost My Job And No - It Has Nothing To Do With The Fact That I Let My Employees Play Solitaire At Work!

I've told this story countless times, but for the many of you who do not work in the radio business, my former colleague, Chris Core, has published an article in The Washington Post that clearly explains the economics of commercial radio (and, by extension, WMAL) that led to my untimely demise. It's an excellent read, and I recommend it as a primer for anyone who wants to know why I'm on the beach!

But onto happier topics, such as this article from Slate Magazine, in which it is revealed that the all-time number one video game of all time is not the latest version of "Grand Theft Auto" or "Guitar Hero 3" or "Super Mario Bros", but lowly old Windows Solitaire! In fact, the article reveals that Solitaire is the single most-used program in the entire Windows Universe! Apparently, Microsoft developed the solitaire game as a way to teach computer novices how to use a mouse... And sure enough, I can still recall directing oldtimers like Bud Steele to spend a half-hour at a time playing cards on a computer! This for a guy who was still smoking Camel unfiltereds and using a manual typwwriter when I arrived at WMAL in 1982! 25 years and one lung lighter, Bud is still happily clicking away at Leisure World!

I remember encouraging my first News Director, Len Deibert, to get a PC shortly after I got my first 386-SX back in 1991. Len asked me - "Why would I ever need a computer!" Why, indeed! The world has certainly changed in ways we never saw coming... Just read topic number one of this blog entry!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

More Proof That I'm Ahead Of The Curve!

I've told you before, and I'm telling you again - when it comes to setting trends, you're looking at Mr. Trendsetter. My job was eliminated in March - and lookie lookee at the cover of today's Washington Post Magazine!

I haven't read the article yet, but I have no doubt the author got most of his material from Life On The Beach!

If only the newspaper biz was in better shape than the radio biz - I could call the Graham family and ask for a job!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hillary's Scarlet Letter

In the blog entry just prior to this one, I took political pundits to the woodshed for not really being up to the task of projecting what will happen at any given point in the presidential campaign. I also ventured to guess that would include whether an Obama/Clinton ticket (in that order) would be a road to redemption or a road to Hell. Well, I still believe we have no real way of knowing whether the Barack/Hillary team would win in November... THAT much is still a 50/50 proposition. But - I think the chances of there BEING a Obama/Clinton match just plummeted because of Hillary's stupid remark about the Bobby Kennedy assassination.

Now, in Hillary's defense, by alluding to assassination, I think she was only recognizing the 800-pound gorilla that has been stomping around in the minds of most Americans... that President Obama would perhaps face a heightened chance of facing an assassination attempt if elected. But by using the "A" word as others in her camp have been quietly trying to line her up for a Vice Presidential slot, I think Hillary has shot (sorry, my bad for the pun) her chances of getting the number two spot on the ticket. Just as with Hester Prynne, "A" may just prove to be Hillary Clinton's Scarlet Letter.

Friday, May 23, 2008

It Doesn't Matter If It's John Matthews or Chris Matthews - Political Pundits Don't Know Squat!

While digging around for Friday morning blog fodder, I ran across articles in both Time and the Politico about the possible benefits and downsides of an Obama/Clinton ticket in the Presidential election. The pundits interviewed in the articles had all kinds of strong opinions about whether such a plan would unite Democrats and ensure success in November, or throw more votes to McCain because fence-sitting voters who do like one of the candidates, but DON'T like the other would have reason to flee.

I don't know which direction voters would go, but I do know this for sure... Political pundits don't know what will happen any more than you or I do. Their guesses are just that - guesses, and they are not even particularly educated ones because nearly all of these gasbags are naturally inclined to try and wish their particular point of view to be true.

How do I know these guys are all full of hot air? Because I can put myself in their shoes. All of us are political pundits to some degree. We all make predictions about what will happen in high-profile races, than wait to see if our guesses turned out right. It's no different than taking part in an office football pool. And like nearly all Americans, I thought the primary races were going to be over back in February. What has happened since has been completely unpredictable, which is why no one predicted it. And no one could have guessed the 2000 Bush-Gore race would have turned out the way it did, either!

Sit back and watch, America... Barack, baby... you can listen to the pundits or you can flip a coin in deciding whether to take Hillary along for the ride. At this point, I'd say one strategy is no better than the other! And I will also say this (being a pundit and all)... If you DO take Hillary as your running mate, I think it will provide an instant yea or nay for millions of Americans. Some will be with you from now to November. And some will never consider you again. I know MY decision will be made for me, depending on what you do. Choose wisely.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

So Much For The Friendly Skies!

American Airlines is soon going to charge you 15 bucks to check a bag on its flights, and you can expect other major carriers - the Deltas and Uniteds of the world - to follow suit. I wonder what will be next... Will we be advised to carry spare change so we can use the coin-operated oxygen dispenser should emergencies arise? Pay toilets, perhaps?

As much as I would like to blame American for doing this, I really can't. The rising oil prices are hitting the airlines just as hard as everyone else. I do wish they would just go ahead and raise ticket prices instead, or institute an inclusive "travel fee" - say, 30 bucks a ticket - that would cover meals, luggage, seat selection, etc.

Charging a fee to check ALL bags is going to make the already over-crowded overhead bin space even more scarce, causing flight delays and grumpier passengers onboard. These are big deals when you're already asking people to shove themselves inside what amounts to be a human sardine can!

I think part of the reason that Americans are disillusioned with air travel in general is that we were rediculously spoiled when commercial flight was introduced to the masses. Hot meals served in flight... complimentary drinks... free movies. Did Greyhound offer any of that stuff? No! And after all - air travel is essentially the same thing as bus travel. It's transportation. Period.

There may have been a time when airlines needed to drop fares and market their flights as luxurious in order to get the masses on board. But what we've seen over the past decade is that Americans have been hooked, and revenue now rules the roost. (Actually, revenue always ruled the roost, but we were to busy enjoying our warmed over lasagna and drinking our free Coke to notice!)

Just Don't Give Me Jar-Jar Binks, And I'll Be OK!

There has been a lot of handwringing this week over the newest Indiana Jones movie - the reviews have been decidedly mixed. One of my favorite sources, Entertainment Weekly, has weighed in by giving Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls a B-minus. Look - this movie is bulletproof. It's going to earn 160 million dollars this weekend, and clear 300 million by Labor day, and by any measure is going to be a phenomenal commercial success.

Let me tell you how great it is to have Indiana Jones back on the big screen after 20 years. This is proving to be a great family bonding experience. Both my sons saw a good amount of the original Indy trilogy over the weekend, and they were captivated by the rich action and settings... Younger son Spencer is dying to collect all of the Indiana Jones Lego crap, and older son Brad can't wait to see movie number four, which we will likely see together as a family. You know how frequently THAT happens? Never. Mom is not a movie-goer, but Indiana Jones transcends normal habits.

Today's teenagers have been spoon-fed computer-generated blue screen movies that have perhaps been big on "wow" factor, but small on impact... These films are enjoyed, then tossed in the collective cultural trash can, never to be remembered again. Just look at the disaster that is "Speed Racer", for example... Steven Spielberg has the big sets and the big drama and the big soundtrack... and an icon that will stand up to the test of time forever. We could watch Indiana Jones taking a crap, and people would still enjoy it!

Let's see... Big action scenes? check. Nasty villain (albeit a commie instead of a Nazi)? check. Rats and snakes? check. Big John Williams score? check. Whips and chains(oooh, kinky!)? check.

Bring it on!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What's Getting Better Reviews Than Indiana Jones?

A few days ago, I told you I was working on a new project - an alumni webpage for my college chapel choir. I worried that maybe I was just being sentimental - That perhaps my old classmates had better things to do than stroll down memory lane. My sister, Julie, who creates websites for a living, predicted the site would be a hit because people never think to do webpages like this. Well, I put the site online on Sunday, and I'm relieved to say the early reviews are quite positive. I put out an e-mail blast to as many former choir members as I could find. I've received several responses similar to this one, from a classmate whom I have not seen in more than 25 years:

Dear John,

Yes, you have found another HCC alum! Thanks for e-mailing me and letting me know about the web site. I visited, and the memories came flooding back. I wanted to send you a quick message to let you know how much I enjoyed the site and how much I appreciate all your hard work to put it together. What a great idea!

And this one from our choir director. Winston, who was around 30 when I was in the choir, reminded me with great clarity that even through our nostalgic haze, time does not stand still!


You blew me away!! First, I was very surprised to hear from you and, second, the website gave me cold chills. Seeing those pix brought back surprisingly strong memories. Wow do I miss that whole scene...we really had it nice, didn't we? I'm still happily married to Shery, with 4 children and 2 grandsons. I weigh more, have less hair but still get to make music every day....I'm grateful.

Finally - lest you think being in a Chapel Choir made us all little choir boys and choir girls, remember - this was STILL college! From the one-and-only Diana:

Oh My God!
Yes. I am an HCC alum. 2nd Soprano, 1st Alto 79-82. Tenor when I drank too much on Saturday night.

LOL! Reflections like that one are the reason I built that website!

Spicoli Lives!

Sometimes, you read a news article, and no further embellishment is necessary - except for the occasional You Tube clip. Read on...

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - A New Zealand man who offered to pay with marijuana when he did not have enough money for a snack was caught by a police officer who overheard his unusual proposal, a news report said Tuesday.

Wade Churchward, 28, went to a service station on March 22 in the capital, Wellington, where he picked up two packets of M&Ms candy and some potato chips, the Dominion Post newspaper reported.

Churchward, who had been drinking, began snacking on the goods while standing in line at the cash register.

But when he reached the cashier, he realized he did not have enough money, and instead offered a container with 0.042 ounces of marijuana and a pipe for smoking it.

Churchward failed to notice a patrol car parked outside and a police officer standing behind him in line—who promptly arrested him.

He pleaded guilty Monday in Masterton District Court to possessing marijuana and to several unrelated charges, the newspaper said.

Masterton police prosecutions section staff were unavailable Tuesday to confirm the details.

Churchward was released on bail and will be sentenced on July 3. Marijuana possession is usually punished by a minor fine in New Zealand.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What To Say To A Jobless Person.

My sister, Jill, sent me an excellent article from the New York Times discussing the conundrum of how to converse with the growing number of people who are being laid off from their jobs. You can read the entire article here, but here's an excerpt:

American companies have shed 240,000 jobs in the first three months of the year, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Business-page headlines announce layoffs by the thousands at major American corporations: 2,000 at AOL, 5,000 at Morgan Stanley, 4,000 at Merrill Lynch.

Despite the pervasiveness of the cuts, many people contacted for this article were unwilling to speak for attribution, citing confidentiality agreements or, simply, embarrassment.
In general, middle-aged professionals seem more anxious and demoralized than younger ones; men tend to be more buttoned-up than women.

When Janette La Vigne, an insurance company executive from Clinton Township, N.J., was laid off 10 days ago, she immediately told fellow lacrosse moms. The women were empathetic and bracing, particularly those whose husbands had been through layoffs, said Ms. La Vigne, who had been with the same company for 21 years.

“But the guys are speechless,” she said. “They don’t know how to handle it. Their body language says, ‘Eww, I’m so glad I’m not you right now.’ ”

Those on the sidelines are also uncomfortable, fumbling for a protocol, an etiquette to support their struggling neighbors, while also respecting their dignity. “As this has become more prolonged, friends are pulling away, probably because they think we can’t afford to go out with them,” said the wife of a former executive at a national apparel company, who asked for anonymity because the couple’s friendships have become strained. “They mean well. But I wish they would give us that option.”

Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown, explained the inarticulateness of the well-intentioned. “People feel caught between two conflicting concerns,” said Dr. Tannen, the author of “You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation.” “You’re caught between the need to show you care and the fear of offending because you’re reminding them of something painful.”

I have to say that I was never embarrassed about losing my job. I told my wife on day one that I did nothing wrong, and that frankly, my bosses were more embarrassed about letting me go after 25 years than I was for being out of work. It's pretty clear from the tone of my blog that I have no problem discussing what happened.

That doesn't mean I WANT to discuss it with everyone. Last week, when I arrived at my son's daycare center to get him after school ( yes, we still have him in aftercare - it's a lifestyle choice to accomodate Spencer , and no, jobless people don't just go broke in a day!), one of my neighbors saw me and called out, "How's the job search going?"... This is in a parking lot with people walking by. "You know, I know a lot of people in my business... Maybe one of them can help you get a job!" I know the guy was just trying to be helpful, but I barely know the man. I have no idea how he even knew I am unemployed. I certainly didn't need him broadcasting my situation to the world, and I CERTAINLY didn't feel obligated to discuss it with him!

I have found that people DO want to be helpful, but by and large they have no idea HOW. The best advice I can give you to help me is to be DISCREET and CONCRETE. I greatly appreciate everyone's good thoughts and wishes, and I greatly appreciate any and all job tips. But please don't shout out your thoughts across a parking lot, and PLEASE don't ask me to call a friend of a friend who's not in the radio business about a job that may or may not exist.

When you lose your job, I'll be happy to do the same for you!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

This Just In! The Washington Post Reads My Blog!

I opined last week that Montgomery County is nuts to give its employees what amounts to an eight percent pay raise at a time when its private-sector taxpayers (like me) are having to forgo pay increases or even losing their jobs (like me) during this recession. Well, the Washington Post editorial board, which obviously reads "Life On The Beach" nearly as devotedly as Randy Bernstein does, apparently agrees with me.

In one of the paper's top op-ed pieces today, the Post says the county council NOT only raised property taxes this week AND preserved the eight percent raises, it ALSO gave cops a 14 percent pension increase, gave firefighters a compounded three-year 28 percent pay raise, including an 11 percent hike in 2010 alone, and boosted retirement contributions for county workers as well.

The Post editorial speaks of a love affair between the county government and its labor unions. I believe the issue has more to do with the lack of political balance in Montgomery County. I have no great affection for Republicans over Democrats, but there are no checks and balances in my hometown... No yin and yang... No one politically capable of calling out their colleagues on the other side of the aisle because there IS NO other side of the aisle.

And now we're paying the price. Well, those of us who don't work for the county, anyway.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

It Doesn't Beat Working, But It Beats LOOKING For Work!

For the past week or so, between beating my head against the wall and poring through endless job search engines, I took a couple of days to build a new website - one that I could have only imagined being able to have done just a couple of months ago, when I had neither the time nor the skills to do so. Unlike my original site, which was all business, this site is a welcome avocation - a search for college friends and for the choir music that at one time bound us together. Combining my recently acquired web skills and video editing skills, I have assembled a simple video trailer for the new site, The song you'll hear is "The Lord Bless You And Keep You" by Peter Lutkin, then and now the de facto anthem of the Syracuse University's Hendricks Chapel Choir. This version was recorded at the Washington Cathedral in May of 1981, and yes, I am in the recording. Enjoy!

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Federal Sick Leave Policy Is Making ME Sick!

Call me a hardass, but I'm not a big fan of sick leave in the workplace. I understand the NEED for it - I just happen to think that 75 percent of the time when someone calls in sick, they really COULD tough it out at the office if they wanted to, OR they're just taking the day off. Having said that, imagine my response when I read this in the Washington Post about how my tax dollars are being spent by "sick" federal workers.

At the Internal Revenue Service, one employee over a two-year period took sick leave on 13 of the 14 Tuesdays after a Monday holiday.

That's an extreme case of sick-leave abuse, but the IRS employee had plenty of co-workers who also liked to take Tuesdays off, a report by the Inspector General for Tax Administration found.
For weeks that had a holiday falling on a Monday, 27 percent of all sick leave at the IRS was taken on a Tuesday in 2005 and 2006, the report said. And 24 percent of all sick leave taken by IRS employees during non-holiday weeks was on a Monday.

You can read the entire article here, but it goes on to tell us that the federal government loses billions of dollars a year in lost productivity because of bogus sick leave. At the IRS alone, workers call in sick an AVERAGE of 11 days a year. So how does Congress plan to fix the problem? Bribe the workers to show up for their jobs! Virginia Rep. Jim Moran (perhaps my favorite interviewee of all time, by the way) is pushing a bill that would reward retiring federal workers who don't abuse their sick leave with a lump sum bonus of up to 10,000 dollars upon retirement. Moran says this will save the government millions, and I suppose he's right, but DAMN... If everyone in my (former) office called in sick 11 days a year, there'd have been a lot more people getting fired!

How do I get one of those federal jobs?

I'm Not Paranoid (But My E-Mail Is Out To Get Me!)

Literally the very first thing I did when I came home from losing my job was to sign up for Google mail. I had always relied on my former employer for e-mail services, so I needed to get set up immediately, and Gmail did the trick. I really enjoy Gmail - especially its chat functions, and the fact that I basically never have to worry about deleting anything because it has more space than I'll ever need.

Of course, because I receive this service for free, Google does place a few text-only ads in a column next to my incoming messages, but considering my entire income for the past 25 years has come from advertising, I have no problem with this. HOWEVER - there is something REALLY creepy about Gmail that I have not been able to get used to. It reads my e-mail even before I do! If I'm chatting with a friend about "Lost", I get text ads about other ABC TV programs. If I'm sending a resume out to a prospective employer, I see ads for Every e-mail I receive is customized to the content of the letter. It can be kinda creepy.

Of course, Google does make mistakes... I received a note last night from my friend, Loretta Cooper, and the ads offered to sell me cars - Mini-Coopers, of course. I'm wondering if I ever wrote a doctor about hemmorroids if I'd get Preparation H ads... And God forbid if I ever hear the bad news about someone dying - will I get a great deal on a casket?

God Bless Madison Avenue!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Don't Kill The Messenger!

You just KNOW this happens more frequently than you'd like to admit! Be nice to that teenager at the drive-thru now!

We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place!

(everybody sing!) ... if it's the last thing we ever do!

I'm speaking of course, about living in Montgomery County, Maryland - a jurisdiction that I have called home for my entire life... a county whose elected leaders have never seen a tax they didn't like!

At a time when inflation is up, home values are down and recession is looming, the County Executive and County Council are bickering over how deeply to stick it to homeowners. Now, I've been covering these kind of squabbles for years, so none of this comes as a surprise - but I can't help but wonder what geniuses approved what amounts to an 8 percent pay increase for most county employees. I've been reading in the paper about how county workers are the "most precious resource" the county has. I have no beef with the services I receive, but somehow I think county TAXPAYERS - the people who foot the bill - are somewhat more precious than employees. What world do these people live in where they think an 8 percent pay hike is normal, even in GOOD economic times?

Like I said, none of this is surprising to me in the Peoples' Republic of Montgomery County, but what's really burning my britches today is the fact that as much as the county likes to increase spending, it balks at efforts to generate any new revenue that does not come straight from my pocket! County Executive Ike Leggett has shot down a proposal to open county liquor stores on Sundays - a simple step that could put another million dollars a year in the county's coffers. Leggett has shot down the idea, saying the potential social ills could outweigh any financial benefit.

Ike - I don't know about you, but whether the liquor stores are open on Sunday or not, the rising cost of living here is enough to drive me to drink!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Reality TV Roundup

I have always found myself on a bit of the defensive because I am a dedicated consumer of reality television. In fact, I've avoided discussing it on this blog so far out of worry it might forever stain me as some sort of cultural idiot. The fact IS that television is entertainment... and whatever floats your boat is OK by me. My wife has her own TiVo filled to the brim with every cop show on the air... Never mind the fact that THOSE shows are about as far from REALITY as you can get - that's what she enjoys.

What really sticks in my craw are the people who insist on dismissing any program that is placed in the "reality TV" category out of hand. My brother-in-law, Todd, is one of these people. He won't tolerate 10 minutes of "Dancing With The Stars", but he'll watch every single Yankees game! Can you really tell me that three hours of baseball on TV is either more exciting or more entertaining than one hour of celebrity ballroom dancing? Again - whatever floats your boat.

Now - just a couple of quick riffs on current and future reality TV programs...

We're down to the final three on "Dancing With The Stars", now that Marissa Jaret Winokur has been shown the door. I was a big fan of the Tony-winning actress ... Like me, she is loud and fat... but she didn't let that get in the way, and she obviously enjoyed every minute that she was on the show. The great thing about Marissa is that she knew she probably should have been gone several weeks ago, and she appreciated that America kept her around as long as it did. As for the remaining stars, if Kristy Yamaguchi doesn't win, it will be a crime!

I've never been a big fan of American Idol... To me, it's always taken too long to go from early auditions to the finals, and there's something about all three judges that bug me. Having said that, I have dipped in and out of Idol this season... and I believe it's David Cook's competition to win.

If Reality TV is uncool, "Survivor" must be downright frigid. Just a few years ago, the granddaddy of reality programs was standard watercooler conversation in the office, but I knew almost no one at WMAL who would admit to watching it in recent years. The TV ratings are starting to bear that out. The finale of the latest season, "Fans vs. Faves", failed to finish in the top 10 programs for the week. That's a shame, because for those of you who snuffed the torch on Survivor years ago, I can tell you that this season - number SIXTEEN! - was one of the most entertaining seasons ever, including a four-week streak of tribal council blindsiding that has never been matched in the show's history! Again - I'm a big football fan - but you can't tell me that some of these shows are not just as competitive as TV sports!

Finally - I'm happy to hear that the Mole is making a comeback on ABC this summer. "The Mole" is almost as old as "Survivor", but it never achieved the same kind of ratings success. The original series was hosted by Anderson Cooper, who at the time was an overnight news anchor on ABC, and not yet a CNN megastar. The show itself is kind of hard to describe. There are about a dozen contestants who are given missions to perform... However, one of the contestants is a mole... someone whose job it is to spoil the missions without being detected. The winner of the program is the person who survives the longest, and who can identify the Mole. This show, more than others, was an acquired taste, but I highly recommend it. The new version will be out next month, but you can catch a marathon of the original series this Sunday on Game Show Network! Here's a promo for the original series:

By the way - a big shout out to my friend Ann Wog, who produces the Grandy and Andy Morning show on WMAL - She is my one and only true reality confidant! If it's reality TV, it's on Ann's TiVo!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Coping With Coping...

I'm finding that you need to develop coping skills pretty quickly when you're looking for work... You need to cope when you're waiting for an e-mail or for the phone to ring. You need to cope when you've looked through every job search engine you can think of and can't find any more jobs you want to apply for. You need to cope with feeling like you are doing nothing productive... My answer for that dilemma was starting this blog, which I find simulates productivity extremely well. In fact, I'm simulating being productive as I write this because it helps me avoid the fact that I have reached a plateau in my job search.

For the first two months, I was able to find something to apply for nearly every day, or work on my resume, or work on my website, or fix up my blog and rationize that I was creating "writing samples". Now I've reached the point where I pretty much know what's out there, and hitting up and and and several times a day is yielding little more than boredom.

I hate like hell to take a break from looking, because every time I stop, the little demon inside me that tells me I'll never find a job again grows a little stronger, and the clock on the wall ticks a little louder, reminding me that my time on the beach, by necessity, will soon have to come to an end.

But sometimes in life, benching your cleanup hitter because he's batting 1 for 20 is the best thing you can do to kick him in the ass and get him to start hitting homers again. Maybe I'm striking out with the job search because all of the jobs are starting to look the same, and the thought of settling for something I don't really want is starting to overshadow the excitement of moving on to the next chapter in my life. So I think I'm going to take a couple of days off to let the search engines fill up with some more exciting opportunities... recharge my batteries and get set for life AFTER the plateau!

I won't give up the blogging though... I have to find some way to cope!

We Still Have A Long Way To Go

Friends - Some people are supporting Barack Obama in the election because they want to prove that racism is no longer a big factor in American society. The following article from the Financial Times seems to confirm just the opposite. Obama's pending nomination is bringing out the racism in America! The piece speaks volumes about West Virginia, and makes me wonder if Hillary Clinton's expected huge primary election victory there will really be much of a victory after all. The article shows us all just how redneck that state still is, making the crackers from the film "Deliverance" seem almost like effete snobs!

Like most people in Mingo County, West Virginia, Leonard Simpson is a lifelong Democrat. But given a choice between Barack Obama and John McCain in November, the 67-year-old retired coalminer would vote Republican.

“I heard that Obama is a Muslim and his wife’s an atheist,” said Mr Simpson, drawing on a cigarette outside the fire station in Williamson, a coalmining town of 3,400 people surrounded by lush wooded hillsides.

Mr Simpson’s remarks help explain why Mr Obama is trailing Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, by 40 percentage points ahead of Tuesday’s primary election in the heavily white and rural state, according to recent opinion polls.
A landslide victory for Mrs Clinton in West Virginia will do little to improve her fading hopes of winning the Democratic nomination, because Mr Obama has an almost insurmountable lead in the overall race.
But Tuesday’s contest is likely to reinforce Mrs Clinton’s argument that she would be the stronger opponent for Mr McCain in November, and raise fresh doubts about whether the US is ready to elect its first black president.

Occupying a swathe of the Appalachian Mountains on the threshold between the Bible Belt and the Rust Belt, West Virginia is a swing state that voted twice for George W. Bush but backed Democrats in six of the eight prior presidential elections.
No Democrat has been elected to the White House without carrying West Virginia since 1916, yet Mr Obama appears to have little chance of winning there in November. Recent opinion polls indicate that Mrs Clinton would narrowly beat Mr McCain in the state but Mr Obama would lose by nearly 20 percentage points.

West Virginia is hostile territory for Mr Obama because it has few of the African-Americans and affluent, college-educated whites who provide his strongest support. The state has the lowest college graduation rate in the US, the second lowest median household income, and one of the highest proportions of white residents, at 96 per cent.

A visit to Mingo County, a Democratic stronghold in the heart of the Appalachian coalfields, reveals the scale of Mr Obama’s challenge – not only in West Virginia but in white, working-class communities across the US. With a gun shop on its main street and churches dotted throughout the town, Williamson is the kind of community evoked by Mr Obama’s controversial comments last month about “bitter” small-town voters who “cling to guns or religion”.
“If he is the nominee, the Democrats have no chance of winning West Virginia,” said Missy Endicott, a 40- year-old school administrator. “He doesn’t understand ordinary Americans.”

There is much more to this article, and you can read the entire thing here. There is a similar story about the rednecks of my mother's home state of Indiana in today's Washington Post.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nine Hours, Four Beers, One Fish. (And A Song!)

This is a fish tale that is not about "the one that got away", but about ALL the ones that got away! Some of my WBAL buddies took me out to the Chesapeake Bay over the weekend for a little sport fishing... The way they figured it, we'd get on the boat by 6 am Saturday, motor on out into the bay, fill our bellies with beer, fill the cooler with fish, and be back on shore by 11 am.

Well, for the first time since college, I WAS sipping a Corona by 6 am, but pretty much nothing else went according to plan. We had 17 lines cast to catch fish, and two hours into the trip, we finally had some action. Larry Roberts reeled in a 35-inch Rockfish - it was promising to be one hell of a day. The actual fish-catching interrupted our breakfast, so we were soon back to our sandwiches and beer. It turns out we didn't have to hurry to finish our food, because that would turn out to be the ONLY fish we'd catch all day!

Our captain felt bad about the lack of action, so he continued to drive in large sweeping circles for another SEVEN hours. We did not get back to the dock until 3 pm, which was exactly one hour AFTER the start of a wedding that one of our party was supposed to be attending.

The host for this whole shindig was Dan, a really nice financial planner for one America's leading brokerage firms, who would like to make me a client, despite the fact that I currently have no discernable source of income. All I can say (with a smile) is that I surely hope Dan draws a better yield on his client's money than he does with fish!

On a somewhat more successful note, one of my fellow non-fishermen was John Patti, who DID deliver a digital copy of that nearly 30-year-old vinyl record of my college choir that I discussed a few weeks back. Now, for the first time in decades, I can once again hear myself singing as a young man! Check out this rockin version of Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho, performed by Syracuse University's Hendricks Chapel Choir at Washington's National Cathedral in May of 1981. I'm in the back row, fifth guy from the left in the picture below...

Friday, May 9, 2008

"Destiny, John, Is A Fickle Bitch!"

The title of this blog entry is a direct quote from this week's episode of Lost, the TV show that I have declared to be the best program on Planet Earth. I won't bother trying to explain the meaning behind the quote... It would be lost on you non-Losties anyway. However, I will say the quote has a deeper meaning for me personally as I go through my current state of unemployment. The one constant I have been hearing since my position was eliminated is that "for every door that's closed, another one opens", or "there is life after WMAL" or "everything happens for a reason". I have been using those phrases as my mantra for the past 10 weeks now, to little apparent effect. If positive change is indeed my destiny, it's taking it's sweet ass time getting here! Perhaps destiny IS a fickle bitch!

Capitol Rotunda Smashed By Foul Ball?

My most trusted news source, The Onion, is reporting this morning that the US Capitol rotunda was smashed by a foul ball off the bat of the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman.... Of course, this story is just a joke! How can you tell? The article says 32,457 people were at the game! Those Onion writers! Such comics!

The ORIGINAL Reality TV Show Returns!

Back in 1976, when I was 15 years old and girls were nothing but a fantasy, I spent my afternoons glued to the tube watching Chuck Barris' GONG Show. The amateur "talent" show was harmless and silly, but just like with today's reality TV fare, an admission of being an actual fan was comparable to telling your friends that you also liked to drool and wet your bed.

Well, guess what, boys and girls? The Gong Show is making a comeback! More from Variety:

Comedy Central is reviving Chuck Barris' "The Gong Show," with comedian Dave Attell as host.
Cable net has ordered eight half-hour segs of the skein, which is set to premiere July 17. "The Gong Show" will air weekly at 10:30 p.m. in tandem with new reality TV spoof "Reality Bites Back" at 10.

Gameshow vet Andrew Golder will exec produce "The Gong Show" for Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Prods. and Sony Pictures TV, which owns the Barris canon.

Like the original, the new-model "Gong Show" will feature a revolving panel of celebrity judges weighing in on eight to 10 offbeat amateur acts in each episode.

Original skein, which aired from 1976-78 on NBC's daytime lineup and in primetime syndication from 1976-80, was hosted by producer Barris and featured such regulars as Gene-Gene the Dancing Machine (aka one of the show's stagehands) and the Unknown Comic (aka a guy with a paper bag on his head). A syndie revival had a short run in the 1988-89 season.

Attell is known to Comedy Central auds for hosting the series "Insomniac With Dave Attell." Late last year he toplined an HBO spesh, "Captain Miserable."

I'll be interested to see what a 21st century Gong show will look like, but there's no way it'll match the wackiness of the original... Here's a clip of my favorite recurring segment - Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

My Wife Is A Photographic Luddite!

I may have mentioned before in this missive that Mrs. Matthews is technologically challenged. Several years ago, when I wanted to buy her a digital camera, she resisted mightily. She was far more comfortable with the idea of continuing to take her rolls of 35mm film up to CVS, wait two days and get back an envelope stuffed with twin prints that she could then quickly stuff in the nearest drawer, never to be seen again.

I am now proud to say, however, that Robin has acclimated to her camera, and she gleefully shoots pictures with reckless abandon. In fact, she has more than 300 snapshots on her camera now - and that number is growing because she has no idea how to delete any of them. She also doesn't know how to download them to the computer. She forces me to do the job instead!

I have been protesting against this for some time, of course. Robin has a Master's Degree in education, so she can darn well figure out how to maintain a digital camera. But her proposed solution to the problem is certifiably 20th century. She says she can just take her camera's memory card to CVS, and have the magic Kodak machine print out her pictures (even twin prints!) there! If she runs out of space on the memory card, she can just buy another one!

Fast forward to this morning... Robin needed to download some pictures to our computer for work purposes. I forced her to do the job herself, which was a big mistake. The 2-minute chore turned into a 20-minute computer lesson as Robin successfully downloaded the files, but then promptly lost them on the hard drive. I found the files, and also introduced the Missus to the phenomenon of dragging-and-dropping files and folders. Have mercy on her. She spent her learning-computers-in-the-workplace years raising babies instead...

Still, I sometimes think my wife doesn't need Windows OR a husband... She needs a HAL 9000... a computer that does as it's told!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Like Father, Like Son

Many of you have had the pleasure (or occasional displeasure) of meeting my older son, 14-year-old Brad. I only say displeasure because, as much as I love him, Brad has an obnoxious streak that can sometimes run 24/7. He will take a mildly funny joke and run it straight into the ground... and then some. And then some MORE. It's exhausting. In his defense, I must admit that ol' Brad doesn't fall far from the tree. I look at him and see myself when I was his age, and it gives me a whole new appreciation for the power of teenage hormones. It's almost enough to make me want to apologize to my family for putting up with me!

It's amazing as a parent to watch your children grow, and to see how much they emulate you whether you want them to or not. Shortly after I began this blog, Brad decided to start a journal of his own, called, fittingly enough, The Obnoxious Report. The blog is a sometimes-fascinating look at the world through teenage eyes. I have had to go back a couple of times and require Brad to remove some objectionable material, but for the most part, I think he's doing a fine job.

This proud Dad sees a young man who is developing his own thoughts and finding his own strong voice. It's easy - sometimes too easy - to disregard what young people have to say. But Brad has opinions - real, self-vetted opinions - and he's using his blog to share some of them. I find his latest entry to be particularly timely - it's about the election. Not the presidential one - the Sherwood High School variety. Enjoy! (And Brad - good job!)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I Love The Smell Of Desperation In The Morning!

When we were traveling on vacation in California two years ago, Robin and I chuckled over a bumper sticker we saw. It read "God Bless Our Stupid President". That's really how I'm feeling about our Presidential candidates right about now. Hillary wants to give Americans a gas tax holiday, and allow the average driver to save about 70 bucks this summer - enough to take the family to Outback once. Meanwhile, Barack wants to issue another stimulus check.

Look - Lord knows I could really use some extra cash right now, but how much longer can we really go on looking the other way? Our probable future President, whoever he or she may be, wants us to pleasure ourselves, and not worry about the fact that we're shooting ourselves as a nation in the foot with every extra dollar the nation borrows in the name of economic stimulus. Any extra money rebated back to Americans isn't coming from some secret bank account - it's yet more national debt.

Meanwhile, to make matters ever worse, we must worry about what this kind of political thinking says about us as a nation. Clinton and Obama are now just openly pandering - there's not even really a shred of dignity left between the two of them... And yet, we're supposed to go into a voting booth in November, hold our noses and make a choice? God help us. And don't for a minute think all of this is some sort of oblique endorsement of John McCain. He's out of the spotlight for the moment because he can enjoy watching the other two beat each other's brains out, but I'm sure McCain will have ample time to shame and embarrass himself down the road!

I think perhaps the real villain in all of this is the election process itself. I used to make a joke in the newsroom that, because of the length of the presidential campaign, no one stands a chance of still being liked by the time election day rolls around... Joe Gibbs and Jesus Christ could be the candidates, and we'd still be holding our noses in the voting booth!

The good news at the end of the day is that Hillary and Barack's plans to give away more cash will likely be vetoed by President Bush if either bill lands on his desk. God Bless Our Stupid President, indeed!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Save The Electric Map?

Anyone with school-age kids has probably noticed that children - at least in Montgomery County - don't take NEARLY as many field trips as they did when we were kids. They're too busy studying to take standardized tests! When I was a kid, I don't think a year went by, for example, when my class didn't go to at least 2 or 3 Smithsonian museums. Neither of my kids has ever been to the Mall on a school trip, period.

One other place we used to go regularly was Gettysburg PA, a quick 90 minute jaunt up Rt. 15 to the most famous of all Civil War battle sites. A "must-see" at Gettysburg was always a visit to the famous "electric map" - an auditorium that surrounded a room-size map of the Gettysburg battlefield. Using state-of the art 1960's technology, the map used different colored light bulbs to show the movements of the union and confederate troops, while an uber-serious professorial voice narrated the intricate 3-day battle's movements.

This electric map presentation used to take about a half-hour, giving the audience the opportunity to reflect on the bloodshed of brother-against-brother combat in the deadliest single battle of the Civil War... or to give you some nice quiet time to catch a nap.

Love it or hate it, the electric map is now a thing of the past. The National Park Service is on a kick to "restore" Gettysburg back to its Civil War era condition, and that began with closing down the old visitor center where the electric map resides. That building is in the middle of where the action was, so to speak. An effort to save the electric map is underway, but in all honesty, I think they oughta let the old girl go to tourist trap heaven. In our short attention span world, no 10 year old kid is going to be satisfied with a half hour light bulb show when CG graphics and fast talk can tell the story in less time with more action.

Fortunately, another "tacky" Gettysburg attraction of my youth remains open just across the street from the electric map, on private property - The old National Civil War Wax Museum still exists, although it's undergone a name change in what I assume is a nod to 21st Century sensibilities. I'm sure someone out there is going to take offense at the sight of confederate soldiers or slaves immortalized in wax!

Sadly, I think the electric map has gone the way of pay phones, slide projectors and 8 track players... but thanks to the wonders of 21st Century technology, we'll always have our memories:

Unwanted Nostalgia- Remembering Life Before The Internet!

Even as I write this, my internet service is fading in and out on me this morning. It's really incredible to note how quickly I have come to depend on the web as my lifeline to everything... in fact, if I had to choose between keeping the web or keeping the TV and TiVo, I think I'd have to choose the internet! When my service went out at around 6 this morning, I knew I had to contact Verizon immediately - the problem was, I couldn't get the Fios webpage up on the internet, so I had to find a PHONE BOOK! Verizon tossed a couple of them on my driveway a few weeks ago, and luckily, my wife refused to let me throw them away, so I was able to call Verizon and after a few minutes of voice mail hell, get a technician on the line. Thank God my wife is a luddite!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Bravo, Blake High School!

When was the last time you went to see a high school play? You might be surprised to find out just how enjoyable they are, not to mention what a nice, inexpensive evening out they can prove to be.

The missus and I left the kids home and went on a date last night to James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring to see its production of the musical "Les Miserables". For those of you who don't know, Blake is Montgomery County's performing arts magnet school, so it's filled with budding future professional actors, singers and dancers. We were cautiously optimistic that these high school kids would do justice to the Victor Hugo classic, but to be honest, we were blown away!

Robin and I have seen "Les Miz" on Broadway, and while I couldn't call this its equal, you could certainly put it up there with any regional theater in terms of quality - from the voices to the costumes to the sets... everything first class all the way! It certainly blew away any production I had ever done at any level through college! For just a couple of bucks more than the cost of a movie, we were treated to a great night of entertainment, and thrilled to see teenagers pour their hearts into the arts!

For those of you unfamiliar with the plot or music of Les Miserables, check out this clever synopsis courtesy of our friends at Lego!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Which Would YOU Choose?

The Pew Research Center conducted a survey with Americans to find out what's more important in their lives - wealth or free time. Personally, I think one goes hand in hand with the other. The gift of wealth creates the opportunity for more free time. Of course, right now I have more free time than I know what to do with, and this free time is slowly draining what very little wealth I have left, but set this contradiction aside for the moment and read the damn story from Reuters!

Having enough free time is more important to most Americans than being rich, according to a new poll.
Only 13 percent of more than 2,400 people questioned in the telephone poll ranked being wealthy as most important to them, while 67 percent ranked free time as their top priority, higher than having a successful career, getting married, and having children.

"Everyone wants free time to do the things they want to do, young, middle-aged or old," said Richard Morin, of the Pew Social & Demographic Trends Project, which conducted the survey.
"So our desire to play unites us."

The poll also showed that people who were university educated valued career success over wealth, as did middle-aged people.

Not surprisingly, those who didn't have money, ranked wealth very highly. This included minorities, first generation Americans and less educated people.
The survey also revealed that a disproportionate number of people under the age of 30 and retirees in the group made $20,000 or less a year.
But the emphasis on wealth lessens with age, with younger people putting value on it but hardly any seniors.

"It just diminishes with time as the reality sets in that you would never be rich," Morin said. "But also, the reality sets in that you don't have to be rich to lead a very comfortable and fulfilling life."

While wealth was not at the top of people's list of priorities, 43 percent still said it was somewhat important.

Perhaps we would all find happiness washing cars. To quote the 20th century philosopher

Rose Royce, "You might not ever get rich, but let me tell you it's better than digging a ditch".

Man, I really need less free time right about now, don't I?

Friday, May 2, 2008

More Nationals Park Bashing!

The Nats won their 4th straight last night - their longest winning streak of the season - beating the Pirates at the new ballpark, 3 - 2... This was a real nailbiter - the Nats didn't score the winning run until the bottom of the 8th inning. Hmmm... I wonder how many people were there to see it!

The announced crowd at the park last night was 24,723. Again - this is the number of tickets sold, not the number of butts in seats. By the bottom of the 8th, I'd bet the crowd was at best 10,000 - because fans are already well-known for sneaking out early to avoid the crowds on Metro. My "friend", Randy Bernstein, did just that last week. He and his son Evan went to a game with an announced crowd of about 25,000. Randy tells me there were nowhere near that many people in the stands - and he also confesses to leaving in the 6th inning to beat the rush.

Now, everything I've just told you flies in the face of what Tom Boswell is reporting in his column in today's Washington Post. Boswell is almost desperate to declare Nationals Park a big success, and he's quick to point out that the team's revenue from attendance may double this season. Yeah, Tom... they've boosted the hell out of ticket prices, and the new stadium also brought in more season ticket buyers - of course revenue for the team is going to increase!
But what about revenue for the city, and for the vendors who opened concession stands on the promise of more fans?
The Nats have not had a sellout since opening night, and no matter what happy spin they put on it, they can't be happy with an average attendance of under 30,000 fans - a figure that is boosted by heavier weekend crowds - midweek games have drawn closer to 20,000. The Nats are going to make their money no matter what - DC has to pay for the stadium whether people are going to the games or not.
City residents better hope for more - and longer - winning streaks!

The Next Humorist-In-Chief?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - No matter what the issues are, no matter who has the most impressive bona fides - the next and every President of the United States will be elected based on the personality he or she exudes. This is why George H.W. Bush beat Mike Dukakis, and also the reason his son beat John F.-ing Kerry. Would you want to be stuck next to either of those Dems on a cross-country bus ride?

The personality factor is the reason why it has become a standard practice now for all of the candidates to appear on Leno and Letterman... Daily Show and Colbert... and it's a big reason why I think ultimately that Hillary Clinton is in trouble. She has had her moments on the comedy circuit, but I don't think she sells it nearly as well as John McCain or Barack Obama.

Interestingly enough, I have seen McCain give policy speeches before, and he can be like watching paint dry. But he is also known for having a great sense of humor... As for Obama, he took his turn on Letterman last night, handling the Top 10 list chores from the home office, and I think he acquitted himself well:

Now, by way of disclaimer... I may be underestimating Hillary Clinton, because I'm a man and she does not do particularly well with men. But considering we're the gender that has kept the Simpsons on the air... that we're also responsible for every one of the 30 or so Police Academy movies in existence... and that we make up nearly half of the available voting pool out there, Hillary better start getting her funny bone on!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Death Of Four Dollar A Cup Coffee?

Starbucks has announced a 21 percent drop in year-to-year earnings, as the recession has perhaps finally proven to be the silver bullet to kill the mega-coffee beast. I have never understood the allure of paying way-over premium prices for coffee, even as my own wife has made it a daily part of her caffeine routine. I always took solace in the fact that I made my morning java stop at Seven-Eleven, and paid less for my 24-ounce fix than Robin did for her 16-ounce glob of sugary coffee-like goo... At least we balanced each other out that way. I guess in hindsight, Starbucks was the perfect symbol of the good times... Charge more for common goods, put a "premium" label on it, and buy up a cache of wheelbarrows to cart the cash away. Well, where are the good times now? Pretty soon, the baristas will be joining me in the unemployment line!

You Can Find Anything On The Internet - Even Time Capsules!

Yesterday, I told you that I found this picture while googling myself. The snapshot took me kind of by surprise because it's 30 years old, and I didn't put it on the internet myself. So where did it come from?

Well, my friends - upon further investigation, I discovered that this is my very first publicity shot! It comes from the website of my high school friend, Stuart Basinger, who had a lifelong dream to make his very own James Bond film. Flashback to the summer of 1978... Stuart had just graduated from Springbrook High School, and I was about to become a senior. With high school out of the way and college just a couple of months off, Stuart gathered his Super 8 camera and a bunch of his friends and proceeded to start production on his own version of "Moonraker". Stuart starred as 007, and I played the villain, the notorious Sir Hugo Drax. We spent much of that summer filming the project, but it was not actually completed until just a few years ago. Stuart did a fantastic job of making his dream finally come true, and I strongly recommend you read the complete story behind the movie here.

For me, discovering Stuart's website was truly a time capsule... You see, much of the film was shot in my childhood home, as well as at my Dad's beach house in Rehoboth.

This is my friend, Ray Whitten, who played one of my henchmen. He's sitting in front of the fireplace in my living room - a room that I basically have not seen since 1979. It was used as Drax' "secret island lair".

This is 007 himself, Stuart Basinger. He used my friend Bob Bell's brand new 1978 Toyota Celica, which actually belonged to Bob's Dad. We used the Celica as Bond's vehicle because it was the closest access any of us had to a "sports car". Stuart is standing in front of my Dad's beach house, which doubled as Drax' mansion.

It's one thing to have this kind of nostalgia stuck in a cardboard box in the garage... but to discover it unexpectedly online was a true delight!

By the way, if you TRULY have no life, the entire movie is now available in four parts on youtube, and it's actually become quite a cult classic for big Bond fans. Stuart's "Moonraker" is regarded as one of the all-time best Bond "fan flicks", and I'm honored to have played a small part in it. If you scroll ahead to the 1:10 mark in the clip below, you can see Bond visiting Drax at his mansion (aka my Dad's beach home). Enjoy my stellar acting job - NOT!

Stuart is now a digital video editor for the Fox News Channel, where he toils daily turning Republicans and Democrats into modern day Hugo Drax-es. Many thanks to him for the trip down memory lane!