Changing of the Guard

Coming Soon?

There had been talk for weeks that CNN was making moves to replace Larry King in their Prime Time lineup. Reps for the network had been doing their best to pooh-pooh that notion, saying the linchpin of their nighttime programming wasn’t going anywhere. They also wanted to disabuse the notion that British “journalist” Piers Morgan was going to get the 9pm Eastern time slot. Of course, these were the same folks who denied that disgraced former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer was getting a comeback vehicle in the 8pm hour (or “where CNN shows go to die,” based on history).

Is the caller there?

Anyway, I didn’t actually see Larry make his big announcement Tuesday night. Honestly, I haven’t sat down to watch an episode of “Larry King Live” since he had the debate between Al Gore and Ross Perot. I picked it up off Facebook, in a post by former CNNer and current CBSer Betty Nguyen. It seems, that after 25 years, Mr. King has decided to step away from his show, although he’ll stick around for specials and such. I would point to the example of Walter Cronkite stepping down from the Evening News. Even though the network put him on its board of directors, his show “Universe” and any use of him for news coverage seemed to end pretty quickly. I have a feeling that CNN had as much to do with Larry stepping down as Larry did.

For a long time, the one constant high point of CNN Prime was King. Aaron Brown, Paula Zahn, Connie Chung, Natalie Allen, Joie Chen, Jim Moret, Wolf Blitzer, lil’ Andy Cooper and a few other people I’m sure I’m forgetting failed to hold the line against the growth of Fox News (as I mentioned in April, they’ve been #1 in cable news for 8 years now). CNN doesn’t seem to be doing too well against MSNBC lately either. Don’t feel bad for the CNN. It still makes more money than Fox News, whose parent company doesn’t have as developed a group of networks at Turner Broadcasting.

After all, Fox has its main network, Fox News, FX and the Fox Movie Channel. TimeWarner has HBO, Cinemax, CNN, HLN, CNN en Español, CNN International, CNN Radio, Turner Classic Movies, TNT, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, the CW and a few cross-branded Spanish-language channels I watched on my recent cruise.

Even so, there’s been a seismic shift in how cable TV works. Even though CNN has made attempts to go “opinionated,” they haven’t had anything to the type of luck the other networks have. Even the other cable channels have bulked up on the crappiness quotient. Bravo used to be an arts channel.  Now it seems it’s all siliconed and botoxed “housewives” and snarky reality cooking and design contests that seem to be more rip offs of MTV’s “Real World” than actual contests that display anyone’s skill.

Maybe it’s a good time to go. Enjoy your kids’ Little League games, Larry.


Sittin’ in a smoky room

Question Time!

In case you were watching the World Cup on Sunday, the big trivia finals were Sunday night in Memphis. Challenge Entertainment packed Dan McGuinness East with 5-member teams from dozens of bars and restaurants from all over town. A lot of people with a lot of arcane knowledge were packed into the smoking and non-smoking sections of the place. Ten rounds of questions along with a half-time and a final question to separate the men and women from the boys and the girls.

Is Something Burning?

Playing bar trivia during the year usually means winning as much as 50 bucks… but you get it in “bar money,” that is, some sort of gift certificate that you have to spend where you won it. The finals, however, split 10 grand (yes, $10,000!) among the t0p 15 teams. That’s reason enough to give up 6 hours on a sunny Sunday. Of course, there were several hundred people packed into McGuinness. The event started at 6, but most everyone showed up early to try and score a good seat. The first couple of people from my team were there at 4:30, but every single table in the non-smoking half of the place were snatched up by then, forcing us into the smoking section. I don’t smoke. I don’t judge either, but after watching my folks smoke during my entire childhood, I’m not a fan. Imagine spending 6 hours in a crowded ashtray. Not the most conducive place for brainwork.

I Ask Ya!

Still, we were in pretty good shape after the first half, and ended the second half tied for first place! The final question allows you to bet up to 30 points that will be added to your total if you get the answer correct. Of course, you lose any points you wager if any part of the answer is wrong. The final question this year was to put a series of events in order of their occurrence from first to last (the events were Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” tour, the release of the Jeff Goldblum movie “The Fly,” Princess Diana getting married and Landon Donovan’s birth). We had to guess about the soccer player, but ESPN actually ran a list of ages of the U.S. Soccer team while the answers were being collected, so we knew we had gotten it right. Unfortunately, so did the other team tied for first.

How Much?

Whenever teams end up tied, there’s always some impossible-to-answer question used to break the tie. In those cases, it can come down to who’s got the best guess. The tie-breaker for this contest was to come up with was the square mileage of Syria! I really don’t know why anyone would know that. We didn’t, so we tried to come up with a reasonable guess. We went high originally, but pulled back to 25,000 square miles. The other team went through the same process, but went a tad higher with their guess, 26,000. Of course, those of you who did well in geography class already know that Syria covers some 71479 square miles, which means we came in second, even though both teams were more than 45,000 square miles off!

Good Effort

So, instead of splitting $5,000 in cash and getting a ginormous trophy, we ended up in second place and getting 1,100 bucks and a $100 gift certificate. Not bad, but you really can’t brag about being second-best anything. Especially if the first thing you need to do after getting home is to shower to get rid of the smell of all that cigarette smoke. Still, the members of Intelligent Design did a damn good job and I’m proud of all of you. The core team will be back at work Monday night, working on dominating the teams at the Blue Monkey Downtown. And we will be back in the finals next year!

Big Boat, Tiny Room

When you spend 7 days at sea, you’ll end up with a lot to talk about. When you’re on a cruise ship, there’s always a lot to do. Except for an overnight storm and a few rain drops in Cozumel, the sun was blazing pretty much every single day. Several people asked whether I had the chance to work on my tan. I don’t have pictures, but I picked up a couple shades. I’m just glad that I wasn’t on the cruise line where a former employee is accused of waiting for people to board ships, then going to burgle their homes.

Dancing Queen

There’s usually dancing onboard. On occasion, it takes place on a dance floor. If you’re particularly high-spirited, it can occur on the top level of the ship, overlooking the Lido deck. This is my friend June. She started out life as a Johnson, so I’m never really surprised at anything she does.  She’s also a veteran TV producer and got me a great deal on my house – so dance girl, dance!


Two of the ports of call had shallow enough harbors that we had to ride Ship’s tenders to shore. Those are the small boats that carry people or supplies to larger ships. “Tending” to their needs, if you will. So, you file off the great big boat onto a little teeny boat that takes you to shore. You get a great view of the ship you’re leaving and of the shore you’re approaching.


Obviously, nearly everyone on a ship has a camera, so the pictures are taken early and often. The nice thing about digital cameras and cell phones is there’s no waiting for the film to be developed (that’s something we had to do in the old days, kids). So you take pictures of the things you see,whether they’re close or far, action you think might be interesting, or of other people taking pictures…

Ooh, pretty...

There’s a dichotomy about traveling through the Caribbean. The beaches are beautiful, the water is the bluest of blues. If you can tune out the other tourists, it’s tranquil and relaxing. In a lot of places, the standard of living is a LOT lower than ours. Many times, you have to travel through areas of grinding poverty to get to the nice stuff.

What Are You Looking At?

There’s also the wildlife. There’s a huge turtle breeding sanctuary on Grand Cayman Island. There are hundreds of them, from eggs that haven’t hatched yet to adults that are over a hundred years old. Of course, while many of the mature turtles are kept for breeding purposes, many others are released into the wild. The money spent by tourists is used for the upkeep and research. They also serve a nice bowl of turtle soup, which they tell us, is the favorite dish on the island. Wait — they’re going to serve those cute little turtles for dinner? Yep.

All Dressed Up

Speaking of dinner, there’s a lot of food on board. While there was no “Captain’s Table,” there were two “elegant” nights, where everyone was encouraged to dress up. If you didn’t bring your own tuxedo, there’s a shop onboard that would rent one. Frankly, while I didn’t mind wearing a jacket, a tie was a little much for me. Anything to get out of the incredibly small cabin.

The Ghetto Hokey-Pokey

Just got back from a Carnival Cruise Lines 7-day tour of the Western Caribbean. It’s always nice to get away for a few days, but a full seven days in the heat (and humidity) may be a little too much.

What's Up?

The girlfriend and I made the trip, along with her best friend, her best friend’s sister and two other ladies. We weren’t always with them, so I didn’t suffer estrogen overload. We spent the first day in Pompano Beach at a time share, but really didn’t do too much. We did catch a glimpse of the Goodyear blimp. Things picked up after American Airlines lost one of the ladies’ luggage. That led to a frenzied trip to Wal-Mart to get enough stuff to last until the bag caught up with us.

The worst part of sea travel is queuing up in the departure building. It seemed like all 3,000 passengers were in the hangar-sized building, waiting to check in, which, in itself, is a pretty simple process. However, if you on a trip, take care of as many pre-boarding things as you can before getting to check-in. That includes making sure you’ve let your credit card company and cell phone provider know you’re leaving the country. As far as leaving home, stopping the mail isn’t a big deal, but DO NOT turn the AC completely off if you live in Memphis and are traveling in June. It’ll take hours for the house to cool down when you get home.

The view from my deck chair

Once you’re on the ship, things pick up. On one hand, tickets are cheap, and food is plentiful and there are a lot of things to do. Don’t think though, that you’re getting away with not spending a lot of money. Liquor? You pay. Steak? You pay. Spa treatment? You pay. Take a tour on shore? Oh yeah. Want to do something free? Sit on the Main deck and watch the water go by. It’s actually pretty refreshing.

The big "V"

We were on the Carnival Valor, which is an okay boat. We were on deck 1, which is actually the lowest level for passenger cabins. And we were on the inside. That means very small cabin with no window. There was almost no room to turn around. Some travelers say “oh, you’re not going to spend any time in the cabin anyway.” You will though, and you’ll wish you had a bigger room.

Here’s a tip; if you’re prone to overeating, try and drop a few pounds before going on a cruise. There’s way too much free food on a cruise to work off during the trip – even if you’re heading up to the gym on a regular basis and spending a lot of time walking from here and there when you’re in port.

No, it's not your workplace...

Was it hot? Hell yeah. You can even stop there on a cruise like this. Turns out there’s a town on Grand Cayman Island called “Hell.” You can send a postcard postmarked from “Hell.” Or get your picture taken by the side of a couple of shops that broadcast their location. I actually have a couple of former coworkers who live on Grand Cayman, but time onshore is limited, so I didn’t get a chance to visit. I did get to the factory that cranks out Tortuga Rum cakes. They keep a few examples of fauna on the grounds of the factory.


I could understand the parrots and the peacocks. I’m still not quite sure why the pigeons are caged.

There was one thing on day one of the cruise that inspired the title of today’s blog. While sauntering along the Promenade deck, we happened across dancing in the Lindy Hop Piano Bar. The Electric Slide broke out, so a couple most of our group joined in. I was in the hallway watching (I don’t dance). Let me mention that most of the people dancing were white (nothing wrong with that, everybody loves doing the Slide). A couple of good ole boys walk past and one of them says, after seeing the dancing, “oh look, the ghetto hokey-pokey.” It was funny. Pretty much racist, but funny.

More to come.

Has It Been a Year?

Screed Gems

My little repository of random thoughts has gone through a number of changes since I kicked things off (This is post #200, so it’s kind of a milestone). Due to a sudden lack of employment, I had the opportunity to write about nearly anything that came to mind. I started by looking at the experience of being jobless in a down economy.

On the Job

Fortunately, that situation didn’t last too long. I was unemployed from April 4 through June 1 of last year. Which means today is an anniversary. I began working at Running Pony Productions one year ago. There are a lot of differences between working for a Fortune 500 corporation versus a locally-owned company with fewer than 25 employees. One thing, if one of the big bosses has an issue, they’re going to deal with it face-to-face. While a lot of the people I worked with at FedEx have met Fred Smith on numerous occasions, I’ve still never seen him in person. Heck, I almost ran Ted Turner over once when I was working for CNN, so I know it’s possible to cross paths with the swells from time to time.

I’ve had the opportunity to travel in my new job. I actually logged more air miles at RPP in 2009 than in 25 years in TV news. Of course, that just means I was never really one of the marquee reporters who got the trips in the old days. Channel 3 did send me to Nashville once. And to Camp Kia Kima in Arkansas. Those were the only two overnight trips I ever had in news.

The Good Ole Days

Anyway, once I started working, I had the good luck of timing when it came to new topic material. Because of former Mayor Herenton, we had some of the most rollicking good times any political junkie could ask for. I just hope he takes the congressional race seriously and turns the joint out! I’m not saying I want him to get elected; I just want him to seriously act out – honestly, he’s wackier than Mongo at times.

Smooth Sailing?

Speaking of travel; I’ve never really taken too many pleasure trips in my life. It’s really a shame to be my age and say that. Most of my personal travel has been taken up with visits to friends and family. However, I’m getting ready to spend a few days on a great big boat, spinning around the Caribbean. We’re not going anywhere near BP’s Wild World of Oil, so I’m happy about that. Small world announcement: it turns out that 3 of us in the traveling group used to work at Channel 3. And two other former Channel 3 employees now live and work on the Cayman Islands, one of the stops on the trip! It always seemed a little like FedEx’s TV unit was WREG-East, with all the former coworkers I ran into out there. Now they’re establishing international outposts. Cool. Pictures and stories after I return.

I wonder what’s going to be going on next year?