Here We Go Again…

Like this, but with less hair on top

I, ladies and gentlemen, am an endomorph. That’s the type of person who’s a little more round around the edges than anything else. If I ate well and exercised on a regular basis, that probably wouldn’t make too much difference. Of course, like many of us, I take advantage of the wondrous bounty that is America’s breadbasket. On top of that, I developed hypothyroidism back in 2001. So my thyroid doesn’t produce enough of the hormone that fuels my metabolism. So I’m a little lazy, don’t always eat right, have a body that tends to hold extra weight and have a medical condition that makes it difficult to lose weight.

Weighty Issues

At 5’10”, the traditional height and weight tables suggest I should weight somewhere between 150 and 175 pounds. And I did – in high school. Usually, I’m in the 210 to 230 range. Just before I blew out my thyroid in ’01, I was really watching my diet and running 10 to 15 miles a week. Over the course of about 9 months, I went from 245 to 186. Developed a wicked case of shin splints in my left leg and the thyroid thing, but managed to keep most of the weight off for a year or two.

Last year, we had a weight loss contest at work. I lost about 35 pounds over 12 weeks and only came in second in the contest. As with many people who lose a lot of weight in a short-ish time, I managed to gain much of it back (my recent cruise didn’t help).

Since I kept the records for last year’s contest, I’ve been dragooned into doing it again this year. My goal is 25 pounds; I’ll be reporting my progress over the next 12 weeks. A good thing is that I’m due for a follow-up at my doctor’s office right about then – and he’s on me to drop a few pounds. The real challenge isn’t losing, it’ll be keeping it off.

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Doing Bidness

Waiting for the other boot to drop

I have no opinion as to who should be the next governor of Tennessee. Given the state’s current economic situation, as well as the peculiarities of the legislature, I don’t feel that any of the leading candidates can really turn things around, although Ron Ramsey‘s got a sweet pair of cowboy boots. That is, judging from the one he’s showing off on his website.

Bill's Year?

Ned Ray's Boy

If we take the state’s shift to the right, along with recent poll results, it would seem that Bill Haslam, currently mayor of Knoxville, has the inside track on winding up in recently renovated governor’s mansion. The latest poll from the Tennessee Newspaper Network (a cooperative effort of the state’s four largest newspapers) show Mayor Haslam leading his Republican opponents, Ramsey and Congressman Zach Wamp. The putative Democratic nominee, Mike McWherter, hasn’t don’t a lot of advertising, mostly because he has no competition. While he is the son of a former governor, he holds no office of his own and will also have to battle the GOP-tilt of the statewide electorate.

So, if things hold, the fall match-up pits two “businessmen,” who will both posit their respective experience in “business” qualifies them to be chief executive in these tough economic times; after all, a majority of those polled rank the economy as the most important issue facing the state.

Phil Likes Mike

Our current governor, Phil Bredesen, who also came to the office promising to put his experience to work, has endorsed fellow Democrat McWherter, noting that because he’s a “businessman,” he understands what it takes to create jobs.

Okay, Phil, your background was in healthcare – is that fixed here in Tennessee? Or are the problems of the global economy too much for one “businessman” to wrangle during a downturn like we’ve been having?

And besides, McWherter didn’t create the business he operates. I’m usually not impressed by a child who takes over an operation started by parents or grandparents unless it goes through some incredible growth because of the child’s efforts (see Ted Turner). Same issue with Haslam. His father created Pilot Oil, and it’s still a family-run business (as opposed to a Bill-run business).

While I have voted for people who operate businesses before, I really don’t think that running any part of a government lends itself to accepted management practices. Hiring, firing, meeting payrolls, putting new practices in place – all things that go through endless committees – councils, commissions, legislatures, Congress. And that doesn’t even look at constituents, lobbyists and all the stuff that office holders deal with.

I’m pretty sure that selling gas or beer doesn’t necessarily make someone the best leader in troubled times.

On the fence?

And as long as we’re talking about the candidates – what’s the fascination with illegal immigration? I don’t think the concern is losing jobs to illegals – it’s having enough jobs in the first place! I also don’t know why it’s so important for gubernatorial candidates to make the point so strongly that they’ll “say ‘no’ to Obama.” If he’s the guy with his hand on the federal aid spigot, they might want to think (at least think) about saying ‘yes’ sometime.

Wait, what did you say?

One of the weekend Clark(e)s

In the early 90s, when I was working at Channel 3 in Memphis, I got to be the weekend reporter (I was the new guy). Kym Clark had that assignment at Channel 5 and Jonathan Clarke was doing weekends at 13. Since there seemed to be less news on weekends, we’d often see each other while covering whatever the desk determined the “big” story was. Kym, of course, is still at 5 (she’s better looking than me & Jon combined, so no surprise there). JC headed north to St. Louis, where he has his own PR company. He also blogs.  He and I got into a Facebook chat about politics and the incredibly stupid mess surrounding former USDA official Shirley Sherrod.

You're Fired! Or Not!

She got pushed out of her job after Andrew Breitbart posted part of a video of her speaking at an event. In the clip, the black official was heard making a comment about being reluctant to help a white farmer. She went on to say that she realized that her job was to help all farmers, so she did. The initial portion of the clip Breitbart posted did not contain the entire comment, but he called what he did post as proof of Sherrod describing how she discriminated against a white farmer, with the suggestion that the Obama Administration supported racism. Of course, cable news, constantly trying to fill the gaping maw that is the 24-hour news hole, jumped on the story, pushing at the Department of Agriculture until the Secretary of Agriculture forced Sherrod out of her job. Later that day, the network news picked up the story to that point.

Sorry.

It took a day, but after people started seeing the rest of the tape of Sherrod speaking, it was obvious that everyone attempting to commit journalism had failed miserably, missing anything approaching the actual context of the story. Sherrod had done her job and had told the audience at the NAACP event just that. The Obama Administration apologized for its weak-kneed overreaction and offered Sherrod a replacement job, which she has not decided on whether to accept.

What's Your Bias?

Breitbart, who used to work with Matt Drudge on his website, considers himself a libertarian. Many of the items on his websites tack to a conservative point of view, which is fine. Fox News, which picked up the story, is said to tack in the same direction, particularly its prime time commentators, which is also fine. CNN, which tries to position itself as unbiased and middle of the road, jumped into the story with both feet, tracking down Secretary Vilsack to find out what he was going to do about the racism in his department. They also had Sherrod claiming she was being railroaded, but they didn’t hold the story while they checked out her claims. While I generally don’t have a problem with many conservatives, I was amused when I saw that Ann Coulter says the victim in this Passion Play wasn’t Sherrod, but was Breitbart(!) – claiming (on Fox News) that the website operator was “set up” to paint the official as a racist.

Of COURSE she's on the right side of blog!

Ann, you’re a clown. Really. For many reasons, but in this case, because any journalist, or anyone who purports to be a journalist, has the ultimate responsibility for the information they gather and disseminate. If they pass along information that is incomplete, misleading or just outright wrong – that’s on them, their editors and publishers. Breitbart, Fox, CNN, the broadcast networks or anyone else who presented the half-assed version of the Sherrod story without first trying to obtain the entire tape of her remarks at the NAACP meeting and figuring out everything she said is to blame. Just because someone feeds you a video that’s supposed to be a bombshell and “blow the lid” off of anything, doesn’t mean you post it or air it immediately. I know there’s a rush to be first and that the immediacy of internet communications and reduced the available time to check out story – but the whole “getting it right” thing is straight from Journalism 101. If you only report what you know at the time, you’re bound to miss something important. And that will usually come back and take a chunk out of your butt.

Lemme get this straight...

Looking for Work?

I don’t claim to be some kind of journalistic oracle here. Did I make mistakes when I was working in the news business? Does the pope crap in the woods? Ask anyone who has ever edited any of my scripts. Of course I’ve made mistakes. And the news business (especially on the TV side) is predicated on taking the work of other people and presenting it as your own. I had an assignment editor who would hand out story sheets to reporters each morning with an accompanying newspaper article stapled to the sheet. The Gainesville Sun should have gotten on air credit for most of the stories on TV20 at the time. It’s not just local TV. I was reminded of this watching “Dan Rather Reports” on HDNet last night. If he and his producer had been more careful with the facts on the Bush National Guard story, Dan would still be anchoring the evening news instead of cranking out stories on a little-watched cable channel, Katie Couric would be doing celebrity interviews on Today while bantering with Matt and Al and CBS wouldn’t be struggling with the issue of whether or not to replace her as anchor of the CBS Evening News!

The White House apologized, as it should have. Bill O’Reilly apologized too (although he still managed to accuse Sherrod of being unfit to hold a government job – way to have it both ways Bill!). Many of the other news outlets, including the Fox show that first ran the tape have been doing the sidestep, pointing fingers everywhere but at themselves.

Guys, don’t be afraid to admit you screwed the pooch on this one. You did and it’s obvious. By not admitting it, you erode what little trust viewers and readers still have in the work you do. For viewers, there’s another lesson here. Beware news organizations with agendas. If you wait long enough, any governmental entity will do something wrong. That’s the nature of government. Don’t look for artificial constructs and try to manufacture controversy (New Black Panther Party & the Justice Department anybody?). Cover the real news. Ask questions. Then go ask more questions. You don’t have to be first to be right. You just have to be right.

The Entertainment Committee

The Choices

The girlfriend and I stopped by the Election Commission office last Saturday to early vote. Talk about timing – I was in and out long before either Steve Cohen or Willie Herenton showed up. I’m sorry about that, because I love nothing better than seeing people in competition face each other in situations where one or the other isn’t quite prepared for it. It’s nice to know that the former mayor was willing to act a little foolish with his mother along. That had to make both of them so proud.

Nice flag

Also a nice flag

Speaking of early voting, I actually wrote in a choice for county mayor. While there are actually Fords I like personally, I don’t really know Joe Ford, plus, I have a thing about actually voting for any of them. Here’s my thing about Sheriff Luttrell. Recently, people in custody of his people have had a bad habit of suddenly not being in custody. I’m not completely convinced that either he or his number two, who is running to replace him as sheriff, should be rewarded when the system they have in place to keep heinous criminals off the street doesn’t.

What?

Vote Now!

Okay, I know I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to. I’m not “busier,” but I have been focused on other things. Still, I was kind of disappointed when I was on the Memphis Flyer site the other day. The ballot for the annual Best of Memphis is open for voting. I always enjoy seeing what places, people and events are selected, and which ones I’ve actually agreed with. I was the tiniest bit disappointed when I got to the Best Blog category and quickly saw that this blog was not listed (shocking, I know!).

It's Good Reading!

I mean, c’mon, what’s a brother gotta do? Blog every day? Write about things that interest and entertain large number of Memphians? Geez Louise – you may as well ask for blood – I’m a busy man! Okay, here’s a tease – I’m been purposely bulking up. The team at work wants to do another weight loss challenge. I barely missed winning the last one, and my doctor’s still on me about losing weight, so I’ve got the motivation to jump in with both feet again. I’ll be keeping you apprised. Oh, and if you want to write me in on the Memphis Flyer “Best Of” ballot, it won’t hurt my feelings.

Playing Host

The Kids Are Alright

I took a day off this week because my sister’s son came down for a visit. Eddie’s a pretty sharp guy, working on his master’s at Valparaiso University in Indiana. He brought a friend along. During his year on a church mission in South Africa, he met a nice young lady from Germany named Natalie Zaiss. She’s in the U.S. to visit him (women will travel the world for us Johnson men… oh, it’s true). They got into town just in time to provide an assist to my trivia team on Monday night. I ferried them around Memphis, showing them the sights on Tuesday. Most of what I showed them was around downtown, since I live there. Pyramid, Mud Island, Main St. Trolley, Chisca Hotel, Mason Temple, National Civil Rights Museum (which I didn’t know was closed on Tuesday) and Jackie Smith.

Duck! You Suckers!

I took them into the Peabody to see the ducks in the lobby fountain, and it turned out we were there just in time to see the duckmaster bring the fellas downstairs so they could go to work. Red carpet, velvet ropes, throngs of people lined up outside the middle elevator. In 11 years of living in Memphis, that was actually a first for me. After ribs for lunch, I took them by to see local raconteur Joe Larkins and his lovely wife Bethany Smith. I’m going back to work on Wednesday, but I’ve suggested the Civil Rights Museum, the Stax Museum and Graceland. Fortunately, all air conditioned facilities.

Things Have Slowed Down a Bit…

It’s not quite the doldrums of summer, but the post Fourth of July holiday seems to have pushed the pace of life down a bit.

Yum

Last week was interesting. I went on a liquid diet on Tuesday, in advance of a colonoscopy on Friday. I had one scheduled a few weeks ago, but the stuff you take that keeps you in the bathroom the night before the procedure didn’t do its job. Well, the second time was the charm. When you follow the instructions precisely, it’s going to be a party. Not eating can get to be kind of a drag. The first day, I was putting back Ensure, which ensured I was keeping my calorie count up. The last two days though, being limited to clear liquids, things were tougher. I was sucking down either chicken or beef broth and lime Jello. My co-worker Javier wondered what chicken broth was like. It’s like chicken noodle soup… without the noodles.

Yer ol' pal Cos'...

The Jello also gave me the chance for Javier to notice my incredibly slight resemblance to Bill Cosby. That gave me the chance to do my Cosby impression. I never quite saw it, but people have been telling me that I looked like the Cos’ since I was 10. I’ve had the chance to work on my impression on and off, for 40 years. Javier practically busted a gut. Our boss Jonathan, who considers himself quite the Cosby fan, didn’t quite hear the Cos’ in what I was doing. Oh well.

The procedure went well. Of course, when you get juiced up with Demerol and Valium, things go well, even if they don’t. I was pretty much cleaned out this time, so the doctor had no problems with the garden hose he was using on me. You’re told that you’ll feel some “pressure.” You do, believe me. Especially when the tube reaches the end of line. As far “under” as I was, I almost complained a couple of times, ’cause it seemed like the doctor wanted to punch the end of the tube through the other side of my colon.

The downside was having to wait an additional four hours after the procedure before I could actually eat solid food again.  I’m glad I was able to wait 53 years for this, and I’m glad I can wait 10 years before going through it again.

Red, White & Boom!

I spent the Fourth in Cordova with the lady friend. When there are fireworks at Tom Lee Park, I can see them from my living room. I wasn’t surprised when they scaled back this year’s celebration and fired off a smaller display from a Beale Street rooftop. I heard on the news that a lot of communities had taken similar measures because of the economy. So, instead of schlepping down to Beale for a little display, I spend a delightful day with her family and watched the Boston Pops and the Boston fireworks on TV.

Now that the annual trivia tournament is over, I was ready to get back into the swing of things Monday with our regular game at the Blue Monkey. But, whenever it’s a holiday Monday, no one shows up. Well, it was my team and a couple of young women I used to work with. That wasn’t enough for the boss at the restaurant to want to go ahead with the game. I felt bad for Chris, the trivia jockey. He had rushed back from Jackson just to get there by 8pm.

Got a few things on tap for the rest of the short week.  Things should pick up on Tuesday.