Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saturday morning coffee

- OK, can we just move on? This "Jon and Kate" stuff is dominating too much space in the pop culture media.

- As the season progresses, it will be interesting to track attendance at Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City for when Zack Greinke pitches versus when he doesn't. The Royals are currently 23-25 overall with eight of those wins coming with Greinke on the mound. Take away his record and the Royals are 14-24 without him.

- Here's another "celeb" who could go away and we wouldn't miss her. Paris Hilton was kicked off a yacht at the Cannes Film Festival (does she have a new movie?) for some, ahem, "lewd behavior" while attending a party on the boat. Another guest discovered Paris and her current boyfriend in an amorous situation in the bathroom.

- Aging rockers are still in demand if those on tour this summer are any indication. David Crosby (67), Stephen Stills (64) and Graham Nash (67) are touring as are the Doobie Brothers (Patrick Simmons, co-founder of the band, is 60), Loggins and Messina (both are 61), the Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger is 66) and Joe Cocker (64.)

- Jay Leno's last show last night was touching, well-done and an appropriate send-off to the guy who has hosted The Tonight Show for the past 17 years. Conan O'Brien's appearance was a nice-hand-off between the two and James Taylor performed a great rendition of "Sweet Baby James" after Leno explained the significance of the song when he left Boston, headed for Los Angeles. If you didn't see it, check it out on Hulu or

- Readers, if you have not done so, check out Season One (and beyond) of Friday Night Lights. It's a nice diversion from summertime TV programming and is truly one of the best (if not the best) shows on television.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Personal brands being utilized by companies

"Personal branding" is a hot term these days. It's usually defined as the notion of individuals having their own brand--how others perceive them given how they act, speak, look, dress and so forth. The personal branding concept suggests that success can often come from self-packaging. published an interesting article today on personal branding and that companies are recognizing the power of this concept. Many Fortune 500 companies are selecting employees with strong personal brands as those they want to put front-and-center as brand ambassadors for the company's brand.

Companies are figuring out that their brands are measured, and impacted, in so many different ways. And, there are few things more important than having employees who believe in the company's brand. It's smart of these organizations to figure out that placing select employees, with strong personal brands of their own, in visible, externally-facing roles will very much assist their company's brand strength.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Augmented Reality

Just when marketers probably felt like they were understanding how to optimize involvement with social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube comes a new technology, from a company called Total Immersion, dubbed "Augmented Reality."

The technology creates an engaging, immersive 3D relationship with the consumer on a laptop or mobile device. It's basically a 3D virtual experience, according to an executive at an online company.

Total Immersion markets itself as integrating 3D objects into live video. The video is then digitally processed and "augmented" with 3D components. The processing basically mixes the real world and virtual world together in real time, creating a 3D experience.

Stay tuned--we'll see if we can get access to some of this 3D video and link it to our blog here.


The surprise of Kris Allen winning American Idol lingers and now the successful TV show has a voting controversy to boot.

An Arkansas newspaper has reported that employees for AT&T, a major media sponsor of the show (and the network used for texting in votes), gave out free text-messaging lessons, including how to send multiple texts with the press of a single button, at two finale parties organized by fans of Allen.

To be fair, it's not known how many votes may have been cast using this method, and we are talking about two parties compared to 100 million votes being cast for the season finale. Still, it's a blow to AT&T's brand and involvement with the show and casts consumer doubt on the voting mechanics associated with Idol.

Between complaints about having a fourth judge to the uncertainty of Paula Abdul's return to the show to this, FOX and Idol producers have plenty to work on in the off-season.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wine coming to Kansas

In case (no pun intended) you missed it, Kansans can have wine shipped to their home addresses beginning July 1. Previously, Kansas was one of a few states where wineries in California and elsewhere were not allowed to ship wine directly to a home or post-office box address.

Those Kansans who have traveled to Napa and Sonoma, and other wine regions, have had to have a Missouri P.O. box or friends across the state line willing to take in their purchased wine. That hassle no longer exists given the recent change in Kansas law.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A story of a WWII pin-up

Today's New York Times has a touching front-page article about Donna Reed, best known as the actress who played Mary Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life and then the suburban mom in The Donna Reed Show.

Reed, who died in 1986, had squirreled away hundreds of pieces of wartime correspondence to GI's involved in World War II.  The letters were only recently found by Reed's children in the garage of her former home.

During World War II, the U.S. military encouraged the phenomenon of pin-ups as a way to maintain morale amongst the soldiers serving in the European and Pacific theaters of war.  Betty Grable was the best-known but others included Rita Hayworth and Hedy Lamarr.  Reed was a pin-up but not in the vein of those "sexier" actresses.  She had a wholesome, "girl next door" quality which appealed to many servicemen far away from home.  Only now do we know that she corresponded with hundreds of the military men she met through the U.S.O. and other wartime ventures.

On this Memorial Day, the letters are particularly poignant for the picture they paint of life in a simpler time, but also for the feelings portrayed by men who ached for a touch of home.

One example described in the Times was very, very touching.  Lt. Norman P. Klinker, writing from North Africa in 1973, penned the following to Reed.  "One thing I promise you--life on the battlefield is a wee bit different from the 'movie' version.  It is tough, bloody and dirty...quite an interesting and heartless life at one and the same time."  Klinker later served on an assault on Mount Porchia, between Naples and Rome--a task force "organized at the end of the year for the purpose of taking the 'suicidal' objective."  He was killed in action.

Interstingly, Reed became an anti-war activist later in life and was a member of the group called Another Member for Peace, which was active during the Vietnam War era.

The letters, 341 in all, are being made public by Reed's daughter.

The truth about Memorial Day

Memorial Day is:
- A: A day it always rains in the Midwest
- B: A day to honor those who have lost their lives in wars fought by the U.S.
- C: A day where war movies are shown on TCM
- D: The unofficial start of summer
- E: All of the above

The answer, of course, is "all of the above" with the possible exception of "A" since I'm sure there has been a Memorial Day some time where rain has not fallen.

Did you know, though, that Memorial Day started in the U.S. shortly after the end of the Civil War? It was started as a day to honor the Union war dead and ultimately became a day when all who had died in military service were paid tribute. However, it wasn't until 1967 when the day moved to the last Monday of the month of May in order to make the holiday a convenient three-day weekend.

Today at 3 p.m. is the time when all are asked to stop and pay tribute to those who have given their lives in the military.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I'm a Kindle user, the electronic book reading device from Amazon, now in it's second, slimmed-down version. However, I must admit, I'm not happy about the trend away from traditional bound volumes. There is something about seeing traditional books diminished in importance that is depressing, similar to the trend away from familiar newspapers published on newsprint.

Technology, coupled with the economy, have changed how books are being published. Publishers have cut back on new releases and last year, for the first time, more "on demand" books were produced than traditional texts.

I use the Kindle because of convenience--it's far easier to carry around a small 5x7 by half-inch device than a first-run, hardbound bestseller. But, I miss the feel of the book itself--the words on actual paper between the cover that features author information and visuals.

Around 275,000 books were published in the U.S. last year. That's almost 9,000 less than the year before with the biggest reductions occurring in biography, religion and travel. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

Race Day in America

Today is race day in America--the day when the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place followed by one of the bigger events in NASCAR racing, the Coke 600.

Things to watch for in today's races:
- Danica Patrick will be driving the Boost Mobile entry in the 500. Patrick is open-wheel racing's most visible personality in the U.S. but, sooner-or-later, has to win the 500 to establish her place as a star racecar driver. She will be starting in the 10th position.
- Helio Castroneves is on the pole and back after surviving federal tax evasion charges. Has any personality in sports endured the rise-and-fall and now comeback of Castroneves--a winner of seven IndyCar races over three seasons, a winner on Dancing With the Stars, the tax evasion charge (including jail time) followed by his acquittal?
- John Andretti will drive the 43 car at the 500--Richard Petty's first-time entry in this classic race.
- Tony Stewart will attempt to win the Coke 600 at Charlotte after winning last week's All-Star Race, and $1 million payoff. Stewart's teammates, Ryan Newman, is on the pole.
- Jimmie Johnson, in the 48 Lowe's car, has owned races at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Is this the week JJ makes his move up in the points race?
- Kasey Kahne, last year's winner, is sitting in 16th in points and is currently off the cut line for the Chase to the Cup. Kahne, however, is starting sixth this week. Is this the week he jumps a few slots up the points ladder?

Two races, two historic tracks, 1,100 miles--not a bad day for race junkies to plop in front of the widescreen.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday morning coffee

- Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith, is upset at anonymous bloggers who claim to be him. According to NBC Los Angeles, Tyler is attempting to sue a group of bloggers who, he says, were impersonating him, sharing private facts and making false statements, including using his likeness on the web. His ire follows a similar case where Kanye West found someone on Twitter claiming to be him. West was successful at getting Twitter to take down the account.

- Happy Anniversary to my bride today!

- Some notable casualties coming out of network upfronts week--Eli Stone, Samantha Who, Without a Trace and My Name is Earl. All of these shows were not picked up by their respective networks for the upcoming TV season.

- Joan Collins turn 76 today. For those too young to know Collins, think of her as a cougar before "cougar" became the name of a reality TV show.

- Quentin Tarantino's new flick, Inglourious Basterds, is generating a lot of buzz at the Cannes Film Festival. Does QT not know how to spell or is this some funky juxtaposition of the English spelling combined with a misspelling of "turd?" Just wondering...

- Happy holiday weekend, dear readers.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Bernie!

Bernie Taupin is not a household name. But, there are few lyricists who come close to matching Taupin's commercial success with his far more famous collaborator, Elton John.

Taupin teamed up with John after answering an advertisement, in 1967, for talent by a local agent. Thus began the famous songwriting team who would collaborate on 30+ albums to date.

The team broke up between 1977 and 1979 but re-united and continue to develop songs together. Their famous tunes include "Rocket Man," "Tiny Dancer," "Candle In the Wind," "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me," and "Your Song," their very first hit in 1970.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Idol beats Dancing

The votes...err, ratings...are in and American Idol held serve and beat Dancing With the Stars in the ratings battle between the two reality TV giants.

On Tuesday night, the finale of Idol beat DWTS with a viewership of 23.1 million to Dancing's 20.1 million. The ratings helped FOX win the night versus ABC with CBS third and NBC fourth.

No final word yet on how Idol performed last night with the shocking results show where Kris Allen surprisingly beat Adam Lambert. (I'll take a wild guess and say it ranked first among Wednesday night programming...)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sinatra bio-pic

As reported here last week, Martin Scorsese will direct a movie about Frank Sinatra.

The list of actors apparently under consideration for the lead role is long and luminous: Johnny Depp, Jake Gyllenhaal, James Franco, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jon Hamm (Mad Men), singer Michael Buble, Mark Wahlberg and Justin Timberlake.

I'd have to opine that Depp and Franco would be the clubhouse leaders to play Sinatra.

Conan's first guests

The much-anticipated debut of Conan O'Brien in "The Tonight Show" host chair got a boost this week. It was announced that Will Ferrell will be O'Brien's first guest when he begins hosting on June 1. The musical guest on June 1 is also a big name--Pearl Jam.

Ferrell and O'Brien have a long-standing relationship. Ferrell was a favorite guest on O'Brien's "Late Night" show and also was Conan's last guest on that show when it ended in February.

Wi-Fi invading airline travel

The prospect of having a Wi-Fi signal on your next domestic airline trip is getting closer to reality--some airlines are working to quickly offer Wi-Fi to travelers.

AirTran, a low-cost carrier out of Florida, announced last week that they are installing Wi-Fi in their jet fleet. Delta Airlines is also working to quickly install Wi-Fi as are American Airlines, United, Virgin America and Air Canada.

There are obvious drawbacks to the coming service. One, it isn't cheap--AirTran plans to charge $7.95 for flights of any length. Two, jets don't offer electrical outlets so travelers will have to have appropriate battery power for longer-length flights. And, finally, there still is no solution for the guy in front of you who insists on lowering his seatback, thus minimizing your space and ability to type while your laptop is smashed against your chin.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Quick Hits

- Pete Townshend, lead guitarist for The Who, turns 64 today. Townshend is my favorite rock-and-roll guitarist ever.

- In case you missed George Brett's profanity-filled tirade (...and watch out--don't have the volume too high):

- A new CD is due out today from Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton. The duo joined forces last year for a series of concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York. Those performances are the basis for this CD and an accompanying DVD.

- If you missed the season finale of 24 last night, you can not only watch the last episode but the entire season starting today. The Season 7 DVD set is on sale--$50 for DVD and $70 for Blu-ray. This is the first time a TV show has released a DVD right after season's end.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Summer Rock II

Back in the day, Arrowhead Stadium and then Royals Stadium (now Kauffman Stadium) in Kansas City, MO hosted multi-act summer concerts. Chicago and the Beach Boys performed together. So did Santana and Peter Frampton. But, no concert featuring multiple groups was more anticipated than Summer Rock II--Dan Fogelberg, Linda Ronstadt and The Eagles.

In 1978, The Eagles were at their peak of commercial success as was Ronstadt. The Eagles were fresh on the heels of their epic album, Hotel California. Ronstadt dominated the radio airwaves. And, Fogelberg was a part of the Irving Azoff stable of country rock acts and thus made a natural opening act for the other two marquee performers.

I stumbled across the pre-concert coverage of this rock fest from the Kansas City Star along with the review of the concert. What was funny was the controversy over the ticket prices. Are you sitting down--the tickets ranged in price from $12-$15! According to the Star, this was "a staggering amount considering that only 10 years ago you could see The Beatles for $5."

The concert drew 54,000 to Arrowhead, becoming the largest grossing concert in Kansas City rock history, up to that point.

The Eagles have since made several appearances in Kansas City, including two in the past year at the Sprint Center. And, prices for the tickets to these shows were far north of the $15 mark. For that amount today, you might be able to buy a beer, a hot dog and some nachos at the arena.

My, how the concert business has changed in the past 30 years!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday morning coffee

- Dennis Hopper turns 73 today. Hopper was born in Dodge City, Kansas before eventually finding his way to Hollywood where he appeared in iconic roles like Billy in Easy Rider (which he also directed) and Shooter in Hoosiers, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

- An 82-year old German man recently called the police. The problem? He accused his neighbors of playing the same song over and over and over. Officers found that the man had a musical greeting card on his windowsill, where breezes did just enough to trigger the offending song.

- Today is Commencement at the University of Kansas as well as many other institutions of higher learning around the U.S. The most notable may be in South Bend, Indiana where President Barack Obama makes his controversial appearance at Notre Dame--controversial because of Obama's pro-choice position in front of an audience that is predominantly pro-life.

- Jerry Seinfeld is apparently concerned that his wife is being corrupted by Madonna. Huh? Seems Madonna has taken Jessica, Seinfeld's wife, under her wing since the Material Girl's recent divorce. Jerry is worried about the two gal pals clubbing around together.

- The Honda Accord was the best-selling vehicle of any kind in the U.S. during the month of April.

- Tired of being in meetings which seem to drag on forever? offers a service where, at a pre-determined time, the site can send you a seemingly important phone call, thus providing a graceful way to exit early.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Quote of the day

In honor of the graduation ceremony today for the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, we use the following from William Allen White:

"I was most sensitive, deeply sensitive to the beauty I saw as I stood many a quarter of an hour on the porch of the University on Mount Oread looking over the Kaw Valley for miles and miles. On a clear day, with proper light, one could see the smoke in Kansas City. I had never been so high above the environing plain in my life before, and I had never before seen so much land. It was a lovely prospect and it moved me deeply."

This quote appears in White's autobiography and, of course, describes the beauty he experienced in Lawrence while at the University of Kansas.

White, of Emporia, KS, was a well-known newspaper editor, author and politician who spoke for "middle America" during the eras of World War I and World War II.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Too weird to NOT be true

A Detroit woman was recently shot in the chest--but the bullet was deflected by her push-up bra.

The 57-year old victim was watching three intruders trying to break into a neighbor's home when one turned and fired at her. The bullet bounced off her bra, leaving her only with a superficial wound.

Said Detroit Police Sergeant, Eren Stephens Bell, "That's some strong wire." No doubt...

Blogger of the Year

The Week magazine recently picked its Opinion Awards, including Blogger of the Year (BOY.)

The award for 2008 BOY went to Nate Silver, publisher of Silver's claim to fame is that he correctly called the 2008 Presidential Election at 8:46 p.m. ET--an hour and 14 minutes prior to the mainstream media.

Other finalists included:
-, a site devoted to consumer comments. The site eventually was purchased by Consumer Reports, testament to the success of the blog.
-, the blog which first reported Sarah Palin's $150K wardrobe, Barack Obama's visit to Bill Ayers, and John McCain's inability to quantify the number of homes he owned.
-, a site which warned the American public about the impending economic disaster.
-, authored by Dave Weigel, who followed Ron Paul's unsuccessful presidential big.

No word on whether this site is being monitored by The Week for possible award consideration next year...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Random thoughts for a Thursday

- It's very interesting what happens when you wear a necktie now in corporate America. In this age of "business casual," people look at you with reactions ranging from "did you have to attend a funeral?" to "what's that thing around your neck?"

- The Royals bandwagon has thrown a rod. The team lost its fifth game in a row last night and the "fans" are jumping ship quickly. It seems too many have seen this movie before...

- Congratulations to Kyle and Pattie Petty for breaking ground yesterday on another Victory Junction Gang Camp. This one will be located in our backyard--in Kansas City, KS in proximity to Kansas Speedway. If you're unfamiliar with the camp, please visit the link below. The camps were founded in memory of Adam Petty, Kyle's and Pattie's son, who died in 2000, at age 19, in a racing accident.

- There's nothing much better than a warm spring day in Lawrence, KS.

- I wonder if American Idol will return four judges next season? Four is one too many...

- I miss Vista Burger in Lawrence. I also wonder whatever happened to Tan Man, the perpetually tan "man" who frequented the University of Kansas campus, with shirt off no matter the season, riding his bike. I also miss Joe's Bakery not being open--the sign's still there but the insides are vacant.

- Is anyone surprised that there is speculation that USC head basketball coach Tim Floyd paid then star high schooler O.J. Mayo to play for the Trojans? Mayo's case could join former USC football star Reggie Bush's investigation as another black eye for the Southern Cal athletic department.

- Can't wait for this: Martin Scorcese will direct a biopic about the life of Frank Sinatra.

It's down to two...

American Idol eliminated Danny Gokey last night and is now down to two finalists--Adam Lambert and Kris Allen.

In my opinion, this was the strongest final three that the show has had--I can't recall three performers who not only did consistently well, like these three, but were also so appealing to viewers and voters.

While Lambert may be pegged the favorite due to his incredible vocal range and the way he continually amazes with how he can arrange a song, Allen is the guy who has the humility and cross-demographic appeal to be an upset winner. I have to believe that next week's finals show will have off-the-charts ratings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Target focusing on food

One of my favorite brands, Target, is taking a page from Wal-Mart and utilizing existing space in its stores for groceries. The chain is incorporating this approach into 100 new and remodeled stores this year and ultimately will have mini-groceries at most of its 1,300 outlets.

The idea, similar to Wal-Mart's rationale, is to increase the number of visits--that consumers are given a reason to return to Target more frequently.

Food is already a core offering at Super Target stores, of which there are approximately 240 in the U.S.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quick Hits

- Did you know that this is National Burger Month? Yeah...I didn't either.

- Happy Birthday to rocker Steve Winwood, turning 61 today.

- (If you're a fan of 24 and aren't caught up on the action, look away.) Let's hope that the series' season finale isn't ruined by the new storyline of Jack Bauer's daughter being kidnapped. We've seen Kim's involvement sidetrack the action before on 24.

- Poor taste award: To Wanda Sykes, the comic entertainment at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner this past weekend. Sykes, in her comic routine, suggested that conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker in the September 11 attacks, "but he was so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight." Using someone's current or past struggles with substance abuse as an attempt at humor is bad but to compound that with making light of 9/11 is downright awful.

- It's the 70th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz. After 70 years of being associated with this movie, can we give the state of Kansas a break and move on? Please, no more "we're not in Kansas anymore" references, OK? I mean, seriously...

By the way, Oz aired on U.S. television every year from 1959 to 1991. No wonder lines from the movie are burned into the public's consciousness.

Never underestimate Oprah

The most powerful woman in show business is at it again. Oprah, who made Dr. Phil and Raechel Ray television stars and has given authors a very visible platform for commercial success via her book club, has now impacted the business of a well-known fast-food chain.

KFC found out last week just how powerful is Oprah's reach when she offered up the opportunity for a free grilled chicken two-piece meal. Consumers were directed to Oprah's website for the next 24 hours where they could download a coupon for the meal. What happened next is every prepared marketer's dream...and every unprepared marketer's nightmare.

Customers flooded KFC restaurants. Many outlets had long lines, interminable wait times and general frenzy. Needless to say, this was not handled in the same quality manner as Denny's recent free breakfast offer.

Bloggers reported negatively on the consumer experience. Customer complaints revolved around the inability to download the coupon, due to website traffic, to restaurants' poor handling of the situation.

Chalk this one up to a positive mention by arguably the country's most powerful endorser, but which quickly went south for KFC.

Monday, May 11, 2009

You're hired...maybe

Mark Burnett Productions, producers of reality TV programming, recently sent out an e-mail to employers looking for employees who had been laid off to compete in a special show of The Apprentice. The idea was to offer those recently let go a chance at getting back to work.

In addition to the recently unemployed, the show also intended to reach out to college graduates and the older, more experienced worker segment to participate.

Just two days later, recipients of the first e-mail received a "NBC has decided not to move forward with this idea" message. It wasn't necessarily a "you're fired" message but it certainly was a quick letdown on the possibility of someone in this group gaining a new job.

There was no word on Donald Trump's involvement in the decision...

Moms in the workplace

I happen to know this "Erin Lambert" who was quoted. Smart girl...


Three months ago I started this blog on somewhat of a lark. Now, 223 posts--and counting--later, it is much more than that. While readership of this space is by no means broad, it is, to me, very meaningful and gratifying.

Thank you for joining the ride with me and for stopping by--whether frequent or every-so-often. Knowing that there are those who read this space, at all, makes this a fun, pleasurable experience and one that I will try to keep fresh for you each day.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sun City Carnival comes to town

The Sprint Center hosted its second sold-out (or close to it) show of the weekend on Saturday night when Kenny Chesney came to town with opening acts Lady Antebellum and Miranda Lambert.

The crowd seemed dominated by females, with the vast majority wearing sundress-and-cowboy boot outfits. Either these ladies were channeling their inner Taylor Swift or thought Kenny liked that sort of cowgirl look. Those not choosing this outfit seemed to go for the skankier minidress and boot combo. Whatever, it re-confirmed Chesney's appeal to females of all ages.

Lady Antebellum opened the show displaying their tight harmonies which make them one of country's hotter new acts. Miranda Lambert, "just a small-town Texas girl," as she put it, was impressive as well. Lambert is a softer version of Gretchen Wilson but a take-no-prisoners performer better suited for a smaller venue. She mixed in three rock songs and I was taken aback when she launched into "Stay With Me," the 1972 rock classic from The Faces. While her rendition did not equal Carrie Underwood covering Guns N Roses' "Paradise City" at the Sprint Center last year, Lambert's version worked although it blurred the line as to whether she is a country act or someone interested in crossing over into rock.

Chesney entered from the back of the arena via suspended seat, swaying over the crowd and singing "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy." His show built from there with a steady mix of greatest hits, including the tear-jerker "There Goes My Life" and standards like "I Go Back" and "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem." The concert capped off with his new hit, "Don't Blink," with on-screen imagery from the accompanying music video.

Chesney displayed the persona which has firmly positioned him as the best male performer in country--the guy who regularly sells out stadiums and arenas around the country. This show had all the energy of one of Garth Brooks' nine sold-out shows at the Sprint Center (fall 2007) or Bruce Springsteen's stop here last year. Chesney seems to have a universal appeal--a guy who loves to sing of a small-town life revolving around girls, beer, sports, church and the way things used to be. He connects with the audience--female and male--by coming across as a regular guy who cares...and who, when not performing, likes to chill in the islands on his boat. It's an interesting blend of Garth Brooks meets Jimmy Buffett.

The one downer last night was the sound, which was muddy all night. However, during Chesney's performance the entire crowd seemed to be singing along, making it easy to recognize the words even if you couldn't clearly hear Kenny singing them.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Mac attacks Sprint Center

The current version of Fleetwood Mac, sans Christine McVie, came to Sprint Center last night and played over two hours of hits from the 1970's and 1980's. They even through in a nod to 1969 with "Oh Well," a blues-rock song covered by many but performed first by one of the earliest iterations of this timeless band.

Stevie Nicks, while not the singer she once was, was in good voice and unlike some aging rock stars, knows how to play to her strengths. Lindsey Buckingham displayed his guitar virtuosity throughout the night. And, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood showed again why they have been one of the best rhythm sections in rock-and-roll through the past three decades.

The night started with "Monday Morning" and ended with "Silver Springs." In between were plenty of samplings from the Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, Tusk and Tango in the Night albums. While the group is not touring in support of a new album, Buckingham did make a reference to "when" the album comes out, giving hope to a new offering from this foursome.

Christine McVie was missed as the band did not play some of her great ballads but it was still fun to hear 30+ years of hits.

Here is what the Kansas City Star's "Back to Rockville" music blog had to say about the show:

Highlights for me included "The Chain," "Sara," "Landslide," "I'm So Afraid" and "Silver Springs." Unfortunately, many in the crowd decided to depart after the first encore and missed "Springs," a heart-tugging song about the tempestuous personal relationship between Nicks and Buckingham. I don't know if those exiting were Sprint Center newbies or not but make note--the show doesn't end until they turn up the arena lights.

It was a good night in downtown Kansas City.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Harold Fischer

Today’s New York Times had an obituary for Harold Fischer. I don’t ordinarily linger on the obit page but was intrigued because the headline read, “Harold E. Fischer, 83, American Flier Tortured in Chinese Prison, Is Dead.”

The story of Fischer is one of unease—you see, Fischer was a fighter pilot who was shot down by the Chinese during the Korean War, the early 1950’s “police action” (the term of that era) which so many have forgotten or minimally acknowledged. It’s the war for which few statues have been built. And Fischer’s tale is one that provides a sense of guilt—of uneasiness at what happened to him with the natural question of “what would I have done in his situation?”…and of an acknowledgment that there are veterans of Korea who went through similar atrocities as those we acknowledge from more recent wars like Vietnam and the plight of the POW’s.

Born in Iowa, Fischer enlisted in the Navy after graduating from high school in 1944. He, like so many of his generation, thought first of serving their country given the timing, which was the height of World War II. After his discharge, Fischer attended Iowa State University for two years, then enlisted in the Army. He later transferred to the Air Force where he became a fighter ace, flying 170 missions during the Korean War. He downed 11 MIGs during his flying career but it was after his 11th that his engine stalled and he was forced to eject over Chinese territory, where he was captured.

From April 1953 to May 1955, after the war ended, Fischer was kept in a cell in a Manchurian prison. His quarters were dark, damp, with no bed and no light save for the slot where food would be pushed each day. A high-frequency whistle pierced the air hour after hour in the cell.

The Chinese held a mock trial in 1955 for Fischer and three other U.S. airmen who had been captured. They were found “guilty” of violating Chinese territory by flying over the border while on missions in North Korea. It was under this duress that Fischer confessed to participating in germ warfare.

Fischer and his three comrades were granted their release a week after “confessing.” The release was seen at the time as a way to minimize Cold War tensions between the U.S. and China.

No military disciplinary action was taken against Fisher and his prison-mates. All were restored to full military duty and Fischer went on to pilot helicopters in Vietnam. He earned the rank of colonel as well as numerous medals, including the Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross.

“I will regret what I did in that cell for the rest of my life,” Fischer said. “But let me say this—it was not really me, Harold Fischer, Jr., who signed that confession. It was a mentality reduced to putty.”

Fischer died on April 30 at age 83--53 years after the day he entered that dank cell in a Manchurian prison.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mid-week musings

- Does the fact that Allison Iraheta was booted from American Idol confirm that most of those who vote are women--particularly pre-teen and teen women? The final three on the show are Adam Lambert (the prohibitive favorite to win), Kris Allen and Danny Gokey. All three seem to have their share of female fans, if reaction on the set of the show are any indication. Remember too that last year's winner, David Cook, was adopted by the "cougar" voting bloc for the show.

- Bravo debuts The Fashion Show tonight after losing Project Runway to Lifetime Channel. Here's predicting that Isaac Mizrahi is no Heidi Klum and Kelly Rowland is no Tim Gunn.

- The NBA has to be breathing a bit easier after Boston and Los Angeles both won game two in their playoff series last night. The Celtics lost in game one to Orlando and the Lakers did the same in their game one to Houston. The league would much prefer the larger market, and larger fan base, teams of Boston and L.A. to stay alive as long as possible for television ratings purposes.

- ABC broadcasts the 100th episode of Grey's Anatomy this evening. Can we please get rid of Izzie?

- As expected, Amazon announced the larger version of the Kindle yesterday. The new device will cost a hefty $489 and is aimed at readers of newspapers and magazines. It also is targeting the device as a delivery tool for textbooks. Both the new Kindle and the original version run on the Sprint network.

- One sign of the growing business of electronic readers? Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, noted yesterday that of the books offered on Amazon which have a Kindle version, 35% of the sales are for the Kindle edition versus a hardback or paperback.

- When was the last time that the Kansas City Royals were in first place, even in early May? Pretty fun, huh?

Website recommendations

- Billed by the New York Times as "gentler intrusions into famous people's private lives."

- A network for traveling women/businesswomen which includes info on sharing dinner while on the road, female-friendly hotels and other travel tips.

- Another way to find out useful information about the city you're in while traveling.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Kiefer channeling Jack...again?

The FOX show 24 moves its locale from Washington, D.C. to New York next season and lead actor Kiefer Sutherland is getting into the act early. Sutherland is once again in hot water, this time for head-butting a guest at a charity gala in New York.

Perhaps Kiefer forgot that filming for the day had wrapped and thus he pulled a Jack Bauer on the guest...?

Sometimes you just need a good burger

For many of us, there’s nothing better than a really good burger—the kind that’s served by notable burger eateries like In N Out Burger, Booches (Columbia, MO), the Westport Flea Market (Kansas City), or Five Guys.

It seems our Prez has that same hankering every so often as well. First we learned that First Lady Michelle Obama snuck out recently to the Five Guys burger chain with some staff members. Now we find out the President Obama drug along Vice President Joe Biden and members of the press corps to Ray’s Hell-Burger, across the Potomac from the White House in Arlington, VA.

The Prez ditched his schedule to make the impromptu trip to Ray’s, a down-home joint where you order at the counter, sit at wooden tables and don’t eat fries because owner Michael Landrum says, “fries would be overkill.” You see, at Ray’s, it’s all about the burgers.

The entire trip only took 45 minutes but we have to believe the President and VP felt much better when they got back to the Oval Office that afternoon. After all, nothing beats a good burger…

The Middle Age of Social Media

A Harris Poll continues to validate that the social media space is being overtaken by we middle-aged folks. While young adults continue to dominate the space, more and more 40-and-50-somethings are playing on the social networks.

Here are the stats:
- 74% of 18-34 year olds have a Facebook or MySpace account
- 47% of 35-44 year olds have an account and 41% of 45-54 year olds have an account

- 29% of 18-34 year olds update their pages daily
- 17% of 35-44 year olds update their pages daily; 10% of 45-54 update daily

- 8% of 18-34 year olds Twitter
- 7% of 35-44 year olds Twitter
- 4% of 45-54 year olds Twitter

It makes you wonder what's next for middle-aged adults to "take over" from their children.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Woodstock veterans to perform again

The 40th anniversary of Woodstock occurs in August and plans are underway for a festival to be held in upstate New York, site of the first music and arts festival in 1969.

Performers who have been announced include Levon Helm, Paul Kantner and Country Joe McDonald. Helm performed in '69 as a member of The Band; Kantner performed with Jefferson Airplane and McDonald was part of Country Joe and the Fish at the original Woodstock. Other groups who will reprise appearances at this year's Woodstock include Mountain, Ten Years After and Canned Heat.

It's Upfront week!

This is the week that advertisers and their media agencies head to New York for the annual advance sale of media time--a timeframe known as the "upfronts." Each network presents its plans for the coming fall introduction of new shows as well as the planned lineup for the new TV year. And perhaps no year has been as unsettled as this one for the state, current and future, of TV ad sales.

NBC was first up yesterday and unveiled six new shows. Parenthood is a TV adaptation of the movie of the same name; Day One is a post-apocalyptic show, something that I'm sure viewers will be clamoring for (tongue planted firmly in cheek) in this day of troubling economic news domestically. The marquee offering, though, is Trauma--a show which deals with young emergency medical technicians. Set in San Francisco, the show is produced by Peter Berg, the guy behind Friday Night Lights. Interestingly, the show sounds very familiar to the long-running NBC offering, E.R., which just concluded its multi-year run.

For Grey's Anatomy fans, there is Mercy. This show will follow three young nurses and their busy professional, and sex, lives.

NBC didn't present a complete fall schedule as it is still contemplating several renewal decisions, including Law and Order. Other shows with yet-to-be-determined futures are Chuck, My Name is Earl and Medium.

The upfronts are ordinarily an optimistic time in the advertising business but not this year. Not all advertisers participate in the upfronts--some choose to hold their cards rather than booking time now. One analyst predicted that the upfront market may shrink by as much as 25% this season.

Stay tuned--we'll try to track what other networks present this week as the upfronts continue.

I love this commercial

It's hard to go wrong when you have kids and/or animals in TV advertising. In this case, it's hamsters grooving to Marz on behalf of the Kia Soul. But, it's also a great spot in that the rest of us are on our hamster wheels while these running buddies have got their groove going on.

Great is the 60-second version:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bigger Kindle on the way?

Amazon, maker of the successful reading device, the Kindle, is rumored to be soon to introduce a larger version of the wireless device. The larger size is said to be aimed at readers of newspapers, magazines and, potentially, textbooks.

Speaking from experience as a Kindle (version one) owner, the reading of books on the device is quite slick. However, reading magazines and newspapers pales in comparison given the size and color issue--a six inch, black-and-white screen.

The Kindle II was just introduced in February so no specific word is forthcoming from Amazon on when this larger device may debut.

Derby wrap-up

They don't call it the Kentucky Derby for nothin'--did you all get a glimpse of the headwear in residence in Louisville on Saturday? Wow!

New Kentucky coach John Calipari showed up, sans hat, so as to not mess up that slicked-hair on his noggin'. But, other stars were out in force with hats firmly on heads--particularly the ladies. Those spotted in the crowd included Leann Rimes, Kim Kardashian, Phyllis George, Valerie Bertinelli and Aretha Franklin. Kid Rock showed up and, yes, had his ever-present hat on his head. Seth Meyers (Saturday Night Live) was in attendance--no hat but natty suit. And, Nick Lachey got plenty of air time on NBC's broadcast.

By the way, I did not know this but there is an 18-character limit on a racehorse's name. So, Pioneerof the Nile, who placed in the Derby, smashes together "Pioneer" and "of" to make the 18-character cut. There were no similar worries for No Revenge, a late scratch who clearly did not get any revenge, nor surprise winner Mine That Bird.

Bird, paid out $103.20 on a $2 ticket--not a bad day at the races if you happened to pick this 50-to-1 shot.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday afternoon musings

- Quote of the week: Representative Joe Barton of Texas, who introduced legislation that says no NCAA football game could be called a "national championship" without the benefit of a playoff, said, referencing the BCS (Bowl Championship Series), "It's like communism, you can't fix it." He suggested that the BCS should drop the "C" from its name because it doesn't represent a true championship, "Call it the 'BS' system."

- On this date in 2000, President Bill Clinton announced that accurate GPS access would no longer be restricted to the U.S. military. Nine short years later, many of us rely upon GPS in cars, on cellphones and on smart devices...yet still manage to get lost.

- It's nice to smell charcoal burning--another sign that spring, with outdoor grilling, has arrived.

- Did you know that Jim Nantz has been broadcasting for CBS now for 24 years? I'm not sure the guy ever gets a weekend off as I watch him anchor coverage of the PGA Tour's Quail Hollow Championship this afternoon. Nantz anchors CBS' golf coverage, NFL football and NCAA Basketball. And, he's a genuinely nice guy.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

"Easy Rider"

1969 was quite a year as evidenced by the number of iconic albums and movies which are celebrating 40 year anniversaries this year.

One such movie is Easy Rider, the flick which paired Peter Fonda (Captain America) and Dennis Hopper (Billy the Kid) as two anti-heroes riding their motorcycles across the country. The film is also notable for the role played by Jack Nicholson, the clean-cut kid who is befriended by Fonda's and Hopper's characters and comes along for the ride, and wisdom, of these two counterculture heroes.

A new 35mm print of the movie is currently being screened in New York. The soundtrack, which has recently been re-mixed, is worth a listen as well--it features performances by Steppenwolf and The Byrds, among others.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sign of the apocalypse

From today's newswires:

NEW YORK ( -- Disgraced one-time NFL superstar Michael Vick, who is serving prison time for funding an illegal dog-fighting ring, is primed to do public-service ads for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals upon his release later this month. According to three people with knowledge of the matter, the proposed endorsement is part of a comprehensive PR scheme aimed at rehabilitating the quarterback's image and gaining him re-admission to the league that banned him from playing.

Taylor Swift at KU

In case you missed it, Taylor Swift made an under-the-radar appearance at the University of Kansas this week. The trouble for Taylor is that, once again, the power of technology spoiled her desire to simply come to KU to visit a student friend from Tennessee.

Swift’s presence on campus was noticed when she attended a Journalism class with her friend. At that point, the usual collegiate forms of communications (tweets, texts and e-mails) kicked in. A crowd of about 50 gathered outside by the end of class and were treated to autographs and photo opportunities with the obliging country star, who then departed with her KU buddy.

No word on whether Taylor was headed to another class or to The Wheel for a cold one…

An instant classic?

And I thought the Celtics and Bulls played an instant classic last night in the NBA Playoffs...

Two Kansas girls softball teams had a game for the ages earlier this week when it took 23 innings to determine a winner. The teams from Lansing and Basehor-Linwood were scheduled to play a double-header but the first game kept going...and going...and going. The game lasted four hours and is believed to be the longest game in Kansas girls softball history.

Perhaps more amazing than the sheer length of the game was this--Brittney Lang, the Lansing senior who had the game-winning hit, also pitched for the Lions. The thing is, she pitched all 23 innings and struck out 38 batters! That makes Ray Allen's 58 minutes and 51 points for the Celtics, over three overtimes last night, pale in comparison.