Sunday, May 30, 2004


for 31 MAY 04: GOTCHA!

BLOGGER'S NOTE: Happy Memorial Day! This holiday post is a follow-up to the Bobby Peters campaign sign issue. We caught another candidate violating the advertising rules in 2002. Here's how we covered it in LaughLine that summer:

15 JUL 02: Today's deep question: if a big campaign sign doesn't have little type that's required by law, does that make the candidate a big cheater or a small one?

As candidates compete for Mayor of Columbus, Georgia, LaughLine has found one of them has an illegal campaign sign. Jed Harris's big downtown billboard lacks required words about who paid for it - you know, the words that if you slowed down to read them would cause a 12-car pileup.

The billboard above a downtown Columbus, Georgia viaduct says: "Elect Jed Harris Mayor - the people's choice." There's a huge photo of him, but NO wording required by law about who paid for the sign. He wasn't even sneaky enough to hide the words in a couple of underlined words.

The election laws in our town say all political advertising, even yard signs, must state who paid for them. If they don't, they're illegal. We suppose this rule is designed to teach would-be politicians the importance of "fine print."

We learned about this election law detail from a political wonk in our town, who loves to call radio talk shows. He's filed complaints in other campaigns, when the powers-that-be violated wording rules. He has NOT done this yet with Jed Harris -- so either he's voting for Harris, or he's lost his magnifying glass.

LaughLine stopped by the Jed Harris for Mayor campaign office Sunday to ask about the illegal billboard - but the office is closed on Sundays. A lot of businesses in our town work that way. Some people still think the "blue" in the U.S. flag is for blue laws.

Undaunted, LaughLine called Jed Harris at home Sunday afternoon and left a message. The voice on the answering machine was female - which leads us to ask: why don't more politicians have their wives work on their office staffs? Imagine how many paid positions could be cut from government budgets....

Jed Harris did NOT return our phone calls by Sunday night's post time. This former Georgia State Representative happens to sell insurance for a living - so you'd think he'd be willing to give The Mass Media a good quote.

16 JUL 02: As of Monday night, we still had NOT heard from Columbus, Georgia mayoral candidate Jed Harris about his illegal campaign billboard. Maybe he's like so many candidates these days - looking for donations in New York or California....

(No, Jed Harris probably would NOT be with President Bush in Birmingham. Harris is a Democrat - and unless he's holding a protest sign in the President's face, he doesn't want to be anywhere close.)

Still undaunted, LaughLine called the "Jed Harris for Mayor" campaign office. The man who answered the phone admitted he had NOT seen the billboard lacking the "paid for" details. He promised to check it for us -- but he hasn't called back, either. Is this a cover-up? Or is this poor constituent response a reason not to vote for this guy?

Many of the candidates for office in our town are gathering downtown tonight for a Jaycees event called "Political Palooza." In about five weeks, many of them will find the emphasis is on the "looza."

[EDITOR'S NOTE: If we must, LaughLine will go to Political Palooza and ask Jed Harris right to HIS "palooza" about his billboard....]

17 JUL 02: With our phone calls about an illegal campaign ad unreturned, LaughLine was left no choice. Tuesday night we came face-to-face with Columbus, Georgia mayoral candidate Jed Harris about his large billboard. We're thankful to report he's a nice politician - and didn't even threaten to punch us in the nose.

Jed Harris told LaughLine the art work for his campaign billboard was submitted correctly, WITH the "paid for by" line required by city law. He said the billboard company goofed, by leaving that line out. That company's fouled up OTHER signs lately, too - like leaving the last few letters off "Budweiser."

(Hmmmm - Jed Harris is a Democrat, but he's apparently not a Harry Truman "The Buck Stops HERE" Democrat.)

Jed Harris said he called Viacom's billboard division after LaughLine pointed out the missing line. The Atlanta office promised Harris it would be corrected Tuesday afternoon. We expected that answer, and drove by the billboard before the meeting. It's still NOT changed! How long does it take to prepare a couple of Post-It notes?

Jed Harris told LaughLine his campaign still owes Viacom 5,000 dollars for that large billboard. "I'm not paying a d**ned bit of it until that's fixed," he declared. We smell some political strategy here - called double or nothing.

(By the way, Jed Harris said he was out of town when LaughLine called him Sunday -- then became occupied with other things. We understand candidates CAN be busy people. But is his campaign staff too busy conducting polls or something?)

We found out during our short conversation with Jed Harris that he has a campaign web site - one NOT registered with Google. It's called "Elect Jed." [] Isn't he asking for it with a name like that? Hackers will try to put up Beverly Hillbillies photos.

We found Jed Harris at the Columbus Jaycees' candidate forum, called "Political Palooza." Somehow an election event with that name doesn't sound quite right. You almost expect the candidates to put on boxing gloves for three rounds.

19 JUL 02: By the way, mayoral candidate Jed Harris's billboards DO now have an added line about who paid for them. But if you're going to jot down the address, PLEASE turn on your flashers or pull over - since let's face it: a lot of people don't vote and don't care.

COMING THIS WEEK: A new restaurant which is just asking for a lawsuit.... and a "restaurant" which may not really be....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, May 28, 2004



It was all over Tuesday night at the end of the second. A baseball game? The Stanley Cup hockey finals? The "American Idol" winner? No - an old bottle of ketchup I've had for years. It was declared empty at the end of the second hot dog.

I've had a big glass bottle of tomato ketchup for at least eight years. I brought it to Columbus from the Atlanta area, after winning it with a bag of groceries at a supermarket grand opening. What does it say about my life when ketchup bottles have sentimental value?

This bottle of ketchup was a no-name brand - Shurfine, I want to say. The main label fell off the bottle long ago, due to condensation from being out of my refrigerator. That piece of paper proved more important than you might think - because have you ever tried opening a slick glass bottle with a stuck lid?

A small label still surrounds the neck of the ketchup bottle, with the words "EXTRA THICK." Truer words were never written. The ketchup around the lid would get SO thick that I couldn't unscrew the top for months at a time. But that's OK - it promoted the aging process.

To be honest, I don't use ketchup at home on a lot of foods - and when hot dogs come up on the dinner menu, I work on leftover restaurant packets first. From my own experience, I think ketchup packets left out too long inspired Heinz to develop those weird colors for children.

Not wanting to be wasteful, I turned the glass ketchup bottle upside-down in recent months to secure the last few drops. But it wasn't built for that, the way Heinz bottles are today -- so this old bottle needed mustard and salad dressing containers as crutches.

So back to Tuesday night's last hurrah: I pulled out the ketchup bottle for my three-dog night (!) - but the upside-down lid was stuck again. I chipped away at the crusty ketchup around the lid as best I could. After a few moments, a "burp" of sorts occurred and a touch of ketchup hit the floor - sort of like the volcanic eruption of Mt. Condiment.

Most of the ketchup stayed inside the cap, however - and I spread it out over two of the three hot dogs. Before you ask: yes, it still WAS red and not moldy.

With that, an amazing era in my kitchen has ended. I believe the food longevity record now passes to a big two-pound jar of generic-brand "salad mustard." It would have been empty long ago - but c'mon, who puts mustard on a salad?

By the way, the kitchen has been warm in recent days - but I still have NOT turned on the air conditioner in the window. Long-time blog readers will recall I try to hold out on doing this as long as possible. [11 May 03] That way, I can keep money out of Georgia Power's clutches as long as possible.

BLOG UPDATE: Well, well - remember those three "gossip" questions we asked Wednesday? [26 May] Somebody apparently figured out the third one. But instead of notifying the blog, they spent Thursday calling the Election Board and all the news outlets in town. I feel more like Rodney Dangerfield every day....

Yes, Judge Roxann Daniel, you figured it out -- it's your opponent Bobby Peters whose campaign signs don't appear to have the proper wording about campaign committees. Considering he's a former Columbus Mayor, you'd think he'd know the rules. But then again, Peters was unopposed for that second term as Mayor.

It turns out it's the Georgia election code with that rule about how campaign literature should be worded, mentioning who pays for it. This shows political races are a bit like "Dungeons and Dragons" games -- you should always check for traps.

Bobby Peters told a TV reporter Thursday it's a "matter of interpretation" whether campaign signs count as literature. My Webster's New World Dictionary includes under "literature" the definition, "printed matter of any kind." Is Mr. Peters's legal practice so slow that he painted the signs himself?

Judge Roxann Daniel admits it would be hard to bring a case against opponent Bobby Peters. For one thing, she says the Georgia election code is written in such a way that sign violations are unenforceable. For another thing, Mr. Peters has so many lawyers backing him that the "friend of the court" briefs would be overwhelming.

Take a stroll through the Legal - oops, Historic District, and you'll find plenty of pro-Daniel or pro-Peters signs outside law offices. Is this a proper thing to do? Back the winning candidates for judge, and you look like you're seeking special treatment. Back the losers, and your clients won't have a chance for months.

Bobby Peters announced late Thursday he'll take steps to fix those 1,500 campaign signs without a "paid-for" section. Deep down, he might not mind this - because he'll shake all the hands of backers a second time, to confirm their support.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: This isn't the first time we've caught a Columbus candidate violating election rules. We'll share another case in a "LaughLine flashback," the next time we post on Monday....)

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION: OK, I was wrong -- and I hereby apologize to WRBL's Candace Cook. A week of voting ended Thursday, and you declared her hair the best on Columbus television. But wait a minute! Did people vote for the blown-straight hair we usually see, or the curls which accidentally showed up that one night?

This "hairy" question brought a record number of votes for the blog - more even than the question about recalling Sheriff Ralph Johnson. I guess the priorities of Columbus residents now are abundantly clear....

The final score shows Candace Cook leading the "best hair" race with 38 percent of the vote. A late rush of support pushed her ahead of the 25 percent for WRBL colleague Amy Giuliano. It's either that, or curled-up votes finally straightened out.

Of the five names we offered in the question, Cheryl Reneé was third at 19 percent. Then came Deborah Singer at 13 percent - and sadly, Kirsten Olesen received no votes at all. Maybe Olesen and her supporters were too busy working.

We also received a couple of surprise alternative choices - including meteorologist Joshua McKinney [24 May]. Someone suggested former reporter Adrian Helmick, who moved away from Columbus two years ago. Either the current styles on TV don't impress this voter - or the voter spends all their time watching cable.

At least one TV personality came to me, complaining about NOT being on the list of nominees for best hair. But hey - I had to draw the part-line somewhere....

So congratulations to Candace Cook - and if her hair defines her "classiness" as someone suggested, [20 May] so be it. I guess this makes her the "head" of the class, doesn't it?

And let's not forget the other stuff which happened Thursday:

+ Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman was indicted by a federal grand jury, on charges of bid-rigging. Does anyone really think he'll be convicted of this? He couldn't rig a state lottery referendum in his favor....

+ Mike Vee signed off from his afternoon spots talk show on WRCG. He's taking a morning radio job in Opelika - so for now, his co-host is simply another radio D.J.

(Mike Vee is going to an FM station in Opelika that's the new flagship station of Auburn University sports. Oh no! Don't tell me Auburn will join Alabama and Georgia Tech -- and go off Columbus radio stations, too....)

+ A group of teenagers from the Inner Harbour halfway house appeared outside Miriam's Café, for a program of "therapeutic drumming." Isn't that a strange name for it? Many people see a doctor for therapy, to stop their heads from drumming.

+ Instant Message to the middle-aged man who walked into a Phenix City Piggly Wiggly store with no shirt and bare feet: I dressed that way in public once. I think I was about six at the time....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 27, 2004



Roy Moore announced Wednesday he's filing an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, to regain his seat as Alabama Chief Justice. If that fails, Moore may have only one option left - President Bush winning re-election, then nominating him for a Supreme Court seat.

Roy Moore says his dismissal as Alabama Chief Justice last fall was loaded with hypocrisy. He notes God is referenced by name at the start of all federal court sessions -- not to mention under the breath of most losing attorneys.

The appeal by Roy Moore claims he was removed as Alabama Chief Justice merely for exercising his first amendment rights. As many speeches as he's made around the country, I wonder if Moore's making more money using his freedom of speech than he did promoting his religion.

Did you see one TV station call him "Honorable Roy Moore" on the screen? I'm not sure if that will stop the complaints to newsrooms by upset Republicans - or make them demand all members of the cabinet receive the same treatment.

The group "Alabama Atheists" is unimpressed with Roy Moore's U.S. Supreme Court appeal. Group leader Larry Darby claimed Wednesday people are growing tired of Moore. Of course, many Alabama Christians grew tired of atheists around the time of the school prayer ruling in 1963.

There's been a lot of speculation about Roy Moore running for political office -- but he denied the rumors again Wednesday, and I believe him. Somehow, I can't see John Kerry selecting Moore as a running mate....

Several candidates are invoking Roy Moore's name as they run for the Alabama Supreme Court. One of them is long-time colleague Tom Parker. You can tell it's a different era in the South when a "Tom Parker" mentions Roy Moore more than Elvis Presley.

Have you seen Tom Parker's campaign commercial on TV? It says he's "strongly against gay marriages." Well, why stop there? Go ahead and tell us how you'll vote on lawsuits of more than $20 million.

BLOG UPDATE: Columbus State's baseball team was knocked out of the Division II World Series Wednesday night, losing a gutwrencher to the Rollins College Tars. Aw c'mon -- the TARS?!

+ Shouldn't this be the name of a stock car racing team in the South?

+ What are the college cheerleaders called - the Tar Babies?

+ You can't expect me to believe the University of North Carolina broke away from this college, and that's why it's famous for Tar Heels.

+ Where do journalism majors at this college offer their publications - a Tar-Paper shack?

+ Do they have a fast-food restaurant on campus - selling Tar-Macs?

Things looked grim for C.S.U. as the last inning started - but the Cougars made up a 9-7 deficit with three runs in the top of the ninth. If this was the "Rollins" that's involved with protective services, I don't want to have anything do with it.

But Rollins rallied in the bottom of the ninth itself, with a two-run homer off C.S.U.'s ace reliever Brian Baker to win 11-10. It was Baker's fourth inning of pitching -- which almost makes you wonder if Cougar Coach Greg Appelton watched any of the Red Sox-Yankees playoff series last October.

At least Columbus High School still has some baseball left to play. The Blue Devils beat St. Pius X Wednesday - not only advancing to the state semifinals, but getting revenge for the girls' basketball finals in March. I wouldn't be surprised if a couple of those Columbus players have pictures of Ashley Powell in their rooms.

Now let's catch up on some other mid-week meanderings:

+ The Spectrum store in my neighborhood (believe it or not, there's only one) marked down all sizes of fountain drinks to only 79 cents. So you see - something IS going down in price, to make up for the gas and milk.

+ Georgia's Natural Resources Board decided to bring back mandatory restrictions on watering lawns. There's an odd-even system six days a week - and no one can water at all on Fridays. So why Fridays?! Do the board members think this will stop a Muslim terrorist attack?

+ The title of "American Idol" went to Fantasia Barrino - and that means Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue lost a bet. He owes North Carolina's Governor a bushel of peaches. But knowing our governor, he may outsource this and get the peaches from Mexico.

+ Instant Message to WRBL reporter Chris Sweigart: We welcome you to Columbus - but we can't help asking a question. If you took a taser shot Tuesday for a story on Harris County "stun guns," why didn't you light up a cigarette Wednesday for a story on Lee County smoking?

COMING FRIDAY: The end of an era in my refrigerator.... and did I resist doing that "something?"

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004



"Gossip" said the title of an e-mail to your blog -- and I can't tell you how much I agonized over what I read. I'd rather not have this blog become a gossip column. But then again, Webster's New World Dictionary defines gossip as "idle talk and rumors about others" -- and this wasn't rumor, it was fact.

If the "gossip" I read had been put in the hands of Paula Froelich at the "New York Post," it probably would have become public knowledge days ago. It probably would have come out at the "Washington Post" as well. But this is Columbus - where there's an unwritten rule about never hurting other people's feelings.

The church I attend does NOT think well of gossiping. In fact, it's so much opposed that a big congregation split in the home office city hasn't even been mentioned on its web site - and it happened almost a month ago.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We're going to talk religious talk for the next few jokes. If you're offended by this, scroll down about three paragraphs and see if you can catch up.)

Given what this church teaches, I went to the Bible Tuesday for guidance about gossip. Several verses in Proverbs warn about a gossip who "betrays a confidence." But if the item in question is on file at a courthouse, it's only confidential if you don't go there and look.

There's also a section in the New Testament which links gossips with "slanderers, God-haters.... arrogant and boastful." Yeow! This standard could disqualify almost every elected official in the country.

I also recalled some of Paul's New Testament writings where he talked of church members having each other's wives, and even named people who did him harm. The Bible didn't allow any of these people "equal time" to tell their side....

Then I decided to apply the three traditional rules of "gossip." First: was it true? After a couple of attempts to verify it, I found it was -- but I should have left the court clerk a tip for all the checking she did for me.

Step two: is it fair? A lawyer used the phrase "public document" about it, so it seemed to be -- but in this day and age, one cable network seems to define "fair" as anything slanted toward Republicans.

. Step three: is the "gossip" necessary? Now this was the sticky one. Some people I know think ANY gossip is necessary, as long as it doesn't mention them....

I decided Tuesday to give the subject of the gossip a chance to comment about it. I also went to that person's attorney -- so you can see how serious I am about avoiding a libel suit.

After taking all these steps, I took a break in the late afternoon -- and there was Halle Berry on "Oprah," admitting all the tabloid stories about ex-husband Eric Benet's affairs were true! So if they can get it right sometimes, maybe I can too....

So I've taken all this introductory space to explain why I'm posting what I'm posting. Now I'll post it, and take whatever lumps may come. And for those of you who think you've guessed it already - no, this has nothing to do with Diana DeGarmo winning "American Idol."

Let's ask some pointed questions, beginning with the "gossip" item the source sent via e-mail:

1. Which well-known local personality quietly has filed for divorce during May? I reviewed the papers at a court office Tuesday afternoon, and the split should become final this week. Surprisingly, the divorce was filed by a big-name attorney/politician -- someone I thought would be on the side of preserving marriages, given his party.

This mystery personality separated from a spouse in March, and the spouse does not appear to be contesting the divorce. So why call on a big-name attorney/politician to handle this? To scare the spouse away from going to "Celebrity Justice" or something?

2. Which local corporate executive called a media outlet recently about doing an "informational" appearance - only one day after he appeared at that very outlet? No, it was NOT a case of Lonnie Jackson developing amnesia.

3. Which political candidate is putting campaign signs up all over Columbus - and every one of them appears to be ILLEGAL? None of them has the required wording for the candidate's campaign committee! It's called "fine" print for a reason -- leave it out and you may get fined.

BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: Do you think you know the answers to our questions? We'll take your guesses PRIVATELY ONLY. E-mail us if you'd like to try....

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004



Tillman Pugh clearly is on a mission - well, make that two missions. For one thing, the Russell County Commissioner wants to know who assaulted him earlier this year. For another thing, he wants to wear his "Pugh for Commissioner" election badge in front of every TV camera he can find.

Tillman Pugh revealed Monday he's getting a surveillance tape digitally enhanced, so he can find whoever attacked him in January. Mr. Pugh said this with a re-election sticker on his shirt Monday -- one his opponents for Russell County Commissioner next week probably wish had been digitally blurred.

WRBL played the original surveillance tape from the Phenix City Wal-Mart Monday night. Tillman Pugh says it shows two men wearing white caps going inside -- the men who later assaulted him. How sneaky of these criminals! They know how regular Wal-Mart customers think -- that only good guys wear white hats.

The surveillance tape from Wal-Mart also shows an outdoor camera view of a red pickup truck circling the parking lot. On most weekends, this would be no big deal - since good parking spaces don't open up at Wal-Mart very often....

Commissioner Tillman Pugh recalls the driver of the red pickup stared at him January 25, as the two men wearing white caps assaulted him. Pugh said the attackers "cracked my cranium" - and somewhere, Jerry Laquire wrote down that phrase to use on future talk show callers.

Tillman Pugh says what happened to him in late January was NOT a random attack, and he was a definite target. You have to give the County Commissioner credit for one thing - in four months, he hasn't blamed this attack on Administrator LeeAnn Horne-Jordan even once.

Tillman Pugh says he's sending the surveillance tape to New York, and will spend as much as $2,000 to have it digitally enhanced. I don't want to say I'm old, but I can remember when "digital enhancement" meant a trip to a nail salon.

In addition, Tillman Pugh is offering a $2,500 reward for information about whoever attacked him in late January. But who would have noticed two men in white caps inside a Wal-Mart store -- especially if they didn't have a loud, whining baby with them?

I do hope Tillman Pugh finds the attackers, and they get what's coming to them. But I'm sorry -- something inside me says Monday's TV appearance smells of campaign politics. For one thing, next Tuesday is the Alabama Primary. For another thing, Wal-Mart didn't wait four months to release tape of that Indiana mom shaking her daughter.

I'm reminded of a joke the late Atlanta radio preacher Mays Jackson told, as his wife asked where he wanted to be buried. "Put me on the lawn in front of the Wal-Mart store," Jackson said. His puzzled wife obviously asked why. "That way, I'll know you'll come to see me at least twice a week."

Here's what else we noted on Victoria Day 2004 -- and how many people did I stump with that Canadian holiday....

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue visited Fort Benning, and declared Georgia a "very patriotic state." Excuse me - but which of the 50 states is NOT? I haven't heard one of them talk about seceding lately.

+ U.S. Senate candidate Johnny Isakson unveiled a new TV commercial, in which people praise him for teaching Sunday School for nearly 30 years. So does this mean if he's elected to the Senate, he'll try to convert Joseph Lieberman away from Judaism?

+ Wireless phone numbers in the Columbus area became "portable," from one company to another. What IS the big deal about this? I see people with portable numbers all the time -- walking out of convenience stores with lottery tickets.

+ Instant Message to Columbus and Hardaway High Schools: You ARE being nice to the senior baseball players in today's quarterfinals, aren't you? I mean, you're not withholding their diplomas until the playoffs end?!

SONG OF THE DAY: Public radio's "All Things Considered" truly lived up to its name Monday, as it marked the 50th anniversary of the Roto-Rooter jingle. Isn't it time to put new, modern words on this -- while still keeping that old accordian?

Click It or Ticket - act today!

Better buckle up, or you're gonna pay!

Click It or Ticket! (Doot.) (The accordian chord.)

Or we can make it fit Columbus election-year politics....

Vote Bobby Peters - for court judge,

And give that woman on the bench a nudge!

Bobby Peters! (Doot.)

COMING THIS WEEK: Can I resist doing something until Memorial Day weekend? Must.... try....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 23, 2004



It may not be Memorial Day yet, but Sunday definitely felt like the summer doldrums for me. When the only sports events worth watching on TV in late May are football games, it's pretty grim....

At least some baseball games were on radio to keep me occupied. And what a day the locals had, as Columbus State University and the Catfish scored a combined 23 runs! I went back and forth between the games, and the Catfish didn't sound like they were using C.S.U.'s metal bats.

(Did you hear about the Division II World Series T-shirts they're selling at C.S.U.? They include the words, "Find that lucky spot!" I tried to tip Scott Miller off to this last week....)

The Catfish haven't lost since Chuck Tiffany pitched that seven-inning no-hitter Thursday night. So why didn't Columbus TV stations show the final outs of that historic moment? To answer that question, you have to keep something in mind. In general, local television is a lot like local sports - not quite at the major-league level.

TV stations in Columbus don't have very large staffs - so sportscasters have to shoot videotape of local games, then go back to the studio and prepare for the newscasts. That's apparently why WRBL showed early innings of Chuck Tiffany's
perfect game, but not the final outs. And that's why the local government access channel needs to think bigger....

But there's another factor which may be keeping you from seeing Catfish highlights. I'm hearing a team official won't allow TV sports crews to videotape games from their usual location behind the plate. This Catfish executive reportedly has drawn a line - well, two of them: first-base or third-base.

The Catfish executive reportedly is telling TV sports crews they can't put cameras behind the plate because season-ticket holders sit there. Can't a compromise of some sort be worked out here? Give upset fans an upgrade to a skybox.

One Catfish critic told me the other day the videotaping policy is silly because Golden Park never is sold out. OK, so why doesn't the sports crew move to the nearest open seat?

By the way, it suddenly occurred to me Sunday afternoon that the Columbus Catfish don't quite have the right nickname. This team plays home games at Golden Park -- so they shouldn't they be called the Goldfish? Can they work out a special weekend promotion with Pepperidge Farm?

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION to find the best hair on Columbus television remains open for a few more days. The most unusual vote so far came over the weekend, from someone who e-mailed us a comment instead of leaving it with the poll:

Richard - I am going to vote for Josh McKinney.

Those sexy curls remind me of fluffy clouds. What better style for a meteorologist?

It sounds like this person's crush truly is cirrus -- oops, serious.

(I suppose meteorologists would be interested in romantic language like this. They love to talk about high pressure and warm fronts.)

Now how about some Instant Messages, going here and there....

+ To Superior Court Judge Roxann Daniel: Well, it's about time! But after seeing your big billboard on the 13th Street Viaduct, I think Bobby Peters still has you outnumbered in campaign signs by about 100 to five.

+ To St. James A.M.E. Church on Sixth Avenue: I hope Sunday's dedication of a new "elevator tower" went well. You won't mind if Sheriff's officers use it to find jail escapees, do you?

(Isn't it interesting how this church built an elevator tower, while North Highland Assembly of God built a prayer tower? Does God think more of one tower than the other?)

+ To whoever parked a small bulldozer on the sidewalk near 8th and Broadway: Does this mean the children on this block are past the chalk drawing phase?

+ To all Columbus convenience stores: If you're going to jack the price of gasoline up to almost two dollars a gallon, why don't you share some of that money with the cashiers? One woman on Wynnton Road insisted to me Sunday she has NOT received a raise....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.



Weeks of wrangling over the District Attorney's race now appear to be over. An administrative judge in Atlanta has ruled Chattahoochee Circuit D.A. Gray Conger is an R.F.D. -- as in "Republican, Former Democrat."

A "finding of fact" by an administrative judge determined Gray Conger originally filed for re-election as a Democrat. Then he re-filed as a Republican once he discovered he had Democratic opposition. Isn't it amazing how politicians love to have all sorts of friends - as long as those friends don't run against them?

Gray Conger explained Friday he really switched to the Republican Party during filing week because it's "closer to his values." It seems safe to assume one of those values is NOT long-term loyalty....

Gray Conger says he's never seen the Democrats try so hard to keep someone from leaving their party. Well, they probably HAVE tried harder at other times - for instance, by offering road projects or big government jobs.

The Georgia Democratic Party tried to get Gray Conger kicked off the District Attorney ballot. Among other things, party leaders complained he used government stationery to change his filing status. So where were the complaints about paper when former Governor Roy Barnes signed the same bills in several cities on tours?

One of Gray Conger's opponents in the race for District Attorney accuses him of "gaming the system." But you'd think they would applaud the D.A. for his honesty. After all, he isn't changing parties AFTER the election like Sen. Dan Lee of LaGrange did.

This year marks a decade since party-switching officially began in Southern politics. I trace the start of it to Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, who turned Republican one day after the November election. Let's face it - that's one "zig-zag" Zell Miller still has yet to make.

While this fight has raged, the Alabama primary on June 1 is approaching. It's the last chance for Dennis Kucinich to steal the Presidential nomination away from John Kerry -- before Kerry refuses to accept it for several weeks.

It turns out Alabama will NOT have a U.S. Senate primary race after all. State Democratic Chairman Redding Pitt has barred Johnny Swanson from the ballot, because Swanson ran as an independent two years ago. That's what makes the Democrats so wonderful - their inclusiveness.

The dismissal of Johnny Swanson leaves Wayne Sowell as the Democrat to take on incumbent Senator Richard Shelby. Somehow I get the feeling Swanson might as well race against Smarty Jones in the Belmont Stakes....

Alabama Republicans also are tough with their candidate lists. Mobile's Kelly McGinley was barred from running for the state School Board, because she spoke well of another party on a radio talk show. That's what makes the Republicans so wonderful - their support of free speech.

Kelly McGinley appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but was denied a place on the state School Board ballot in the Alabama primary. She's a big supporter of Roy Moore -- and now she knows exactly how he feels.

Doesn't the Kelly McGinley case prove once and for all that "political correctness" is a two-party thing? All she did was say "Constitution Party" on a radio station, and Republicans bounced her from the ballot.

If this election year has proven anything so far, running for office isn't as easy as the proverbial "throwing your hat in the ring." You have to have the right-colored hat, with just the right wording on it ...

Let's see what else is happening on a steamy weekend:

+ An official with the Phenix City public library was placed on leave, accused of stealing library money. You'd think staff members at a library would know better - since it's their job to keep good books.

+ WRBL visited a graduation ceremony for home-schooled students - and a couple of them wore stickers endorsing guest speaker and Congressional candidate Dylan Glenn. How many Muscogee County School Board members at the Civic Center wish they'd thought of that first?

+ Instant Message to "David the Giant-Slayer" of WEAM Radio: Exactly which giants have you slain? If you're going to call yourself that on the air, shouldn't you provide a list so we can check - maybe on a web site?

SONG OF THE DAY: Or should that be the D.A.? With apologies to Gloria Estefan:

Have you heard the big news about Gray Conger?

He's not a Democrat any longer!

He thinks as Republican, he'll be stronger.

Incumbent Gray Conger's still the man to beat!

As the D.A. -- of the circuit,

He's paid to be tough on crime.

But his critics -- brought up ethics

When it came election time!

They're not pleased with -- his conversion

Over to the G.O.P.

If they can't nail -- him as two-faced....

They'll find technicalities!

COMING MONDAY: The end of the perfect game that no one put on videotape -- and why....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, May 21, 2004



This weekend marks the first anniversary of WHAL-AM, "Hallelujah 1460." The activities include a Sunday sermon with the title, "Make Them Hush." [True] The preacher ought to practice his message at the Columbus Civic Center - on the crowds watching commencement exercises.

The Class of '04 in Muscogee County schools begins receiving diplomas at the Civic Center today. There will be seven ceremonies there in the next couple of days - so many that the staff should learn every note of "Pomp and Circumstance."

Continuing a custom of recent years, crowds attending the commencement ceremonies will be expected to remain quiet while names are called. In other words, they should act like the baseball crowds at Golden Park most nights....

I was able to obtain a Kendrick High School graduation ticket a couple of years ago - and it actually said on the back the senior class wanted the audience to remain quiet while students were named. Is this for real? Do the seniors fear they'll be distracted, and they'll drop the diploma?

(I keep waiting for some Pentecostal pastor to challenge this no-noise policy -- on grounds that the school district is trying to turn everyone into Presbyterians.)

The last high school graduation I attended was in 1996, at Atlanta's Civic Center - and the atmosphere was very different. People in the audience shouted as names were called. The principal had seniors stand up if they were registered to vote. About the only thing missing that day was a commencement address by Jesse Jackson.

There's one group of high school students who WILL be noisy tonight. Taylor County High School is having a prom in the gym - only ONE prom for everyone. The only separation there should be this time is between the boys who can dance and those who can't.

You may recall Taylor County gained national attention last year when some students held a "whites-only prom" at The Estate in Columbus. The school's two dances were analyzed on "Nightline." They were blasted on TV and radio by Bill
O'Reilly. This year the only interested outsiders may be sexual deviants in trench coats.

(By the way: when the Taylor County town of Reynolds had its Georgia Strawberry Festival a couple of weeks ago, was that segregated as well? You know, divided between cream dip and chocolate-covered?)

There's only one question about having this prom at the Taylor County High School gym. Where do you take your date for a nice dinner before the dance -- all the way to Columbus? With gasoline approaching two dollars a gallon, some students may have to settle for convenience store hot dogs.

There are times when it's good to be silent - and times when it can hurt. Thursday night was one such perplexing time. A Columbus Catfish pitcher tossed a seven-inning perfect game at Golden Park! Thankfully it was "Thirsty Thursday," so fans drinking one-dollar beers made plenty of noise - but I'm not sure how many remembered the final out.

I turned on WDAK-AM in the sixth inning of the Greensboro-Columbus game -- and announcer Nathan Maynard never came out and said a perfect game was in progress. He only hinted at it with terms such as "dazzling" and "it doesn't get any better than this." Apparently the Catfish got his tongue....

If you weren't paying close attention, you might have turned off the 10-0 Columbus rout over Greensboro. But I know baseball enough to suspect something was up -- and Nathan Maynard probably was trying to avoid "jinxing" the perfect game. Is that why classrooms are so deathly quiet during S.A.T. exams?

Only in the top of the seventh inning did Nathan Maynard dare to give a linescore - with "no runs, no hits" for Greensboro. But he never said "perfect game" until the final pop-out was caught. The last time I heard such secrecy about an important fact, it involved Sheriff Ralph Johnson.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Why didn't you see the end of that perfect game on Columbus TV stations? We're working on that one for this weekend....)

The perfect game was thrown by pitcher Chuck Tiffany before a famous baseball name. Tom Lasorda was visiting Columbus on a tour of Los Angeles Dodger farm teams. Since he lives in L.A., Lasorda knows a high-quality Tiffany gem when he sees one - and maybe he should send one, to show congratulations.

(While he was in town, Tom Lasorda received a "key to the city" from Mayor Poydasheff. Somehow, I think all Lasorda really wanted was the key to Peluso's Italian Restaurant.)

SPAM-A-RAMA: I never received the e-mail about Wednesday's Stick It To 'Em Day -- but I have received a couple recently about preparing for divorce. So I guess for men, this would be Stick It To HER Day....

The spam e-mails offer a service called "Divorce Prep -- for men in an unhappy marriage." When I first saw this, I figured it had to include tickets to The Jerry Springer Show.

"Today," the spam offer reports, "a rising tide of miserable men race to the Internet for the secret ticket they need to escape their marriage without losing everything...." Hmmmm - is this ticket to Mexico, Cuba or Costa Rica?

I dared to click on the link Thursday night to find out what Divorce Prep is. I was offered five hours of digitally mastered audio and a "software kit" for only $179. But if you've already filed for divorce, "it's too late by then." Unless, of course, you buy it for the other man your wife is seeing....

The topics in the Divorce Prep kit seem quite detailed. One of them mentioned on the web site is: "How to avoid being labeled as a 'scum bag' in divorce court." Step one: ask the judge for permission to seal your spouse's mouth with duct tape.

What gets me about offers like this is the assumption they make - that if you're in an unhappy marriage, the only real option left is divorce court. But what about getting counseling, to work out differences and keep things going? And if all else fails, you can call Dr. Phil McGraw and become a TV star.

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 20, 2004



"Can a guy get a ride?" asked the man who approached my car outside a Phenix City drugstore Wednesday afternoon. Of course he could - if he waited long enough, a PEX bus probably would come by.

The older man wore a Washington Redskins jacket on a muggy May day - and it was clear he wanted ME to give him that ride. But I faced mitigating circumstances on this afternoon. I needed to stop at a post office before it closed, I had two half-gallons of cold milk in the car - and besides, this man should have prepared for gas boycott day a little better.

Did you take part in what an e-mail campaign called "Stick It To 'Em Day?" Everyone was urged to avoid buying gasoline Wednesday. It's a good thing I filled up Tuesday night, before learning about this.... [True!]

The e-mail campaign claimed if everyone stopped buying gasoline for one day, the major oil companies would lose so much money that gas prices would have to come down. Well, hold on a second - has it ever worked that way on Christmas?

Some economists said a one-day boycott of gas pumps wouldn't work, because all the drivers would have to fill their tanks sooner or later. Besides, I didn't notice a big increase in bicycle riders around Columbus Wednesday....

I did my small part to promote fuel savings Wednesday. With two errands to run downtown, I parked my car in between the locations on Third Avenue and walked to both of them. It was nice exercise - but in a city like Columbus, I think the most likely companies to promote this approach are antiperspirant makers.

The walk around 13th Street was quite revealing. For one thing, there's a big tree with spanish moss on it along Third Avenue. For another thing, the painters of crossing lanes on Second Avenue missed the sidewalk by a good five yards....

I'm no chemical engineer, but I suspect you save more gas by parking your car and going into a business than sitting in a drive-through lane for a couple of minutes. Yet I haven't noticed any shortening of drive-through lines - proving again how many people prefer "American Idle."

(OK, since I brought up that show - I don't have a favorite in the Diana-Fantasia final next week at all. But the way the voting has gone this year, wouldn't William Hung have lasted a long time?)

Oh yes - what did I do about the man who wanted a ride in Phenix City? After thinking a second, I chose the option of negotiation. So from the beginning:

"Can a guy get a ride?"


"Over to Wal-Mart."

"I'm not going there."

Ugh, the beggar seemed to say to himself. I left him disappointed - but he could always take a short walk to the corner of U.S. 80 and U.S. 280. Long lines of drivers would be waiting at that traffic light all afternoon.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Ooh boy, what have I done now?....

Candace Cook's hair is naturally curly. What you saw Monday night was her hair actually looks like. She usually straightens it each morning before work, which is a lengthy process, but did not have time to do that Monday. (Do people even get permanent waves anymore?) Actually, we all love her curly hair in the newsroom.

There are times when I chuckle at your online musings (even at my expense) but I did not appreciate your comment about Candace. She is a great reporter and more importantly a world class lady. I hope you will publish this reply on your website.

Blaine Stewart


Thank you Mr. Stewart, for setting the record - uh, well, uh.... never mind.....

After reviewing what I wrote the last two days, I'm not sure what I said to condemn the classiness of Candace Cook. It was that other e-mail writer who mentioned the "black see through number" at the Relay for Life -- and I don't know which person that writer was describing. For all I know, it might have been a return visit by Heath Morton.

I guess this will teach me to express my opinion about hairstyles on the Internet. Some people can have a hair-trigger temper about such things. So to settle this firestorm....

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION now becomes who has the best hair on TV in Columbus. You decide, by clicking here to vote! I apologize first for stealing another web site's idea -- and second to Al Fleming, because you are not eligible.

Now some short subjects from the middle of the week:

+ Two-year-old heart transplant patient Lexi McCullough returned home to Harris County, after surgery in Atlanta. She's recovered so quickly from last month's operation that she went running in the front yard - and she'll look cool on a Harley motorcycle, at the next poker run.

+ The Columbus Red Cross office began a promotion offering pints of Blue Bell ice cream if you donate blood. Well, that's an even swap of pint-for-pint - but would that make me a "Blue blood?"

+ An Alabama state report revealed tourism in Bullock County has jumped 55 percent in the last two years. There can only be one explanation for this. When people in the South find a whiskey distillery, they simply can't stay away.

+ Columbus High School's baseball team swept Chapel Hill, to advance in the state tournament. This team plays so well that I suggest once the state playoffs are over, it should head to Atlanta - and replace the major leaguers playing there now.

+ The Columbus Catfish game against Greensboro was -- huh?! What did I hear?! Rained out? I live in the neighborhood, and Golden Park had no rain at all after 3:15 p.m. OK, who forgot to put the tarp down Monday?

COMING FRIDAY: That "Spam-a-rama" item we've promised involving failure....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004



The Phenix City Council voted Tuesday to crack down on one of the city's biggest problems -- one that's lurked right under our noses for years, without our even realizing it. Sad as it is to admit, downtown Phenix City is addicted to used cars.

An ordinance approved Tuesday puts a freeze on any additional used car lots in Phenix City. But current businesses can remain open - so there won't be any new used car lots, only USED used car lots.

Phenix City is taking this step because it's trying to redevelop the downtown area. In the long run, it wants to replace used car lots with nice new restaurants. You know, like the Tyler's on 14th Street which seems to keep bankers' hours....

Some Phenix City officials say the downtown area is overrun with car-related businesses - not only used car lots, but auto repair and parts shops. Well, what does the city want Russell County residents to do? Keep their old cars on concrete blocks ALL the time?

(Don't these officials realize that Phenix City beat Columbus to having an O'Reilly auto parts store? The national chain opened its first area location recently on Crawford Road - so Bill O'Reilly is more likely to visit them first.)

Under this new ordinance, downtown Phenix City used car lot owners can sell them to other people. But if the car lot ever shuts down, it cannot reopen as a car dealership -- and then it might be fun to dig around, and see how many auto parts are buried under the asphalt.

Some car lot owners in downtown Phenix City are displeased with this new ordinance. The manager of Red Dot Motors noted every car sold brings the city five cents on the dollar in sales tax. Shut down Red Dot, and you'll have Red Ink....

Another Phenix City business owner complained Spectrum wants to buy his prime space near the 13th Street Bridge, but the city won't let him make the sale. We can understand the city's point of view on this - because we should only have one Spectrum store every eight blocks, not every six.

Lost in all this discussion is a rather basic question: where does downtown Phenix City begin, anyway? There's a "Downtown Steak House" (or there used to be) on Crawford Road that's much closer to the 280 Bypass than the Russell County Courthouse. If Phenix City's downtown zone is bigger than Columbus's, something's up....

We should note the new Phenix City ordinance will allow the construction of used car lots on U.S. 280, and other high-traffic areas. This could be what Arthur Sumbry's been looking for, to improve the south side of town - the "Alaga Auto Mall."

E-MAIL UPDATE: Tuesday was a doubleheader day in the message department. Our first letter comes from someone who spotted our paper "prayer rug" in our blog archives [19 Apr]:

Hi. I found your blog via Google while searching Saint Matthew's Church zip code 52641....

I, too, received this letter with the paper prayer rug today. I've seen this painting with the eyes that change a long time ago in the 1970's when a friend of mine had it hanging on her wall. It kind of creeped me out back then and I've never forgotten about it. But I've never seen one of them since.

Imagine my surprise when I got the paper rug with the same image in my mail today. Usually, I don't even open this kind junk mail, but for some reason today I did. I realize it's probably just a "Jesus Scam" as you mentioned in your post, but I'm a true believer in the power of prayer, so against my better judgement, I'll send them a dollar donation. But dog-gone-it! I wanna keep the paper rug and send it to my daughter so I can remind her "Jesus is watching you!" when I'm not there to see what she's up to. She's 24, single, and likes living on the edge. I well remember my own life at 24; and, as the tree is bent, so grows the twig! Maybe it'll creep her out enough to question her own actions sometimes. LOL

Why do you suppose these people who mailed this letter out asked some of those questions such as the exact amount of money I want God to bless me with. I'd like a million dollars of course, but then that's a little on the greedy side isn't it? I'd be perfectly happy receiving whatever He thinks I deserve. Besides, I'd rather poor children be blessed with the money anyway. So I don't believe a word of that horse manure.

Do you think we can really ask Jesus for all these material things? Like a new car, a new home, etc. After all, these are "worldy" "earthly" possessions, of no real value if one really believes the scriptures and Gospels. Material possessions will do us no good on the other side, and even if you don't believe in Christ or the bible, everybody knows "You can't take it with you!".

And, why do you think they want the names of people we'd like to pray for. They don't ask for their addresses so they can't be putting them on their mailing list.

I do however draw the line at the prayer chain emails. But, I'm just superstitious enough that this particular snail mail one got me. Call me a sucker, call me stupid, but, eh, I figure what's a dollar donation, even if it is a scam. It's just a dollar. It's not like I've never wasted a dollar in my life before. I'll just double up my usual donation to the Poor Box when I leave my own church this Sunday. :-) At least I know where that money really goes, which is to my community and their outreach programs.

Anyway, thanks for reading my commentary on the Jesus Scam.


CripChick, I also saw something creepy staring at me Tuesday. Those HAD to be eyeballs in the O's promoting the TV report on "Internet Snoops."

If you send that paper "prayer rug" to your single daughter, please remember to anoint it first. I would recommend canola oil - lower in cholesterol, and a lot less expensive than olive oil.

This letter raises an interesting point - why doesn't St. Matthew's church send these blessing letters to poor children? Why doesn't it exchange letters with the Christian Children's Fund, and pour out money on starving youngsters in Peru?

Letter #2 comes from a regular Blog reader, who was stumped by one of our Tuesday Instant Messages:

NOBODY stays up till 11 PM to watch WRBL news. The suspense is killing me. Why, WHAT? Some reporter from 3 showed up at the Relay for life at 8:30 in the morning with a black see through number on! I was stunned! Do Tell!

OK, if you must know - Candace Cook on WRBL News appeared Monday night with a new permanent wave in her hair. And as we all know, changes like this are what so many viewers REALLY watch a television newscast to see,,,,

Nobody asked me, BUT - I personally think Candace Cook looks better with straight hair. But then again, all the other WRBL reporters have straight styles - so maybe Cook is trying extra-hard to win a Ledger-Enquirer "Reader's Choice Award."

By the way, remember former TV meteorologist Maria LaRosa? I read online Tuesday night she's taking a new job in Philadelphia! She's advanced about as fast as an infielder can with Atlanta's baseball team these days....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004



"Why aren't y'all breaking into programming," the caller complained Monday afternoon, "to talk about how they found those weapons of mass destruction??" The man apparently didn't realize if he already knew about them, we didn't have to break in.

"You all break in all the time, on some of MY favorite programs...." the caller continued. Assuming he was talking about recent news concerning Iraq, this may be the first man in Columbus area history ever to admit he watches "The View."

"What are you, all-Democratic TV?" the man pressed further. Well no, not at all. President Bush has been on a lot lately. He's been apologizing for those prison photos, but at least he's been on....

(Come to think of it, this caller must have been out of town the last few days - because Georgia Republicans were on TV a lot during their convention, while Democrats were hard to find.)

"I'm not even registered to vote...." I finally told the caller from Pittsview - and that stopped the onslaught for a moment. I follow in the tradition of legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow. Well, except I don't smoke cigarettes.

The man from Pittsview wanted everything stopped because coalition commanders announced a roadside bomb in Baghdad Monday had sarin nerve gas. But they also said it was NOT a large amount of sarin - so we couldn't even say the insurgents have "got a lot of nerve."

(In fact, shortly after the man from Pittsview got off the phone, I read a statement from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that it might not be sarin gas at all. We'll probably have to wait for photos in "The New Yorker" to settle this.)

The caller from Pittsview had other interesting things on his mind. For instance, he credited President Bush for bringing rain to the U.S. The caller attempted to cite a Bible verse to back up this claim - but a former minister of mine liked to call that approach "spoof-texting."

At this point in the conversation, I was puzzled. After all, my Pastor reported about a week ago that "green lush" conditions were north of Georgia and NOT in our area. [14 May] Using the caller's reasoning, maybe we should figure out this year's election based on the "green states," not the red and blue ones.

"My lawn is green," the caller responded when I quoted my Pastor - and the caller then challenged my Pastor to take a trip to Pittsview (he even gave the street address) and see for himself. I didn't think to ask the caller if he worked for ChemLawn.

To sum things up: this man seems to want TV newscasts to cover the pro-Republican side of things in Iraq. So where were the calls a year ago thanking the newscasts for doing exactly that? You know, when the statues of Saddam Hussein came down....

The caller warned me about the Bible verse which says "all liars" will be thrown in the lake burning with "fire and brimstone." That settles it for me - absolutely no more news stories about Easter bunnies.

Now it's MY turn to vent just a little -- only I'll use Instant Messages to do it:

+ To the Taco Bell employee on Buena Vista Road who told someone in the drive-through lane to "please move you're a**" - be thankful I joked about what you said, and didn't move mine out the door and down the street.

+ To loyal Blog reader Scott Miller of WDAK: have you considered selling those "lucky spots" you talk about during Columbus State baseball games? I smell big Division II World Series bucks for you here - BIG bucks.

+ To WRBL's Candice Cook: Why? I shouldn't need to explain any further. If you saw her during the 11:00 p.m. news Monday night, you probably asked it as well.

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 16, 2004



Sunday was a noisy day on South Lumpkin Road, as a store in the Oakland Park Shopping Center held a big celebration. It was just as well that the South Columbus branch library stays closed on Sundays - because no one could have concentrated on their reading.

The big, noisy event was "Customer Appreciation Day" at Millie's Corner. It's become one of the biggest Hispanic community events of the year - and you know it's big when Bobby Peters shows up there to campaign for judge.

(Yes, I happened upon Bobby Peters AGAIN at Millie's Corner Sunday. I'm not sure he heard me when I said, "We've got to stop meeting like this.")

Millie's Corner was a noisy spot because all sorts of speakers were set up for Latin music. An information table on aging was set up right next to one stack of speakers -- so maybe this was their way of providing free heart and blood pressure checks.

Several Hispanic music and dance groups performed at Customer Appreciation Day. When I was there, a group called "Son Tropical" offered salsa and merengue songs. For those of you who are new to this culture - no, "merengue" is not the topping on a lemon pie.

One big attraction for the crowd at Millie's Corner is the line with free tropical food. I was offered curry chicken, along with what one woman called "pigeon feed." It had rice, tiny chickpeas - and a mystery meat I guess I was supposed to leave for the pigeons.

A special guest server for awhile at Millie's Corner was Columbus Councilor Mimi Woodson. She put on a jacket with Millie's name on it - in an obvious attempt to dissuade her from running for office.

The noisy party at Millie's occurred within 50 yards of "Platinum Records," a new store in Oakland Park which opened Saturday. The owners of that shop had to be stunned Sunday - as for once, their hip-hop music was completely drowned out.

The "fiesta" at Millie's Corner came only two days after the annual "Asian-Pacific Luau" at Fort Benning's Uchee Creek area. But I guess it still isn't the right place and time for an "Iraqi-Arabian Festival of the Sword."

BLOG UPDATE: Almost all the Republican political signs were gone from the entrance to South Commons Sunday afternoon. Either all the candidates and campaigns cleaned up after themselves - or people from the Booker T. Washington apartments walked across the street, took signs for souvenirs and hope to sell them online.

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.


16 MAY 04: R - YOU IN?

Instant Message to Rep. Calvin Smyre: What are you doing this weekend, with all these thousands of Republicans in town? Were you the one who put up signs near Manchester Expressway with an old Georgia flag and the words, "Sonny lied?"

The Georgia Republican Party wrapped up a two-day state convention at the Civic Center Saturday. Yet for some reason, President Bush and Vice President Cheney are coming to Georgia Monday -- and they're campaigning in separate cities. It looks like they don't have to worry about high fuel prices.

The South Commons lawn was covered with campaign signs the last two days, promoting various Republican candidates. Mixed among them was one for next weekend's "Home Run 5K" to benefit Camp Joy -- but that's really not surprising. Valley Rescue Mission brought in Oliver North for its last banquet, so you know they're Republican.

(Shouldn't there be a campaign reform law that every candidate has to walk alongside a yard sign like a priest and say, "I approved this message?")

I couldn't help noticing the placement of campaign signs along Veterans Parkway near the Civic Center. I counted 25 on the west side, in front of businesses such as Subway and Chico's -- but NONE on the east side, next to the Booker T. Washington apartment complex. Maybe if J.C. Watts had shown up....

One of the candidates with campaign signs up is a candidate for the Georgia Public Service Commission, who filed as "Bulldozer" Dozier. With a nickname like Bulldozer, would you trust this man to oversee electric and gas companies?

The top speaker at the Georgia Republican convention was national party chairman Ed Gillespie. His presence no doubt kept all the delegates in line - so none of them endorsed Zell Miller for re-election.

The unpredictable Senator Zell Miller was a guest at the state Republican convention. The Democrat spoke to a meeting of the Bush-Cheney campaign committee - continuing his quest for the biggest "zig-zag" in Georgia history.

It had to be a bit uncomfortable for Senate candidates such as Mac Collins and Johnny Isakson to see Zell Miller at the Republican convention. An endorsement from that Democrat might not do them much good - especially after Mr. Miller gave that Senate speech calling for state lawmakers to select U.S. Senators again.

(Can you imagine what would happen if the current Georgia General Assembly had to select a U.S. Senator? With the two houses divided, Saxby Chambliss might become a very lonely man.)

Columbus public safety workers decided the state Republican Convention was the perfect time to stage another protest at South Commons. What makes this strange is that I figured teachers would be more likely to march outside - since the state determines their pay, while police pay is a city issue.

I noticed only one Republican candidate running campaign commercials during the state convention. The Georgia Association of Realtors is endorsing a Senate candidate with radio ads which begin, "Home. That's where Johnny Isakson grew up. It's where we all grew up...." So why even BRING it up?

Several TV stations did stories about how all the Republicans were boosting the local economy. I witnessed this firsthand Saturday afternoon at a downtown restaurant. I stood behind two "old-line Republicans" - old as in the man wearing a seersucker checkered sportscoat.

The wife in this older couple wanted buns with no sesame seeds at Burger King - and the specific requests began to annoy others around me in line. So many people want to "have it their way," but they don't want anyone else to make them wait for it.

"Fast food!" muttered a woman behind me in line as the Republican visitors took their time carefully ordering lunch. That wasn't what stunned me, though - it was the fact that a loyal G.O.P. member actually asked for "French fries."

The bill for this couple came to $7.17 - and when the husband dropped a quarter on the counter, a big man standing between me and the couple snapped. "Can't you put the money in her hand?" he said to tell them off. This man apparently saw a lack of respect. I saw another great example of Columbus's legendary Southern hospitality....

Moments later, the big man told the woman at the Burger King counter he felt like he "wanted to kill those b*****ds." I've heard of road rage, but never food line furor.

When my turn came to order, I told the Burger King counter worker I was making sure to put the change in her hand. "I don't know what got into him," she replied. He was like what would happen if Miss Manners ever got too close to Martha Stewart.

Only one Democrat attempted to compete for attention with the Georgia Republicans. In fact, Bobby Peters put up so many District Court Judge signs downtown that I wondered if he was switching parties....

In fact, I was all set to start this blog entry with an Instant Message to Bobby Peters - but wouldn't you know, he drove a pickup truck right by me on 4th Street Saturday night! "It's a non-partisan office," he told me when I asked about the signs. So don't quite call him "Zig-Zag Bobby" just yet.

BLOG UPDATE: The beggar named Patrick promised he'd meet me downtown on Veterans Parkway Saturday afternoon for a ride to church. [9 May] I was there at 1:30 sharp - but he was not. Not even his fellow beggar or girlfriend showed up. Maybe they were outside the Civic Center, looking for a payday.

At the spot where Patrick asked me for money last weekend, I found one sign of his presence - a bag on the ground with two empty Krystal boxes inside. It was on the Arby's side of the fence which divides that restaurant from Burger King. So how tough are the Krystal managers, that they make panhandlers eat their food a block away?

Now other quick notes from a weekend when I had my best evening run since last September:

+ Two women in a car asked me for directions to Kinnett Stadium - in South Commons, near McClung Memorial Stadium. Either these ladies were confused about where the Relay for Life was, or they were two very nervous Democrats.

+ Contestants in the Miss Georgia pageant put on an Armed Forces Day concert for soldiers at Fort Benning. Ask the soldiers what the women sang, and I doubt they'll remember. Ask what the women wore, and they might talk for hours.

+ A friend of mine at church said it was "anti-American" for CBS to show the photos of Iraqi inmates at the Abu-Gharib prison. Based on that reasoning, I guess it was pro-American that the President didn't know about them for months.

+ Glenn Anthony Baptist Church promoted an "illustrated sermon" for Sunday titled "Family Feud." I wondered what Richard Kahn did when he's not taping shows in Hollywood....

+ Ritmo Latino Radio finally changed its call letters on the air to WSHE-AM - several weeks after the Southern gospel part of the station did. That'll teach the Clear Channel managers to send e-mails in two languages....

+ Columbus State University's baseball team beat North Florida twice, to advance to the Division II World Series. If they win the title again, maybe Applebee's on University Drive will honor the C.S.U. coach and change its name to Appleton's.

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© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, May 14, 2004



Puddles formed on the lawn in front of my apartment Thursday, thanks to three different rounds of rain. I hope this trend continues - because those puddles are the closest thing my complex has to a swimming pool.

My pastor just returned from a road trip to Cincinnati - and he told our congregation from Tennessee north, everything was "green and lush." But in Georgia, the landscape was dry. Now why should this be? Surely God knows we're putting a constitutional amendment about marriage on the ballot....

We really shouldn't complain about rain coming now, after weeks of dry weather. It saves homeowners money, in terms of watering the lawn - money they need for expensive gasoline, to mow the lawn.

An old phrase comes to mind from the rain -- "better late than never." But is that saying really true? My late mother's last job was with the Internal Revenue Service - and I never thought to ask if the I.R.S. agreed with that statement.

(If you saw the amazing ending of the Lakers-Spurs basketball playoff game Thursday night, maybe you'll agree this phrase needs revision. "Better late - but even better, two-tenths of a second later.")

I've been thinking about lateness lately for several reasons. A ballcap finally came in the mail this week - one I earned in a Pepsi bottle "Caps for Caps" promotion during the last N.F.L. season. Maybe this is a sneaky stunt to get me to buy Falcons season tickets.

It had been four months since I sent my matching caps to Pepsi for a hat, so I forgot which team logo I wanted. Only now as I open the bag do I remember - my hometown Kansas City Chiefs. But the hat is so gray that I can disguise it in other cities with duct tape.

To Pepsi's credit, the company mailed me a card in March explaining there was a hat delay due to "overwhelming demand." So? There never seems to be a shortage of cola in the summer....

The hat's arrival leaves one late-arriving item still out - a ten-dollar rebate check from OfficeMax. I bought a new speaker-phone on sale March 4 for ten dollars. With the rebate, I'd technically pay nothing but sales tax for it -- but sadly, OfficeMax is being as slow as some of its counter help on Macon Road.

The receipt with the speaker phone told me to send my rebate request to an OfficeMax, uh, office in El Paso, Texas. For all I know, someone could have taken that ten bucks across the border to Juarez, Mexico and bought cheap prescription drugs with it.

One thing I made sure NOT to file late Thursday is the check to renew my auto insurance. Georgia's cracking down on people who drive without a paid-up policy. Officials have revised a different saying: "a day late, 25 dollars short."

Georgia will fine you 25 bucks automatically if your car insurance lapses, even for one day. But what if I realize the payment is late, and I leave the car parked until it's paid? This rule seems unfair to me - and puts a wrong twist on possession being nine-tenths of the law.

Now for some other late entries that come to my mind Thursday night:

+ Republicans from across Georgia arrived in Columbus for this weekend's state convention. I passed one man on Front Avenue, preparing to post a "Crotts for Congress" yard sign in front of the Wyndham Hotel. I'll start the pool on this - and predict it will be gone Tuesday morning.

+ Two adults on bicycles passed me on the sidewalk on Broadway - just ahead of a mega-motorcycle with three big wheels. C'mon folks, we CAN share the same road....

+ Columbus State University's baseball team won its opening game of the NCAA playoffs, beating Pfeiffer College 9-6. When it was over, I was left puzzled - as to why Pfeiffer doesn't spell its "Falcons" nickname with a P.

+ Instant Message to Millie's Corner on South Lumpkin Road: Thank you for deciding to have "Customer Appreciation Day" this Sunday. By moving this outdoor event from chilly December to mid-May, you finally ARE showing appreciation to your customers.

COMING THIS WEEKEND: Will that beggar downtown named Patrick remember to meet us for a ride to church? We plan to wait for him....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

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© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 13, 2004



Uh-oh - Muscogee County Superintendent John Phillips is stirring up trouble again. He told grade school principals about plans to cut a reading program before he told the school board. Once again, it appears Dr. Phillips is getting so far "ahead of the curve" that he might fall off.

The program Dr. John Phillips wants to cut is "Reading Recovery," a program to help children who have problems in elementary schools. I confess I don't know exactly how this program works. At first I thought "Reading Recovery" was what you did after your book bag ripped open.

Muscogee County School Board member Fife Whiteside said Wednesday he only learned about a proposal to "terminate Reading Recovery" after parents called him to complain. This is especially strange, since the Superintendent apparently leaked the news to everyone EXCEPT the reporters.

(Which reminds me -- has anyone bothered to ask David Ebron why he decided NOT to run for re-election to the School Board? Is he fed up with the Superintendent? Or is he someone's back-up candidate, if Gray Conger is disqualified from running for District Attorney?)

A teacher at Key Elementary School warned Wednesday without the Reading Recovery program's individualized instruction, some children will have trouble passing the C.R.C.T. tests in third grade. But does it have to be that bad? Last time I checked, library cards were free for everyone.

Superintendent John Phillips says a reduction in Reading Recovery can save Muscogee County Schools $2.5 million. Let's see - it would easily pay for that proposed executive assistant. How many more aides does he want to hire?

To be fair: the Muscogee County Superintendent says the district is losing $7.5 million in state money -- so he has to trim the budget somewhere. In fact, he'll probably have to trim in the $10 million range. It's either that, or park the buses with their expensive fuel and have everyone walk to school.

Perhaps Dr. John Phillips is throwing down a hidden challenge here - looking for someone to come up with private money to keep this instruction going. I wouldn't object to it being called the "Books-A-Million Recovery" program.

Anonymous donors have come to the rescue of Muscogee County schools before, to keep certain programs funded. But it may be asking a lot for a well-off individual to keep "Reading Recovery" going. After all, we tried that with the Cottonmouths....

It turns out private schools have their quarrels over priorities, too. Have you heard about the debate over the Waverly Hall Baptist Academy? Some parents are talking about leaving, because they disagree with what the new pastor preaches. Is he applying the trinity in math class, and saying 3 = 1?

WRBL reported the other night the new pastor at Waverly Hall Baptist Church and Academy is controversial, because he teaches elements of "Calvinism." So? I used to work with people who were big on "Calvin and Hobbes- isms," and we got along fine.

Some parents in Waverly Hall say the new pastor's teachings don't sound very Southern Baptist. So they may pull their children out of the Baptist Academy, and perhaps even start a new Christian school. They'd better not put the more Southern Baptist school on the north side of town....

(So what would they call this new school - "Waverly Hall REALLY, REALLY Baptist Academy?")

COMING SOON: A "spam-a-rama" offer in which I'm expected to be a failure....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

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© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


12 MAY 04: YA-HU!

The Columbus Catfish had a scary moment Tuesday night in Ohio, playing the former RedStixx. Shortstop Chin-Lung Hu slipped on wet grounds in the eighth inning, attempting to throw out a Lake County batter. For a moment it appeared he was hurt - and I was ready to cry "boo-Hu."

Thankfully, the Catfish shortstop was NOT injured. The Columbus radio announcer noted Chin-Lung Hu merely lost one of his shoes, trying to make the play. "He's not Shoeless Joe," the broadcaster declared - perhaps not realizing he was looking at One-Shoe Hu.

The shortstop is from Taiwan, and has been my favorite 'Fish since the season started - not because he can hit and field well, but because of his name. Chin-Lung Hu simply sets my mind to thinking:

+ When he comes to bat at Golden Park, shouldn't they play the theme from CSI? "Hu are you - Hu Hu! Hu Hu!"

+ If he ever really does get hurt, will the team trainer get the nickname "Doctor Hu?"

(Or do the Catfish recommend he visit a doctor at Fort Benning? That way a military doctor can say, "Hu, ahhhhh.")

+ Shouldn't manager Dan Bilardello try him at other positions - so at least once we can say, "Hu's on first?"

+ You put your Chin-Lung in, You put your Chin-Lung out - you put your Chin-Lung in, and you shake him all about....

And while we're at it, why doesn't someone sign our shortstop to a contract to sell Yoo-Hoo soft drinks? I can write the commercial now....

"Yoo Hoo!"

"Yes, I am."

"No, not you, Hu. Yoo-Hoo."

"That's what I said. That's me."

"No, I mean what you're drinking...."

"Oh. You mean....?"

"No, I'm not mean. But Yoo-Hoo...."

"Of course I am."

"You are?"

"Of course I am."

"You're what?"

"No, Hu."



"Oh please! Look, do you have a younger brother?"


"What's his name?"


"So when your mother gave birth, she said...."

"Hu, Ray."


"Hu, Ray."


"Of course!"

"Hip hip hooray!"

"No, I only have one brother."

"No, wait...."

"But my mother does have two hips."

"Well, good! And does your mother like Yoo-Hoo?"

"Of course she does!"

"Why does your mother like Yoo-Hoo?"

"Because I'm her son, I guess."

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

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© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004



This is one of those occasional days when I merely ask the questions. I have no answers, but perhaps you do:

+ With the price of premium unleaded gasoline reaching $2.05 a gallon on Macon Road Monday, who actually buys it anymore - and why?

+ Shouldn't someone call for Dr. William Howell to resign as President of the Columbus Rainbow/PUSH Coalition? The United Way drive did better than his Sheriff recall drive - and people didn't have to pay anything to sign petitions....

+ Why does an "Assembly of God" church on Cusseta Road have its building AND its parking lot surrounded by razor-wire fencing? Is crime in the neighborhood that bad - or is a cult forming here?

+ If Winn-Dixie stores are selling "John Boy and Billy grilling sauce," will we soon see Georgia Freight selling the "Reggie Foster furniture collection?"

+ Shouldn't the top fielder for the Columbus Catfish receive a "Golden Glove" award? After all, he plays half the year in Golden Park....

+ Why does Muscogee County have a Superior Court, but not an Inferior Court? Is this discrimination?

+ Considering "Final Edition" only appears on TV-16 once a week, why does Jerry Laquire sound like such an unprepared bumbling oaf when he's on the air?

+ Why hasn't Brad Cotter come home to Opelika-Auburn since winning "Nashville Star?" Officials can finally throw the victory parade they've been waiting to give Terry Bowden and Tommy Tuberville....

+ Who decided to put a giant historical marker in the middle of the Phenix City Riverwalk? Especially one about the "tie-snake?" Is this someone's idea of scaring people away from walking right up to the river's edge?

+ If I watch "Fox-54 News at Ten" in the central time zone, am I still watching it "one hour earlier?" Or is it really two?

+ Why are Subway sandwich shops selling "Atkins-friendly wraps," when Jared lost all that weight eating regular sandwiches?

+ If Pastor Joseph Roberson gets elected to the Muscogee County School Board, will he work to have the Ten Commandments posted in all classrooms? If not, which commandment does he oppose?

+ Are Columbus Wardogs games less fun to watch because it's impossible to tear down the goalposts after a win?

+ If you say "thanks a lot" to someone in Harris County, will you get in trouble if you don't specify it's a two-acre lot?

+ Why do Columbus area libraries have so many Spanish-language magazines now? Especially since when I'm browsing through them, no one else is?

+ Why did Bill O'Reilly make such a fuss about Taylor County High School having two proms last year, but he hasn't said a thing about Toombs County High School having three this year?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Today's post was prepared without any knowledge of the latest Bill O'Reilly "15 Questions" column on his web site.)

+ Shouldn't Idle Hour Park in Phenix City change its name? Don't we want to encourage people to exercise, to lose weight?

+ How can two different Columbus TV stations show "Family Feud" at 10:00 every morning? Shouldn't one of them be required to run infomercials instead?

+ Should Kadie the "Kinnett Dairy" cow be moved to Kinnett Stadium? It could be for Shaw High School like that "rally monkey" was for the Anaheim Angels a couple of years ago....

+ Don't people in this area who complain about a drought have only themselves to blame? Why didn't they buy some buckets, and save flood water from last May?

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

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© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.