Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Ain't what they used to be. I traded e-mails with a friend recently. As I was writing, something made me realize that she had celebrated a birthday this month. That's the thing with me and dates. I remember what day something happened but I never know what day it currently is so anniversaries and other milestones pass without me acknowledging them.

I wrote:
I don't know why this came to me now but isn't your birthday in October? I hope you did something fun. One year when I still at the station, folks had a birthday dinner for you at Spaghetti Warehouse and I ducked in for a quick bite between shows. That's all I recall. I don't even know why I remember it was October. I don't know the day.

I was going to tell my friend all about my uncommon memory for numbers and dates. Any kind of number, really. Birthdays of aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, ex-girlfriends -- they're all stuck somewhere in one of the convolutions inside my cranium. But I had prattled on about myself enough already so I spared her.

Good thing. She writes back: "Thanks for remembering... But my bday was in September."

At least I looked only like a medium idiot instead of a total idiot. I replied:

"September? In whatever month it happens, someday you too will have had enough birthdays that your memories will not be as accurate as you remember them."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Blog Ain't Going Anywhere

Accomodating a request by the person at WUSF supervising my snakeman story to do more interviews for the piece, I went to the Rattlesnake Festival in San Antonio this past Sunday. It was the 40th annual, you know. Only now instead of local residents bringing their own rattlers (to see who had caught the biggest) as they used to do, people show up to see them in Jim Mendenhall's snake shows.

I interviewed some patrons as well as one of Mendenhall's childhood snake-hunting buddies, Bob Lawton, who still collects snakes himself and sometimes assists Mendenhall with his shows. Mendenhall tells crowds that Lawton is a better snake handler than him because Lawton been bitten only once while Mendenhall has suffered snake bites five times.

I sent a revised script to my supervisor yesterday. She wrote back that she'd look at it on Monday and added, "By the way, I need to ask if you are actively participating in any blogs."


"I do have a blog," I replied. "Why?" She didn't say why; she asked for a link to it. I sent her the link and asked again why she needed to read my blog. She hasn't replied but soon after I sent her its link the stat counter for my blog showed visits from two ISPs at USF, one of which included a search for the keyword "politics."

Checking to see if I was a Matt Drudge wannabe, I guess. Neither of the visitors appeared to stay for too long so they must not have found anything interesting. I could have told them that. My blog is pretty innocuous and you'd have to work hard to dig up material on it that could paint me as a partisan hack. Even then it would be a pretty amazing stretch. If the powers at WUSF are going to disqualify me from contributing to the station because of my blog, they were going to disqualify me for something else anyway.

Had I more notice maybe I'd have gone back and changed its occasional references to NPR to "WUSF 89.7, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota -- my NPR station!"

I hope they don't waste the expense of a criminal background check. I'll confess: It currently consists entirely of minor traffic violations. I'd hate to disappoint them like that. Perhaps it's not too late to embezzle something. How do you do that? I did take a company pen home this week. Does that count? Oh, and I jaywalk across U.S. 301 when I walk to the gym all the freaking time!

My life lacks excitement. That's why I write about my observations of other people. Including the snake man. And perhaps soon about the labyrinthine process it takes to get a story on the air at WUSF.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

These Are Your Fingers

These are your fingers on guitar.

Any questions?

Untitled ©2006 John McQuiston
(Not that I expect a problem with that!)

Monday, October 23, 2006

New Blue Guitar

I am the oldest, brightest, best and humblest of three brothers. The youngest plays the most guitar. The middle one owns the most guitars and I write the most original music on guitar.

Middle Bro recently decided that his collection of guitars was collecting too much dust. Rightly so considering he can't really play any of them, let alone more than one at a time, and he chose to distribute some of his excess to Youngest Bro and me.

I got a blue electric colored electric blue made by Jackson. I got it just last night and hacked out a new tune with it. It's more than a little disjointed but it's the best I could do on short notice. I should have used different guitar tones so that you could hear the separate parts more clearly but I kind of like the muddled sound.

It's called -- and how's this for reaching for a title -- New Blue Guitar. The drums come from a CD called "Ape Breaks" whose producer specified that people could use them royalty-free if they created new original works from them. I've done the same thing before.

New Blue Guitar ©2006 John McQuiston
(Not that I expect a problem with that!)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Letting Go?

Hi T!

Funny. Whenever I go to compose an e-mail in Hotmail, the site lists my "Favorite Contacts" to the right of the area I type the message into. People to whom I rarely, if ever, write are listed there and I see your name because it's near the beginning of the alphabet. I think to myself that I ought to write to you or delete your addresses or -- option C -- write to you to ask if you'd prefer that I delete your addresses.

Maybe that's a difficult question to answer. How do you tell someone, "don't write to me any more"? I suppose you just do. I've never had to do it since I usually initiate e-mail exchanges and people with whom I have no interest in corresponding conveniently fade away.

As for me, things are into a routine here. My job is not exciting but it's stable and low stress, at least compared to TV news. I also do some freelance work reporting sports stories for a statewide sports network as well as fill-in as the morning traffic anchor on the CBS affiliate here. I've done a few of what I call mini-documentaries with my own camera and computer editing system and am working on another. The local NPR radio affiliate has shown interest in airing an excerpted audio version of the story. It all combines to assuage whatever jones I have to create stories and perform for television cameras.

Owning a home gives you a license to take things apart to see how they work and to see if you can replace them. I've installed upgraded light fixtures and faucets in the kitchen and bathrooms. Faucets are easy to install. It's the drains that are hard. (I recommend choosing a new faucet the same color as the drain you have and save yourself the aggravation.) The granite countertops are in and my new living room couch and chair arrived today. The cat better not scratch them or her claws come off pronto!!!

I would tell you that when my bio-clock hit 40 that I suddenly went fat and bald but it didn't happen. There's a gym within walking distance where I work out every day and nobody believes me when I tell them my age. So I've stopped telling and started letting people believe I was 32.

I hope all is well with you. If you feel like writing one, I will happy read a reply. Even if it's to say you'd rather I didn't write you any more.


Monday, October 16, 2006


This bottle of hair spray must be ten years old. It was at least two years since I last used it. Does hairspray go bad? No, but it does harden and clog the sprayer, which I remembered when I pressed the pump and the stuff shot everywhere. Some even landed on my hair. Good thing I had thought to close my eyes.

It's not every day that I use hairspray. It's also not every day any more that I appear on television. I had a one-day stand as the morning traffic anchor for WTSP-TV this morning and the first attempt at using the hair dryer went well enough that I decided to spray the look into place.

Once done, I had overcome the biggest obstacle of the day. I've done the traffic for Tampa Bay's CBS affiliate ten days scattered between June and now. It's not enough to get into a rhythm but I've gotten comfortable enough that doing the job is routine. OK there was that one time I came back from the restroom and forgot to put my microphone back on before my next report. That was a shame too because the weather anchor mentioned that today was National Boss Day right before I came on and when my turn came I wondered aloud, "Isn't every day boss' day?" It drew laughs from the anchor desk and from the studio crew but they were the only ones who heard me. There are many things that kill a joke. If you have to explain it, for one. If no one hears it, for another. I reached around, plucked the microphone off the desk behind me and held it to my lapel for the rest of that report.

When you appear on live television 12 times over the course of four hours with no script not all of them will go perfectly smoothly but I managed to spare myself any moments that could haunt me later when they appeared on YouTube.

It might not sound like a grand ambition but it will do for now.

(Here for the story about Chris's Plumbing
Service in Riverview, FL? It's right here.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Passing Time

Days fly by but minutes can crawl past. Sixty seconds is supposed to equal a minute but all minutes are not equal. Five minutes on a treadmill take a lot longer than five minutes doing, say, horizontal co-ed naked aerobics. One you can't wait to finish and the other you pray never does.

I discovered another time warp this week: Piano time. One night I turned off the TV around 10 p.m. That should be bed time if I'm going to get my 8 hours before the alarm goes off at 6 the next morning. But what's a few minutes playing the piano going to hurt, right? I sit down, tap the keys for a few minutes, get up to look at the clock and it's 10:40. Poof! Forty minutes gone.

Speaking of 10 p.m., I'm glad that's not when Grey's Anatomy starts any more or I'd miss it. I watch little TV. I don't even have cable but Grey's has become a habit. My attraction is shallow, though. I'm curious to see where the stories go but once I've seen it it's not something I need to go back and see again. I ignore re-runs and have had no interest in the DVD version. It's eye candy. It's sweet and goes down smooth but not something you build a diet on.

More substantively, I'm plowing through a book called An Unfinished Life, Robert Dallek's insightful biography of John F. Kennedy. With access to personal, historical and medical records not revealed before, Dallek writes in detail about the numerous physical maladies with which JFK struggled his entire life and the lengths he went to hide them from the public, as well as his womanizing. If Dallek errs on the side of giving Kennedy the benefit of the doubt, he winces not a bit when JFK's actions clearly deserve criticism. He tries to analyze what effect, if any, his medical problems and even his zipper problem had on his performance as president. If you idolize the Kennedys, this book gives you plenty of material to reinforce your adoraton. If you despise them, you get plenty of ammunition to take your shots. Seems to be that's what a good biography does.

(Here for the story about Chris's Plumbing
Service in Riverview, FL? It's right here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Snake Man

I've had a couple of shoots for a short documentary I'm doing about a man named Jim Mendenhall and his lifelong affection for venomous snakes. He captures them, keeps them and and uses them in educational seminars he hopes will garner public support for protecting them from eradication as development swallows their habitats.

At the urging of someone who works there, I submitted an audio version of the "Snake Man" story to WUSF-FM, the NPR affiliate in Tampa. I don't know if the station will ever air it. As you will hear, if (a) you click and (b) the link works*, Jim Mendenhall might not know when he will die but he has a good guess as to how it will happen.

*If the link doesn't work, try clicking here.

(Here for the story about Chris's Plumbing
Service in Riverview, FL? It's right here.