Saturday, December 27, 2008

John McQuiston Sighting

This gem brought to you by Google Alerts:

In 1961 actor Jess Kirkpatrick appeared in the TV series "Michael Shayne" playing a police sergeant named John McQuiston.


"Michael Shayne" was an hour-long crime drama starring Richard Denning in the title role as a Miami private detective.

The series was based on a series of novels by Brett Halliday, whose 1941 Michael Shayne novel "Bodies Are Where You Find Them" provided the basis for one of my favorite movies, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" from 2005.

The series was before my time and is too obscure to exist on DVD but I'd be curious to see episodes with such titles as "No Shroud for Shayne", "Dolls are Deadly", "Die Like a Dog", "Framed in Blood", "Marriage Can be Fatal", "The Body Beautiful", "Murder and the Wanton Bride," "Blood on Biscayne Bay" and "The Badge," which features Mr. Kirkpatrick as Sgt. McQuiston.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Swimming Shoot

As mentioned recently, I shot a story Monday about a high school swimmer for the state-wide high school sports show to which I contribute.

Jason Taylor is a lanky 17-year-old from Lithia Newsome High School who looks like he hasn't grown into his body yet. His current physique was enough to power him to a state record in the 500-yard freestyle.

His club team coach thinks the Olympics aren't out of Jason's reach. Peter Banks would know. He coached Olympic gold medalist Brooke Bennett. Banks doesn't dissuade his swimmers from dreaming big. Next to the clubs record board is a large map of the world.

It will come in handy for Jason. Next month he swims for the U.S. junior team at a meet in Guam. Go find that on a map. Take your time. I'll wait for you.*

After shooting video from every angle I could think of, I pulled out my still camera and squeezed off a few shots. If I captured anything good, I'd figure out a way to use them to give the story some visual variety.

I didn't fare so well. None came out really great. Many, like the one below, might have been decent if I had framed it better by maybe including his elbow and all of his fingers in the shot.

Thanks to my new tripod (SWEET!) the video should have turned out better. Whether I have enough good shots to cover the 3:30 this story needs to last, I don't know. I did ask Jason to e-mail pictures of him on the medal stand at the state meet to his coach, who said he would forward them on to me.

*Don't feel bad. Guam is a small speck on a large globe. It took me a while to find it and I thought I knew geography.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pro Football Talk

I don't make my full-time living watching sports any more. Now it's mostly a hobby with the benefit of not having to interview the participants afterward, though I did just shoot another story for the Dodge Sports Report, the high school sports show on the statewide Sun Sports Network to which I occasionally contribute.

Thanks to the Internet, I don't have to subject myself to the screaming heads on ESPN to get my sports news.

And thanks to a lawyer in West Virginia with too much time on his hands, I don't even have to subject myself to for football news.

Mike Florio has made a small business from his website and its sister site PFT's sponsors include Sprint, LG and so there's enough money in it to make the effort worthwhile.

Its Rumor Mill page is a frequent stop on my daily Internet surfing.

So imagine my happy surprise one day when Florio announces that one of his primary contributing writers is leaving for a sports columnist's job at AOL and issues a call for applicants to replace him. One of the requirements is that candidates have previously been paid to cover sports.

That would be me. So I e-mailed expressing my interest. So I've never scribbled for a newspaper. I've written text stories, I blog -- that's essentially what Rumor Mill is -- and I have the same kind of snarkiness that infuses Rumor Mill with its edge.

Still I was surprised when I got an e-mail this morning that read in its entirety, "send a sample of something you'd post if asked to fill in, based on current news that's out there."

So I did:


The Buccaneers slide from a strong 9-3 to a desperate 9-6 has brought out the chicken Littles. The sky-is-falling cries bring the expected calls for the axe to fall on coach Jon Gruden. But St. Pete Times columnist John Romano warns that the team's collapse may be a symptom of a longer term problem.

Romano suggests that the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, has been distracted from running the team since they paid 1.5-billion dollars for Manchester United in 2005. The Bucs fell into the bottom half of the league in payroll the year after the purchase and have remained there since.

Although the Bucs have produced two division titles since 2005, the Bucs have not seriously threatened to win a championship since they won Super Bowl XXXVII following the 2002 season.

Even millions of dollars under the salary cap in recent years, the Bucs have not thrown big money at big name free agents, preferring instead to sign mid-level players such as Jeff Garcia, Antonio Bryant and Greg White.

Romano notes that more season ticket holders have begun to show up at Raymond James Stadium dressed as empty seats and hints that if the Glazers don't see the Bucs as anything more than an ATM, the cash might not flow as freely as it once did.

Maybe Buccaneer fans can take solace knowing that Man U just won the Club World Cup title.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Traffic Quote

St. Petersburg firefighters rescued a pot-bellied pig that had climbed upstairs of his owner's home and was too afraid to come back down. The owner tried to lure him with food to no avail. She said the pig was too large for her to carry and that's when she called for help.

In real life, the fire department says it was glad to help. In my world, as uttered on air before my next traffic report, it would have gone differently.

I'm still getting over the story in the last half hour about the St. Petersburg fire department rescuing a pig in someone's house. I'd have been like, 'No. We can't save your pig but it's good to know that if your house ever catches on fire we need to bring hotdog buns.'

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sticks of Fire

Greetings to people who found my scribblings on Sticks of Fire.

That's a blog with news and views about Tampa. Sticks of Fire is not to be confused with the Tampa Bay FireStix, a one-time women's professional fast-pitch softball team that played in Tampa in the late 1990s.

The team made no impact on the Tampa Bay sports scene but it did have its usefulness to me. It gave me the excuse to do this story:

Video clip courtesy of WFLA

I Was Amused the following Facebook comment exchange:

Su Asati at 5:26pm December 18
Doesn't pro-bono mean you don't get paid?

John McQuiston at 5:29pm December 18
No, it means he didn't like Cher.

I didn't say you'd be amused too.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cross Words

Not quite rising to worthiness of Maxim magazine's "Found Porn" feature, here is an actual solution of an actual crossword puzzle published recently by the Tampa Tribune*:

Next time you're watching an adult film** and three people appear in a scene typical of such motion pictures, you can excitedly exclaim, "Look! Two girls and a guy! They're having a trilateral!"

Trilateral was the clue for 9-Down.

*This presumes that I completed the puzzle correctly.
**Won't be a next time? Of course not. How many times have you made that vow before?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Me and My 140 Million Friends

I joined Facebook. Not all of its 140 million members are my friends yet but I'm sure it's a question of time. It apparently matters not that I don't know them.

I learned this when one of my high school classmates, with whom I never had a conversation, made a friend request. Another person I did know but didn't particularly like also requested to be a friend.

I accepted both. I'd hate to go to a reunion and face enemies because they thought I big-timed them on Facebook. Some people apparently collect as many people on their friends lists as possible. If that's the case, I was glad I could help.

But I'm not linking to anyone whose name I don't recognize and I saw a lot of them as I scanned members from my high school graduating class. Granted, some of the women have different last names than they did in high school but either my memory of the early 80s is even poorer than I thought or there are a lot of people claiming to be members of the Methacton Class of 1984 who weren't.

Trust me, I do remember enough to know that membership in our graduating class is not such a distinction that you need to pretend you were a part of it if you weren't. It ain't like we went to the Harvard of high schools.

I did trade e-mails with a couple of friends from high school whom I hadn't seen since then. That was cool. But the ones I didn't know well I have no strong desire to meet now. I am curious to see how some of them turned out, where they went and what they're doing but my interest doesn't go much deeper than that.

I am sure the feeling is mutual. I am easily found on Google. Those who wanted to reconnect could have done so without Facebook.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Live Stream

WTSP now streams all of its newscasts online. If you're ever bored between 5-7 a.m. you can, for now, catch me doing the traffic reports.*

We use AOL's Instant Messenger to communicate with the's operations center so I'm online between 5-9 a.m. My AIM screen name is TVMcQ.

I usually appear around 5:15, 5:32, 5:45, 6:05, 6:15, 6:32 and 6:45. If the show is running long, some of them will get cut but those are the approximately scheduled times for traffic.

You can go to WTSP's web site It also appears in the window below. When there's no newscast, the station streams its weather channel.

Still no word on when the next permanent candidate comes in. My short term temporary job here has now lasted more than four months.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I joined a new gym last week and have managed to go there every day since. The streak will probably end tomorrow when I go play golf with my dad but if I continue to work out regularly, that will be better than I've been doing.

Which is not much.

My old gym closed at the end of October. I have some dumbbells in the house that I can use but it was too easy not to and I can't afford that any more.

I'm old.

If I thought that I looked much younger than my age, which is high enough that I don't freely reveal it any more, my misperception was corrected my second day at the gym when one of the trainers asked me if I had a son who worked out there. Another member looked a lot like me, he thought.

Later the alleged offspring shows up to work out and the trainer points him out to me. He's at least 25 years old! And I look old enough to be his father?


Equally disturbing was how quickly I lost my fitness during my month of inactivity. I am a tub of goo. Oh, there are still muscles and veins in my arms still make an appearance when doing curls. But much of the rest of my physique appears -- how shall I put it? -- well insulated.

The look is not flattering, judging by my appearing to be old enough to have sired a 25-year-old.

The upside of my outsized outside* is that I don't have to shave my legs. No kidding. An alarming number of guys at the gym don't have any body hair. They don't appear to be doing chemo, unless steroids count.

Does that make your hair fall out?

But all the shavers sport lean and muscles under their smooth skin. Even the sales guy who signed me up for membership lacked arm hair. He looks like he works out a lot too.

That's key. There's apparently a level of fitness required before you join the Hairless Club for Men. A level I am in no danger of immediately reaching.

* I'm not that fat. Probably 185 lbs, which is probably 20 pounds away from six-pack abs and the requisite body shaving territory.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Time's Up?

The next contestant on "Who Wants to be a TV Traffic Reporter" has on camera TV experience. Neither of the two previous hopefuls did.

The last one didn't offer much of an effort. She had done traffic reporting before -- on the radio. And it looked like it during her audition. The stringy permed hair and little makeup did not flatter her face.

Contrary to popular myth, you don't have to be beautiful to work on television, even if you're female. It certainly helps, of course, and I'm surprised that the station hasn't gotten at least a few hot hopefuls who can make up with appearance what they lack in experience.

This job does not require a seasoned journalist.

Whatever your natural physical gifts, you do have to know how to dress and style your hair for the camera. Clearly this woman did not. She also did not grasp that when you're on camera, you have to talk to the camera. She read directly off her sheet of paper, which works perfectly well on the radio where you can connect with listeners without looking at them.

Not so much on TV.

The upcoming candidate should know that. She's a former TV news anchor now living in Tampa. I don't know what she does now but she must prefer doing TV. She had applied for the open morning show anchor position (the station's looking for one of those, too) but the morning show has a female anchor already -- and quite a good one, if you ask me.

(Reading this blog indicates that unless you're forced to read it, for which you have my condolences -- what was your crime? -- you have implicitly requested to know my opinion about things.)

It's not a law that a show can't have two female anchors but it is the industry convention. Viewers now expect to turn on a local TV newscast and see the pearly whites of one male and one female smiling at them as they announce their names and say "thank you for joining us," like a video threesome is about to begin.

So the new anchor will almost certainly be male. Just as the new traffic reporter will likely be female. I will feel offended otherwise. Then the show will have male and female news anchors, a male weather guy and a female traffic anchor. Nice balanced cast for the show.

If you do aspire to the traffic job, it might help if you're blonde. All but two of the station's female news, weather and sports anchors are. The other two are African-American.

Is my time up soon? Probably. I know this because I'm starting to get used to the schedule. The alarm clock going off still feels like a bucket of ice water being poured on my face but once I get to the station -- still parking in a guest space out front and needing the security guard to escort me in -- it doesn't stink.

The people are great. The traffic computer is in the control room where the director, producer, technical director and audio board operater all sit during the newscast so I spend the most of my time with the studio crew.

"You're one of us now," one of the studio crew members told me the other day.

They like that I don't complain and that I don't care how much air time I get. "I get paid the same," I say again whenever a producer apologizes for cutting a traffic report. "Use me as much or as little as you want."

They also seem to think I've added something to the morning show. I've gotten a lot smoother, my on-air rapport with the news and weather anchors is good and they like my sense of humor, on air and just BSing in the control room.

I'll miss it when it ends.

Not as much as my father will, though. He watches at least one of my traffic reports every morning and enjoys telling people, as he always has whenever I've had an on air job, that I'm on television.

Golfing yesterday, I met a guy dad knew and dad had to tell him what I did, what times I was on and even what cable channel he'd find WTSP. The station might be able attribute its rumored uptick in the morning ratings to its one man promotion department in Pasco County.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Poor Ron Burgundy

Interesting article from the New York Times about the demise of the anchor-kings in local television news.

Declining broadcast revenue, market share for TV news and heavier emphasis on putting news online, where viewers can select stories a la carte, have conspired to render the big-time anchor obsolete.

Grinders like me who can write and report about a lot of things in a lot of ways should be able to tell stories for profit regardless of platform.

Quotes of the Day

Uttered during WTSP's morning news as I report the traffic when there's not a lot of traffic to report.

Today, on the weather pattern causing the rain and soon-to-arrive cold snap: "If I followed the weather right, we had a front and a front back-to-back. I've never heard of anything good coming from back-to-back fronts."

Yesterday, after discussion about the astronaut on the space station who let a bag of tools worth $100,000 float away from her during a spacewalk: "I'm still trying to get over that $100,000 tool bag that floated away from the space station. Here's an idea: Spend another dollar and buy a piece of rope. And tie the tool bag to the space suit so it can't float away."

My parents' next-door neighbor caught that one and reported to my dad that he thought it was funny.