Friday, October 21, 2005

Carrie Weil and Kevin Harned -- The End?

Channel 3's super cute couple, Carrie & Kevin Harned are now apparently going by different names. I found a story on October 17th that has her as Carrie Harned, but today she's going by her maiden name Carrie Weil on WAVE 3. Although the two seem to be completely different, it will certainly be sad if they truly are no longer a couple.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Powerball Mania

Everytime the Powerball jackpot gets in the $150,000,000 range, there is the obligatory story on every newscast locally (and surely nationally) about buying tickets, what people would do, etc.

What always bothers me is the story I hear at least five or six times a year.

"Long lines expected for Powerball".

I've never seen a line more than five deep at my local convenience store, and half of them are only buying gas.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

No wonder Bobby Petrino wanted to bolt....

U of L made the move to the Big East and promptly fell on its face. With two losses in the conference, they're pretty much done for the season, blowing two games they should have won.

So did Bobby Petrino get lucky last year and know it? Whatever the story, I hope that the end of the season won't end the enthusiasm of fans. There's always next year. You can't let the momentum die before it begins.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Louisville Zoo -- A Great Place to Spend the Day

Mrs. Crutnacker and Daughter Crutnacker took me to the Louisville Zoo today. We didn't go into their big exhibit this year, with the lorakeets, but we did walk the entire thing with my 3 year old walking most of the hills by herself.

We bought a yearly membership for $59, the cost of going twice in a single year, so it seems like a bargain. The sheer number of beautiful animals in the zoo astounds me for a city the size of Louisville. To get to see four tigers together, acting like kittens (big, scary, man eating kittens, but still....) was great fun, and both my wife and I said we could spend hours just watching them. We also enjoyed the Gorilla exhibit, which seemed more awe inspiring than the last time we saw it, as the sheer size of the gorillas was more evident.

If you live in Louisville and haven't been since you were a kid, take the time to make the trek.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Corrupt Arena

This is a commentary I just submitted to WFPL.

I recently heard a news story in which Kentucky's Lt. Governor said that the new downtown arena would be an architectural marvel as important to Louisville as the Arch is to St. Louis.

Wow, if I wasn't dreaming, I'd think these were the same words we heard leading up to the fabulous Louisville Falls Fountain, that supercharged water cannon in the Ohio River that the Bingham family "gifted" us with. It was supposed to produce a grand fleur de lis (Latin for "lots of water") that could be seen as you drove through Louisville. Instead, it looked like a junked battleship that had sprung a huge leak.

We are not talking about Wrigley Field, Camden Yards, or even Riverfront Stadium here. We're talking about a college arena, one that's not even for the most popular team in the state. No matter how architecturally marvelous the building is, unless it's in the shape of a naked lady, or is surrounded by fountains of beer, tourists aren't going to flock here just to see it.

What makes the arena plan all the more troubling is the planned location, sandwiched between an ugly bridge and a gauche hotel, and close to almost no destination your average sports fan or concert goer will want to visit. Okay, maybe a fan will want to take in Waterfront park on a freezing January day, but that's about it. If I was a cynical man, I might guess that the consideration of this site had more to do with the greasing of palms by owners of the surrounding property than long term economic planning.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to think that one day I could see U2 without a two day drive or be able watch a U of L game in a seat wide enough to accommodate both of my buttocks. But I think that there are wiser ways of bringing tourism and attention to Louisville. Perhaps an arch shaped tunnel under the city. We could say it's what they carved St. Louis' arch from.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The story below is about one of the many protesters of KFC from PETA, this one living here in Louisville. I've always contented that most PETA people care less about their cause than the attention it brings them. I understand if you're a vegetarian or "vegan" for health reasons, or because you want animals to die of old age before someone eats them, but the lengths that PETA goes to in order to make a point are the same reason why nobody takes them seriously. Personally, I don't care how my chicken gets to the table, as long as he doesn't have bird flu and he's tasty.

Protester's vehicle plays a role in her anti-KFC campaign

Katya Cengel

The Courier-Journal

Aqua Man was the first to drive the white hearse with neon green under-car lights around Louisville. Cynthia Withers was the second.

It was Halloween 2002 when the 32 -year-old Withers spotted the 1991 Buick hearse outside a local bar. The car, which she later named Lily - after Lily Munster from the creepy 1960s CBS television show "The Munsters" - was Aqua Man's prize for winning a costume contest. He drove it around for two months before selling it to Withers for $2,000.

"He had a girlfriend at the time who didn't care for it," says Withers.

The dark-haired Hollywood native, who admits to being goth at times, had no problem riding in a car that once transported dead people from a funeral home in Wisconsin to their final resting place. Actually she found it rather fun. Of course there were a few snags - parking and driving being the main ones.

"I had to practice in a parking lot when I first got it," says Withers. "My husband goes nuts; he thinks I'm going to hit everything.

"Which has happened."

Last month she hit a fence at Indiana University Southeast, where she is a student. She has backed into her husband, Chad Byers ', Pontiac Sunbird more than once. But always softly. Withers has a gentle touch. Her voice is smooth, her hair long, loose and wavy, and her smile sweet. Only the horizontal surface piercing at the bottom of her neckline (called a Madison) and the blue tattooed lines and dots on her feet hint at an underlying edginess. And, of course, the hearse, which she takes clubbing, to school and camping - it's made to fit a body perfectly.

And it has blood all over it. Not real blood, just red paint made to look like blood.

The blood is part of a drawing that includes a bleeding chicken, a blood-covered knife-wielding Colonel Sanders and the words "PETA KentuckyFriedCruelty. com." The knife-wielding colonel and bloody chicken appear on both sides of the hearse and in part on the back window. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals paid for the paint job, which cost about $1,600 . But the idea was Withers'. The soft-spoken vegan was using her car as a portable protest platform long before she became PETA's Louisville KFC campaign coordinator in 2004.

First there was "War is Death," which became "Meat is Death" when Withers realized the war in Iraq wasn't going to stop because she spray-painted a slogan on her car. She has higher hopes for ending what she calls KFC's cruel treatment of chickens. Withers and PETA maintain that KFC chicken suppliers treat their chickens with unnecessary cruelty.

The fight has been going on for years. PETA launched an international boycott of KFC in January 2003. In July 2003 PETA filed a lawsuit against KFC and Yum! Brands claiming the company was falsely advertising a commitment to the humane treatment of chickens by its suppliers.

PETA dropped the lawsuit after Yum! altered the wording on its Web site, making clear that it recommends, but does not require, certain humane standards for the chickens purchased by KFC.

In 2004 PETA released a video showing slaughterhouse employees at a KFC supplier in West Virginia kicking and stomping on chickens. In response the supplier fired 11 employees, installed quality assurance monitors and ordered managers at other plants to educate workers about animal-welfare policies. KFC hired an inspector at the plant trained in animal-welfare investigations and said it would no longer buy from the facility unless assurances could be made that no abuses were taking place.

But PETA still wants KFC to require its suppliers to implement more humane methods of slaughter, such as controlled-atmosphere killing, a process that replaces oxygen in the air with an inert gas.

The KFC public-relations office e-mailed a message saying the company is "committed to the well-being and humane treatment of chickens and we expect suppliers to adhere to our industry-leading welfare guidelines."

For Withers, that is not enough.

That is why every Friday she stands outside Yum! Brands Inc. headquarters in Louisville, which owns KFC, waving at employees as they go to work with one hand and holding a white "Boycott KFC" poster with the other. Most Saturdays she does the same thing outside a local KFC. She parks the hearse, which boasts interior strobe lights, fuzzy blue seats, front door locks topped with red-eyed skulls and a "LV 2DAY " license plate, nearby.

On a recent Friday morning, Withers was joined by Byers, who held up a "Boycott KFC" poster with a picture of a little yellow chick on it, before heading to his job as vice president at a local software company.

"My dad used to take me hunting, and I always felt remorse," says Byers, a tall, bearded 35-year-old. "I thought if I didn't want to kill an animal, I shouldn't let someone else do the dirty work for me."

Standing next to Byers was Becca Nesbit , a tiny 20 -year-old IUS student who was hidden behind a large "Beaks Cut Off" poster. Nesbit, who wore little makeup and many piercings, looked the image of a hard-core protester. She wore jeans, black Converse All-Star-type shoes and a green shirt. Withers wore loose black capri pants, a brown sweater and glasses balanced on her head. When cars passed, Withers offered a beauty pageant-style wave and a warm welcoming smile.

Her routine looks practiced - and it is. She has been doing this for almost a year.

KFC, which didn't return phone calls seeking comment about Withers, doesn't seem to have taken note. But others have.

Outside Yum! Brands Inc. headquarters, passing trucks, minivans and delivery cars honked in support. Others offered a different kind of greeting.

"I got a few more one-finger salutes than usual this morning," said Withers, packing up after an hour or two.

She has also had people leave her notes in her door handle and on her windshield. One was from a Californian who said she finally felt at home in Kentucky after seeing such an over-the-top protest vehicle. The other six were a mix of supporters and detractors.

After the protest, in the parking lot outside a coffee shop on Bardstown Road where Withers was dropping off PETA Vegetarian Starter Kits, she and Lily greeted another fan.

"That is awesome," said Amy Rock , a 26-year-old University of Louisville student.

A few minutes later, a young man who worked on a chicken farm in Arkansas stopped to chat. Withers welcomes all comment; her husband has even made up a point system to rate each kind of reaction.

"He assigns more points to the negative response because he feels we are affecting them," says Withers.

A wave is one point, someone yelling is six. Withers can't remember the rest.

She does remember what started it all. She was 8 years old, and her mother was serving fish for dinner. It suddenly dawned on Withers that dinner wasn't that different from her pet goldfish. By high school she was a vegetarian; in her 20s she became a vegan.

Byers has been a vegan for two years. Their cockatoos, Marco and Windy , and sheep dogs, Masha and Mikhail , are vegetarian. Only Libra , the python, is holding out.

"I tried to offer her vegetarian alternatives, but she doesn't recognize it as food," says Withers.

Libra eats raw rodents or she doesn't eat. "I try not to make her feel bad about eating animals," says Withers.

After distributing a few more kits, Withers headed to Kroger to buy meat substitutes for a potluck casserole.

At the counter she pulled out her checkbook, with pictures of Libra curled in a tree and dressed as an angel. Back in the parking lot, Withers loaded her groceries into the back of the hearse.

"The thing about a hearse," she says, "there is plenty of room for groceries."

There is also plenty of room for furniture, dogs and friends. The car was the perfect vehicle to use several years ago when a friend underwent a sex-change operation and wanted to hold a mock funeral for her male self.

There is really only one place Withers wouldn't take her hearse - a funeral.

Photos by Pam Spaulding, The Courier-Journal

Cynthia Withers' 1991 Buick hearse was serving as her portable protest platform long before she became People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' Louisville KFC campaign coordinator in 2004. PETA paid for the $1,600 paint job taking KFC to task.

Every Friday Cynthia Withers protests in front of the headquarters of Yum! Brands Inc., which owns KFC.

Photos by Pam Spaulding, The Courier-Journal

PETA activist Cynthia Withers shopped for vegan food. She remembers thinking at age 8 that a fish dinner wasn't that different from her pet goldfish. By high school she was a vegetarian; later she became a vegan.

Cynthia Withers and PETA say KFC suppliers treat chickens with unnecessary cruelty. KFC says it is "committed to the well-being and humane treatment of chickens" and expects suppliers to comply.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Blues News -- WHAS Radio Slowly Turns Into Amateur Hour

WHAS Anchor Chris CHandler disagrees with me, but WHAS once highly praised news department continues its slow slide into irrelevance. Like most other things on WHAS since Clear Channel has taken over, including traffic, weather, and programming, the shift has been from quality to whatever can be gotten cheaply and benefits the 45 stations CC owns in the area.

So, we see traffic go from a helicopter report that was allowed to run as long as it needed to and broke in during times when a new major back-up happened to a guy sitting and reading information off of a Clear Channel database based on a few dozen cameras around the Louisville area and people calling in. Forget about hearing about alternate routes, how long the back up is, or even which lane it's in. No time. Gotta get your two ads in per traffic report.

That brings us to the news. All of WHAS' seasoned reporters and anchors seem to have disappeared, most using it as a springboard to TV. Not that anyone can blame them, because there seems precious little to do anymore. Chris Chandler's not too bad, but his tendency to want to be a junior Jon Stewart with his asides during report can be a distraction. Most of the others are a mixed bag, however. It is fun to hear certain reporters struggle over words. Case in point, Teresa Payton (unsure if spelling is correct), a news anchor who yesterday struggled over the words Legionnaires' disease in a story about a nursing home. WHen she got to the word, it was like she'd had a verbal traffic accident, pronouncing it in a manner similar to Leh gee on are ays disease. Granted, this isn't a word you encounter everyday, but Legionnaires' is not uncommon, especially in cases where numerous people who share a building are hit with a mysterious illness, so I can't understand why it tripped her up. Not to mention the fact that reading over the story before she went on the air could have prompted her to look up the word.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Unbridled Bull$&!^ -- My Blog

As a lifelong resident of Kentucky, I decided to create a separate blog to discuss my views on the state and Louisville, the place I call home.

For my first entry, I wanted to address our states "branding effort", the phrase Unbridled Spirit, something that sums up all that is wrong with our state.

Let's see what the state has to say about the phrase. Text comes directly from the Unbridled Spririt website. My comments are in bold.

How This Process Came About

One of the first things Governor Fletcher noticed upon taking office was the large number of state logos, slogans and messages that permeated state government. Since the governor has put a priority on bringing more jobs and people to Kentucky, he raised the issue with Commerce Secretary W. James Host. It was something Host noticed, too. What the hell does one have to do with the other? Do companies look at the state and say "wow, they've got too many slogans and messages, I can't do business there. “When (Economic Development Secretary) Gene Strong and I sat down to discuss how we were going to actively promote Kentucky to improve economic development, including tourism, the first thing that struck me was the lack of a single strategy and theme between Economic Development and Tourism, even though we are both about jobs,” Host said. “That made no sense. No business would operate that way.” Actually, it depends on the business.

The fragmentation also has led to state government spending more than it should have on advertising and marketing efforts. “When we added up the advertising and marketing budgets across state government, it came to approximately $14 million a year, divided among more than a dozen different advertising agencies,” Host said. Individually, the budgets weren’t large enough to negotiate lower commissions and fees or to leverage the state’s buying power to secure better media rates. Each agency received the standard 15 percent commission on advertising media buys as well as hourly creative and public relations fees of up to $155. Kentucky was paying up to $2.5 million a year in agency commissions and fees. Okay, this one makes sense.

All advertising and marketing contracts were consolidated into one with the selection of New West, a Kentucky-based public relations, advertising and marketing firm. New West was awarded the contract after a comprehensive process during which state officials issued a request for proposals, reviewed qualifications from 18 applicant firms, and received oral presentations from seven of them. The final decision was based on scoring from judges in each cabinet in accordance with the RFP. Host and Secretary of Finance Robbie Rudolph then negotiated the final contract with the firm that scored best by the judges.

New West receives no advertising commission and no “markup” charges. The company receives one flat rate of $95 per hour for all services performed. To date, the company has billed approximately $400,000 in fees and advertising expenses.

“By eliminating past agency commissions and other charges, we are creating a brand for the state, marketing the commonwealth more effectively AND saving money in the process,” Governor Fletcher added.

Creating the Brand

Okay, this is a misnomer. You don't create a brand, the brand creates itself by the way people perceive it. Motel 6 could call itself a luxurious place to stay for the night, and that wouldn't make it so.

From the day of the initial announcement, virtually every Kentuckian has had an opinion on what Kentucky’s new brand should be. Governor Fletcher said in his announcement, “Our goal is to harness the pride and the passion Kentuckians have for our state, and showcase that pride to the rest of the world, so more businesses will want to locate here, more visitors will want to vacation here, and more people will want to live here." Do people really visit someplace because the people there like it? People visit places because there are things to do and see.

So what is most important to people inside and outside Kentucky? Finding out took several steps.

The first step was to solicit citizen opinions in the state. More than 1,000 people visited the Web site and gave their opinions on what made Kentucky stand out from other states. Among the most common responses: our beauty, our diverse terrain, our people, our quality of life, our strong feeling of “home,” our love for horses, and our central location.
Next, New West conducted research in a variety of areas. More than 225 people in the tourism industry were asked their opinions. According to the tourism experts, Kentucky’s beauty, parks, hospitality, cultural heritage and wildlife are strong attractions for the state.

National business leaders were quizzed about their impressions of Kentucky and the likelihood of their locating a business here. Kentucky was rated on par with most surrounding states, but lower than several. Business leaders said that changing Kentucky’s image would significantly improve their perception of Kentucky as a business location. How does an image change? Is it with a new slogan and a new logo, especially one that once again talks about horses? Maybe investing in education and in building up the two major cities.

Some 40 out-of-state consumers were then questioned about their knowledge of the state. Other than horses, those polled didn’t know much about Kentucky. 40 is a huge sample.... NOT! And how does this explain our brilliant decision to put a horse in our logo and slogan?

Finally, dozens of Kentuckians participated in focus groups and were questioned individually about Kentucky’s strengths and challenges. While our friendliness, heritage, pride and family scored high, there also was a feeling that Kentuckians are self-limiting. In other words, we take seriously the jokes people make about us and may not realize all that Kentucky has to offer. Or, maybe the jokes hurt because they are true.

Summarizing the research, here are key facts that became evident:

Kentuckians too often sell themselves short
Non-Kentuckians view Kentuckians through negative stereotypes, or not at all
Kentuckians want to see themselves as progressive, but not at the expense of their heritage, environment or quality of life. Okay, if this statement is true, it speaks volumes to the problem. Hey, I want to move forward in the state, but not if it means I can't be a hillbilly and live in a trailer.

Based on all this research, New West created and reviewed hundreds of potential logos and slogans (including those used by other states), tested dozens of different ideas in focus groups, adjusted and refined strategy, and finally selected four concepts for consideration. Governor Fletcher decided that, since Kentuckians had been so interested and involved in the process, they should have a vote in deciding Kentucky’s new brand.

How to Judge the Brand

Choosing a brand is more than just selecting a pretty logo or a fancy slogan. The brand will become the state’s image for years. It will be the first image visitors see when they enter the state, and it will signify how we as Kentuckians feel about this place we call home. That's a lot to ask of two words and a picture, but I hey, you gotta sell using tax dollars for this crap, so why not. Here are the goals that have been set for the new brand:

It should foster pride among Kentucky citizens Landing new businesses, improving education, and raising the state's intellectual profile would work much better.
It should cause people to think more positively about visiting or doing business in Kentucky Again, a lot to expect of two words.
It should attack negative stereotypes about Kentucky But let's horses on there so they know who they're dealing with. So as you judge which brand most effectively communicates Kentucky’s strengths to the world, look at each choice, using the following criteria:

Is it unique?
Does it suggest Kentuckians are progressive and forward-thinking?
Is it easy to remember?
Is it motivating?
Is it long-lasting?

I'd argue that, other than the third, it's none of these.