Happy birthday, Lurch!

LurchHow did I not know this?

Today is the birthday of Ted Cassidy — best known as “Lurch” on the classic television show “The Addams Family” — who was raised in Philippi, W.Va. and attended West Virginia Weslyan College before moving to California to pursue an acting career.

From the West Virginia Encyclopedia:

In 1964, Cassidy secured the television role that would make him famous. His unusual height and deep voice made him a natural fit for Lurch, the hulking butler of the comically ghoulish Addams family. Although the show was canceled in 1965, Cassidy continued to play small television roles well into the 1970s. His appearances include I Dream of Jeannie, Star Trek, Bonanza, and The Six Million Dollar Man. Cassidy also provided voices for animated cartoons such as Space Ghost, The Super Friends, and Scooby Doo.

Cassidy died in 1979. To celebrate his memory, here’s that classic theme song from his biggest role:

Breaking: Bacon emergency

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture released a public health alert this morning regarding smoked bacon and ham produced by Andy’s Custom Meats in Ona, W.Va.

According to the release, there have been no reports of illnesses related to Andy’s bacon or ham, but the products were not properly inspected before going to market.

Here’s the alert in its entirety:

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) Meat and Poultry Inspection Division (MPID) has issued a public health alert on “Smoked Pork Bacon” and “Smoked Ham Slices” produced by Andy’s Custom Meats in Ona. Consumers should return the products to Andy’s or to Milton Farms.

The affected products bear the establishment number “31” inside the WVDA mark of inspection on the label. They were packed on various dates between March and June 2014.

WVDA has received no reports of illnesses linked to these products, but they were produced without benefit of inspection or a valid hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) plan for smoked meat, which means they are also improperly labeled.

Four animals were used to produce about 300 pounds of meat. The company has recalled the affected product. Questions should be directed to Andy’s Custom Meats at 304-743-9455 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Comic-Con 2014 wrap up

Another year, another San Diego Comic-Con has come to close. I watched the Con news via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. I’m not usually a big Tweeter, but during Con week, I rapidly scroll through the #SDCC hashtags and refresh the feed fervently.  Here are some highlights from the weekend:

Robert Downey Jr. and Josh Brolin take the stage at the panel for Marvel's "Avengers: The Age of Ultron."

Robert Downey Jr. and Josh Brolin take the stage at the panel for Marvel’s “Avengers: The Age of Ultron.”

  • Marvel descends on Con: Always one of the most anticipated panels, Marvel Studios brought fans teasers of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, “Ant-Man” and news of a “Guardians of the Galaxy” sequel, even though the flick isn’t even in theaters yet.
  • Robert Downey Jr., tossed roses to the Hall H crowd as he made an entrance worthy of, well . . . Tony Stark. Fellow super co-stars Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson joined him onstage. The panel teased plenty of action-packed footage including Thor tangoing with a robot resembling Iron Man and a bleak shot of Cap’s shield split down the middle.
  • Actors Paul Rudd (Scott Lang) and Michael Douglas (Hank Pym) were on hand with director Peyton Reed screened test footage for “Ant-Man,” which begins filming in a couple of weeks. Perhaps the most surprising panel news was the “Guardians” sequel. The footage looks good and Marvel’s track record with recent films has been phenomenal, so the gamble on the lesser known hero squad may pay off in a big way. I mean, they have a talking raccoon, what more can we ask for?
  • Warner Brothers Fully Loaded: The studio came prepared to give Con goers what they’d been clamoring for. With “Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies,” and “Jupiter Ascending,” the panel was jam-packed with a lineup that aimed to please the 6,500 fans in Hall H.
  • The past few DC film offerings, in my opinion, were lackluster at best, particularly the utter disappointment that was 2011’s “Green Lantern.” While I’m onboard with the Frank Miller-esque version of the armored batsuit, I am less than thrilled with Wonder Woman’s attire. The bronzed armored skirt and top look far too much like Xena: Warrior Princess, not Diana Prince. I’m also in the minority that felt “Man of Steel” was not much of an improvement over “Superman Returns,” so I have low expectations for “Dawn of Justice,” but I’m hoping I’ll be surprised.
  • Though not a big draw prior to the Con, “Mad Max” earned rave reviews from many watching the trailer featuring multiple explosions and chase sequences. Starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, it hits theaters next May.
    Philip Seymour Hoffman, left, as Plutarch Heavensbee and Julianne Moore as President Coin are seen in a scene from "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1." The movie releases on Nov. 21.

    Philip Seymour Hoffman, left, as Plutarch Heavensbee and Julianne Moore as President Coin are seen in a scene from “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” The movie releases on Nov. 21.

  • Odds in “Hunger Games” favor:  Although there was no official panel for “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1,” Lionsgate was in fully force promoting the film, opening November 21. The trailer, released online over the weekend, offers a look at the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final film appearances as Plutarch Heavensbee. Heavensbee and many others rebelling against the Capitol and Snow pin their hopes on Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen to rally the troops and become the face of the rebellion.
  • Kiefer Sutherland, left, and Jon Cassar attend the "24" Q&A panel on Day 1 of Comic-Con.

    Kiefer Sutherland, left, and Jon Cassar attend the “24” Q&A panel on Day 1 of Comic-Con.

    Jack’s Back: Kiefer Sutherland returned to the Con to promote “24” for the first time in several years. The “Live Another Day” 12-part series has definitely been a highlight of summer TV viewing for us. Jack Bauer was back and it was a different Jack than we’d seen before — a Jack with nothing left to fight for. Sutherland said playing Bauer “was the greatest gift in my career.” He also said it was hard to let go of “24,” although the ending of “Another Day” does leave the possibility of a return open.

As always, I enjoyed following the news all weekend, but I wanted to be there in person more. There’s hardly space to to discuss all the awesomeness from the weekend. Here’s to a triumphant return in 2015. Until then, San Diego!!

Stolen instrument alert

Keep your eyes peeled, Charleston folks.

On Monday, someone broke into Jeremy Davis’s Charleston home and stole his fiddle and mandolin. Davis performs with local string band Total Meltdown, and is a big supporter of the local music scene (and a super nice guy to boot).

I’ve included photos of the stolen instruments below. You can click to see larger images.

Please share this blog post with your friends and contact Charleston Police at 304-348-6460 if you have any information about the thefts.



W.Va. native Ryan Dorsey marries “Glee” star

Ryan Dorsey

Ryan Dorsey

Charleston native and up-and-coming actor Ryan Dorsey got married to “Glee” actress Naya Rivera on July 19, according to People magazine.

According to the magazine, the couple wed in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with a small group of family and friends present.

Dorsey, who attended Riverside High School, had a recurring part on the show “Southland” in 2013. He has also appeared on “Parks and Recreation,” “Mob City” and “You’re the Worst.”


Naya Rivera

Rivera gained notoriety playing Santana on “Glee” but she has also appeared on television shows like “Smart Guy,” “Family Matters,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” “Even Stevens,” “8 Simple Rules” and “The Bernie Mac Show.”

Happy birthday, Mr. Hemingway

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAErnest Hemingway, that manliest man of all manley men, was born this day in 1899.

He died on July 2, 1961, so Papa would have been 115 years old today if he hadn’t shot himself in the gut. That’s also assuming he wouldn’t have drank himself to death, keeled over from lung cancer, OD’d on bacon or perished in some freak fishing accident instead.

His beautifully sparse writing has made Hemingway a favorite of aspiring writers for generations. So tell me, what’s your favorite Hemingway sentence? Copy and paste it in the comment section below.

One of my favorite sentences (there are too many to pick one) comes from the very first page of The Old Man and the Sea, the last novel Hemingway would ever see published.

The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat.

Knocks the wind right out of you, doesn’t it? Comment below with your favorite Hemingway sentence.



Moon Landing FrontThis Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11’s moon landing, and the Daily Mail decided to celebrate.

Our front page today includes remembrances of that historic occasion from West Virginia natives (and NASA retirees) Homer Hickam and Jon McBride.

Hickam, who would later become a NASA engineer, was in Washington State at the time having just returned from Vietnam. McBride, who would later become the first West Virginian in space, was in Virginia training to become a fighter pilot. You can click here to read the whole story.

This morning I received an email from a reader, Lew McDaniel of Independence, W.Va., offering his memories of July 20, 1969. He has a pretty neat story, too:

I was a linguist in the Army and stationed at Field Station Berlin in Germany when the moon landing occurred.  We had no TV, but we did have a plethora of electronic equipment around and some talented technicians.  Those guys rigged up some of that equipment so we could watch the landing on an oscilloscope.  We also managed to get direct audio between the moon and Earth.

Small screen for sure, but we all crowded into a small room to get whatever view we could and all cheered when the first step was made.  Then it was back to work.

Mark Wolfe poses with Brandon Stacy, how plays Spock on the fan produced Internet series “Star Trek: Phase II.”

Mark Wolfe poses with Brandon Stacy, how plays Spock on the fan produced Internet series “Star Trek: Phase II.”

Also in today’s paper, we have the story of four old friends brought back together through their mutual love of the original “Star Trek” series.

But Mark Wolfe, Dale Morton, Robert Withrow and Clayton Sayre aren’t your normal Trekkies.

They are part of a major fan-produced web series called “Star Trek: Phase II,” which creates new episodes of the original series using dead-accurate sets, costumes and props.

Click here to read more about their intergalactic adventure.

Hear it first: “Live It” by Farnsworth

10527516_767462223306680_412617591087743455_nThe Pop Machine is partnering with Twin Cousins Records to offer you, dear reader, a first listen of the new album “Live It” by Charleston blues-rock trio Farnsworth.

Interestingly enough, this is really the first time “Live It” has touched the digital realm.The band used all analog equipment — old-school mixing boards, multi-track tape decks, the whole deal — to record the album.

Twin Cousins will release “Live It” on limited-edition vinyl on Sept. 23.

You can get your pre-order now at twincousinsrecords.bandcamp.com. The album will also be available for digital download.

Stay tuned for more details about the release party for “Live It.” That’s tentatively scheduled for Sept. 20 at Sullivan’s Records on the East End, and could feature some special guests.

Tofujitsu plays for Charley West’s Bonus Tracks

Bonus Tracks1Local husband-and-wife rock and rollers Sean Richardson and Karen Allen are Tofujitsu.

The band just released a new four-song EP, and they’re playing Live on the Levee this Friday along with Qiet.

But first, they performed their song “Darjeeling” for the latest edition of our video series Charley West’s Bonus Tracks.

Click here to read more about this quirky duo. Click below to watch Marcus Constantino’s video of the band performing their song “Darjeeling.”



Valentina Lisitsa’s POV piano

I love to watch classical pianists play. Not just listen, watch.

The way their bodies interact with their instrument, their arms and hands flowing over the keyboard, their bodies shifting from side to side. It’s like watching someone dance with a piece of furniture…except beautiful.

Well, Valentina Lisitsa (classical music’s biggest YouTube star) is giving her fans a whole new way to watch her perform. Back in May she posted a video of her performance of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 17…shot using a GoPro helmet cam.

Give it a peek. It’s a unique opportunity to see a performance the way the musician does.