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Living Strong Is One Thing, Living Honest Is Another

Last night, NBA Hall of Famer turned author, advocate and founder of The Skyhook Foundation, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, spoke at the Times-Union Center as part of The Florida Forum benefiting Wolfson Children's Hospital. As inspiring and eloquent as KA-J was, I wondered what Lance Armstrong, originally slated to speak at the event, would have said. And I couldn't stop thinking about a local man's poignant — and pointed — open letter to Armstrong following his confession about using perfomance-enhancing drugs, that I discovered on Twitter …

Dear Lance,

It is with great regret that I'm compelled to write you this seemingly antagonistic letter although I assure you that isn't my intention at all... Empathy, then, is my goal for you after you read this letter.

They say that empathy is knowing how a person feels regardless of whether or not you've ever been in their situation. Martin Luther King had empathy. John F. Kennedy had empathy. And for the most part, it seemed that you did too. But now, after your confession [aired] on the Oprah Winfrey Network, I fear that you won't realize exactly what people like me are going through. My fear is that you won't recognize the embarrassment you've caused us, and I don't want to sit on the sidelines, not affording you the opportunity to hear what I have to say. I fear that you won't feel our pain. Thus, begins my open letter to you...

For the better part of the past decade, I have aspired to what I thought was the LiveStrong way of life and the embodiment of an attitude that says anything, no matter how difficult, can be accomplished so long as you combat it with the iron will that we're all born with yet fear to use. I believed in that lifestyle — and I believed in you.

As a young plebe at the United States Naval Academy, I was given my first LiveStrong bracelet by my squad leader JD Dunivant. I wore it with pride as it was a reminder that regardless of how difficult life was as a young …   More


On the Tweet Beat: Dan Hicken

Since my recent foray into snooping around Governor Rick Scott's Twitter account was so well received (see sidebar), I decided to start "Tweet Beat." Like a sworn officer of the law, I will patrol the Twitterverse protecting and serving the Tweeters, their followers and the community at large. On today's docket is First Coast News Sports Director Dan Hicken.

• In his Twitter profile (@DanHicken), he describes himself as: “sports guy, father of three awesome kids, hubby of BWR, friend to all, YOU KNOW IT!” ("BWR," for those who don't follow Hicken, is "beautiful wife Reagan." All together now: aw!)

• At this moment, Hicken has 7,141 followers which is pretty impressive considering legendary WJXT sports director Sam Kouvaris has fewer than 2,500 — and Action News’ Steve Wrigley doesn’t even have a Twitter account.

• He’s currently following 217 accounts including the PGA Tour, Cecil Shorts III, Florida Gators, Scott Van Pelt and Ryan Lochte.

• The first Twitter account he followed was Tony Boselli. (Can you say "bromance"?)

•According to his Twitter timeline, his first post was on May 27, 2012 at 5:36 p.m. in response to a coworker’s Tweet about heading to the beach: “be careful out there big guy … stormtracker!”

• Since then, he has posted 8,562 times.

• Gramatically speaking, he does not like to use uppercase letters but is a big fan of double question marks, double exclamation points and ellipses.

• Regarding college sports, he hates Miami. (I mean, "he hates miami!!")

• But judging from a recent Tweet, he is a big fan of cheesy reality TV: “i don't know about you....but i simply can't wait for the reality tv show SPLASH to debut this week … #MUSTSEETV!”

• Finally, I would caution Hicken about some potential awkwardness around the newsroom. First Coast News colleagues Phil Amato, Shannon …   More


40 Is the New 40

Before I go any further, I want to get one thing clear: I am not an ageist. I have nothing but respect for babies. I hold millennials, generation X-ers and baby boomers in high regard. And I’ve got nothing but love for septuagenarians, supercentenarians and all the -arians in between.

That said, I do have a bone to pick with two local publications.

For more than a decade, the Jacksonville Business Journal has been honoring up-and-coming professionals with “40 Under 40.” Two years ago, BUZZ Magazine started recognizing “successful future leaders” with “Jacksonville's Top 30 Under 30.” Well, guess what, young whippersnappers: 40-somethings do pretty amazing things, too.

Hank Aaron was 40 when he hit his 715th home run. Ingrid Bergman, Jane Fonda and Susan Sarandon won Academy Awards in their 40s. Benjamin Franklin was in his mid-40s when he conducted his electric experiments with a key and a kite. Mother Teresa was 42 when she founded her Missions of Charity. Presidents Obama, Clinton, Kennedy and Grant were all in their 40s when they took office.

Which brings me to a special announcement: Nominations for The Specktator's inaugural “49 Between 40 and 49" are officially open. Unlike previously mentioned contests, there are no "qualifications" for being nominated (I mean, what exactly does "professional" mean? And isn't "success" relative?) — other than the nominee must be between the ages of 40 and 49 and live in Northeast Florida. It would be great if the person does something beneficial for the community, excels in her job, possesses a special talent or maybe he just looks good in a Speedo. Whatever criteria you choose to use in your nomination is up to you. 

Email me at with your name, the name and age of your nominee, and reason(s) for your nomination—in ≤49 words, please. You may nominate as many people as you'd like, including …   More


RAM, a Band and a Ding-dong

Dubbed the “coolest thing ever” by Folio Weekly (and we would know), the Riverside Arts Market reopened last weekend with a full-on parade led by RAM founder Wayne Wood and Mayor Alvin Brown and featuring the Stanton College Preparatory School marching band. RAM staff, volunteers and some kooky blogger with a penchant for orange Ray-Bans who made the mistake of mentioning that she used to twirl the baton in elementary school also participated in the festivities.

Despite the chilly weather, hundreds of folks came out to the event to shop, eat and be entertained. Check the photo gallery above for a small sample of the day's activities and characters.

Or better yet, come out and see it for yourself. RAM is located under the Fuller Warren Bridge at Riverside Avenue and is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every Saturday through December.   More


'R' Is for 'R-rated'

Since 2011, the members of PB&J (Party, Benefit & Jam) have been raising money and awareness for area non-profits—in non-traditional ways. They’ve organized a pop-up party under the Fuller Warren Bridge for Sustainable Springfield and Riverside Avondale Preservation, a county fair at Intuition Aleworks for Forsaken Generation and Go Skate Day at Hemming Plaza for Kona Middle/High School. But it’s the group’s latest event — PB&J Presents: A Dirty Spelling Bee — that truly epitomizes its members’ desire to “think outside the box.”

Modeled after the Scripps National Spelling Bee, this 21-and-up-only version will have participants spelling actual medical terms, not slang, with The New Oxford American Dictionary serving as the official source of words and the final authority on spelling not In other words, don’t expect any references to an oxidized brass instrument or men’s neckwear named after a city in Ohio. P.S. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, just keep reading: You’re better off that way.

Up to 30 contestants are expected to participate in the “oral competition” (hey, that’s what Scripps calls theirs!) with contestants ranging from a business owner and hair stylist to theater director and teacher. As a contestant, I can only hope there won’t be any gynecologists or urologists on the stage.

That’s not to say I haven’t been, er, boning up on my anatomy and physiology vocabulary. Sure, there are some folks who think I may have an advantage considering I’m a writer and should know how to spell, but I can assure you that “uterine infundibulum” and “corpa cavernosa” are not words I have ever typed until this very moment. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know I had a mons veneris, let alone how to spell it. The one small asset I do bring to the …   More


The Boys of Summer: Dazed and Confused

I’m no physician, but I think the Jacksonville Suns staff are suffering from heat exhaustion. I mean, what other possible explanation than dizziness and confusion—two of the most common signs of heat exhaustion—can there be for some of strange promotions scheduled for the rest of the season?

Midget Wrestling (July 11): According to The Little People of America, a non-profit that provides support to "people of short stature" (the preferred terminology) and their families, we shouldn’t even be using the “M” word,” let alone encouraging opportunities for public objectification. This does, however, beg the question: Why doesn't the organization change its name to "The People of Short Stature of America"?

Leprechaun wrestling (July 12): See above with the added insult of contestants having to wear green suits, top hats and fake beards. Please don't make it worse by having the announcer say "top o' the inning to you" all night.

John Rocker Appearance (July 13): The former Atlanta Braves pitcher who gained notoriety for making slurs about blacks, Asians, homosexuals and immigrants, threatening a reporter and using steroids will be at Bragan Field signing copies of his new book "Scars and Strikes." I can only hope Rocker isn't prejudiced against redheads who wear oversized shoes and smell like French fries (which, I'm quite sure, he refers to as "freedom fries") since Ronald McDonald also appears that night.

Family Faith Day (July 14): Don't get me wrong: I think it's great that local church groups and choirs will be performing hymns and giving praise at the game. But someone probably should have checked what radio station was sponsoring the event first. While I'm a huge fan of 107.3 JACK FM myself, I seriously doubt Pastor Purity and Reverend Righteousness would appreciate the lyrics of songs the station plays like, say, "Blister in the Sun," "Brown Sugar" or "Little Red Corvette (you …   More


First Coast Connect: Around Town Events

In case you missed my ramblings on First Coast Connect on WJCT this morning, here’s what’s coming up this weekend and beyond—Around Town!

Thursday, September 19

International Talk Like a Pirate Day, 5 p.m., St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum, FREE

A Conversation with Andrew Young —"Race and the South: St. Augustine in Context," 7 p.m., Flagler College, Lewis Auditorium, FREE


Thursday, September 19–Sunday, September 22 

23th annual Home & Patio Show, Prime Osborn Convention Center


Thursday, September 19–October 20

"Weekend Comedy" starring Cindy Williams, Alhambra Theatre & Dining

Friday, September 20

Eddie Money, doors open 7 p.m., Brewster's Roc Bar

Friday, September 20–21

"The Wizard of Oz": An IMAX 3D Experience, 12:15 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4:45 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m., IMAX Theater at World Golf Hall of Fame 

Saturday, September 21

Jacksonville Dragon Boat Festival, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Jacksonville Landing 

Jacksonville Festival of Horror, 2 p.m.–2 a.m. 

First Coast Dancing With the Stars, 7:30 p.m., Boleros Ballroom

Sunday, September 22–29

Amelia Island Women's USTA Championship, Omni Amelia Island Resort, FREE (daily play only)


TEDx Jacksonville is currently accepting applications for "Connecting Currents," a one-day multi-disciplinary conference where dynamic speakers, inspiring performers and engaged participants will converge to explore the city's greatest challenges, innovations and concepts. With only a limited number of applicants invited to attend, the event is expected to sell out. Apply here. Now.

Tickets are still available for the Northeast Florida Beer Cup, hosted by "Jacksonville Magazine," on September 26 at TPC Sawgrass Tailgate Pavilion.

And it's not too early to get your tickets for Folio Weekly's Best of Jax Party, …   More


Breast Cancer: Are You Aware?

Do you know eight women (seven, if you're a woman yourself)? One of them will get breast cancer in her lifetime (ladies, that one could be you). If that news weren't scary enough, the American Cancer Society estimates 39,620 women in the U.S. will die of the disease this year.

Not trying to be the grim reaper or anything but having lost my mother to breast cancer when she was only 41, makes me an unwitting advocate. All of which leads me to reminding everyone that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There is some good news, though. You can help prevent the disease and possibly find a cure — and you don't need to be a scientist, physician or researcher to do it. So have a cocktail, play golf, support local music or just wear pink: The boobies you save might be your own. 


• Lee Jeans National Denim Day for American Cancer Society, October 4, participating companies, $5

• Sixth Annual Pink Ribbon Symposium: October 5, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., Thrasher-Horne Conference Center, Orange Park, free

• Bubble Palooza Celebration of Survivorship: October 5, 10 a.m., Jacksonville Equestrian Center, $40-$47

• Second Annual Breast Cancer Poker Run: October 5, 11 a.m., North Jacksonville Moose Lodge #2134, $15 per rider, $5 per passenger

• Passion for Pink Celebration: October 5, 8:30 p.m., East Touchdown Club, EverBank Field, $20, must be 21 or older

• Pink Ribbon Golf Classic Cocktail Party: October 9, 6-9 p.m., private residence, Ponte Vedra Beach, $75

• Pink Ribbon Golf Classic Women's Tournament: October 10, 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, $150 per player

• Upbeat Pink: A Musical Tribute to Breast Cancer Survivorship—"An Evening With James Bond and Friends": October 11, 7:30 p.m., UNF Lazzara Performance Hall, free

• Making Strides Against Breast Cancer—Orange Park: October 12, 9 a.m., Best Bet of …   More


Jillian Michaels Brings Motivation to the Masses

Ask anyone who's ever seen NBC’s “The Biggest Loser" who Jillian Michaels is and chances are they’ll say something like “the really mean trainer.” Some might even describe her as … a “B” word.

What’s funny is that Michaels is actually quite pleasant, warm and easy to talk to. And she doesn’t even think of herself as a personal trainer; she considers herself a life coach, hence her Maximize Your Life Tour, which she brings to the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts.

In this “intimate and uniquely personal evening,” Michaels will discuss topics like living in your truth, redefining your self-image and improving confidence, creating a winning attitude, build willpower and, of course, losing weight and getting in the best shape of your life.

“So many people hate their jobs. They dread getting out of bed. They’re barely able to pay their bills. They ask themselves ‘Is this all there is?’” she said in a recent phone interview. “I know this because I’ve been there, and I want to help you to connect with your passion and learn to believe in yourself!”

And here are some things you might be surprised to learn about Michaels.

She’s only 5’2”.

Other than on "The Biggest Loser," you’ll never catch her in spandex at the gym: sweats only.

Her guilty pleasure is chocolate, especially brownies and truffles.

She has 952,074 followers on Twitter: More than twice as many as TBL coach Bob Harper.

In eighth grade, she weighed 175 pounds.

She lives in jeans but has been known to sport designer duds and accessories from Michael Kors, Burberry, Alexander McQueen and Jason Wu.

Her traveling companion is her parrot, mostly because the bird hates everyone but her and can’t be left with the pet sitter.

In 2002, she opened Sky Sport & Spa with fellow trainer cum reality TV star Jackie Warner of …   More


First Coast Connect: Around Town Events

In case you missed my ramblings on First Coast Connect this morning (or you're still trying to grasp that Tim Tebow is unemployed), here’s what’s coming up this  …here’s what’s coming up this week — and beyond — Around Town:

May 2

Celtic Woman

Times-Union Center, 7:30 p.m. 

May 2

Jacksonville Magazine Model Fashion Show

Casa Marina, Jacksonville Beach, 6:30 p.m. 

May 3

Jacksonville's Dancing With the Stars

Times-Union Center, 8 p.m. 

May 3

Folio Weekly's Margarita Fest

Morocco Shrine Auditorium, 7-10 p..m. 

May 3

Tee Off Downtown

4-10:30 p.m. 

May 4

Kentucky Derby Party

St. Johns Town Center, 5-9 p.m.

May 4

Chris Botti with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra

Times-Union, 8 p.m.

May 4

Movies in the Park: "Brave"

Wyndham Jacksonville Riverfront Lawn, 8 p.m.

May 5

5 Points Springfest

5 Points, 2-10 p.m. 

Through May 4

"Tea and Sympathy"

Theatre Jacksonville 

Yours truly rocks the mic on WJCT's First Coast Connect every Thursday around 9:45 a.m. Tune in. Look out.   More