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Don't Give Dad Another Dud

"Business casual" has ruined Father's Day gift-giving for many lazy offspring who can no longer rely on the last-minute, go-to necktie. (Unfortunately, my brother and I didn't even have that option since our dad never wore a tie to work. Our fall-back gift was a Hickory Farms summer sausage gift box).

Dads also get gypped in the present department because their children probably spent their last penny/ounce of creativity on a Mother's Day gift. So this year, I've made a concerted effort to give Pops something: 1) he actually wants, 2) is available close to home and 3) won't raise his cholesterol.

Here are 30 of my picks in a variety of price ranges. And you're welcome.

Big bucks: NASCAR driving experience at Daytona International Speedway ($549+)

Bargain : Go-kart driving at Adventure Landing ($7) 

Big bucks: Round of golf at TPC Sawgrass with a caddie (+$350)

Bargain: Round of glow-in-the-dark/3-D miniature golf at Batt Family Fun Center 

Big bucks: Jacksonville Jaguars 2013 new logo helmet ($319.95)

Bargain: Jacksonville Jaguars football player toothbrush ($5.95)

Big bucks: "The Sports Classic" massage and body scrub at The Spa at Ponte Vedra Inn and Club ($215+)

Bargain: manicure at Parisian Spa Institute aka Parisian Beauty School ($8)

Big bucks: Chef's adventure at Matthew's with wine pairings ($125 per person)

Bargain: Rib sandwich paired with sweet tea ($9) from Jenkins Quality Barbecue


10 under $50

1. Cooking class at Publix Apron's Cooking School ($40+)

2. Historic pub crawl in St. Augustine ($39)

3. Old City Helicopters tour of North Beach ($39)

4. "Adopted" animal at the Jacksonville Zoo ($35+)

5. The GodFATHER's Day Film and Feast at Sun-Ray Cinema ($30)

6. Old-fashioned neck shave at The Art of Shaving ($35+)

7. "High-speed expedition" on El Conquistador Speed Boat …   More


Jax Pop Up Video: 'Jacksonville Theme Song'

Since making its debut in 1996, "Pop Up Video" has been one of my favorite shows on VH-1. Combined with my love of Jacksonville and You Tube, I decided I would combine the three to create my own version.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my debut Jax Pop Up Video for "Jacksonville Theme Song."

The original "Jacksonville Theme Song," performed by Jon and Chris, was posted on You Tube by Lizzy Sitter in 2008. In retrospect, I realize Jon and Chris could very well be singing about Jacksonville, Oregon or Jacksonville, Illinois or Jacksonville, Arkansas or Jacksonville, North Carolina. No matter. As the song says, "We're all 'pioneers of the future.'"   More


Be a Good Neighbor!

For 11 years, WJCT has honored the memory of Fred Rogers (aka Mister Rogers) by collecting gently-used sweaters, jackets and blankets for local residents in need. The Mister Rogers Neighborhood Sweater Drive runs through the month of November with donations  being accepted at WJCT Studios and all VyStar Credit Union and Two Men and a Truck locations.

Getting residents neighbors to donate the the Sweater Drive is the whole point of this blog post, so feel free to stop reading and begin collecting your donations if you have no interest in the remainder of this completely self-indulgent (yet educational) post. 

1. Pennsylvania: Mister Rogers was born in Latrobe (home of Latrobe Brewery, original brewer of Rolling Rock), and I was born in Aston.

2. Puppetry: Mister Rogers voiced many of the characters in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe including King Friday XIII, X the Owl, Daniel Striped Tiger and Lady Elaine Fairchilde. As a child, I had a Mickey Mouse ventriloquist dummy and performed at family functions until Mickey broke his neck (translation: the rubber band that attached his head to his body snapped). For the record, I am still trying to master the phrase: "Please pass me the butter" (sounds like "Hlease hass ee the utter").

3. Ministry: Fred Rogers earned his divinity degree from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained by the Presbyterian church. I received my credentials of ministry from the Universal Life Church Monastery, a non-denominational ministry, via the Internet (I can legally perform marriages, by the way, if anyone is interested).

4. Cardigans: We both love cardigan sweaters, though, my mom didn't knit any of mine like his did (she did crochet some lovely afghans, however).

5. College: Fred and I graduated from small, private colleges in Florida (Rollins College and Jacksonville University, respectively).

6. Piano: Both of us took lessons as children (in my case, "took" means "was forced to").

7. …   More


Don't Walk Away

Here’s the thing about musicians who are still performing more than 30 years after their heydey: They have a very specific present-day audience. Case in point, Rick Springfield.

Of the millions of fans Springfield had back in the day, a small percentage are now dead or deaf; others don’t remember the pretty-boy pop star (or won’t admit it, at least, to their friends who were into Morrissey or The Cult); a larger section outgrew his music and now listen to Michael Bublé or Jack Johnson; and perhaps the biggest group are the fans who had fond memories of Springfield but aren’t sure so sure about spending at least $50 on a ticket. And there are the loyal “Rick Chicks” who wouldn’t think twice about dropping $500+ on for a VIP stage pass to meet the man—in the flesh.

It’s a safe assumption groups one, two and three won’t be attending Springfield’s September 26 show at the Florida Theatre—and probably never started reading this post in the first place. And the Rick Chicks already have their seats and have been mainlining “Human Touch” and “Love Is Alright Tonite” since tickets went on sale. That said, I am dedicating this list to group four.

And I’ll see you group five gals (and guys) on Thursday. Florida Theatre. 8 p.m.

1. "Jessie's Girl..." blah-blah-blah. Great song, obviously, but it's not Springfield's only hit. Perhaps these ring a bell...

"Don’t Talk to Strangers"

"What Kind of Fool Am I"

"Affair of the Heart"

"I’ve Done Everything for You"

"Love Somebody"

"Don’t Walk Away"

2. And he's still churning them out, at least according to one Herald & Review reporter: "Springfield has put many of his contemporaries to shame with an excellent new album ["Songs for the End of the World"]. It is superb."

3. Sure, he's a Grammy-winning musician whose sold millions of albums and been a TV star, but Springfield fights his demons just like the rest of us. His memoir, "Late Late at Night," details …   More


Golden Child of Jax Music Scene Has Gone Platinum

Today was a typical Monday for J. Dash (or, as I like to refer to him "future Grammy winner J. Dash"). He was driving to his job as a computer engineer at a large Jacksonville company (sorry, can't tell you where lest more groupies find out ... no, really, they already show up there) and got a phone call from Ken Underwood. 

"How does it feel to be a platinum [recording] artist?" Underwood said. (J., for those of you who have been living under a very large rock, like, a freaking boulder, is also a Jacksonville-based recording artist best known for his single "WOP" and is part of local band Fusebox Funk.) 

J. says he couldn't breathe. 

"It's crazy. When the song went gold, I thought it could happen, but I always had this fear in the back of my head that it would sell 999,999 and then people would stop buying it," he says on the phone. "But then the day comes ... I realized this is the day my life is going to change, and it's incredible."

Since its original release several years ago, "WOP" has become nothing short of a phenomenon. Without the support of a major record label, it has been on the Billboard Hot 100 list for 10 weeks, where it's currently #76 (just above Jay-Z and Tim McGraw, FYI). Videos shot by fans all over the world doing the "WOP" have received more than 100 million views on YouTube, and it has become a common trending topic on Instagram and Vine. The song has been featured on NBC's "Today Show," "The Teen Choice Awards" (where audience members set the Guinness World Record for twerking) and in the now infamous Miley Cyrus video.

Underwood, founder and CEO of J.'s record label StereoFame Records, says the accomplishment is especially impressive since StereoFame, based in Ponte Vedra Beach, is an independent label, though, lately, he says, "the majors" have been banging down his door.

"We are currently entertaining proposals from several major labels who are eager to become partners in J. Dash's success," Underwood says. "In …   More


First Coast Connect: Around Town Events

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

June 7

Food Fight, 6:30 p.m., Touchdown Club East, EverBank Field 

Kings of the Mic Tour, 5 p.m., St. Augustine Amphitheatre 

June 8

I Love Music Tour, 2-8 p.m.. Jacksonville Landing

Shop for Freedom:One Spark! Celebration, 2-9 p.m., Rethreaded Warehouse, 820 Barnett St.

Authentic Polynesian Show and Night Swim, 6-11 p.m., Adventure Landing

"Men Are From Mars—Women Are From Venus LIVE," 8 p.m., Times-Union Center

JCCI Forward Prom With a Vengeance, 7-midnight, WJCT Studios

June 9

WWE Live, 5 p.m. Arena

5 p.m. Arena

June 12

Billy Idol, 6 p.m., St. Augustine Amphitheatre,


Yours truly rocks the mic on WJCT's First Coast Connect every Thursday around 9:50 a.m. Tune in. Look out.   More


Hats Off to Corrine Brown

National Hat Day isn't until January (not that I would expect you to know that), but some things are worth celebrating months in advance. And Congresswoman Corrine Brown's vast collection is one of those things.

While I haven't a clue as to how many hats Brown owns, I can only assume she has a walk-in closet jam-packed with them. I also like to imagine each one has its very own hat box labeled with a description of its contents.

Since I have never been invited to Brown's home, I can't verify any of the above, but that certainly hasn't stopped me from coming up with my own hat box labels.

Cue photo gallery ...   More


Obama Put Me in My Place in 2012

Today, President Barack Obama will be at the Jacksonville Port Authority to present his vision for the economy. Jacksonville has experienced continued economic growth directly as a result of Jaxport, a trend that city leaders would certainly like to build upon.

I am so excited that I have the opportunity to be on the Tarmac (I've always wanted an excuse to use the word "Tarmac"), watch Air Force 1 land and see the leader of the free world, surrounded by scary Secret Service agents who could kill me with a pinky, descend the red carpeted airstairs on to a red carpet. 

This isn't my first experience seeing the president, though...

Originally posted July 20, 2012 on

Ever wonder where you fit in the Jacksonville socio-political scene? Up until yesterday, I never did, but after attending President Barack Obama's "grassroots rally" at the Prime Osborn Convention, I know exactly where I stand, rather, sit.

Judging by seat placement, I fall somewhere between City Councilman John Crescembeni and Edward Waters College President (and former sheriff) Nat Glover, who were four and six rows behind me, respectively, and Rhiannon Owens renowned drag queen and host of Hambingo at Hamburger Mary's, who had a primo spot standing in the barricaded section directly in front of the podium.

One of the real mover and shakers, however, turned out to be Dave McDonald (aka Jax Food Critic), who appeared to have the best seat in the house.

Check the photo gallery above for photographic evidence.

And, of course, Lee High School choir director and chairman of the music department AJ Neaher, who sang the national anthem...




Embrace National Hug Week

Wouldn’t it be great if you could reduce anxiety and stress, lower your blood pressure and risk of heart disease, and help build your immune system without medication, exercise or even visiting the doctor?

According to researchers, you can, and it’s easy as opening your arms and giving someone a hug.

Sponsored by the Hugs for Health Foundation (HHF), National Hug Week, May 6-12, was created to “increase hug abundance on the planet.”

In celebration of this heartwarming holiday, I aim to fill my “daily hug prescription,” as suggested by HHF (four for survival, eight for maintenance and 12 for growth), every day next week.

And I encourage you to do the same, keeping in mind, of course, HHF's Proper Hug Etiquette (aka The Rules to Safe Hugging):

Always respect another's space.

Ask permission before hugging.

A hug is a compassionate gesture, hug accordingly.

A hug is a gentle embrace, not the Heimlich Maneuver.

Be "in" the hug; don't simply go through the motion.

Even if you can't embrace in person, you can hug others virtually via email, text or social media using one of these seven hug emoticons.

I'll be sharing my Hug Week experiences right here—pictures and all—so stay tuned. In the mean time, let's take a moment, shall we, to review HHF's Hugger's Creed: 

We believe HUGS nurture the human spirit, promote a more positive outlook  and enhance the quality of one's life.



Ta-da! It's TED!

Chances are you’ve at least heard of TED.

No, I’m not referring to JFK’s brother or the guy who sang “Cat Scratch Fever” or the Unibomber or the foul-mouthed, beer-guzzling stuffed bear from that movie with Mark Wahlberg. I’m talking about TED, the global non-profit that brings together some of the most creative, accomplished and fascinating thinkers and doers to speak on topics as diverse as the participants themselves.

Founded in 1984 as a conference to unite leaders and visionaries in the fields of Technology, Entertainment, Design, TED has expanded to topics as broad as psychology and race and as specific as origami and cyborgs. (Not to name drop but Bill Gates, Bono, Colin Powell and T. Boone Pickens are a few of the “remarkable people” who have delivered “riveting talks” at TED events.)

TEDx Jacksonville, an independently organized program, hosts its own conference “Connecting Currents” on October 26. Presenters include internationally-recognized Afghan artist Aman Mojadidi ("Geography of Self") and Matt Rutherford, the first person in history to complete a non-stop, singlehanded voyage around North and South America ("Tales From the Ocean's Garbage Patch"), as well as local visionaries former UN ambassador Nancy Soderberg ("A New Global Compact") and JCCI president and CEO Ben Warner ("New Models for Civic Engagement"). 

Seeking creative people who care about our city and our planet, event organizers promise a unique opportunity to “deconstruct, decipher and explore challenges, innovation and realities that shape and are shaped by the currents flowing through our city.” 

What they don't promise, however, is a seat. Applications are being accepted for audience members, and the event is expected to sell out. Final invitations will be sent October 6, but don't delay. TED is waiting.   More