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It's all about The Print Edition: Time for a little vacation.

    Well, everybody, I'm about to do the unthinkable and take some time away from the office and the computer. Barring crazy entertainment/pop culture news, this will be my last post until next Friday, when I'll return with our Black Friday blog, which you can read off of the H-L's Web site, Kentucky.com. I intend to be out at the crack of Best Buy's front door on the day after Thanksgiving, chatting with people in line, checking out the madness at the mall and filling you in on which stores still have the $50 televisions or the $100 computers. If you'd like to contribute to the madness and the advice-giving, call me on Black Friday at 859-231-3238, or e-mail me at [email protected].

    More good news: When I return to the regularly scheduled It's All About, it'll have a new design, and a new home on the Web. Our hope is that it'll be easier to find -- no more of this ridiculous underscore business -- and prettier to see. I'll post a link when it's ready.

Because we've still got plenty of time to go before the shopping insanity, here are a few things to keep you busy this weekend...

  • Gallery Hop, 5-8 p.m. Friday, downtown Lexington. Go find yourself something nice.
  • Califone, 9 p.m. Saturday at Mecca, 451-B Chair Avenue in Lexington. I didn' t know a thing about this band until a few days ago, when I heard them on WRFL. The sound has been haunting me ever since. Bonus: This is an all-ages show! We can all enjoy it together! (Not interested? Nappy Roots and Cunninlynguists are at The Dame on Saturday night.)
  • Bond. James Blond. James Bond! Bond! I mean Bond! Casino Royale is getting swell reviews, even from the H-L's resident Bond fanatic, Rich Copley.
  • A few other movies, including the animated penguin flick, Happy Feet, which I'm not-so-secretly dying to see, and Fast Food Nation, which was I was dying to see, until I read the reviews.

Otherwise, it's all about...
Borat backlash:
It’s almost as trendy to take legal action against comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s character as it is to see his film.
    Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
, the tale of a fictional reporter who comes to the United States to learn about its culture, was the top-grossing film for the past two weeks. It’s popularity has grown, thanks to its revealing satire and naked, hairy man wrestling, but many who appeared in the film say they were duped into playing along.
    Some, like a few drunken fraternity brothers from the University of South Carolina, are suing the film’s studio and producers. Others (perhaps those who don’t embarrass themselves as much) are arguing they should’ve at least been in on the joke. Even the Romanian village in the film is threatening legal action. Look here to see the most interesting account I've read about someone who had to deal with Borat and his bizarre entourage.
     So what do you think? Did you see the movie? Did you laugh? Does a room full of people laughing make up for the lies?

Best American Comics:
In its first year of existence, The Best American Comics (Houghton Mifflin, $22) has turned itself into the most attractive volume in the Best American series.

Bestamerican     The series, which began in 1915 with The Best American Short Stories, branched out in recent years with The Best American Nonrequired Reading, but the comics volume is like nothing before. It offers a mainstream break for some unknown artists nd serious legitimacy for those who deserved it long ago.
    The volume was edited by Anne Elizabeth Moore with help from guest editor Harvey Pekar, of American Splendor fame, and includes cartoons from huge names in comics, like Robert Crumb and Chris Ware, interesting artists like Joe Sacco and Lynda Barry, and several newcomers, as well.

It's all about George Clooney, sexiest man alive.

Clooneycover Kentucky native George Clooney was named the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine. It's the second go-around for Clooney, who's now ranking next to two-time honoree Brad Pitt.

I can totally get behind this. Clooney is a Hollywood style icon, but throws his A-List weight around to draw attention to genocide in Darfur. And he's from Kentucky, which doesn't hurt his case. (After all, we were named the most stylish state in the union not so long ago.)
 

Dapper guy in a tux = sexy. Activism = sexier.

Johnny Depp, another fellow with Kentucky ties, made it onto the list as well, as well as a few other favorites: Taye Diggs, who has earned greater fame than he gets; Jake Gyllenhaal, who impresses me more with every film and John Krasinski, because he's Jim on The Office, and that is plenty.

(Although I like his messy boy hair better than this shiny, combed look People has pushed upon him.)

One that shocks me: Ashton Kutcher. (My exact reaction was: "Ashton Kutcher? What the hell?") I know he's grown up and gotten married and blah, blah, blah, but I still think of him as the dumb guy from That 70s Show, which is intensely not sexy.

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Ephraim_filming_bw_1
Ephraim Owens being filmed for Before the Music Dies.   

    If you can't make it to the Death Cab for Cutie show in Louisville  night, consider the free screening of Before the Music Dies at 8 p.m. Wednesday at The Dame, 156 W. Main The documentary explores the status of modern music and where it's headed, even as the divide between corporate-controlled tunes and DIY musicmakers grows. You can watch the trailer, or if you're an XM Radio subscribers can hear an audio version of the documentary this week, as well.

It's all about The Amazing Race, Family Guy and Nintendo Wii on South Park.

Let's just lay it all out there and say it's all about...

The Amazing Race: Kentuckians David and Mary Conley weren't there, but they certainly weren't forgotten during this week's episode. Teams were wearing/attempting to steal David's University of Kentucky hat. They were yelling "David Junior" as they rode a tram down into a limestone mine in Helsinki, Finland. (For the record, I don't think you'll find any coal mines in Kentucky that require miners to ride down in a bike.) And each of the teams seemed to remember what the Pike County residents brought to the race. Awww.
    Nobody was kicked off during this episode, so instead we'll see them continue racing around Finland on Sunday.

Nintendo Wii: According to this story by business writer Scott Sloan, it's not clear if Nintendo or Sony will win the video game war. At this point, I think the Nintendo system gets bonus points for being on object of fourth grade lust during this grossly hilarious time-traveling-otter-loving South Park episode.

Familyguy Family Guy, Season Four, Part Two: And while we're focusing on cartoons, how about we celebrate the release of the rest of Family Guy's fourth season! Hours and hours of gut-busting TV ahead! Read this interview with Alex Borstein, who voices Lois, before you head out to pick it up today.

The Kentucky Book Fair: By some divine act of timing, the Kentucky Book Fair came just before my few days off. Here's how I'll be keeping busy...

It's all about Death Cab for Cutie: Wave to Chris Walla.

Wallawave
Death Cab for Cutie, from left, Nick Harmer, Ben Gibbard, Chris Walla and Jason McGerr. Walla waves hello.

Across the country from whatever lawn he has, Chris Walla raged: "I don’t have, like, hatred or vitriol for many things at all, but one of the things I have a lot of disdain for is the leaf blower. I feel like in an oil-dependent world, in a world where obesity is a problem, in a world where noise pollution is a problem, the leaf blower is a problem. It makes me f*#$ing angry. I can’t even explain it."

This rant spewed from the Death Cab for Cutie guitarist while he was walking in Norfolk,  Va., trying to get away from one of those wretched machines. But can you blame the guy for being a little cacophony-sensitive? He makes lovely sounds for a living, whether he's writing them, playing them or producing them. (He's coming off the production success of The Decemberists' new album, The Crane Wife.) He's on a major tour with a band that's almost universally beloved by people ages 14-28 because it sounds pretty.

So if he wants to spit and snarl about leaf blowers, why not? He's not an angry guy on stage after all. He swears that Death Cab is still having fun out on tour, "a victory lap" for their 2005 major-label debut, Plans. Death Cab will be in Louisville on Nov. 15 with Ted Leo ("One of my favorite song writers, probably ever," Walla says.) Look here for tickets, and keep reading for Walla's thoughts on his new projects, bourbon, The OC and the reasons every town needs a good rock venue.

Have you spent much time in Kentucky before?

Hmm…trying to think. Nope. I’ve only been to Kentucky twice, and it was just for shows both times. Once in Louisville and once in…oh, what is across the river from Cincinnati? Covington? Yeah, yeah, that’s it.

Any favorite memories or parts from those brief stops?
   I just have this general impression that both places were really nice. And that’s really all I have. It’s really hard when you’re on tour. So many times, my impression of so many towns is the venue, the people at the venue, the parking lot behind the venue, the immediate block or two-block radius around the venue.
    Having the rock venue that lots and lots of bands come to be a good place is kind of underrated just for that very reason. It’s kind of selfish. That’s what I do everyday, but it makes me feel so much better about where we are when we get some nice place. That’s where we spend our entire day. If the club’s kind of a sh!#hole, it’s like, “Oh, that town sucks.” When your universe is so narrow, that’s what you end up making your judgements on.

Have you been able to bust out in any of the towns you’ve been in?
    It’s a victory lap, so to speak, on the record. There’s just not a lot going on, so we’re able to get out a little bit. It’s not a common occurrence that we get to get out and bum around.

Are you working on a new album at all?
    No. Not at all. This is purely playing shows. This feels a lot like the tours wer were doing 3 or 4 years ago. It’s all about the show, instead of the stuff around the shows. We’re not going around to the local radio station to do the morning show.

Is touring a lot different when you're on a major label?
    Not really. The only thing that changes is the sheer volume of the press we’re doing. One of the things about where we were when we signed, as opposed to a band that’s trying to establish themselves, our touring had been really good and really successful for a few years. Even our first tour, we came home and split up $200, which was amazing. If you don’t have a touring base, you end up taking out tour support and get further into debt with the label. That’s something we don’t have to worry about at all.

I saw part of your set at Bonnaroo. Does the show change a lot from place to place or are you sticking with the same format?
    The set is pretty similar from night to night. There are a lot of tunes based on pieces that work together. It’s sort of modular and interchangeable all the time. It feels like it’s the same thing every night. I know the Bonnaroo set was really good, really fun, but it was not what we typically do. I think it does change a fair bit from night to night.

Do you notice your audience is different from place to place, or is it the same type of people, same type of reactions?
    The only thing that changes is our perception of them based on whether the venue is a general admission venue or a seated. If it’s a GA floor, the only people we see and have any interaction with are the first 10 or 15 rows. It’s a sea of people.

Did you manage to vote in Tuesday’s election?
    Yeah, I’ll be fascinated to see whether my vote counted. In the satte of Washington, when you mail in your absentee ballot, it only has to be postmarked by election day. In the state of Oregon, it has to be in the county election office by 8 a.m. on election day. That’s a detail I just missed. I filled the whole thing out, got it all ready, and then it was too late. I felt like such a jacka$$ because we’re such vote, vote, vote advocates. I actually didn’t vote in the primary. I got it set this time. I ended up overnighting it from Washington, D.C. I called the guy at the elections office and he said it would be fine. I’ve got to see what the status of my ballot is.

What do you think of the results this time?
    I’m really thrilled. I suspect that the election was primarily a referendum on the war. I hope the Democrats can maintain some modesty. I hope there’s not a lot of gloating. I fear that very much. It seems like they recognize what a mistake that will be, but we’ll see.

Are you doing production for anyone right now?
    In January or February, I’m digging into the Tegan and Sara record. It’s totally amazing. The demos are great. I’m half-ish, 60 percent-ish of the way done with my solo record. I’m thinking August. It’s a whole bunch of songs, stuff I’ve been writing for years, trying to get right. Most of it’s pretty recent stuff.     It's like having a ship-building hobby for me. If I’m a sailor, if I’m the captain on a ship, that’s what I do for 100 hours a week, and then I spend an hour a week working on my model ship that I’m building from scratch. I just want to get the songs right. I just want to make sure that every word that comes out of my mouth is something I believe and presented in a way that I’m into.
    It’s really interesting doing that, just in production terms. One of the things I love about recording myself is that I get to have the experiences that all the musicians I record do. There’s that point that everybody reaches when the fingers don’t work -- "Today was not the day, I can’t do this anymore." I get to remember exactly what that feels like. It makes it easier to relate to the bands I work with, because I share more experiences with them than I think a lot of other producers do.

Do you prefer the producing, the playing or the writing more?
    I used to say I prefer the producing aspect. But, you know, the therapists always talk about the three-legged stool -- you need the balance, if you take one piece away, it falls over. I really feel like that's the thing. That's sort of how I relate to rock 'n' roll. We're all really business-minded, too. We ran our business, our band, for years.

Does that get tiring?
    Someday, we'll stop. We’re still having fun.
    I know that there’s a way we could do it where we were simply doing less. We could just hire a ton of people and not ever think about it ever again, like Panic! At The Disco.
    How could we do that? After five years of making our own records, making our own decisions, how could we do that? How could we extricate that completely from the process of making music? I think that’s impossible.

Is what we hear at the show a lot different from what’s on the album, or what you intend with what’s on the album?
    The thing about all of our records is that there’s a handful of songs that are presented just as a band. Two guitars bass and drums. Guitar, piano bass and drums. Those ones end up sounding just like the records. Then there are a whole bunch that are impossibly unplayable on stage. We approach those as though we are covering one of our own songs. We know the tempo and the changes. We can learn the parts, but texturally, we can’t get anywhere close, so we crash through them as the rock band with two guitars bass and drums probably would. Crooked Teeth sounds very much the way it does on the record. Something like Brothers on a Hotel Bed is an approximation, same thing with Title and Registration. It’s an approximation of what the record is. It’s a really different experience.

It must be interesting to carry it all the way through.
    It makes me something of a control freak.

Are you all control freaks?
    Of course we are, in our own special way. We divide up the pie of control. We’re super-ultra in- control.

Walla1

Walla, on the set of The OC.

Do you actually watch The OC?
    I don’t actually have a TV. I saw it once. I was having a conversation with our label, and they kept talking about Grey’s Anatomy. I realized I don’t have the slightest impression of what that show is. My uncle has a cat called Mr. Grey so I somehow thought it was about cats. I only just yesterday found out that it takes place in a hospital. I really have no idea what it’s about. People I know and respect and love -- interesting, creative people love that show. And still, I just can’t. I’m completely ignorant.

So when people start talking about The OC and whether it's better or worse with Marissa dead, it means nothing to you?
    I don’t know Marissa at all, but I know Mischa Barton. Our whole connection with that show is the day we spent on the set, hanging out with all those kids. They’re cool kids who have a job to do like we have a job to do. We had a super good time. Every time I hear about The OC, I have this nice, pretty warm memory of that particular day, and that’s about it.

When you're in Kentucky, will you drink the bourbon?
    (Long, long pause.)
    Is this a trick question?

No. I'm just curious.
    Probably not. I had a bourbon phase. I think I’m out of the bourbon phase.

What have you moved on to?
    A really cheap champagne.

It's all about The Print Edition: let's do a little reading this weekend, shall we?

::sob::

::whine::

Can we please not watch TV this weekend? I'm so tired.

::sniffle::

Instead, let's head to Frankfort.

No, really.

Two hundred and one authors will be there for the Kentucky Book Fair when it takes over the Frankfort Convention Center from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

They've written and produced photography books, biographies, Southern fiction, chick lit, kids' books, pop-up books, young adult books, poetry volumes, histories, religious books, science books, cook books -- everything you might want to escape to during hellish holiday gatherings, or give away to your impossible-to-shop-for brother-in-law. Plus, I'll be manning the Herald-Leader booth from 1-3 p.m. Be my friend.

A few works of interest:

If you want to break my heart, here are a few non-book things you can do with yourself...

Check It's All About this weekend to read my interview with Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla. He'll be in  Kentucky this week for a show at the Louisville Palace with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.

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Mourn:
The Lexington Shakespeare Festival is closing.
Declining audience and revenues killed it after 24 years. I've only lived here a few years, but it seemed so lovely to spread out a blanket and enjoy a show. We'll have more details in Saturday's paper.

It's all about all those other TV shows: Lost, The Office and yes, Men in Trees.

Don't get me wrong, the Kentucky connection to The Amazing Race has made this week surprising and thrilling.

But I've repeated sweet quotes from David and Mary one too many times. I'm hoping to catch up with them again in the next few days, but until then, can we maybe dish on some other TV?

Consider tonight's episode of Lost, which is supposed to be The Big Episode, closing out the first half of the season before ABC debuts Day Break next week. Missed it? You can watch the whole thing, right here.

Thursday night, NBC will debut an uncut version of The Office on the Web. This, too, is a big episode -- the Scranton branch is closing.

After much scandal and rumor suggesting that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was doomed, creator Aaron Sorkin is now expecting the show to be picked up any minute now. Side note: Why haven't we heard this already? Don't know. Here's what mediabistro had to say about it. Second side note: Why are we so worried about Sorkin? J.J. Abrams' unremarkable new show, Six Degrees, seems to be having bigger problems.

This week, that coveted post-Grey's Anatomy once filled by Six Degrees will go to Desperate Housewives, but the scuttlebutt now is that Men in Trees will take its spot

Ahhh, Men in Trees. (Hush up. It makes me laugh.) I'm a Grey's Anatomy fan and all, but when are people going to realize that Patrick Dempsey's hair has lost its gig as Best TV Guy Hair?

New winner: James Tupper, aka Jack of Men in Trees. (Anne Heche's locks are lovely, too, but not my focus here.)

Menintrees2_1

Instead of being Manhattan-doctor-living-in-a-Seattle-trailer rugged, he's Alaskan-wildlife-caretaker rugged. Impressive.McDreamy hasn't managed that kind of curly bounce since everyone realized he wasn't just the hottie doctor wooing the confused intern. 

Now, next time, let's talk about how to have lives beyond TV, OK?

 

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Ponder: Will Britney Spears appear on Letterman when she's about to spark a pop culture scandal?
Last time she dropped in on the Late Show, she confirmed her pregnancy. This time, she was apparently celebrating filing for divorce, although she didn't mention it.

Also, is it possible that Brit ditched Fed-Ex via text message, while he was being filmed for a reality show? Isn't that just too many pop culture stereotypes and expectations wrapped up in one? Doesn't the whole of Los Angeles implode into a mass of glitter now?

It's all about The Amazing Race: Mary and David, live from New York.

Viewphoto

UPDATE: In case you missed David and Mary Conley on The View Tuesday morning -- perhaps you were busy voting? -- the show is sending them back to Kentucky loaded with gifts: A $1,000 Carhartt gift certificate for David; a MacBook computer and Canon Rebel digital camera; trips to Disneyland, Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon, ABC confirmed; a new Ford Explorer, Eddie Bauer edition and (drum roll, please) a new three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath, 1,800-square foot house to be built on the couple's lot in Pike County. (This is in addition to the cruise they're going on with Rosie O'Donnell's travel company in February.) The host asked the Conleys to give their trailer to someone who needs it.

It turns out that you don't have to win to be the winner. Anybody else a little teary?

UPDATE 2: Check out this video of their appearance.

Race1

As we hoped, the H-L snagged an interview with Kentuckians David and Mary Conley while they were making the rounds in New York Monday. "We thought we'd come here and get some peace and quiet," Mary said. Not so! Life is a lot different for them since starting their journey on the CBS show The Amazing Race.

Before the show, it felt like people looked right through them, they said during a phone call from New York.

Although the couple from Stone, in Pike County, were eliminated from the race Sunday night — which means they’re not millionaires, as their kids hoped — they still couldn’t make it a block in New York without being recognized. (They’re staying with fellow racers Tom Rock and Terry Cosentino while in New York.)

They appeared on CBS’s Early Show and Live With Regis and Kelly on Monday, and Tuesday they’ll appear on The View, along with former Kentuckian Ashley Judd (at 11 a.m. on ABC). And at the Wal-Mart back home in Pike County, tasks that used to take 10 minutes now take two hours, thanks to all the autograph-seekers, they say, but they love it too much to say no.

The five weeks they spent racing around the world changed their lives, the Conleys say, but it also made them appreciate what they’ve got at home with their kids, ages 6, 7 and 10. They both dream of going to Australia but David has one more big dream that can’t be realized anywhere but Kentucky: being invited to half-court during a University of Kentucky basketball game.

“I am a Wildcat fan for life,” says David, who wore UK gear throughout the race. “There’s no place like Kentucky. We’ve told everybody that. We’ve been to China, Mongolia, India, Vietnam, but until you get out of your home state, your comfort zone, you never really think about people. When you meet them and see them, people is people. But there’s still no place like your home.”

Race2

Question: What was the toughest challenge?
Mary: I did not think I’d get over the Great Wall of China. Honest to goodness, I didn’t. But (in the episode) last week, when we had to swim in the ocean (in Mauritius), honest to goodness, I can’t swim, and I had to swim way, way out to a boat. I was thinking “There’s no way. I’m going to have a heart attack and die.” I was so disillusioned.
David: For me, probably the second leg in Vietnam. I had to climb the rock, and then when I got off the rock, I had to go row the boat. Rowing that boat, oh, it was horrible. I had never been out in the ocean and the current kept trying to take us back out into the ocean. I just did not know how to row. I was probably out in the water almost five hours. They crunch that down to about five seconds.

Q: What was your favorite stop on the race?
Mary:
I loved Mongolia. It was cooler, 32 degrees. We’re from Kentucky, we’re not used to hot, hot weather. There was this celebration they were having for the kids. That was at the very beginning of the race, and at that point I was missing my kids so much. It made me feel more at home, being around all those kids.
David:
Vietnam. It was my worst and best place. People just took you in. When we finished the leg, they gave me water, tried to wash me off, come over and washed Mary’s hair. The people was very, very nice. And it was plum beautiful.

Q: Do you stay in touch with other racers? Is there anybody you don’t stay in touch with?
Mary: We talk to everybody from the race, even the ones that got eliminated quickly, except Rob (Diaz) and Kim (Chabolla). We don’t talk to Rob and Kim. I don’t like them. We talk to the Cho Bros (brothers Erwin and Godwin Cho of San Francisco fellow racers) every night. Honest to goodness, they are our family. Tom and Terry are our best friends. If anybody comes to New York from Kentucky, I would recommend getting Tom and Terry to take you around.  It was like one big family. We have something that nobody else can share.

Q: You mentioned on your last episode that you want your kids to travel. Where do you want to take them?
Mary: We took them to Alabama on Labor Day to visit the ‘Bama girls (fellow racers Lyn Turk of Birmingham, Ala., and Karlyn Harris of Helena, Ala.). We gave them (their kids) a choice, of all our friends in the United States.
David: They chose New York, I reckon just because it’s New York. They watch TV. We plan on taking them to New York and maybe California.

Q: How did you get on the show?
David: I signed up for Survivor in Pikeville at a casing call. I made it to Round Two and I had to go to Lexington and then I had to go to Frankfort to get some paperwork and all that stuff done, then Louisville. At the end of Round Two they told me that they would let me know something in about 30 days. We got home the next day and got a phone call and they said pretty much, "You've got a slim shot at Survivor right now. We've been looking for a coal miner for The Amazing Race for two years now. Two days later they flew us out to L.A.

Q: So were you already fans of the show?
David: Yes. We watched every episode of Survivor, The Amazing Race.
Mary: We are big fans of reality shows. I'm even talking about Flavor Flav. I love everything.

Q: Did you know what to expect on the race, or was it all surprises?
David: We thought we knew what to expect, but it was all surprises.Even thought we've watched it that many years, it was still shocking and surprising.
Mary: I thought I could go in their and show America I've got guts. "Hey, I'm not afraid to jump out of an airplane. I'm not afraid to bungee jump." Although really I am, I just wanted America to think I wasn't, OK? I wanted to show America that I've got the guts and he's got the physical ability.

Race3

Q: Were there any tasks that were easy for you?
Mary: The easiest task that we did, as hot as it was -- I'm telling you that fire was hot, you wouldn't imagine hell to be the hot and that's the truth -- both our shoes melted on our feet in Kuwait. It was that hot, OK? That was so easy for me. It wasn't physical. It was more guts. Guts and glory. And "Let's just go put that fire out." It was mental. I could do that. After we put that fire out, I was the happiest person on earth because I actually loved it. I was scared, but you can get over being frightened.
David: That was probably the easiest. It really wasn't that hard. All little boys dream of being a policeman and a firefighter. That was exciting to be able to go put one out.

Q: How have things changed for you back in Kentucky?
Mary: I've lived my whole life with nobody ever seeing me. People don't see you coming or see you going. I can got to Wal-Mart and pick something up and (David) knows if I go, I'll be stuck for two or three hours with people talking to me. It's cool. A lot of the times, we've been staying in the house. If I go to Wal-Mart, I've got people following me around. It's really cool, but it's also time consuming. I'm not rude to anybody. If anybody wants a picture with me, wants my autograph, they've got it. There's only 24 hours in one day. That's what we've had to struggle with since this race has been on.
David: We basically gotta plan for it.

Q: How are your kids handling it?
David: They think they're movie stars. We get recognized and they're getting used to it, asking "Mom and daddy, is that your fans?" They've kind of gotten used to it now.  The teachers will give the kids notes. All the kids are trying to get our kids to tell 'em what's going on. Cody came home and said "They're carrying my books for me." They're eating it up, they think they're little movie stars.

Q: When do you think things will get back to normal at home?
Mary: It would be nice to know. I don't see it coming any time soon. This is wild. Rosie O'Donnell just invited us on a cruise, you know? Jon from The Finish Line has invited us to the Ringling Bros. Circus next time they're in Lexington. They want us to bring our kids. I just went to win a million dollars, you know?

Q: Was there anything on the show that made you cringe and say "Why did I say that?"
Mary: What I said to a lot of people is you hardly ever get to see yourself. Step back and watch yourself. It's amazing. This is the one chance The Amazing Race has given me and God has given me, is to step back and see myself as I really am.
    A lot of things I'm happy with. There are a lot of times...when I talked to David Junior. I read all these boards, and they're true when I say I'm nice to the world, but I'm not nice to David Junior. I love him with all my heart, but when I was a little girl -- I had a really bad life growing up -- I made a decision that there would be no man that would ever control me. Watching this race is realizing that my relationship with David Junior is nothing like mine and my daddy's, or my mommy and daddy's relationship. That has helped my, psychologically, to realize that I was dissociating our relationship with my mommy and my daddy's, and he's not my daddy.
    I hope that we did Kentucky proud. I do think it opened a lot of doors in Hollywood, for people from Kentucky, not just us. I think they're gonna see that that stereotype that "They're all dumb hicks out there," is wrong. We tried to support Kentucky in every way we knew how. We went on the race and didn't change the people we were.





It's all about The Amazing Race: Au revoir, Kentuckians, et merci.

Update: Check out David and Mary's Monday appearance on CBS' Early Show. They say they've staying with one of their race competitors while in New York, and that their kids cried when they found out their parents didn't win.

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What an end to a great race.

Kentuckians David and Mary Conley finished last on The Amazing Race last night, ending a streak of good luck and smart traveling that had saved them from earlier elimination.

On Sunday's episode, the teams flew west of last week's jaunt, Mauritius, to Madagascar. (Seriously, nothing like the cartoon.) It's bigger than Mauritius, the CIA World Factbook points out, which means far more opportunities to get lost.

Madagascar

That, of course, is how David and Mary met their end. They were already working under the stress of a 30-minute penalty because they finished last in Mauritius. The team took an early lead in Madagascar, but missed a major landmark -- a "black angel" that was inexplicably painted white. It wasn't the worst kind of lost, but it was enough to push them behind other teams.

Of course, it didn't seem to matter at first. Something cruel was in store for all of them: They had to work together. In pairs. Most of 'em were two seconds away from wailing "Me no like play nice!" into the camera.

The model boys and arguing couple paired up to take the Fast Forward, a task that two teams complete, pushing them beyond all the others, right to that leg's pit stop.  It wasn't a pleasant task, by any means: It dropped them at the butchers' market, where they had to eat a steaming bounty of cow lips. Fish eyes were doable in that first episode, but hairy cow kissers are another punishment delicacy entirely. There was definitely some vomit left behind after that challenge.

The rest of the teams, David and Mary included, sought out a large pile of mattresses, covered them and towed them off to a residence. While the Conleys were able to work with a friendly team, the mothers from Alabama, others didn't have a warm 'n' fuzzy relationship. No, no. The ultra-friendly Cho brothers hooked up with the ultra-competitive pageant queens. You can't knock the partnership -- both teams survived this leg of the race -- but the grudging willingness to work together wasn't exactly a kindergarten teacher's dream.

After loading up all the mattresses, the teams scoured another market to have their clues stamped with specific symbols of planes, trains, ships and cars. (Get it!?) Always a sweetie, Mary pointed out at least one stamp to her 'Bama colleague -- "I'm not gonna become a devil just for the money," she said.

Isn't that the truth. The Conleys reached the pit stop before the women from Alabama, but that 30-minute penalty came back to haunt them.

After all the lucky breaks and small successes, the Conleys were going home.

Davidmary_2 It's bittersweet, really. I'm thrilled that my heart rate can stay in a normal, healthy spot on Sunday nights. And the couple was thrilled to return home to their kids. Yes, they wanted to win that $1 million for them, but Mary started to weep just thinking about them. (Being half a world away will do that to a mom.)

The couple explained early on that they hadn't traveled much outside of Kentucky. When they started, they'd never met Asians or gay people. Every new trip was an exercise in blowing their minds.

And yet, they made if far beyond some other teams, and never lost a shred of integrity and decency. The put friends before cash and kindness before competition. Mary always seemed to be hugging someone or picking up a new foreign phrase -- and David put up with it like a champ.

And let's not forget their Kentucky pride, from coal mines to basketball. David and Mary's wardrobe of UK hats and shirts probably gave the university as much primetime advertising as a Final Four game. (In the previews for next week, it looks like one of the Alabama teammates inherited David's big blue cap.)

"Kentucky is who we are," Mary said during the episode. "I love my little place in the world. I need to get out and take my kids to see the world.

"It's a whole new book. Not a new chapter in the same life. It's a new book."

Short of winning a million bucks, that's the best ending imaginable for the couple.

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I'll be trying to get in touch with the Conleys on Monday. When it happens, I'll post all the details here. Until then, keep yourself busy with another Kentuckian in pop culture -- here's a link to the trailer for Ashley Judd's new movie, Come Early Morning.

It's all about loving our pre-holiday weekends while we have them.

Remember Pieces of April? That lovely holiday film starring a pre-Cruisian Katie Holmes as a wayward New York gal who promises to make Thanksgiving dinner for her snotty, obnoxious, perfectionist, judgmental, mentally ill, physically ill family?

That was my life yesterday, without the Hollywood charm, the pretty-despite-herself star or the crazy family. I was cooking a veggie Thanksgiving meal to appear in a later story. It turned out OK I suppose, but I've never hated mashed potatoes more than when I finally collapsed on the couch last night.

So, in that spirit, can we please have some fun this weekend before the winter holidays stop being cute and start being stressful?

For the weekend, consider...

  • The Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs on Saturday. This is a big-deal race that costs a lot less than Derby -- $25 for general admission, $15 at Lexington and Louisville Kroger stores. You can read all about the race in Saturday's sports section, or if you want to see pretty horsies, check out this bizarre, amazing story about The Horse Listener.
  • Kentucky State Marching Band Championships starting at 5 p.m. central time at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. We're talking about 80 bands here -- all you former high school and college marching band geeks, this is your day.
  • Borat, which is playing at Hamburg and Richmond. The H-L's Rich Copley gave it only one star, but plenty of people can't wait to see it, anyway. The Queen, however, got four stars, so check that out at the Kentucky Theater downtown.
  • And '80s night at The Dame on Friday and i.Inside's EP release party on Saturday. Worth it, definitely.
  • Day of the Dead celebrations through ballet and art. It's seems scary in a Halloweeny way, but maybe you should take another look. Below is a Day of the Dead altar at the Lexington History Museum, photographed by David Perry.

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For the record, it's also all about...

My Secret: It seems as if the charm of the PostSecret blog would wear off, that people might grow tired of looking at the secrets that others have scrawled onto decorated postcards and mailed to blogkeeper Frank Warren. But with each Sunday update and each new book, it seems more exciting and more real.

Mysecret_1      My Secret (Regan Books, $19.95), the latest in the PostSecret library, features secrets that probably came from high school and college students. This book, released last month, has complaints (“I can’t stand my roommate”), inspirations (“I believe in my childhood dreams”), confessions (“I exposed myself to herpes because I thought he would marry me”) and regrets (“If I had a time machine, I would not kill Hitler or meet Jesus. I would take you to the movies”).
    The book feels more like a carefully curated art exhibit than a tell-all blog — there’s a postmarked message here that’s familiar to everyone.
    Bonus: The book comes with stickers.

Supersunnyspeedgraphic: Finally, a smart repackaging of songs! I tire quickly of albums released on CD with one set of songs, on vinyl with two extra songs, in Europe with a special DVD, and six months later with a bonus CD and a free poster.
    When Ben Folds released a series of EPs a few years ago, it bordered on annoying. (But it’s Ben! You can’t stay mad at the guy.) A new CD released last month finally compiled the best songs from Super D, Sunny 16, Speed Graphic, The Bens and the Over the Hedge soundtrack, including his fab Cure cover, In Between Days, the lovely songs Still and Bruised, and one Dr. Dre song with a title that can’t be repeated on this family-style blog, but can definitely be linked.
    This is how music was meant to be reheard.

The season finale of Weeds: Consider everything that you like about your favorite TV shows, whether it’s complex but relatable characters, or sex, drugs, violence and cops. Now turn on the replays of Weeds on Showtime, and watch as all your desires are served.
    A drug-dealing suburban mommy has gotten in over her head. Her kids know she’s dealing pot, and to her horror, one wants in on the action. Her drug-cop boyfriend-husband-nemesis is blackmailing her into quitting. Her business partners are trying to sell off the goods and disappear into the night. And as the season finale ends, she has rival gangs’ weapons pointing at her as she’s on the phone asking her son, “Honey, did you take something that doesn’t belong to you?"
    It’s an excruciating season finale that leaves absolutely no problems solved. It should be frustrating, but it’s just addictive. Weeds’ finale reruns at 9 p.m. Friday and 9 p.m. Sunday on Showtime.

Spinach: Welcome back to store shelves, our green, iron-laden friend. After months of E. coli fear that kept spinach away from our plates, the wonder veggie is again finding its way onto restaurant menus and dinner plates. Quesadillas! Dips! Soups! Salads! Healthy blood samples! Oh, how I’ve missed you.     And for those of you who see it only as a dessert bargaining tool — “I ate this healthy item, so now I can have the big piece of cheesecake” — enjoy. It’s better than the Brussels sprouts you’ve been working with.

It's all about: An Oprah update.

Makeovers2

The two Kentucky women selected to take on Oprah's kindness challenge are deep into their week of giving.

The H-L ran a story Thursday about hair, makeup and dental makeovers for women living in a domestic violence shelter, but they've still got a long list of plans for the week, which you can read here. (Above is a photo by Dave Perry of dentist Gina Johnson-Higgins hugging Samantha Frederick, one of the women in the Oprah audience. Johnson-Higgins and her staff are offering free dental care to the women who received makeovers.)

As for their wishlist, which you'll find in the link above, it's grown. They're looking for a company that will install a chair lift into a van, and people willing to bring aluminum cans to Cinemark Fayette Mall, 3800 Mall Road in Lexington, for an aluminum drive. (It'll help pay a family's medical bills.)

For more info about them, check out their Web site, Embrancehumankind.com.

It's all about random acts of kindness, Oprah-style.

You could be a target for a random act of kindness this week.

Oprah_1 Two Kentucky women were in Oprah's audience for the host's "favorite giveaway ever," which aired Monday.




Every audience member got $1,000, a camcorder and an assignment: Give it away. Donate it. Buy something meaningful. Help out. Be kind. Do it in one week, record it and send it back so it can be featured on another show.

Cousins Tammy Kossatz, of Richmond, and Samantha Frederick, of Lexington, spent six hours driving back from Chicago last week, planning. Should they donate it to an organization? Buy something big for one person? Hand it out in the street?

They wanted it to last forever.

So, that's the plan.

"Our strategy is, 'Wouldn't it be nice if we could grow this money and get other people to be givers, too?'" said Samantha, 31.

After all, that's how they wound up on Oprah'
s show in the first place: Tammy, 39, volunteered because she was inspired by her dad, Edward Hunkin. He was so happy, so kind, so generous, she said, that she wants to model her life after his. Saturday is the one-year anniversary of his death.

"I know he touched so many people," said Tammy, "so I thought I should start now to catch up with him."

They'll be handing out Halloween treats at parties and donating CDs and DVDs to young people. You may see them doling out roses or lollipops or dollar bills. They're planning a few big surprises: Makeovers for people who need them most, visits from parents who live a continent away, drives for aluminum, celebrations to encourage people to get well.

They week is young.

The curious thing, they say, is that they were empowered and inspired with $2,000, but they've hardly touched the money.

People are already donating time, space, equipment, services and goods.

The cousins' wishlist: Anything. Toys. CDs. DVDs. Cards. Flowers. Cash. Clothes. Makeup. Aluminum cans.

Got an idea to help someone else? They'll consider it. They've started a Web site, Embracehumankind.com. You can reach them via e-mail, or at 859-312-3307.

"Anybody could do it, if they would step out of their box and do it," Tammy says. "I’m going to give it my all and make someone happy today. I would challenge anybody to do it."

Check back at It's All About this week for updates about their kindness campaign, and ways you can help.

 

It's all about The Amazing Race: What was the name of that island again?

Whoa, geography lesson.

On Sunday's episode of The Amazing Race, the teams headed to the island of Mauritius, which was pronounced 273 different ways in five minutes.

Vietnam, India and Kuwait are all in the modern geography vocab, but Mauritius? Not so much.

Mauritius_3

It's an island about 11 times the size of Washington, D.C., east of Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean. The CIA's World Factbook says its got 1.2 million people, a median age of 30 years and a lot of sugarcane.

To look at it on the show, though, it might as well have been one of the massive nations they've visited previously.

After stopping in London, the teams landed on the island, swam out to a schooner, got a clue and swam back. (Watching was exhausting.) Their challenges involved...well...looking for a lost shaker of salt. Inside a massive pile of salt. Several teams tried it and failed. (This, of course, led to the title of tonight's episode, which for once didn't come from Mary. One of the Tyler/James model-duo was worried about his pickled fingers.)

Instead, they leapt onto another boat and searched through an island for a sail to bring them back.

Once again, Kentuckians Mary and David should be heading home. They came in last, taking their alliance with the Cho brothers and the Alabama girls very seriously -- more seriously than the other teams. (With absolute glee, they're calling the bunch the Six Pack. Who doesn't want a fun nickname for their reality show chums?) David and Mary said they'd wait for them. The other teams would ran, and hope they understood. As Mary said, she'd give up the race for the friends she's made any time.

But by some miracle of TV timing and CBS decision-making, they were spared. They've got to come in first next week, or they get a 30 minute penalty, just like the one they could have gotten in Kuwait.

They admit it: They were slow. They fell behind. They'll do better next time.

Morushows, More-it-tus, Mauritius, they will own you!

It's all about this city we live in, and that city where we're headed.

Madisonpic

Today, the H-L ran a story comparing Lexington to Madison, Wis., home of the University of Wisconsin. As the University of Kentucky works to reach its goal of becoming a Top 20 university, Lexington could look a lot more like that city than the one we live in today.

I spent a few days in Madison earlier this year to report the story, and photographer Charles Bertram, whose photo you see above, traveled there this month. As similar as Madison and Lexington are on paper, we couldn't be more different on the ground. The streets seemed to be filled at all hours, but not just with college students -- men and women in black business suits sat next to college kids with dreadlocks next to elementary school groups next to white-haired retirees. It made me curious about what elements Lexington could take from a college town like that and shape into our own.

Read the story, think about it, and share your thoughts over on the discussion board. Or, come back to Kentucky.com tomorrow at noon to chat with me about the story.

Speaking of cities where we're headed: Check It's All About tonight for another Amazing Race update, featuring David and Mary Conley of Stone.

It's all about The Print Edition: Stay inside, but don't stay home.

Gee. What a lovely Friday.

Fifty degrees. Rain. Thunder. Clouds. Sadness and boredom dripping from the gutters.

So let's play inside this weekend.

Consider...

But tonight, it's also all about...

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The order of an artist’s affairs: After Ross Zirkle, an associate professor of art at the University of Kentucky, was diagnosed with cancer this year, artists rallied around the printmaker, donating art for fund-raisers and money for health care. Zirkle’s own work was never the focus, until now.
    Putting My Affairs in Order, a 46-piece retrospective of Zirkle’s work, will be celebrated from 5 to 9 tonight at The Art Depository, 106 East Maple Street, Nicholasville. The show features new and old works from Zirkle’s long career as a printmaker. The exhibit ends Nov. 25.Keep track of Zirkle's show and treatment through this blog.

The World Cafe’s fabulous 15: The public radio music show that always seems to be just ahead of a major music trend turns 15 this month, and host David Dye and company are replaying favorite interviews to celebrate. The series ends Nov. 3, but until then, listen in for talks with Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Lucinda Williams.
    Find out more at this Web site, or listen in Lexington on WUKY-91.3 FM at 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 p.m. Sunday.

Fall TV decision time: I mentioned earlier this week that the shows I'm committing to this fall season is being narrowed down. After a truly enjoyable episode of 30 Rock this week, I might actually stick with it. Check out the rest of my TV schedule and share yours down in the comments -- in particular, let me know if I've given up on a show too early.