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Remembering Isiah Carey, bug-swallower

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If you watch YouTube at all, chances are you've probably run across the video: KARK Channel 4 reporter Isiah Carey, circa 1996, is doing an on-camera report in front of a school when a large grasshopper jumps in his mouth. In an instant, the reporter goes from a newscaster baritone to a full-on rant: spitting, cussing, wiping sweat and telling his cameraman that he's "dyin' in this f**in' country-ass, f***ed up town." The video went viral about five years ago, and has since been parodied, remixed and Auto-Tuned. On June 7, Carey — now with a Fox affiliate in Houston — and the video were featured on "Tosh.0," the Comedy Central web clip mockery show, with Carey's "Newscaster Self" and his "Black Self" appearing together (via editing magic) as co-anchors on a fake newscast. Not quite politically correct, but given that Carey was in on the joke, The Observer got quite a few laughs out of it, anyway.

Just how this Internet Age gem got in the hands of the masses is deliciously low-tech. Around 1997, Little Rock actor, DJ and musician Donovan Suitt — one of the founding members of the Red Octopus comedy troupe, who puts out music via www.ruralwarroom.com — found a mysterious VHS tape on the sidewalk near Vino's brewpub on Seventh Street in Little Rock. The tape featured a number of video bloopers from KARK news personalities, including sportscaster Steve Sullivan. Four of them, though, were of Carey.

Suitt has since learned from contacts in the news business that the tape was probably shown in-house at KARK parties. Suitt held onto the tape for almost a decade, showing it to friends from time to time. In June 2006, he edited down some of the bloopers and put them on YouTube (without, he regrets now, watermarking the video with the name of his website). The video was ripped off almost immediately, and has since gone on to pop-culture infamy, with over 10 million hits on YouTube and mentions on Howard Stern, The Jimmy Kimmel Show and now Tosh.0.

To see the original video and more clips from the tape he found, visit Suitt's Youtube site at: www.youtube.com/user/bizarremedia.

The Observer called in an air-conditioning inspector for a spot of preventive maintenance. After declaring our aged a/c as prepared as possible, and while filling out the inevitable paperwork, the technician inquired ever so casually if The Observer might be a baseball fan. Why yes, we said. And had we heard of Johnny Sain?

Heard of one of the greatest pitchers ever to come out of Arkansas? You betcha! "Johnny Sain was my grandfather," the repairman said, and The Observer thought of baseball seasons long past. Johnny Sain pitched in the first World Series that The Observer can remember, Boston Braves v. Cleveland Indians. "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain," the verse went, back in the days when Braves fans put their faith only in their two pitching aces. Because of his grandfather, the air-conditioning man said, he'd actually met Warren Spahn, and Mickey Mantle and Henry Aaron and lots more. We forgot to get his autograph before he left.

Out in a gravel-strewn patch of track behind Union Pacific's Downing B. Jenks locomotive maintenance facility in North Little Rock, a crowd gathered Wednesday morning to await the arrival of the Union Pacific No. 844.

No. 844 is the last steam locomotive ever manufactured by the company. After an interlude of pulling freight and narrowly avoiding the scrap heap, the 844 was selected as the premier attraction of their fleet of historic locomotives. A contest was held, pitting midsized cities west of the Mississippi River against one another in their citizens' social networking abilities, and Little Rock won a visit.

After around a half hour delay, which included the passing of Union Pacific freight trains, a distant whistle could be heard and smoke seen as the 844 lumbered its way into view. The locomotive, a black cylinder on massive wheels, carting a row of immaculate yellow passenger cars, was emblazoned with GOVERNOR MIKE BEEBE, lest there be any doubt about this train's engineer-for-a-day. After the train hissed to a stop, Gov. Beebe disembarked and was instantly swarmed, gnat-like, by television cameras.

The photo-op over, the 844's old-time steam whistle bellowed and brought children in the near vicinity to tears, and the machine trudged south and away from its 15 minutes of local glory.

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