By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Jul 12, 2010 at 11:00 AM
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That "grave undertaking" crack in the headline comes directly from Dennis McCann as we talked about the classic McCann cracks that you'll find in his new book, "Badger Boneyards."

His own subtitle for the book is pure McCann: "The Eternal Rest of the Story."

He spent nearly a quarter century traveling Wisconsin for the Milwaukee Journal, and its successor, the Journal Sentinel, becoming one of the paper's most recognizable writers. His focus was often small towns and the characters that inhabit them. Along the way, he'd stop in the graveyards.

"I really find them to be peaceful places, sort of as parks with a different purpose," he tells me.

There's no heavy mysticism to McCann's 32 easily digestible stories in the 156-page paperback from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. There is the sensitivity to small-town life that is the hallmark of McCann's writing, along with his playful use of language.

"If you step away from it, you can treat it in a lighter manner because it is part of life," McCann says of what could be a heavy subjects. He never makes fun of his subjects, but revels in telling their stories. His cemetery stories are far more about life than they are about death.

And he steps back when he has to.

For example, he doesn't write about the recently deceased, relating a story of a fascinating find at one tombstone: leg braces with shoes still attached. But the death was fresh enough for McCann to shy away from using it in the book. The owner of leg braces was left unidentified.

McCann left newspapering back in 2007, taking a buyout and, like many journalists, moving into the post-newspaper phase of his career. For the record, he's a friend of mine, as well as a former co-worker.

He had written a book of 150 Wisconsin stories to mark the state's sesquicentennial and afterward this project came up. Spending most of the year up in Bayfield, McCann's still doing a bit of freelancing, mostly about golf. And he's still traveling the state.

His next project?

"Let's try and sell this one first," he tells me.

It's available from many sources, including the Wisconsin Historical Society, and  Amazon, which is discounting the $16.95 paperback to $11.43.

McCann's scheduled to talk to Larry Meiler on Wisconsin Public Radio's Ideas Network at 11 a.m. July 19. And there's a kickoff event planned for July 22 at the Apostle Islands Booksellers in Bayfield.

On TV: Subscribers to AT&T's U-verse are facing the loss of AMC and IFC this week in a contract dispute between the pay-TV service  and Rainbow Media, which owns the two channels. Thursday's the deadline, but based on past showdowns, the odds are that a settlement will be reached.

  • The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed quotes Nielsen numbers showing that Comedy Central's biggest name is now Daniel Tosh, whose "Tosh.0" pulled in 2.4 million viewers last week, beating Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
  • Don't forget that Anthony Bourdain devotes at least a few minutes of tonight's "No Reservations" to Milwaukee, as he eats his way through the "Heartland." It airs at 9 p.m. on the Travel Channel, repeating at 1 a.m.
  • A new season of TNT's "The Closer" debuts tonight at 8, followed at 9 by the new crime show "Rizzoli and Isles."

More cheese on Food Network: It turns out there's a second Dairylander on the "Next Food Network Star" competition, 25-year-old Brad Sorenson.

Sorenson, a serious guy who keeps pushing the line that he's a professional chef, revealed on Sunday night's show that he was born in Wisconsin when he was paired with bubbly Wisconsinite Aria Kagan to come up with an idea for a lunch truck.

The concept for their lunch was the very Wisconsin "Cheesehead Grill," offering burgers and other basics that didn't do much for the judges and they were in the bottom three of the eight finalists.

Still, both survived the competition that will end with the winner getting a Food Network show.

Chicagoan Paul Young, whose resume did include a Milwaukee stop, ended up being sent home.

Here's a look at Sorenson, whose chef's resume included stops in Columbus, Ohio, and Austin, Texas -- but apparently not in Wisconsin:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.