Saturday, August 29, 2015

Showbiz Show 8/28/15


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, and Pierce Brosnan in "No Escape" and Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke in "Mistress America." We also talked about the new Netflix series "Narcos," Christopher Guest's next movie, a TV version of "Galaxy Quest," and other showbiz news. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 8/28/15

This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- includes categories "Katrina Ten Years Later," "That's Their Business," and "The Sports Pages." Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 8/28/15


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News® I have stories about a potato salad fight, a bottle of cognac, and the house next door. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Worth A Link

In case you missed these stories on my Friday show, take a look for yourself:

  • Women convinced this guy was a secret agent space alien helped him stockpile a massive weapons cache.
  • The fake doctor had already botched his butt implant, so why not go back for penis enlargement?
  • So wrong: high heels for babies that can't even walk yet!

Friday, August 28, 2015

KTRS Friday


Today on my 3-6pm CT show on KTRS, Colin Jeffrey and I will review Owen Wilson and Lake Bell in "No Escape" and Greta Gerwig in "Mistress America," as well as other movie/showbiz news. Plus, you'll have another chance to play The Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- and I'll deliver a brand new batch of Knuckleheads In The News®. Listen over the air, via the station's free smartphone app or via KTRS.com.

Picture Of The Day

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Onion's Story Of The Day

Since I started following The Onion on Twitter, I've often found myself chuckling at its headlines, including this one from today: Everyone Who Started Watching "Mad Money" In 2005 Now Billionaires. I'm sure Jim Cramer and his CNBC crew enjoyed it, too.

Worth Watching: Sneaky Pete


Amazon has several pilots available for streaming that, if they get enough viewer support, might be picked up as series. One that I recommend strongly is "Sneaky Pete," developed by "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston and "House" creator David Shore.

"Sneaky Pete" stars Giovanni Ribisi as Marius, a con man about to get out of jail who owes a lot of money to a mob figure -- cash he doesn't have. When his cellmate Pete shares stories about rich grandparents he hasn't seen in 20 years, Marius decides that, once released from prison, he'll pretend he's Pete and scam his way into their money. Things don't go exactly the way he plans them, though, and the complications make for a very interesting plotline, thanks to Margo Martindale and Peter Gereghty as the grandparents and a slew of unknowns as the rest of the extended family.

I'm always a sucker for a good con man story, particularly one that has the feel of "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul" mixed with a touch of a short-lived series I enjoyed called "Terriers." I enjoyed it enough to tell Amazon I want to see more episodes. Check it out and see if you agree.

Worth A Link


Flashback: UIGEA Online Poker Ban

As a followup to yesterday's post exposing the hypocrisy of online poker opponent Sheldon Adelson, here's a column I wrote on October 13, 2006, after Congress snuck the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act into a completely unrelated homeland security bill...

Today, President Bush signed the ports safety legislation, which also includes a ban on internet gambling. What one has to do with the other, or why an online poker game might be a threat to national security, I have no idea.

The problem with the online gambling ban is hypocrisy of our politicians criminalizing betting in one form, while promoting it in so many others. Every state in the country has a lottery, and several take part in multi-state lotteries like Powerball and MegaMillions, which means the gambling crosses state lines. No one is suggesting we shut those down. Nor would they ever tell churches to knock off their bingo nights, and we know about the growth of all those brick-and-mortar casinos across the country.

Obviously, our nation has embraced gambling -- or rather, allowing adults to gamble if they like. Even now, in the midst of the baseball playoffs, we have mayors like Slay and Bloomberg making very public wagers on the Cards vs. Mets, with the payoff coming in toasted ravioli, pizza, and lemon ices. They not only made the bet, but they publicized it to the press and on their websites. But if you wanted to make a bet on that series, the only place you could do it legally is Las Vegas. God forbid you place that wager with an online sports book. What's the difference? Why is it okay for politicians to make these bets out in the open, but not the rest of us?

Opponents of online gambling always throw up the classic red herring, "we have to protect the kids." This kind of protection is not the government's job, it's the job of parents -- just as I have to make sure my daughter is not giving out a lot of personal information on MySpace.com, and you have to ensure that your son isn't running up your cellphone bill by sending 10,000 text messages to his friends.

If my daughter were to somehow use my credit card or bank information to start playing poker or betting on sports online, she'd feel plenty of consequences right here in our own house -- there would be no need for an FBI agent to get involved. If she's old enough to have money of her own and ends up losing it, well, that's one of life's lessons, which she could just as easily learn in a real-world casino.

Don't tell me it's about gambling addiction, either. No law prevents a gambler from going to a local casino and losing several hundred dollars every single day. And there's no restriction on the number of lottery tickets they can buy, either -- even though the odds of winning are worse than being hit by lightning. What message does that send, that the worse you are at math, the less you should be restricted?

The new legislation won't stop online gambling. It will make it a little more difficult to transfer money in and out of those accounts for awhile, but eventually, the offshore sites will figure out a way to bring their customers back, because there's just too much money at stake.

All that money is another part of the argument, because the government isn't getting its share of taxes from the revenue. But legalizing it would kill two birds with one stone. One, they could monitor and regulate the gaming, taxing the revenue of both the online operators and the players. Two, the large corporations that run the biggest brick-and-mortar casinos would be encouraged to enter the business, and customers would be much more likely to do business with brand names they know and trust, like Harrah's and MGM Mirage and Wynn. Those publicly-traded companies would make sure that things are on the up and up, because any cheating or other scandal would endanger the billions of dollars they could be raking in. Thus, it would be safer for the gambling consumer. Making it illegal may have the opposite effect, driving the business underground even more and allowing it to be run by the shadiest and least-secure organization -- akin to what happened with alcohol sales during Prohibition.

It will be interesting to see if this legislation has an effect on the World Series Of Poker next year. Nearly three-quarters of the 8,773 entrants in this year's Main Event got there by winning satellite tournaments in online poker rooms. If the legislation is successful, those numbers will drop off dramatically.

Ironically, poker has been played by people at every level, including even the most conservative politicians -- Richard Nixon used the money he won in the Navy to finance his first run for Congress. George W. Bush played lots of poker at Harvard Business School. The late William Rehnquist used to host a weekly poker game, even when he was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

One of the parties that was pushing Congress for this law is the NFL, which supposedly detests the notion that anyone might bet on football. I can understand their concern, worried about how gambling might influence how games are played. Yet every newspaper in America prints the point spreads every day, every office building in the country has some sort of fantasy football league, and the league forces its teams into full and timely disclosure of any injuries or other roster changes. Who is that for, if not for the sports bettors? The NFL is an enabler, and another gambling hypocrite.

The most offensive part of this online gambling legislation is the presumption that the government has the right to tell us how to spend our hard-earned money. It most certainly does not. They don't place a restriction on the number of shoes my wife can buy, nor the number of songs I can download from iTunes, and they can't shut down some eBay addict who is bidding on some ridiculous tchotchke at three in the morning. If they tried that, they'd start a revolution. So why is it their business if some poker player (whether it's a med-school student, an auto mechanic, a Fortune 500 CEO, or your favorite radio personality) is playing no-limit hold'em for a few hours in an online poker room?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sheldon Adelson Exposed

I've made it clear that I am no fan of Sheldon Adelson, billionaire bank roller of GOP candidates and efforts to keep online poker illegal in the US. In fact, I no longer patronize any of his casinos because I refuse to give him a penny of my money just to see it used to support his corrupt causes.

This is a video by Tim James in which he shows up Adelson for the hypocrite he is.

Adelson has said publicly (and paid lobbyists and congressman huge sums to say) that online poker is bad because there's no way to keep underage players off the sites. So James took some undercover underage players into Adelson's prime Vegas casinos (The Venetian and Palazzo), and they had no trouble playing slots, table games, and live poker. They also ordered and were served alcohol. James was even able to solicit a prostitute at one of Adelson's casino bars.

You'll see all of that in this video, although it gets a bit repetitious -- James isn't the most subtle guy, and he makes his point with video proof in the first 3 minutes -- but stick with it until 5-6 minutes in, when James shows Adelson claiming that allowing Americans to play poker online is the equivalent of putting a casino in everyone's pocket. Smash cut to the PocketCasino device that Adelson encourages players to use in his own casinos, encouraging them to gamble from their rooms without the hassle of actually going down to the casino floor. Why, that's almost as convenient as playing from home!

I must add that Adelson's remarks about underage online poker players are true to a certain extent. For the last dozen years, plenty of under-21-year-olds have been playing poker on the internet, even after the so-called Black Friday of April, 2011, when major poker sites were forced offline in the US by the Department of Justice.

Ironically, while Adelson has been ranting against online poker, I can remember just a few years ago -- before Black Friday -- when he allowed PokerStars to hold one of its North American Poker Tour events at The Venetian. Perhaps it was at that point that Adelson realized this was a corner of the gambling market that he could not control, even with all his money, because someone else was already doing it so well he could not compete. So, since he couldn't beat them, he'd instead use his riches to shove them out of the marketplace (at least in the US).

So far, Adelson's efforts are working, and it remains unlikely that online poker will be legalized nationally in the US anytime soon. However, there are still sites like Bovada where online poker is available to Americans, and three states (NJ, DE, NV) that allow residents and tourists to play online against each other, but only within their borders and not in global player pools like those on PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Party Poker, which no longer allow US players to access their sites.

I was never a big online poker player, and I'm not yearning for the day when it's legal again. I prefer playing live at a table full of players I can see and talk to, discerning who to target and who to stay away from, reading their tells and engaging in the social aspects of poker. None of that is possible while sitting alone in front of a laptop. But just because I don't want to do it doesn't mean no one else should have the right to. Each individual should be able to freely decide when, where, and how to spend their recreational dollars, not politicians and hypocritical billionaires.

[hat tip to Mike Budenholzer]

Previously on Harris Online...
You can read more of my poker stories here and listen to 181 podcasts of my Final Table Radio Show here.

Conversational Colbert


Stephen Colbert has announced that the guests on his first week of "The Late Show" will include celebrities like George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, and Amy Schumer -- but he's also going to talk with Jeb Bush, Elon Musk, Stephen King, and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

That makes me hopeful that Colbert's show will contain actual conversations, rather than the game-playing and viral-video-wannabe segments that make up most of the other current network late night shows. Colbert proved on his Comedy Central show that he can engage with authors, politicians, scientists, and other smart people in a way that's entertaining and informative. If that's the basis of his new CBS show, it will be must-view television in our house beginning September 8th.

Wrecking Crew Followup

Bob Robinson e-mails:

I read about the The Wrecking Crew book on your blog, bought the Kindle version, and just loved it. I thought you had also mentioned the Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds necessary to get the movie into theaters. I contributed to it, and now have the move on Blu-Ray (which has a lot that wasn't included in the theatrical release -- and that we haven't had the time to sit down and watch, yet). The Kickstarter campaign allowed Denny [Tedesco, the director] to pay all the royalties and licensing fees.
I hadn't mentioned the Kickstarter campaign because I didn't know about it, so thanks for the heads-up, Bob.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Wrecking Crew Movie


Three years ago, I wrote about Kent Hartman's biography of The Wrecking Crew, the studio musicians who played on thousands of hit records in the 1960s and 1970s. At the time, Denny Tedesco -- whose father Tommy was one of the leads guitar players in the crew -- had also made a movie about the group, but except for a couple of film festivals, it hadn't seen the light of day because of royalty and music clearance concerns.

Fortunately, Tedesco either came up with the money to satisfy the rights owners or made deals with them so that his movie could finally be released earlier this year. I saw it in a theater and loved it, but forgot to write about it here. Stuart Snyder emailed me yesterday to say that "The Wrecking Crew" is now streaming and on DVD, he enjoyed it a lot, and wondered why it wasn't on my Movies You Might Not Know list.

That oversight has been rectified today.

The movie is full of great stories from the musicians and many of the stars, producers, and record executives they played with. One of my favorites is from Herb Alpert, who used The Wrecking Crew in the studio and another band for his live tours. Those touring musicians would occasionally come into the studio while Alpert was recording new songs with The Wrecking Crew so they could learn the parts they'd have to play on the road. At one point, the touring guitarist pleaded with Tommy Tedesco not to make the guitar part so complex because he couldn't recreate those licks in concert.

For music lovers, "The Wrecking Crew" is as important a documentary as "Standing In The Shadows Of Motown" (about The Funk Brothers who played on all of that label's huge hits), "Muscle Shoals" (about the Alabama studio musicians who played with Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, and more), and "Twenty Feet From Stardom" (about Darlene Love and other famous backup singers).

I have added those to my MYMNK list, as well.

Best Thing I've Read Today

Dr. Aaron E. Carroll explains -- again -- why you don't have to drink eight glasses of water a day. He first wrote about this in a paper in the British Medical Journal in 2007 on medical myths. Two years later he expanded it into a book, again debunking the eight-glasses-a-day myth. Yet it still persists today, despite no evidence to prove its effectiveness.

Many people believe that the source of this myth was a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board recommendation that said people need about 2.5 liters of water a day. But they ignored the sentence that followed closely behind. It read, “Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.”

Water is present in fruits and vegetables. It’s in juice, it’s in beer, it’s even in tea and coffee. Before anyone writes me to tell me that coffee is going to dehydrate you, research shows that’s not true either.

Although I recommended water as the best beverage to consume, it’s certainly not your only source of hydration. You don’t have to consume all the water you need through drinks. You also don’t need to worry so much about never feeling thirsty. The human body is finely tuned to signal you to drink long before you are actually dehydrated.
Read Dr. Carroll's full piece here.