Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis every Friday, 3-6pm CT

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

You Must Live A Lifetime First

Last week, Variety magazine announced that, at its "Women In Power" luncheon next month, the honorees will include Jessica Chastain, Shari Redstone, Audra McDonald, Blake Lively, and Gayle King. Okay, fine, but then we hit the problem spot -- their "Lifetime Achievement Award" will be given to Chelsea Clinton.

Now, this has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with chronology. Clinton is only 37 years old -- she has yet to live a lifetime. I don't know what the minimum age should be for such an honor (65? 70? 75?), but I'm sure that it's not less than 40.

Even someone who has accomplished a lot before they've completed four decades on this planet -- Serena Williams, for instance -- shouldn't qualify for a lifetime achievement award yet. Let's see what she does with the ensuing decades. Sticking with tennis, Billie Jean King qualifies because of everything she did after retiring from playing, but Serena hasn't gotten to that point in her life yet, so we don't know what she'll achieve going forward.

As for Clinton, Variety says she was selected because of "her work with Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which empowers kids to develop lifelong healthy habits." Again, sounds good, but she hasn't even been at it for 20 years. She may go on to do amazing things in the next 20 or 30 years, but they haven't happened yet and thus aren't lifetime-achievement-worthy. And what if she does change the world for the better by the time she turns 70? Does she get a second lifetime award in one lifetime?

Now, let's be honest about what's actually happening here. Naming Clinton the award recipient ensures that lots of people who supported her parents politically will attend the event, and perhaps donate to whatever charity is involved. That's what many of these honors are really about -- name recognition and fund-raising -- which is why you don't hear of lifetime achievement awards being given to someone no one has heard of, even if they've done remarkable work.

Twenty-five years ago, in Washington, DC, I got a call one day from the B'Nai Brith saying they would like to honor me at a luncheon. I had never done anything for that organization, nor did I know anyone in it, but I was kinda famous because of my daily radio show and a lot of charitable work I'd done in the community. I told the caller I appreciated the thought and asked what I'd have to do (e.g. give a speech).

She told me that she'd need the names of a bunch of my friends and colleagues so the B'Nai Brith could contact them and invite them to the luncheon. I asked if they'd get in for free, and she told me they would not, that the organization would ask them to pay something like $100 each. I told her I wasn't going to put my friends in that awkward spot where they'd have to pay to see me receive an honor that wasn't actually an honor at all, but was merely a fundraising scheme.

The woman said, "Oh, no, we do this every year and we've never had anyone refuse to be the honoree." I told her that, in me, she finally had one.

I have no idea who they did sucker into going to that luncheon, but if they were doing it today, someone on the honors committee would probably suggest Chelsea Clinton.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Movie Review: Life


"Life" stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, and four other actors you’ve never heard of, as astronauts and scientists on the International Space Station, where soil samples have been brought back from Mars containing a single-cell organism, the first known non-Earth life form. It appears to be a frozen state of animation, so one of the scientists tries all sorts of things to see if he can get it to come to life and, of course, that turns out to be a bad idea.

I do like the idea of testing the organism in space before it gets back to Earth to make sure it won't be harmful to humans -- sort of an "Andromeda Strain" Wildfire station a hundred miles up. But from there, "Life" is like an "Alien" remake, as the the creature devours the crew members one by one. Of course, they’ve lost communication with Earth (because that happens all the time), although I'm not sure what anyone at mission control could do to stop the alien from killing the crew.

My biggest problem with "Life" is its failed logic. I'm willing to go along with whatever rules you set up for your movie, but then the movie must live by them. My biggest pet peeve in this regard was in "ET: The Extraterrestrial," where we were told that the germs (or something) on Earth were fatal to ET's system, so it died. But then, it came back to life, with no explanation of how that's possible. Similarly, in "Life," we're told that the alien can't live without oxygen, and yet, it gets outside the space station to attack a crew member in space where there is no oxygen without any ill effects. Moreover, the damned thing lived on Mars, which also has no oxygen. So, WTF?

I won’t give away the ending of "Life," but I will say they blew their chance at a sequel. Oh, and while the credits roll, we're once again serenaded by Norman Greenbaum's 1969 one-hit wonder, "Spirit In The Sky," a song that's already been used in dozens of other movies and TV shows (check this partial list). The fee for using it must be ridiculously low.

The action in "Life" is very predictable, but I admit I was scared and grossed out a couple of times, and the claustrophobic cinematography inside the space station is well done, particularly scenes with the crew floating from one compartment to another. However, the filmmakers missed a big opportunity to lighten things up. Shortly after its discovery, the alien creature is named Calvin -- yet not one member of the crew is named Hobbes.

I give "Life" a 5 out of 10.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Phil Keoghan, "The Amazing Race"


Phil Keoghan returned to my radio show to talk about the 29th season of "The Amazing Race," which debuts in a new time slot, Thursdays at 9pm CT, on March 30th on CBS. The show (which has won 13 Emmy Awards, including 7-in-a-row for Outstanding Reality/Competition Program) is trying something new this time -- the two-person teams won't have a pre-existing relationship as they have in previous seasons. I asked Phil about that, as well as:
  • Whether the new season has any new obstacles in addition to U-Turn and Yield;
  • Whether CBS has renewed the show for its 30th season;
  • Whether global politics impacted where the show can go;
  • Whether the same audio/video people travel with teams the whole way or switch;
  • How hard it is to keep things secret at the final stop in the US;
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Showbiz Show 3/24/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max Foizey and I reviewed Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds in the space movie "Life," Kristen Stewart in the paranormal thriller "Personal Shopper," and some Netflix standup comedy specials.
    Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

    Harris Challenge 3/24/17

    This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- includes categories about Guys Named Chuck Who Didn't Die This Week, Forbes' Richest, and Space Movies Not Named Trek Or Wars.

    Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

    Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

    Knuckleheads In The News® 3/24/17


    On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about a man with weed in his butt, a bible full of meth, and a book-burning wildfire. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

    Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

    Friday, March 24, 2017

    KTRS Friday


    I'll be back on my 3-6pm CT show on KTRS today. You can listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com.

    In the first hour, I'll talk to Phil Keoghan, host of "The Amazing Race," which returns for its 29th season in a new time slot, this Thursday (March 30th) at 9pm CT, on CBS.

    In the second hour, Max Foizey and I will review the new Jake Gyllenhaal/Ryan Reynolds space movie "Life," Kristen Stewart's ghost movie "Personal Shopper," plus other showbiz stuff.

    In the third hour, you can test your trivia knowledge on my Harris Challenge and I'll have a new batch of Knuckleheads In The News®.

    Thursday, March 23, 2017

    You Break Health Care, You Bought It

    One of the challenges in tackling issues like health care and insurance is that far too many people don't know what they're talking about. I'm not referring to average Americans, but to the members of Congress who are supposed to be informed before they make the laws. Worse than ignorance, in many cases, is that those legislators are lying to their constituents about the effectiveness of Obamacare, according to Charles Ornstein of ProPublica:

    As the debate to repeal the law heats up in Congress, constituents are flooding their representatives with notes of support or concern, and the lawmakers are responding, sometimes with form letters that are misleading. A review of more than 200 such letters by ProPublica and its partners at Kaiser Health News, Stat and Vox, found dozens of errors and mischaracterizations about the ACA and its proposed replacement. The legislators have cited wrong statistics, conflated health care terms and made statements that don’t stand up to verification.

    It’s not clear if this is intentional or if the lawmakers and their staffs don’t understand the current law or the proposals to alter it. Either way, the issue of what is wrong — and right — about the current system has become critical as the House prepares to vote on the GOP’s replacement bill Thursday.

    “If you get something like that in writing from your U.S. senator, you should be able to just believe that,” said [Andrea] Mongler, 34, a freelance writer and editor who is pursuing a master’s degree in public health. “I hate that people are being fed falsehoods, and a lot of people are buying it and not questioning it. It’s far beyond politics as usual.”
    Perhaps the biggest falsehood being peddled about Obamacare is that is has been a disaster. You hear every Republican from Trump down selling that talking point. But as Rick Newman explains, what everybody forgets about Obamacare is that the US health insurance system was a much bigger mess before that landmark legislation was enacted:
    From 2001 to 2010, the number of working-age, uninsured Americans rose from 38 million to 52 million, which was 28% of the working-age population. The deep recession that started in 2007 was particularly brutal, since many of the 9 million people who lost their jobs also lost insurance coverage—at the same time their income plummeted, making it hard or impossible to buy coverage on their own.

    A 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 62% of personal-bankruptcy filings were caused by unmanageable medical costs. A Harvard study published the same year found that 45,000 Americans died every year simply because they lacked health insurance and couldn’t get reasonable access to care. That was hardly a healthcare system to be proud of, and the millions of people falling through the cracks generated the political pressure that led to the ACA passing in 2010, when similar efforts had failed going all the way back to the early 1980s.
     The GOP has talked itself into a corner on this issue. While Obama was president, they voted dozens of times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, so now they'd be seen as lying hypocrites if they didn't do what they promised their constituents would be among their first priorities. But when you're led by an ignoramus-in-chief who tweeted recently, "Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated," you wonder why he and his surrogates weren't paying attention to all the policy discussions on this topic over the last decade -- or had even read the ACA.

    Obamacare is far from perfect, but as the Republicans' botched attempt at a replacement bill stumbles along this week proves, this isn't a matter that can be fixed in 140 characters. In their zeal to reverse anything Obama may have accomplished, they are laying an egg that's rotten before it hatches.

    The bottom line in any attempt to repeal, reverse, repair, and revise the Affordable Care Act can be summed up in one simple phrase: "you break it, you bought it." If the GOP's solution becomes the actual disaster that they claim Obamacare has been, let's hope that voters -- including those who fell for the Trump con only to find themselves worse off because of this legislation -- remember who to blame at the ballot box next year.

    That's assuming, of course, that the Democrats can get their act together enough to exploit the issue for political gain. So far, they've done nothing but show themselves to be even more inept at this than the Republicans are in pretending they care about less-than-millionaires.

    Best Thing I've Read Today

    One of the things I look forward to in my inbox every day is Jason Hirschhorn's REDEF newsletter. It's a compilation of links to fascinating stories, along with his own commentary at the open. Earlier this week, he wrote a must-read about the price of concert tickets, which get driven up by scalpers, who can end up making more on each seat they resell than the actual performers get for being onstage. There may not be a perfect answer to the problem, but Hirschhorn asks some intriguing questions:

    If 1,000 seats in a 15,000 seat arena can eventually sell for $500 or $1,000, should that be the face value for those 1,000 seats? If there's $700 in profit to be had from a single ticket sale, why shouldn't that profit go directly to the artist? In an industry where artists are squeezed from so many directions, is that a new potential source for honest and reliable income? On the other hand, what about the fan who can't afford $1,000? If you raise the price that high, do you shut out a large segment of your own fanbase? Do you end up with an arena full of hedge-funders? Or are those just for a small number of seats on a ratio basis? Or are those fans already shut out by the scalpers and their bots who swallow up all those $200 tickets within 30 seconds of them going on sale?
    Read Hirschhorn's full piece here.