Friday, July 03, 2015

I'm A Reel Spoiler


I won't be on KTRS this afternoon, so you'll have to wait until next Friday to play my Harris Challenge or hear my Knuckleheads In The News stories. However, I will be on the air Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 1-3pm, filling in for John Carney.

In the meantime, you can hear me on the movie review podcast Reel Spoilers with Tom O'Keefe, Blake Fehl, Joe Buttice, and Kevin Brackett. For their 100th show, they invited me to join the discussion of "Terminator: Genisys" -- and wow, do these guys know a lot about that entire Schwarzenegger series, its sequels, and spinoffs. In fact, their depth of knowledge on all things movie-related is impressive. One caveat: the show is called Reel Spoilers for a reason -- they give away pretty much everything about the movie. You can listen to the podcast here.

Worth A Link

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Poker Stories: The Deal On Dealers

Another in my occasional series of poker stories...

My friend Nolan Dalla recently wrote a piece about the most thankless job in poker -- dealing. As Media Director for the World Series Of Poker, there's no story Nolan hasn't heard, and when it's a complaint about a dealer, he flinches:

You think the job’s easy and they make lots of money? Think again. Most dealers come to Las Vegas and can barely get by on what they make, once all the travel expenses, hotel/rental housing is paid, meals are consumed, and the bills back at home add up. Some dealers even work two jobs in order to make ends meet — dealing 40 hours at the WSOP following by shifts at some other property. You try working 70 hours a week for five straight weeks and not make a mistake. This is the reality of life spent as a tournament dealer. It’s not the life of a rock star. It’s not even the life of a groupie.
I've had a few bad experiences with dealers at the WSOP, but it was usually because they were new to the job and thus more prone to mistakes, or they were trained to deal no-limit hold'em tournaments but are clueless when it comes to cash games in other varieties of poker. Overall, though, I have had many more opportunities to sit at tables with experienced dealers who know how to run a game, know all the rules, keep the action moving, and count how many chips are in the middle of the table (crucial when you're dealing Pot-Limit Omaha).

Still, I've seen players blame the dealer for losing a hand, or get up and leave when a certain dealer sits down, claiming "I can't win a hand when she is at the table" or "He always kills me." These are the complaints of chronic losers who believe that a certain dealer can affect the way the cards come out of the deck. While there were certainly some card mechanics working as dealers in the old days, I have spent thousands of hours in casino poker rooms and heard only one complaint about a dealer cheating players by manipulating the cards (I told that story last year on this site -- read it here).

Modern poker rooms have automatic shufflers built into the cash game tables that reduce the probability of dealer cheating to near zero while increasing the number of hands per hour that can be dealt. Since the casino takes a small portion of each pot as its only method of income at a poker table (unlike blackjack, craps, roulette, and other table games, everyone at the table is playing against each other, not the house), more hands equals more money for the establishment.

That's one of the keys to being a financially successful dealer, too -- getting out as many hands as possible during the half-hour you're at a table -- because it's traditional in cash games for the winning player to tip the dealer, usually $1/hand, sometimes more depending on the size of the pot. Tournament players can't tip after each hand, but those who make it to the end will often throw a small percentage of their winnings into the pool of tips collected on behalf of all the dealers in that event. That's why I don't understand dealers who move slowly, or allow themselves to get distracted by table talk or other extraneous things that happen at the table. They're not only hurting the game, they're damaging their own bottom line.

The worst abuse of dealers I've ever seen was at the Commerce Casino in California. Beyond verbal attacks, I have witnessed players throwing cards or chips or even a water bottle at the dealer (I don't mean in their direction, I mean actually hitting them with various objects), an offense that would get you thrown out of almost any other poker room. But the floor supervisors at Commerce won't do a thing, so the dealers don't even bother to call them over when such an incident occurs, which in turn enables the hotheads to continue to mistreat the dealers.

I've also sat with players who refuse to tip the dealer after they've won a hand, claiming "he's only doing his job." I wonder if they diss waiters and bartenders the same way. Dealing cards is a service industry no different than those, with a base salary a few bucks an hour below the regular minimum wage plus whatever tips they earn. Even at a buck a hand, a good dealer can average $30-50/hour -- in some games, even more (e.g. in structured games like limit hold'em, players act much more quickly).

On both sides of the deck, there are always a few who spoil the image, but the vast majority of dealers I've encountered have been professionals who were good at their jobs, pleasant to be around, worthy of respect, and probably more knowledgeable about the habits and tells and winning/losing percentages of all the players who frequent the tables than anyone else in the room.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Movie Review: Terminator Genisys


I won't be on the air Friday because KTRS is running Fourth-Of-July-Weekend programming, but I will do three bonus shows next week when I fill in for John Carney on his 1-3pm CT show Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Since I won't be on Friday, and thus won't get to do my Showbiz Show segment with Colin Jeffery, which would include my review of "Terminator: Genisys."

There are some sequels you can see without knowing the original and you'll still understand what's going on (I haven't seen "Jurassic World," but I'm told it works for first-timers). However, if you haven't seen the original two "Terminator" movies, you won't have any idea what's going on in this one. In fact, even if, like me, you've seen the first three "Terminator" movies, you're still going to be mighty confused, because the plot is so dense and caught up in subplots and alternate time lines.

I'm not going to try to explain the plot, other than to say it involves yet another attempt by humans to prevent Skynet from becoming self-aware and killing us all. That involves characters traveling through time (in a device that looks like it was built from the same blueprint as The Machine in "Contact"), but they never set the machine to show up a year or even a month before the disaster they're trying to avoid will occur. They always reappear on the very day it's going to go down, and they have to race the clock to stop it -- but if you can skip through time to any point, why race? It makes no sense, just like the teeth on the skull-crushing robotic machines of the future. They don't eat food, so what are the choppers for?

Aside from that, you get a lot of hand-to-hand combat between machines that won't die, bad 3-D effects with debris from explosions flying in your face, and two lead actors -- Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney -- who have no charisma at all. Moreover, the word "poignant" should never apply to a "Terminator" movie, but the filmmakers tried to make us care about the Sarah Conner/Kyle Reese relationship. All that did was get in the way of Arnold Schwarzenegger having more screen time and, face it, he's the only reason to see a "Terminator" movie. Even the scene where he fights a younger version of himself isn't a good enough reason for you to see this one.

You'd have a better time playing with Sega Genesis or listening to an old Genesis album than watching "Terminator: Genisys." Rating: 3/10.

Best Thing I've Read Today

Kudos to California Governor Jerry Brown, who on Tuesday signed into law a bill that mandates all children who attend public school must be vaccinated, with no exceptions for personal and religious exemptions. This was in response to the increase of anti-vaxxers in that state who have endangered others by invoking "parents' rights" in their refusal to have their kids vaccinated. There's a direct correlation between the rise of anti-vaxxers and events like the measles outbreak at Disneyland that sickened 147 people, as well as other public health problems across the country.

I have written about this subject often, and named some of the celebrities who have been outspoken anti-vaxxers, like Mayim Bialik, Rob Schneider, and Jenny McCarthy. The latter is the most notorious of these because she has used various media platforms to spread lies and pseudo-science on this subject. So I wasn't surprised when Jim Carrey, McCarthy's ex (who should have seen a physician to get inoculated against her garbage), took to Twitter to denounce the California legislation. Fortunately, my friend Phil Plait used his Slate column to debunk the nonsense Carrey et al continue to spread about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. It's worth your time.

Now we need other states to follow the lead of California (and Mississippi and West Virginia) to bar any non-health exemptions and ensure that every child in public school is vaccinated.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Worth A Link

  • My brother Seth explains the new overtime rules proposed today by the US Department of Labor (where he used to be Deputy Secretary).

Siri-us About Voice Acting

Susan Bennett, the original voice of Siri, explains the different aspects of being a voice actor...

Worth A Link

  • If you need more proof that men will do anything for an attractive woman, here you go.
  • If you don't understand what gerrymandering is, this chart sums it up perfectly.

Monday, June 29, 2015

In Case You Missed It

From the El Combover Gigante edition of my Twitter feed...

  • I can't believe no one at NBC was ready with the name of a new Mexican host for "The Apprentice" before it fired Trump.
  • Journalism assignment: research how often Trump has threatened to sue someone vs. how often he did sue vs. how often he won. Then report.
  • The escaped New York prisoners wanted to go to Mexico, thus proving Trump got the direction of criminal border-crossing 180 degrees wrong.

Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me


I missed the documentary "I'll Be Me" when it hit theaters last fall, but saw it on CNN last night and can't get it out of my mind. It's the story of music legend Glen Campbell, who was told in 2011 that he had Alzheimer's, and follows him over the next year as he goes on his final tour across America.

We see his inability to remember the simplest things, but when he got on stage, the musical part of Campbell's brain took over and he had no trouble playing scorching guitar solos and -- with the help of a teleprompter -- singing his greatest hits with a band that included three of his children. The film also shows Campbell's struggles offstage, and the effect they had on his wife Kim, the musicians, and the support team that made his concerts flow as smoothly as possible. It also doesn't shy away from showing the times he got confused onstage, but still had the support of a loving audience that knew they were seeing him for the last time.

Campbell may be best remembered for "Rhinestone Cowboy," "Southern Nights," "Wichita Lineman," and "Gentle On My Mind," but his musical history goes back to his days as a member of The Wrecking Crew, that remarkable group of studio musicians who played on thousands of hit songs for crooners like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as well as rockers like The Byrds and The Beach Boys.

Campbell was also a TV star, given a shot at stardom when Tommy Smothers hired him to do a summer replacement show for "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" on CBS in 1969. "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour," with a writing staff that included Steve Martin and Rob Reiner, led to Campbell being cast opposite John Wayne in the original "True Grit." Though he never had major TV or movie success after that, he continued touring and recording for the next four decades.

After the documentary was finished, Campbell's condition worsened, and he was moved into an Alzheimer's treatment facility, where reports say he's now lost the power of speech. So this film contains the last footage we'll ever have of Glen Campbell performing.

I have added "Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me" to my Movies You Might Not Know list. If you missed it on CNN last night, you can catch it on sister network HLN this Friday night (7/3), or on DVD when it's released on September 1st.

The Newspaper Dilemma

I was saddened by the news that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is laying off nine more employees -- eight in the newsroom and one of the maintenance staff. I don't know any of these people, but I recognize that we need those reporters and editors on the job, for without them, the news won't be gathered as well as it should be.

This is something we've been taking for granted for over a decade now -- the concept that we have free access to the world's news at a moment's notice -- without regard for the people who have to put in the work to bring it to us. Every time you click on a link to a news story on Twitter, Facebook, or even this blog, you probably don't think about the effort that went into uncovering the details behind that story. It may not be an in-depth investigative piece, it could be something as seemingly simple as a summary of last night's ball game. It took a human being to produce that journalism, and that human being should be paid for providing it.

I admit that I'm one of those responsible for the slow death of print news, as I haven't subscribed to the print edition of the P-D for years. When I do see it, it is sadly slim. Like many, I use the paper's website, STLtoday.com, as an occasional resource, particularly on days when I have to do a radio show -- it helps me understand what's happening in this metro area. I'm no longer on the air every day, so I don't check it every day, but the P-D (or the daily newspaper in any American city) is still a key show-prep device for lots of radio personalities, not to mention the TV newscasts who so often rip stories out of the paper and use them on the air without even a consideration or a credit to where it originated.

The historical fault for all of this goes back a couple of decades, when news outlets viewed the internet as a way to increase their reach, with the hope that would mean more revenue from advertisers who wanted to attract business from that larger audience. So they gave it away online for free, thinking that the cost of doing so would be a loss-leader that would create a new revenue stream. Unfortunately, newspapers have discovered that online dollars are no match for print dollars, and the millions of clicks each month bring in nothing compared to the paid subscriptions that used to land the paper in the driveway of almost every home in the region.

Newspapers and magazines are struggling to monetize their online versions, and in the vast majority of cases, those efforts are failing. When that happens, with the bottom line under attack, they have no choice but to reduce their largest expense -- people.

The problem is, once the people are gone, so is the news.

Worth A Link

  • Charles Grodin on working with Louis CK and why he didn't star in "The Graduate."
  • Andrew Napolitano, recent "Daily Show" guest, on why Jon Stewart is the smartest personality on TV.
  • I always wondered why eyelashes and eyebrows don't grow long like head hair -- here's the answer.