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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Eclipse Hype

I was driving on Missouri Highway 141 yesterday and noticed that the Department of Transportation electronic signs on the roadside (the ones that usually announce an accident ahead or remind you to buckle your seatbelt) said, "Solar Eclipse Monday -- Expect Delays."

It seemed like overkill to me. That particular stretch of road is unlikely to be jammed with drivers desperate to see the sky go dark for a brief period.

There's so much hype about this celestial event that it reminds me of the Y2K panic. I know that, unlike that event, this one's going to happen in the sky regardless of what people do. But when every media outlet talks it up breathlessly and businesses take advantage of it en masse, it makes my skeptical bones creak.

Here's an example. Several airlines are promoting special "eclipse flights" that will follow the path of totality so passengers can have an extended look at the sky going dark. What they don't say is that only those in window seats will really get a glimpse. For everyone else -- including those like me who always sit in aisle seats to have a little extra room -- all they're going to see is the back of the window seat occupant's head as they look out the window.

Another example is the sale of "solar eclipse glasses." My plan for Monday was going to be merely glancing up in the direction of the sun, but shielding my face with one of my hands -- the way you would if you had to catch a baseball hit high in the air. My wife, however, nixed that idea and insisted we had to have eclipse sunglasses. I couldn't find them at any local merchant (they were all sold out) so I ordered some on Amazon, where they were only available in groups of five or more.

Of course, the skies over St. Louis are not expected to be clear tomorrow, so I've just spent $35 to protect our eyes from an overcast day. Maybe I'll wear the eclipse glasses to protect my eyes while watching TV coverage from someplace with a clear view.

Speaking of ocular damage, I've seen and heard several media outlets warning you to shield your pets' eyes from looking directly at the sun tomorrow. I'll bet that, somewhere, there's someone selling darkened glasses for your pet. Funny, this has never seemed to be a problem on any other day in history. Have dogs and cats ever suffered eye problems from looking up at the glowing orb in the sky on a sunny day? What about all those horses and cows and goats that live outdoors? When is the telethon to raise money to fight that scourge?

Finally, a note to radio personalities: no, you're not the only one who thought of playing Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse Of The Heart." In fact, she's going to do it in person on a cruise ship somewhere off the coast of Florida. But like the days of my youth, when five-minute songs had to be edited down to under three minutes to get play on Top 40 radio, Tyler is going to perform a shortened version of her only big hit that will last two minutes forty seconds during the period of totality.

Don't ask me what she'll do for the rest of the trip. Probably shield her pet iguana's eyes from the glare of her one-hit-wonder stardom.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ken Burns, "The Vietnam War"


Here's my conversation with Ken Burns, whose new PBS documentary series, "The Vietnam War," will debut on September 17th. Among my questions:
  • Vietnam veterans don’t like talking about the war — how did you get them to open up?
  • Was that because of how they were treated when they came home?
  • Do they look back on it as a waste? What about families of the 58,000+ soldiers who died?
  • We’ve been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than we were in Vietnam, yet there’s virtually no anti-war effort -- is that because we don’t have the draft?
  • How do the Vietnamese view the war, both those who were in it and later generations?
  • You interviewed former Viet Cong — was it hard to find them? Are they heroes in Vietnam?
  • How important was media coverage, putting the war in Americans' living rooms every evening?
  • Are we more polarized politically now than we were then?
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Showbiz Show 8/18/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I reviewed Channing Tatum and Adam Driver in "Logan Lucky" and Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds in "The Hitman's Bodyguard." We also discussed a live-action "Jetsons," the return of "The Munsters," and Shonda Rimes' Netflix deal.

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

Harris Challenge 8/18/17

This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- includes questions related to the upcoming solar eclipse, plus my most topical trivia category, "Have You Been Paying Attention?"  Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 8/18/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about a man in the bushes, a propane tank in the backseat, and a husband-and-wife surprise. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Remembering Groucho 40 Years Later


One of my comedy heroes, Groucho Marx died 40 years ago today. Over the years, I've discussed him with several guests, and you might want to listen to some of them:

Friday, August 18, 2017

KTRS Friday


I'll be back on my 3-6pm CT show on KTRS today.

In the first hour, I'll talk with Ken Burns about his upcoming PBS documentary about the Vietnam War.

In the second hour, Max and I will review "Logan Lucky" and "The Hitman's Bodyguard," plus other movie/showbiz news.

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

You can listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

I'm Just Saying

Considering how much Trump likes to put down people he considers "losers," I'd think he'd be happy to see Confederate statues being torn down. After all, the Confederacy lost the Civil War over 150 years ago -- and I guarantee that if they'd won, there wouldn't be any statues of Union generals anywhere in the south.

After all, you don't see any cities throwing victory parades for the teams that lose the Super Bowl or World Series, do you?

Speaking of Trump, there's a Democratic politician in California calling for him to be removed from the presidency via the 25th Amendment. That's not going to happen and Dems shouldn't want it. He’s made so many enemies on Capitol Hill and has such low approval ratings now that he can’t get any legislation passed. That would change quickly if he left and Mike Pence was in charge.

Yes, you'd have the crazy guy out of the office, but the right would move so quickly to pass its agenda it would make the left's head spin -- and then they couldn't use The Insane President in campaign commercials for congressional races next year.

Duck And Cover, Guam!

I don't know anyone who is Guamanian. In fact, I just learned that's what people from Guam are called (as opposed to Guamite, which sounds like their version of a salty yeast spread). But I'm surprised that their summer weather is just like ours in St. Louis -- hot and very humid. I thought it would be warmer and drier.

On the other hand, unlike Guamanians, no St. Louisan has been waking up every day for the last couple of weeks to see the nut-ball leader of a nation threatening to rain down nuclear hell on us. What must that be like for the average Guamanian? "Honey, please turn off CNN. You're scaring the crap out of the kids." Then again, a lot of Americans say the same thing because of what our nut-ball leader says on a daily basis.

Somewhere in Guam, a low-level government worker is digging in the storeroom to find those old "Duck and Cover" videos, in which we were taught that picnic blankets and school desks -- presumably made of lead -- would protect us from atomic fallout...

Two Streaming Suggestions


There are two series streaming on Netflix that my wife and I enjoyed enough to recommend to you:

One is "Ozark," starring Jason Bateman as a man who cleans money for a Mexican drug cartel. When things go bad in his hometown of Chicago in the first episode, he's forced to move his son, daughter, and wife (Laura Linney, terrific as always), to the Lake Of The Ozarks, which is in the middle of Missouri about 3 hours away from St. Louis. There, he still has work to do for the cartel as he gets involved with various local characters -- both savory and not so much -- while keeping both the law and his bosses off his back.

The series (a Netflix original with ten episodes in this first season) is very well made. I'd liken it to "Breaking Bad," but that's too high a bar of excellence. Suffice to say if you liked that, you'll probably like "Ozark." And major kudos to Bateman, who also directed many of the episodes, for keeping the tone consistent and the casting just right. Although the show portrays several seedy people from the area, I wouldn't be surprised if it also makes some viewers plan vacations at The Lake, because it sure looks beautiful on screen.

The other recommendation is "Death In Paradise," a combined project of the BBC and France 2 that has aired for six seasons in both countries, and will return for a seventh in 2018. It takes place on the fictional Caribbean island of St. Marie, where a British detective named Richard Poole is sent to investigate the murder of another British cop. He's the kind of Englishman who's uncomfortable in the sun and sand, creating a fish-out-of-water aspect for a guy who wears a dark suit and tie every day on an island where everyone else dresses much more casually and comfortably.

After his initial case, Poole stays on St. Marie, where he is assisted by two male officers (Dwayne and Fidel) and one female detective (Camille) from the local police force. Camille is played by Sara Martins, who even my wife describes as one of the most beautiful people she's ever seen.

Each episode is self-contained like all police procedurals, with the brilliant Poole gathering all the suspects together, Poirot-like, to announce who the murderer is as the hour closes. Incidentally, my wife, who reads mystery novels by the dozens each year, has yet to figure out the identity of the murderer in any episode we've watched (about 15) thus far. That both frustrates and fascinates her, so we'll keep watching.

"Death In Paradise" is a lot of fun, but considering how many people have died over the show's run, St. Marie seems like a place you might not want to visit, if it were real.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Name Names Or Shut Up

In my speech last month about fake news (read the whole thing here), one of the things I said was:

Instead of hearing what Van Jones or Jeffrey Lord think about the “Breaking News” story of the day -- and when I’m in charge, I’m banning the use of that banner headline on television, since most of the “Breaking News” actually broke hours ago or doesn’t deserve that moniker in the first place -- I’d rather hear a reporter going more in-depth with his or her questions, pressing for specifics. What ever happened to who, what, when, where, why, and how? For instance, when Trump says, “I’m hearing…” or “People are saying…” stop him and ask, “Who are you hearing that from? Give me some names.” If he won’t, then dismiss his claims as fake,
I wish some reporter had invoked that yesterday during Trump's outrageous press conference, in which he claimed some "very fine people" were among the tiki-torch-bearing protestors in Charlottesville. It's a simple question:
"Mr. President, can you name any of the very fine people you claim were in the midst of the Nazis, klansmen, racists, anti-Semites, and other white supremacists? Since you claim you never make any statements without knowing all the facts, can you give us those details? And while we're at it, how does your know-the-facts-first claim jibe with your insistence for several years that Barack Obama was not born in America?"
Sometimes, you just have to call someone out on their bullshit to their face.

Stop With The Gerund-ing

My wife and I have little grammar buzzers in our heads. They go off when:

  • Someone finishes a question with the word "at" (e.g. "Where's my car at?");
  • Someone uses "seen" instead of "saw" (e.g. "I seen that movie");
  • Someone starts to answer a question with the word "so," which is the new "like" (e.g. "So, you'll find jars of cinnamon in aisle seven");
  • Someone who over-qualifies their remarks (e.g. "Personally, in my opinion, I think...");
  • Interviewers who preface a question with, "Let me ask you a question...";
  • Over-use of the prefix "pre-" (e.g. you don't have to call it a "pre-moistened" towelette, just like you don't serve me "pre-cooked" chicken or a "pre-poured" Pepsi).
The one we currently hate the most is the use of words that end in "-ing" (gerunds) improperly. For instance, at dinner last night, our waiter stopped by to ask, "How are your salads? Are they tasting good?" There was no need for the last four words; the first four did the job.

We've also been asked, "How's your guys food tasting?" -- which is a double violation. There was no need to add "guys," when we already assume it's the plural "your," since you're addressing both of us at the table (the same goes for "how are you all doing tonight?" -- although "how are y'all doing tonight" is mildly acceptable in regional use). As far as how my food is tasting, it's not. I am tasting the food, it is not tasting me. Just ask, "How does the salad taste?" and be done with it.

Come to think of it, wait staff shouldn't even ask the question in the first place. Their job is to take our order, bring our drinks and meals, and then leave us alone until it's time to clear things away and bring us the next course or the check. There's no need for constant status updates or faux conversation. That doesn't mean you shouldn't walk by every once in a while to make sure everything's okay, but you should be able to ascertain that without any questions, just a glance. Believe me, if there's something wrong, we'll flag you down, but if not, don't interrupt. Even if I'm dining by myself, I don't need a quiz about whatever I'm consuming -- especially since they seem to always ask just as I've put a forkful of food in my mouth so I can't answer with anything other than a thumbs-up.

While I'm on this restaurant tangent, I always enjoy it when a server brings my food and warns me that the plate is hot. This happens especially in restaurants that make a big show of bringing the food from the kitchen but before it reaches our table, it has to make a pit-stop at a hot plate, where it's placed atop a burner which warms things up quite a bit from the bottom. Naturally, that plate is going to be hot, and I don't actually mind the warning. It's just that I have a dumb man's brain inside my head that hears that caveat but still -- every time -- feels it necessary to touch the plate.

I don't know why I always do that, but at least no one asks, "How's that finger burning?"