If you like trivia, check out my other site, THE HARRIS CHALLENGE, and play every weekday!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Your Papers, Please

Deborah Davis is a 50-year-old mother of four who was arrested on a city bus in Denver when she refused to show ID to a police officer. Since there was no crime, and it wasn't a security risk area, she felt that she shouldn't have to show ID just to ride on a city bus. She told her story on my show this afternoon. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!


Earlier this year, I blogged about our trip to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Yesterday, the RRHOF announced its Class of '06: The Sex Pistols, Blondie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Sabbath, Miles Davis. The first four certainly deserve to be inducted, but Miles Davis? He's one of the greats (one listen to "Bitches Brew" verifies that), but he was not a rocker. He belongs in any jazz hall of fame, or a general music hall of fame, but not the rock and roll hall of fame.

The Myth of Black Friday

I was going to blog about this nonsense about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two days of the year when Americans supposedly do the most shopping, and every media outlet joins the hype. Then I saw this terrific letter to the editor in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, from Scott Simon in Springfield, Illinois, who makes exactly the points I was going to make:

The media continue to propagate the myth that the day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year. It's rarely true.

According to the International Council of Shopping centers, it was the busiest in 2003 because of good weather across the country. But last year, the ICSC reports, Dec. 18 was the busiest, followed by Black Friday. In 2002, Dec. 21 rang up the highest sales, followed by the Saturday before Christmas and Dec. 14. Black Friday isn't an indicator of whether or not seasonal sales will be up or down from the previous year.

Retailers created the "Black Friday" myth about 20 years ago as a marketing tool, hoping to influence people to shop in droves, making the stores' sales figures go from "in the red" to "in the black" for the year on that day.

The sight of people waiting outside stores to storm the doors continues to fool the media into telling this myth.
What they also forget is that most of this shopping is done by women, who are the ones caught up in the ensuing frenzy. If you were to only count the shopping done by men, I'd bet that the busiest day of the year is the Saturday before Christmas, because guys always wait until the last possible moment to do anything.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Diane Dimond on the Michael Jackson Case

Here's my conversation with Diane Dimond about her book, "Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case." Dimond broke the story of Jackson's alleged child molestation in 1993, and ten years later was back covering another case, the one that went to trial in Santa Barbara, where she was in the courtroom every day for four and a half months.

I asked Dimond whether Jackson truly believes he never did anything wrong and it was all innocent fun, whether the accuser's mother torpedoed the trial, what happened the day the police raided Neverland Ranch, and what an FBI profiler told her about child molesters and how Jackson fit those patterns. She also talked about the role Jackson's two wives, Debbie Rowe and Lisa Marie Presley, played (or didn't play) in all of this.

She also revealed that, because of her reporting, her life was threatened by Jackson's fans and her phone was tapped by Jackson's personal private investigator.

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

Getting a Human at Customer Service

My colleague Chris Mihill and I have been talking lately about companies whose customer service lines don't let you speak to a human being. Instead, they stick you into those voice-mail hellholes from which there is no escape. Chris related this true story of just such an encounter he had the other day:

He and his wife were home late one evening when the phone rang. His wife answered and there was a metallic-sounding voice spewing something not quite intelligible, so she hung up. Two minutes later, the phone rang again, she answered, and it was the same thing, so she hung up again. Two more minutes went by before the phone rang, but this time Chris picked it up. He listened for a few seconds, hung up, and to try to cut this nonsense off, he called the SBC operator.

He told the human who answered that he wanted to report harassing phone calls. She told him she couldn't take that report, but gave him the SBC number that could handle his complaint. He hung up and dialed that number. Here's where the fun starts.

Instead of a human, he now was in an automated system that said he could push 1 to report a problem with residential service, push 2 to report a problem with business service, push 3 to report a problem with long distance service, etc. After going through a few of these prompts and pressing the appropriate buttons, Chris was getting more and more frustrated. Finally, a voice-recognition prompt urged him to explain his problem out loud, and suggested a couple of examples like "no incoming service" or "can't make long distance calls."

At the beep, Chris said, "Harassing phone calls!" There was a pause, the automated system said, "thank you," followed by another pause before the machine responded with this classic question: "Would you like to order this service??"

That's when Chris slammed the receiver down, disconnected the phone for the night, and went to bed.

The next day, after telling me this story, he said he had found an indispensable resource. No, it's not that SBC now offers harassing phone calls on demand.

Chris has found a website that gives you numbers to use to get through to an actual human being. I've tried it and since it works, I've bookmarked it and thought you might want it, too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Ted Koppel's Last Words

Ted Koppel signed off "Nightline" last night, not with a Greatest Hits show, but with a pretty good shot at the viewers and the network. His closing comments:

There's this quiz I give to some of our young interns when they first arrive at Nightline. I didn't do it with this last batch. It's a little too close to home.

"How many of you," I'll ask, "Can tell me anything about Eric Severeid?" Blank stares. "How about Howard K. Smith or Frank Reynolds?" Not a twitch of recognition. Chet Huntley, Jack Chancellor? Still nothing. David Brinkley sometimes causes a hand or two to be raised; and Walter Cronkite may be glad to learn that a lot of young people still have a vague recollection that he once worked in television news.

What none of these young men and women in their late teens and early twenties appreciates, until I point it out to them, is that they have just heard the names of seven anchormen or commentators who were once so famous that everybody in the country knew their names. Everybody.

Trust me. The transition from one anchor to another is not that big a deal. Cronkite begat Rather, Chancellor begat Brokaw, Reynolds begat Jennings; and each of them did a pretty fair job in his own right.

You've always been very nice to me. Give this new Nightline anchor team a fair break. If you don't, I promise you the network will just put another comedy show in this time slot. Then you'll be sorry.

That's our report for tonight. I'm Ted Koppel in Washington. For all of us here at ABC News, good night.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ted Koppel

Ted Koppel will sign off as the anchor of "Nightline" tonight, and the show will never be the same. In addition to all the kudos he's earned in 25 years hosting that show (a total of 42 years at ABC), he's also the only person in television I've ever seen who had the power to hijack an entire network.

While there are primetime shows that run "supersize" episodes, or are extended by the network a few minutes into the next show's hour (a la "Lost" last week), and there are live events and games that go on past their scheduled end time, Koppel is the only newsman I ever saw announce -- on the air -- "Quick note to our affiliates, we'll be going a little bit long tonight." I always pictured some late-night engineer at an ABC affiliate having to scramble to change the automation, update commercial breaks, and push other late-night programming back even further into the night, not even sure of how long "a little bit" would last.

Koppel hasn't done that for years for two reasons. One, he's not there many nights, having long ago given up the five-night-a-week schedule. Two, "Nightline" has become a pre-recorded show, snugly fit into its assigned half-hour slot. After all, ABC now has other late night programming ("Jimmy Kimmel Live") that makes money for the network.

ABC's plans for the post-Koppel "Nightline" may include going back to the always-live format, but without Ted in the anchor chair to ask the tough questions and keep us interested, it won't matter.

Best Poker Book Ever

I have read a lot of poker books, some how-to-do-it and some how-they-did-it.

Of the former, Doyle Brunson's "SuperSystem" is rightly considered the bible of poker, covering every aspect of the game, with chapters written not only by the game's living legend, but also by some of the best new pros (Jennifer Harman's chapter on limit hold'em is a must-read for any serious player).

Until this weekend, the best how-they-did-it book was "Positively Fifth Street," the book James McManus wrote about his unlikely run all the way to the final table of the 2000 World Series of Poker.

My new favorite is Michael Craig's "The Professor, The Banker, and the Suicide King." It's the story of the richest poker game of all time, in which the top Las Vegas pros took turns playing heads-up games against a Texas banking billionaire named Andy Beal. I had heard part of this legend around the poker tables at the Bellagio over the last few years -- stories of huge pots over a million dollars each -- but the truth is even bigger than that.

Craig tells the story as he heard it from the people who were there, including Brunson, Harman, Howard Lederer, Ted Forrest, Chip Reese, Todd Brunson, Barry Greenstein, and others. He also got Beal to open up about why he took them on, how he trained himself to get better at strategy while eliminating any possible tells, and what happened when he pushed the stakes up until they were ultimately playing limits of $100,000/$200,000 for bankrolls in the range of ten million dollars.

In doing so, he reveals what it's like to be one of the best poker pros in the world, at a level your average player can't begin to comprehend. One of the things he writes about is Table One, the table in the Bellagio poker room that has for years been home to the highest-stakes games in the world (with the exception of the games Andy Beal played, which took place right next to it at Table Seven).

Last month, I was in Vegas for a weekend and, although I played mostly at the Mirage, went over to the Bellagio one night to play. It was in the midst of a huge two-week tournament which culminated in another WPT event, so the room was packed, and many big names were in town. I wasn't interested in the tournament, preferring the cash games, but since I had to wait for a seat, I looked around at the changes they'd made in the room since I was last there in January.

They had added at least a dozen tables and built a special new room in the middle of the poker room, just for the high-stakes pros to play in. This was the new home of Table One. I walked by and glanced through the glass doors to see Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Jennifer Harman, and Chau Giang seated behind massive stacks of chips in denominations I didn't recognize.

When I finally sat down at a table where the stakes were more to my level, I asked the dealer whether she'd ever dealt at Table One. She said everyone in the room rotates through every table, so they had all dealt to the pros, who played a rotation of various games, from hold'em to stud to stud hi/lo to Omaha to triple-draw lowball. She refused to tell me what the stakes were, but someone else at the table said it was usually $1,000/$2,000 at a minimum, and occasionally four times that.

I asked if she liked dealing to the pros, and she told me that what makes it difficult isn't the amount of money they're betting on the hand -- it's the side bets. For instance, if there are four players, they'll each take one suit (clubs, spades, diamonds, hearts), and whichever suit flops on the board, that player would win the proposition bet for a predetermined amount of money. Sometimes they'd bet each other $10,000 on who would end up with lowest hole card. These aren't just poker players, they're gamblers who love and need the action to relieve the boredom of playing and concentrating on the game for hour after hour.

What makes this tough on the dealer is that often, a player would fold their hand, but keep the cards because of the side bet. Then, they would toss these $10,000 chips across the table to each other to pay off the bet, and it would be up to the dealer to keep the real pot straight and organized for whoever was still in the hand while all this side action was going on.

While other books get bogged down too much in poker history, Craig concentrates on the new era of poker, with the impact of television and the internet changing the dynamic of big-money tournaments and brick-and-mortar cardrooms, and the pros who have become household names because of that exposure.

Poker pros are known for making great reads -- now Michael Craig has done the same. You may never have heard of Andy Beal, but if you have any interest in poker at all, you'll want to know the story of his epic battles against the pros, "The Professor, The Banker, and the Suicide King."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Female Inmates & Their Pen-Pals

The attorney general of Missouri, Jay Nixon, is cracking down on some 33 female inmates who have been using the internet to become penpals with men on the outside, and then convince the guys to send them money. Nixon claims that the inmates have taken in almost $300,000, and he will use a law that's been on the books since 1998 to get that money away from the women and into the state's coffers.

If you're like me, you had no idea this kind of prison commerce was even going on. I was curious about how these inmate penpal deals work in the first place, so today on my show, I talked to Adam Lovell, who runs one of the sites. He explained how they work, what kind of ads the women are posting, how they do it without internet access in the prison, etc.

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

Friday, November 18, 2005

Where Do FCC Complaints Come From?

Yesterday, I talked with Adam Thierer about where those indecency complaints to the FCC really come from. He took the time to check the complaints and run the numbers and discovered that they're overwhelmingly from a single special-interest group, and the numbers have been artificially inflated because the agency changed the methodology by which complaints are counted and catalogued. We also talked about whether this FCC is more likely to lean towards the censorship side, which shows are targeted, how America's nanny government culture works, and more.

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

One of the ironies in all this noise from the special interest group is that, on their website, they have a page dedicated to all the clips they find most offensive. In other words, while claiming to be protecting America's youth from material they deem inappropriate, they're making it much more easily available on the un-regulated internet, where any kid can dial into a site that's not going to be filtered out by any parental-control software!

Here's where the hypocrisy gets worse. One of the shows listed on that page is "Grey's Anatomy." Put aside for a moment the fact that this is one of the most popular shows on TV, with a huge audience every Sunday night that far outnumbers the few whiners and complainers (who probably don't even watch it, but instead follow the orders of this special interest group and simply click and send their complaints to Washington!).

Take, for instance, the "Grey's Anatomy" clip the group chose to highlight. It's a scene where one of the doctors is working on a cardiac patient and has to do open-heart massage. Sure, there's some blood, but there's nothing there I wouldn't want my 11-year-old daughter to see. And in the end, the doctor saves the patient!

Where's the problem? Where's the obscenity? Where's the indecency?

Should a show like this draw governmental oversight because some nitwit at a special interest group is a little squeamish? Of course not. If that's the sort of garbage complaint that's clogging up the inboxes at the FCC, then you, as a taxpayer, have every right to be outraged.

Joel Makower on Oil-Saving Legislation

When several US Senators recently proposed new legislation that would offer tax breaks for hybrids, incentives for developing alternative fuels, and other oil-saving ideas, I once again called upon Joel Makower to explain it all on my show. Joel is a writer, speaker, and blogger who I turn to on these issues, particularly those that can help us break free of our dependence on foreign oil, an addiction the US must shed in the years to come.

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

NFL Pat-Downs

This afternoon on my show, high school social studies teacher Gordon Johnston explained why he sued the NFL to stop the pat-downs of fans on the way into every game this season -- as a season ticket holder, he contends that's a violation of his constitutional rights. The league says they have to do it to keep those tens of thousands of fans safe from terrorism. The question is whether the pat-downs really make anyone safer, or is it just a security facade the NFL created for legal liability reasons.

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

Steroids in Baseball

Here's my conversation with John Rawlings, editorial director of The Sporting News, about baseball's new steroid testing and suspension policy. I asked whether it was solely the result of congressional pressure, whether it will really change things (he pointed out that human growth hormone is not included in the new deal at all), what affect it will have on up-and-coming players, and whether the public even cares as long as the balls keep going over the walls.

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

Trident again

Terry e-mails in response to my Trident Bubblegum rant,

Paul, you are absolutely right!! The new gum stinks. I was a 6 year veteran of the delicious Trident Bubblegum, probably 1/2 pack per day. Loved it. And you're right...it never lost its flavor and I could even blow small bubbles.

About 2 months ago, when I first bought the new "junk", I called the company and complained. They acted as if I were crazy to not welcome the "for the better" change! So, I have since switched to ORBIT BUBBLEMINT. It took me about a week or so to forget the Trident flavor (after 6 years), but now I love it as much as the Trident! It also stays fresh for hours and has a nifty package with a flap. As a former Trident Bubblegum chewer, you should try it. I think you'll agree it's great!

I am personally afraid to comment on a product I like, for fear someone will change it "for the better" before the complimentary words about a product leave my lips. Seems the new generation of business isn't satisfied with something that is just fine as it is. They think annual change is a good & necessary thing. How long before Corn Flakes disappear in favor of a better version??

I totally agree with you and the saying, "don't fix it if it ain't broke".
Terry, assuming you're not some undercover Orbit promotion agency, I'll give the new one a try. Thanks for the tip!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Stella Awards, Randy Cassingham

Here's my conversation with Randy Cassingham about frivolous lawsuits and whether we need tort reform or a societal change of mindset. Some of these are silly -- like the story Randy told about a guy suing magician David Copperfield for stealing his "godly powers" to perform his tricks -- but there are also examples of class action suits that benefit no one but the attorneys who file them, and small businesses that are impacted by overly litigious customers.

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

Bubble Burst

They've ruined my favorite gum.

I've chewed Trident Bubblegum for years. Maybe I have an oral fixation, or maybe I liked it because, even though it's sugarless, Trident tasted like Bazooka or HubbaBubba, the better sugary gums that ruined our teeth as kids.

I chewed it every day -- even stayed with it when they reduced the number of sticks per pack from 20 to 18 while increasing the price. It had the right elasticity, not breaking down after five minutes like other gums, and somehow retained its flavor longer, too.

But now they've lost me because they've changed that flavor.

It could be the new sugar substitute, Xylitol, that tastes different than the previous one, Aspartame. I haven't been paying attention, but someone probably discovered that Aspartame causes cancer in rats, so it has to go, just like saccharine and cyclamates. Of course, it's only a matter of time before Xylitol kills someone and gets pulled off the market, too.

Whatever it is, the Xylitol version of Trident Bubblegum now tastes like it's been infused with tart cherries. If I wanted cherry gum, I'd buy it, dammit!

We should have known something was up when Cadbury-Adams changed the Trident packaging. Instead of opening from the end, the pack now opens with a flap in the middle -- which is also a pain in the butt, thank you very much for fixing something that wasn't broken.

My colleague Brett Blume, another Trident Bubblegum addict, says the new version is so bad he may have to go back to baseball card gum. Brett's memory must be gone, because that never really qualified as gum, but rather as sugary pink-colored cardboard.

At times like this, I often call upon my wife, the family ombudswoman, to swing into action. She's great at complaining to companies and getting things fixed -- I'll tell you some of those amazing stories some other time -- but I don't think I'll use her talents for this, because all Cadbury-Adams would do is send us coupons for a couple dozen packs of the new Trident, and who needs that?

So now here's the new commercial: "Two out of two radio guys who prefer sugarless bubblegum no longer recommend Trident, regardless of what that fifth dentist says."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Richard Shepard, "The Matador"

"The Matador" won't be in general release until January, but it was the opening movie of the St. Louis Film Festival last night. I went to a screening earlier this week and was so impressed that I invited the director, Richard Shepard, onto my show yesterday afternoon.

The movie stars Pierce Brosnan as a professional hit man, but the character is as unlike James Bond as you can imagine. He's good at what he does, but he's vulgar and crass -- and going through a midlife crisis in which he discovers that he has no friends except hookers and dirtballs. That's when he meets Greg Kinnear's character, a down on his luck businessman, in a Mexico City hotel bar, and wedges his way into a friendship with him. "The Matador" was enough of a success at Sundance to get the Weinsteins interested, and they're now distributing the movie, which I think has a pretty good chance of being a hit.

Shepard and I talked about his love/hate relationship with hit man movies, how he got Pierce Brosnan to play the role (and do a scene where he walks through a hotel lobby in nothing but his underwear and boots), how he was in "movie jail" for a decade after his first movie was a complete bomb, how important the opening weekend will be, and lots more inside-Hollywood stuff.

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

Indoor Voices, Kids!

We've all been in public places where kids are running amok, getting underfoot, and being a general nuisance, while their parents are either unaware of what's going on or unwilling to do anything about it.

Dan McCauley, who owns a bakery/coffee shop on the north side of Chicago, was fed up with those parents and kids, so he put up a sign: "Children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when they come to A Taste of Heaven."

Amazingly, some parents were upset with him and started a protest and boycott. Yesterday on my show, he explained why he did it, how unaware some of these adults were of their bad parenting skills, and what's happened to business since. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Note that the sign says "children of all ages" -- that means adults speaking too loudly on their cell phones, too.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Cheese Bra

Green Bay Packers fan Mia Quistorf was fired from her job after she wore a cheese bra to a Monday Night Football game. She told her story on my show yesterday. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Dick Cavett's John and Yoko Story

Here's my conversation with Dick Cavett about a couple of historic shows he did with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1971 and 1972 on his late-night ABC show.

I got him to admit that no one would have put up with Yoko's music and films if she hadn't been married to John, and about later testifying at their deportation proceedings. Cavett then explained what happened when ABC forced him to insert a mealy-mouthed apology for one of the controversial songs John and Yoko performed, and what the audience reaction was.

We also discussed whether he thought the Nixon administration was partly responsible for his removal from the airwaves, why so many rockers appeared on his show but never did Carson's show, and whether there are plans to release his classic conversations with Groucho Marx and Woody Allen on DVD. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Bill Engvall

Bill Engvall was back on my show today for a funny, casual conversation about our families, why cell phones should not be allowed on planes, his bad luck with old vehicles and boats, frustrations with people in general, and we talked about him going back on tour with the rest of the Blue Collar guys in a couple of months. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Also on Harris Online...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

AJ Jacobs, "The Know-It-All"

AJ Jacobs read the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica -- cover to cover, all 32 volumes, 33,000+ pages. This afternoon on my show, I didn't even bother asking him why. Instead, we talked about some of the things he learned, how trivial information he'd read kept popping into his head (even at inappropriate times, like in bed with his wife), plus his adventures with "Jeopardy," "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," and members of Mensa (who he disses even though they allowed him to join via a loophole).

Just for fun, with little chance of becoming any smarter, listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Leave The Driving To The Car

My entire life, I've heard of two futuristic cars that would eventually be part of our world. One was the flying car, which Dr. Paul Moller and others are still trying to perfect and get to market.

The other is the car that drives itself, while you sit there as a passenger talking on your cell phone (without breaking some state laws), reading the newspaper, taking a nap, or eating a burger and fries without having to steer with your knees.

That concept took a giant leap towards reality last month in the Mojave Desert. That's when a team of engineers from Stanford University had a driverless robot car (named Stanley) race through a 132-mile course -- without bumping into anything, driving off the course, or turning over.

My curiosity was peaked, so I talked to Sebastian Thrun, head of Stanford University's Artificial Intelligence Lab, and one of the guys responsible for Stanley. The question is whether Americans would be willing to cede control of their cars to live a real-life version of "Knight Rider."

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

FBI's Secret Scrutiny

Here's my conversation with Washington Post writer Barton Gellman about his report on the FBI's use of national security letters to investigate the records of thousands of American citizens like you and me.

As with so many things done under the auspices of the Patriot Act, you'll never know that you're being investigated, and the people who provide the information to the feds have to keep it secret, or else. Worse, there are absolutely no checks on this abuse of power -- no judge or prosecutor approves them, there is no review by Congress or the Justice Department -- which is being used 100 times more than ever before.

Oh, did I mention that this database of information is also being shared by the government with the private sector? So much for privacy.

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

Monday, November 07, 2005

Ron Harris on Jimmy Massey's War Lies

Here's my conversation with Ron Harris (no relation), the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter who has debunked Jimmy Massey's lies about war crimes by US soldiers in Iraq. I called Ron yesterday to congratulate him on his front page story, and he agreed to discuss it on the air today. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Ron has been on my show before, most notably when he returned from Iraq in the early months of the war, where he was embedded with the same US Marines unit Massey was part of. He's outraged at the number of other reporters and media outlets who have taken Massey's stories at face value, without bothering to verify them or talk to others who were there. Massey even got his stories into a book, has spoken on college campuses, and was part of Cindy Sheehan's anti-war bus tour -- all without anyone checking to see if he was telling the truth.

He wasn't.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Chicken Little Nation

How ironic that "Chicken Little" is the #1 movie this weekend. We are a Chicken Little Nation, allowing ourselves to be consumed by fear of one thing or another.

We're constantly bombarded by scare-tactic warnings and announcements that make the whole Y2K panic seem quaint.

A few years ago it was SARS, now it's Avian Flu. So you better watch what you eat -- poisoned poultry, mad cow beef, mercury-laden fish -- and no matter what you eat, you're going to be obese and die.

Your identity will be stolen, your computer infected by a virus, and your cell phone will give you brain cancer (when it's not blowing up the pump at the gas station).

Don't stay inside, where your house is full of CO2 and radon. Don't go outside, where you'll be bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile Virus.

So get back in the house, put duct tape on the windows, then hide in the basement in case Mother Nature's whipping up another tornado. Unless, of course, it's time for the New Madrid fault to do its thing and cause an earthquake to kill us all.

FDR was right. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

If only it could be like the old days, when all we had to worry about was a nuclear missile attack from Russia -- and the heartbreak of psoriasis.

John Feinstein on life in the NFL

Here's my conversation with John Feinstein, whose new book, "Next Man Up," chronicles a year with the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, as seen through the eyes of one of our best sportswriters.

We talked about what goes on behind the scenes with the players and coaches, how the NFL has uniform police making sure that players are wearing their socks correctly, what halftime is like in the locker room, what doctors and trainers are really doing to keep players on the field, how coach Brian Billick motivates his players with movie scenes, the other side of Deion Sanders' "Primetime" personality, how Ray Lewis is the team leader, and much more.

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

Reduced Shakespeare Company

There was little lunacy on my show when Reduced Shakespeare Company members Reed Martin, Austin Tichenor, and Dominic Conti dropped by. They're in town performing their newest, "Completely Hollywood (Abridged)" at The Rep, which I saw the other night -- it's another laugh-out-loud show lampooning just about every movie cliche you can think of, and several you can't.

In between the boys performing snippets of the show, we talked about Austin's upcoming appearance on "Boston Legal" (including what it's really like to work with William Shatner) and Reed's clown history with Ringling Brothers (including what it's like for a six-foot-tall man to live on a train in a five-foot-eight compartment).

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

Reed and Austin, who write the shows, have now tackled Shakespeare, the Bible, Civilization, and on and on. If they keep this up, it'll only be a matter of time before they do "The Complete Blogosphere (Abridged)."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Seth Harris on Wal-Mart's Legal Problems

My brother Seth, a law professor and labor law expert, was back on my show this afternoon to explain the big class action suit (up to 200,000 people) against Wal-Mart over unpaid overtime, cancelled breaks, and other alleged violations.

We also discussed the deal the US Labor Department made with Wal-Mart over child labor laws -- a federal inspector general said the settlement has "critical flaws," which happens when you let Wal-Mart's attorneys write the key provisions.

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

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Getting To The Heart Of The Story

A quick inside-the-biz story. Yesterday, several broadcast and print outlets in St. Louis (and their websites) reported that Rams interim head coach Joe Vitt had undergone an angioplasty procedure. This would be news in light of the health problems that have sidelined Mike Martz for the rest of this season.

But something about the story didn't sound right to Fred Bodimer, who produces my KMOX show and is also our health editor. He knew that before you have an angioplasty, you first have an angiogram, the test to see if you have arterial blockage, and we hadn't heard anything about Vitt having that test.

I suggested that Fred tell Tom Ackerman, our intrepid sports guy, to ask Vitt about it personally at Rams Park that afternoon. Tom did, and it turned out Fred was exactly right. Not only had Vitt had an angiogram (not plasty), but he'd been given a clean bill of health by team doctors. Armed with that information, Tom called Fred, who passed the info to me, which I reported on the air.

It's a little thing we like to call journalism -- actually asking questions based on prior knowledge to find out the truth.