Friday, April 29, 2005

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What did you accomplish as a 26-year-old?

That's how old Albert Einstein was when he developed his Theory Of Relativity. Ben Franklin published his first Poor Richard's Almanac at 26. That's the same age Orson Welles was when he released "Citizen Kane."

Bill Dawson has compiled a list of several other 26-year-old accomplishments, including Walt Disney making his first Mickey Mouse cartoon, Peter Jennings anchoring ABC's evening newscast, and Al Capone becoming the crime boss of Chicago.

Don't get too depressed if you haven't had career highs like these yet. For some of them, this was when they peaked. At least you didn't do what Otis Redding, Jean Harlow, and Brian Piccolo all did at age 26 -- they died.

Hand in Hand with Saudis

For those who e-mailed to try rebutting my earlier comments on Saudi Arabia, you might want to check this Lisa Myers story, in which the chief justice of Saudi Arabia's Supreme Judicial Council encourages Saudis to go to Iraq to wage war against Americans, calling the US "an enemy who is fighting Muslims." This from the nation that calls itself our "Partner In Peace."

One more Saudi bit: was it completely necessary for Bush to hold Abdullah's hand yesterday? They look like two lovebirds on a date -- except that, at the end of this date, we're the ones getting screwed. Bet he'd never do that with Jacques Chirac.

Putin, Pining For The Old Days

Russian President Vladimir Putin is pining for the days before the fall of the Soviet Union, calling its collapse "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century" and a "genuine tragedy" for the Russian people. That's because he was a member of both the KGB and the Soviet upper-class, so he remembers the power and corruption fondly. I was in Moscow while it was still communist, and I can tell you firsthand that the people of that city were not as well off as Putin and his pals may remember them being. Russia may not have found its footing in democracy yet, but going back to the system of oppression, to the days when the Cold War crushed their economy and kept your average Ivan from ever getting ahead, is by no means the answer. With this attitude, Putin is certainly not the man to lead them to a prosperous future.

Exploding Toads!!!

Exploding Toads!!! That should have been the top story on every newscast in the world Monday.

Exploding Toads!!! It seems that as many as 1,000 toads have died after their bodies swelled to the bursting point and then exploded. Them toads is blowin' up, and no one knows why! Things have gotten so bad in Hamburg, Germany, that one lake has been dubbed The Pond Of Death. A witness says he's seen the toads crawling on the ground, inflating to three times their normal size, and then exploding, with their guts landing a yard away.

Now, c'mon, aren't exploding animals a big story? But you didn't see or hear that one on TV or radio, did you? Damn mainstream media, always pushing the homo sapiens agenda.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The President & The Saudi Prince

President Bush met with Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia today and tried to convince him to produce more oil so prices would drop at the pump. For all intents and purposes, the Prince nodded his head yes and then said no, we're rich, we have the oil, and we'll do whatever we want.

Considering how ineffective the discussion was destined to be, it would have been nice if Bush had taken the opportunity to put his arm around the Prince and say, "Listen, while you're at it, you really have to stop treating your women like crap. You'd never know it from Nancy Grace, but women can and have done some amazing things, so it's time to knock off the second-class citizen stuff. It's the 21st century, for Allah's sake. And while I'm at it, how about doing something about those kids in the madrasses learning that America is the Great Satan and they should grow up hating us?"

It might not have changed anything in Saudi Arabia, but I bet it would have made Bush's flagging poll numbers go up.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Passover Seder Explained

With the Passover festivites about an hour away, Perry Simon has a very funny explanation of exactly what goes on at the seder table.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Innocence Does It Again

The Innocence Project does it again. This time, they've used DNA evidence to prove that Anthony Woods was not the man who raped a 15-year-old girl in 1983, even though he spent 18 years behind bars for that crime. There had been zero physical evidence against woods, but the girl testified that he was the one after seeing him walking down the street. Nothing else linked him to the crime, but he was convicted. Woods was paroled in 2002, but now his record his clear, and the question lingers, how will Missouri make it up to him?

The Post-Dispatch reports, "under a bill signed last summer that imposed DNA testing on convicted felons, sex offenders and sexually violent predators in Department of Corrections custody, Woods is now eligible for compensation - $50 'for each day of incarceration.' That could mean more than $330,000, but only if the money is available. The law says that former inmates get paid only if there is money left after the cost of DNA testing has been subtracted from the money generated by court fees."

As for the girl (now in her mid-thirties), she must be devastated. Not only does it turn out that the man she ID'd as the rapist could not have committed the crime and spent all that time in prison because of her mistake, but it also means that the actual attacker has gotten away with it.

Woods is the 158th person exonerated by the work of The Innocence Project.

Jib Jab's "Matzah"

Just in time for Passover, JibJab is back with "Matzah" (er, Matzo?).

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Penn and Monkee Poker, Teller and JFK's Head

Penn Jillette blogs about playing poker with Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees for charity. BTW, Penn & Teller's third season of "Bullsh*t" debuts Monday on Showtime. Aaron Barnhart, who's seen a preview tape, tells me the first show is hysterical -- it's about circumcision, and the only one who doesn't drop trou is Ron Jeremy.

Another episode in this season will be about Conspiracy Theories. Teller blogs about that one, including the test they did to verify Dr. Luis Alvarez's explanation of why JFK's head moved back towards the bullet's point of origin instead of away from it.

If you don't have Showtime, check out the first two seasons of "Bullsh*t" on DVD.

This Is Art? -- Response

I seem to have hit a nerve with my column about modern art.

Greg e-mails, "Your latest JPH sparked a memory of an agonizing trip to the Hirschorn Art Museum in DC. What I remember best was a blank white square framed on the wall. It was called 'Potential.' I think I left my own contribution, in the form of a dark red splash on the wall. It was called "Art Museum Patron's Head Exploding."

Rich writes, "Oh so true, Paul. I still recall to this day an 'artist' who was selling -- for thousands of dollars -- paintings he created by filling up a shotgun and shooting at a canvas. When they interviewed him, he acknowledged that he didn't think it was art, but if some idiot was willing to pay that much for it, who
was he to say?"

Janet adds, "I have a hunk of wood, on a pedestal, elaborately decorated with chic found material. My art is titled: 'Suckah.' Interested?"

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

This Is Art?

I know nothing about art. This was proven again Monday night when I went to the Contemporary Art Museum here in St. Louis.

My friend, Andrew Sherman (an attorney and expert in franchising, licensing, and business law), was in town to speak to the Young Entrepreneurs Organization, who had gathered at the museum. The plan was that I'd meet him there, we'd go to dinner, and then he'd stay at our house before flying off to his next speech in the morning.

I'd never been to the Contemporary Art Museum so, during the cocktail hour, I walked around to check out some of the exhibits. This is when my complete lack of knowledge about art smacked me in the face yet again. I have friends and relatives who understand art, appreciate art, own art, even made art their business. They have tried to share that knowledge with me, but I'm a lost cause.

I know what I like, and if you show me a Monet, a Rembrandt, a Picasso, I can understand what I see. Van Gogh's "Starry Night" is breathtakingly beautiful (the Don McLean song it inspired wasn't so bad, either), but modern art just mystifies me. Some of it doesn't look all that different from the art created by my daughter in her elementary school years. What makes these things more valuable? Why are they hanging on a museum wall instead of from a magnet with a clip attached to a refrigerator door?

One piece in particular baffled me more than any other. It was a 70" by 70" wood block covered with some sort of pink material. That's it!

This is art? All right, sir, if you say so.

I couldn't read the name plate next to this pink masterpiece, so I don't know what the artist calls it. Probably "Eternity" or "Pastoral Dew." They all have names like that. I would have called it "Attic Insulation Stapled To Platform, Then Hung On Wall."

The pink piece reminded me of another museum visit, about 15 years ago. My wife took me -- okay, dragged me -- to an art museum to check out some exhibit she wanted to see. I wanted to like it, I really did, and I tried my best. If nothing else, it was visually stimulating, and everything was fine until I came upon the nails-and-string thing.

This piece consisted of a piece of wood -- ah, a common theme! -- with four long nails hammered into its corners, and some string wrapped around the nails. End of description.

I had the same reaction, "This is art? I wonder what the artist calls this." The answer: "Untitled."

Talk about your complete lack of creativity. You have some wood, nails, and string. Combining them into this brilliant piece of artwork couldn't have taken more than an hour -- and I'm including the time it took to find a hammer and decide whether to wrap the string clockwise or counter-clockwise -- and then you couldn't spare a few minutes to come up with a name?

Any name at all would do. Pick a word out of the dictionary. Name it after your dog. Throw down a dozen Scrabble tiles, put them in random order, and use that. Hell, call the thing Scrabble Tile.

Back at the Contemporary Art Museum, after viewing and being confused by several more pieces, I shook my head and wandered back toward the gathering. There, I spotted something much more pleasing to my eye -- a waiter passing around a tray of hors d'ourves.

Ah, finger food. This, I understand.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Overweight, Overestimated

With the new pope hogging the news today, here's a story you might have missed, but which will have a lot more impact on your life.

For years, I've said that the hysteria over obesity in this country was overblown, that too many people were categorized as way overweight because the definition of "normal" wasn't realistic. I've been the guy who could always afford to lose a few more pounds, but never believed the obesity hype.

Today, my arguments were borne out when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted that the fat numbers they'd been pushing for years were, um, inflated.

As recently as January, the CDC had claimed that weight problems were responsible for 365,000 deaths per year. Now, after a more thorough analysis, they have admitted they were wrong. The correct number: 25,814 deaths per year. That's not even close -- 25,000 is about one-fourteenth of 365,000. Trying being that wrong with the math on your tax forms and see what happens.

This startling announcement also means that being overweight is not the number two killer of Americans, behind cigarettes. It belongs in seventh place, behind car crashes and guns on the death-causes list. Let's stick that in the public health hype machine!

And the good news doesn't stop there. It also seems that Americans who were classified as overweight (as opposed to obese) are eating better and -- wait for it -- actually have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight. So, go ahead America, have a cheeseburger and a milkshake, and live longer!

DHMO

Warning! Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) is everywhere!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Celebrities Eating

Food and the famous people who eat it -- Hillary Swank has a burger, Keanu Reeves hurls, and more!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Larry King's Greatest Question Ever

This is a couple of weeks old, but it just came to my attention. It may be the single greatest question asked of a guest by any host on any broadcast, ever.

On Tuesday night, March 29, 2005, Larry King's CNN show focused on the death of Johnnie Cochran Jr. Here's a segment from that broadcast, verbatim:

King: On the phone, Johnnie Cochran, uh, Junior. Are you there, Johnnie? Uh, Johnnie Cochran Senior, I'm sorry. Are you there?
Cochran: Yes, Johnnie Cochran Senior, yes!
King: So, you are what in relation to Johnnie Cochran Junior?
Cochran: Yes, I'm his father, thank you.

King has proudly and repeatedly said throughout his career that he does not prepare at all for his show -- but come on, Larry, this was the biggest no-brainer in the history of interviews.

In case you think I'm making this up, CNN.com has the complete transcript.

PTC's Worst Clips of the Week

Slate's Dana Stevens wonders why the Parents Television Council is now downplaying the most popular page on their site, the "Worst Clips of the Week," which became a central resource for those who hated the group's agenda, but wanted to see the raciest content TV had to offer. Ironic how this ultra-conservative special interest group created a one-stop shop for anyone looking for exactly the kind of stuff the PTC rails against.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Student Speaks Out

Sarah Lawrence is an honors student at Collinsville High School and editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Kahoki. In the last issue, she used her column to list ten things that should be changed, and took particularly hard shots at the guidance counselors and math teachers (calling the latter "some of the worst teachers any of us have ever seen"). The counselors and faculty members were understandably outraged, but no disciplinary action has been taken against anyone, including the paper's adviser, who had to approve the column before it went to print. That English teacher is not tenured, and I can't help but wonder how they may affect her future at CHS.

Sarah was on my KMOX show today to explain herself and take phone calls, which she handled remarkably well. She has no regrets, is still EIC of the paper, and appears to have quite a few supporters both inside and outside the school. On the other hand, the school administration is not commenting, because they're prohibited by law from doing so.

At the very least, this should spark some serious classroom discussions about freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and whether having the right to do something means it's always right to do it.

The Wash U Protest

I had a couple of the Washington University protesters on my KMOX show yesterday. They're trying to get the university to pay a living wage to groundskeepers, janitors, food service employees and others who work on the campus (even through contractors). The idea's not a bad one, but there are only 15 of them, and that seems like an awfully small number on a campus as large as WashU. Also, there isn't a single actual worker taking part in the protest or hunger strike, even though the group calls itself the Student-Worker Alliance. You'd think that someone on the employee side would be bold enough to stand up for what they want, even if it means risking their job. I'm all for fighting for the downtrodden, but shouldn't the downtrodden be part of the battle?

Dubya Brain Game

When you have time to kill in the Oval Office, play the George W. Bush Brain Game.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Eye In The Sky On You

Google now offers satellite images by address (enter yours, here's KMOX).

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Monday, April 11, 2005

Baseball Is Very Hard

If you're a big time ballplayer, are you allowed to complain in public? Several St. Louis Cardinals did just that this weekend, telling Joe Strauss (St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat reporter) that the team's trip to Oklahoma City and Springfield before opening the season made them tired and ended up affecting their play.

I don't buy the argument, because they beat the Astros on opening day in Houston. Yes, they lost the next day, but then had a day off before winning their first home game against the Phillies. It was after that they fell apart, giving up a combined 23 runs on Saturday and Sunday before offering this "we were tired" excuse. Boo-hoo.

Outfielder Larry Walker even seemed to blame it on jet lag. Huh? You started the week in Florida and ended it in St. Louis -- a total change of exactly one time zone. It's not like you had to go play a couple of games in London and Hong Kong! Of course, there was that hour of sleep you lost thanks to daylight saving time. It's amazing you could even stand up.

Bottom line here is that the fans don't want to hear you whine about anything. In fact, no one wants to hear anyone complain publicly about how hard their job is, particularly if the perception is that they have a place of privilege, wealth, and fame. It's so sad that Brad Pitt had to work really long days to make his latest movie. Poor Donald Trump is so busy he barely has time to grab a meal. Little Paris Hilton spent the whole day looking for booties for her puppy and couldn't find them in the right size. Boo freakin' hoo!

Keep it internal, bitch and moan in the locker room amongst yourselves all you want, but don't say it to a reporter or anyone else on the outside. Oh, and run out those ground balls, would you?

Citizens Against Government Waste

Great piece by Steve Kroft on "60 Minutes" last night, particularly on the heels of last week's report by Citizens Against Government Waste of how many of your tax dollars are going down the drain. Kroft reported on money that's earmarked for homeland security, but is being used for nothing more than pork barrel projects by politicians -- and isn't making us one bit more secure.

For example, there's the Texas town that used the money to buy a trailer to transport riding lawn mowers to the annual lawnmower races. There's Newark's air-conditioned garbage trucks. Des Moines is keeping its residents prepared for terrorist attack with new traffic cones. And the sheriff of Santa Clara County, California, bought four Segway scooters for his department.

A Real Stand Up Teacher

When a student won't stand for the national anthem, the teacher pulls the chair out from under him and goes a little overboard.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Hotel Habits

As a person who travels fairly frequently, I love this list that Mark Evanier has begun of things he wishes hotels would do differently. I'll add one: stop tucking in the top sheet. Those of us over six feet tall have to untuck it to fit in the bed, but this always pulls the bottom sheet out, too. Then, sometime in the middle of the night, we find that our tossing and turning has caused the bottom sheet to move around so much that we're now lying on bare mattress -- and who knows what the previous guests have left there! I'm with George Costanza on this one. No tucking, Lupe!

The Upside Of Anger

Joan Allen is an amazing actress. I've admired her skill in several movies through the years, but she really stands out as the lead in "The Upside Of Anger." As a mother of four who suddenly finds herself without a spouse, Allen runs the gamut of emotions, and every one is believable. If there's any complaint that can be made about Allen, it's that she is impossibly thin -- but that doesn't stop her from having the most front-and-center talent anyone has seen onscreen in a long time.

Kevin Costner also shines as Denny, the ex-baseball-player turned radio personality, who is obviously but loosely modeled on onetime Tiger pitcher and former WXYT morning man Denny McClain. Although writer-director Mike Binder erred in casting himself as a radio producer (he'd be wise to stay behind the camera), he did include a nice cameo by Detroit radio legend Arthur Penhallow, now into his fourth decade doing afternoon drive on WRIF. One caveat: the ending will have you scratching your head, asking "Why didn't she...how could...etc.?"

Friday, April 08, 2005

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Budweiser Mocks Wardrobe Malfunction

Bud Light ad not shown at the Super Bowl, mocking the Wardrobe Malfunction.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Unseen GoDaddy Commercial

The full GoDaddy.com commercial you didn't see during the Super Bowl.

Ruining In The Rain

Gene Kelly's "Singing In The Rain" sequence re-done and ruined to sell a car.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Scalping The Scalping Laws

The first Final Four scalping arrest was made Thursday afternoon outside the America's Center by undercover vice officers. What a waste of time and manpower.

In a capitalist society, there's no reason for scalping to be illegal. Our entire economy is based on supply and demand. I buy something, find out you really want it, charge you a little more, and take the profit. Wholesale and retail. Why doesn't that apply to sports tickets?

The answer most often given is taxes -- the government isn't getting its piece of that sale, even if they already got paid off during the initial transaction. But the same thing applies to every yard sale in America and every auction on eBay. Do you really think Beanie Baby collectors included their transactions on their 1040s?

Who is hurt by scalping? The popular complaint is that ticket brokers swoop in and grab up the seats before "real fans" can get them. In many cases, a limit on the number of tickets sold by the promoters to any individual keeps the window of opportunity open. Of course, most of those "real fans" don't go down to the windows at the venue, or use online ticket vendors. They just whine about being shut out without making an effort. Later, when they really want to go, you'll see them fork over the higher prices demanded by brokers or scalpers.

Most of the tickets for events like the Final Four aren't available to the general public in the first place. They're reserved for the schools, the NCAA, and the corporate sponsors. Those corporations then get to use the tickets for whatever they like, which usually means an invitation to their best customers -- they use the tickets to create extra income, just like scalpers do. Same thing, disguised as a business expense.

Next complaint comes from teams, arena operators, and promoters. They say it's not fair that they don't get all that extra revenue from those valuable tickets. Sorry, but in an age where concert tickets routinely cost over $100/each, a price that already keeps a large number of fans away, you can't invoke the "someone else is getting rich" excuse. Meanwhile, some Broadway producers have turned into their own scalpers -- seats in the first few rows for "The Producers" were selling for $400 apiece in its first year, and the practice is now being repeated for "Spamalot," the Monty Python musical.

Is that gouging? No, it's meeting the marketplace in the middle. Gouging is what happened in Florida last year, when a motel operator quadrupled the price of rooms after a hurricane blew through town, destroying homes and uprooting families. That's just wrong on a moral level. You don't sell $1 bottles of water for $20 during a drought. The law of supply and demand has to be suspended during an emergency.

However, those $4 parking lots that are charging $25 this weekend are doing the same thing the scalpers are -- seizing yet another opportunity to be American capitalists, and there's nothing wrong with that. After all, there's no law saying you have to go to The Dome to enjoy the Final Four.

I'm watching it for free in my living room, where a beverage doesn't cost $6, the line for the bathroom doesn't snake around the corner, and parking is free.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Plumber On The Go

The perfect truck for a plumber on the go, if you'll pardon the expression.