Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More Deep Throat

Well, I lost the office pool. I thought Deep Throat was DB Cooper.

The entire Vanity Fair piece won't be in print for several days, but it's here now.

Over at the Washington Post, Paul Farhi explains how his employer was scooped by Vanity Fair on their own story and secret.

Nora Ephron, once married to Carl Bernstein, says she's not only known for a long time that Deep Throat was Mark Felt, but she told everyone who asked her, including total strangers.

Now, cue the political attack machine that will paint this whistleblower as a disloyal operative.

As to whether Felt deserves the accolades as a "hero," it appears that Watergate wasn't the only break-in he was familiar with. The LA Times reported tonight:

Beside financial concerns, Felt and his family may have had at least one other motive in revealing himself: burnishing his reputation. In November 1980, Felt and Edward S. Miller, then head of the FBI's intelligence division, were convicted of authorizing break-ins without warrants into the homes of members of the Weathermen in the 1970s, a radical antiwar group. During the trial, Felt testified that he was following standard procedures for government investigations, according to Vanity Fair. Although President Ronald Reagan later granted the two men full pardons, O'Connor, the attorney and author of the article, noted that Felt blamed the prosecution for contributing to the death of his wife in 1984. Felt and his wife "felt betrayed by the country he had served," O'Connor wrote.

Why Deep Throat Did It

As I did this afternoon on my KMOX show, Ted Koppel just posited that Mark Felt went to Bob Woodward with information because he'd been passed over for the position of FBI Director after J. Edgar Hoover died and Nixon gave the job to L. Patrick Gray.  Surely, if Felt had become Director, he would have been more reticent to leak details of the Watergate investigation to any reporter.

John D. O'Connor, the attorney who wrote the Deep Throat Revealed piece for Vanity Fair, shot down that motive on "Nightline" with an answer so full of spin that it didn't address that core question.

The Ultimate Anonymous Source

Woodward and Bernstein just confirmed that Mark Felt is Deep Throat. Remember when anonymous sources were considered a good thing?

World's Smallest Apartment?

Could you live in a 62 square foot area? It's only $1,000/month! Thanks to Jeff Olsen for the contribution

Monday, May 30, 2005

Voyager Has Left The Solar System

It's an amazing achievement. Voyager, a man-made object, has traveled more than eight billion miles, at tens of thousands of miles per hour, is more than twice as far from the Sun as Pluto is, and is entering interstellar space. Nothing solid has ever left Earth and gone that far. Hurray for science!!

The irony is that, while I can't get a decent cellphone signal during most of my commute on Highway 40, we're still getting radio signals full of scientific data from the Voyager 1 as it travels these unseen distances.

But Voyager isn't just our window to the far reaches of outer space. It's also our calling card to any aliens who might exist in that abyss. In the event Voyager 1 (and its sister craft Voyager 2) ever run into someone else's neighborhood, they carry a special recorded message from Earth.

The problem I foresee is that the aliens who find the message may not be able to understand it. Not just because it's unlikely they'll speak our language -- there are greetings in 55 different Earth languages, along with recordings of Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, and others, plus nature sounds (in case the aliens live a stressful existence and need a New Age relaxation moment).

No, the problem is that the technology is so outdated.

Voyager was launched in 1977, when our best recording method was the phonograph record. Forget about aliens understanding that. Most Earth children under 21 have never played a vinyl record. Except for club DJs, who uses that technology anymore?

The scientists who planned the Voyager project included equipment and instructions on how to play the record. But what if these aliens are like every guy on Earth? They'll never read the instructions! And if they do, well, you know how impossible it is to make anything work based on instructions written in a foreign language. Remember that VCR you once tried to hook up to the cable input behind your TV with a user's guide written in Japanese? How'd that work out?

We'll just have to hope that the alien who opens up Voyager is like Jeff Bridges in "Starman." Not only did he comprehend the "drop by if you're in the solar system" invitation, he also loved dutch apple pie. It's terrific.

Eddie Albert

Every obit of Eddie Albert mentions that he starred on "Green Acres" and was 99 years old when he died Thursday.  I haven't seen any that noted the irony of his dying the day before the "Longest Yard" remake opened.  Albert played the sadistic prison warden in the original.  Back to that in a moment.

My mother's aunt Eva was 99 when she died.  She was only four days from being 100 and wasn't terribly ill, but she decided that "nobody should be 100 years old," and died peacefully that day.

Maybe the reason Eddie Albert died is that he decided "nobody who is 99 should live to see an unfunny remake of a classic in which he co-starred."  Either that or, like in a real football game, the leap from 99 to 100 is The Longest Yard.

Another Sinner Goes to Sin City

No one can explain the ongoing phenomenon of criminals on the run showing up in Las Vegas, the city with more surveillance cameras than just about anywhere else.

It certainly wasn't enough to deter Paul Iannuzzi from showing up in Sin City last week, in violation of his bail. Iannuzzi, who's facing child pornography charges in Rhode Island, was spotted in the crowd at "The Contender" finale in Vegas last week by two detectives who had worked on his case and were watching the show on NBC. Apparently, Iannuzzi doesn't understand the concept of lying low, because he even spoke to a reporter for The Providence Journal about the boxing match.

The next night, Iannuzzi was back in Rhode Island, where the cops picked him up and busted him for violating the terms of his bail and various arrest-related charges, including assault, resisting arrest, and malicious damage to state property.

No Wonder The Chicken Wouldn't Cross The Road

It didn't want to be ticketed, like this fowl story

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Rewarded Instead of Fired

What do you have to do to get fired in the US intelligence community?  Screwing up bigtime doesn't do it.  In fact, the worse you do the job, the more you're rewarded.

I've long complained that no one was fired for the massive intelligence failures before 9/11, nor for the non-existent Iraq WMD's.  Not only has no one lost their jobs, several of them have actually been rewarded, despite their mistakes.  For example, George Tenet, the former CIA chief who told President Bush that the WMD's were "a slam dunk," was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Now, two Army analysts whose work on Iraq was deemed a "gross failure" by the 9/11 commission have received awards for outstanding job performance!

The two civilian analysts were part of the team at the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center, whose claim about Iraq's aluminum tubes and nuclear weapons were, again in the words of the 9/11 commission, "completely wrong."

This is not a partisan matter.  This is about incompetence.

In the private sector, employees who did their job this poorly would have been shown the door a long time ago.  In the public sector -- with salaries paid by you and me, they not only get to keep their jobs, they also earn kudos from their superiors.

What's worse is that they're not accomplishing their assigned goal -- making all of us safer.  Convenience store clerks have been fired for lesser infractions.

Shouldn't we demand more?

New Podcasts XML feed

Update your Podcast software! The new XML feed for podcasts of The Paul Harris Show is at http://feeds.feedburner.com/PaulHarrisShow

There's also a running, chronological list of new audio here.

Need podcast software to begin with? Try iPodder.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Officer Matt Browning trust fund

A listener who couldn't make it to Officer Matt Browning night at the ballpark Monday asked how he could still make a contribution to help out the St. Louis cop who lost his legs last October while on the job after a Cardinals game.

Matt tells me that you can send a check to the Matthew Browning Trust Fund, St Louis Community Credit Union, 3651 Forest Park Avenue, St Louis, MO 63108.  He asks me to convey his thanks for your generosity.

Lazy Media (Again) -- Who Died?

For everyone going around blaming Newsweek for all those deaths during riots in Afghanistan after the Quran-flushing piece, Joseph Farah, who writes the G2 Bulletin for WorldNetDaily, asks "where's the proof?" and points a finger at the lazy news media that told a story they did not know to be true:

Virtually every major news agency in the world has reported without verification that between 15 and 18 Afghanis were killed in the riots.

There's just one problem. There is no more evidence for these deaths than there is that a U.S. interrogator flushed a Quran down the toilet.

Not a single name of even one victim has been released. No details of the circumstances of the riots were released from any official sources – either U.S. or Afghan.

Who were these victims? Were they rioters killed by police or military forces? Were they innocent victims attacked by fanatics? Were they Afghanis? Were they relief workers?

G2B has examined every English-language news story about these deaths through Lexis Nexis. G2B has scoured the Internet, including foreign and non-English-language news sources for any details of these deaths. And G2B has queried both U.S. and Afghan official sources for any details about these alleged deaths.

No U.S. officials contacted can provide any corroboration for any deaths. And Afghan officials uniformly clam up with apprehension at the mere asking of questions.

More See-Through Security

Another story about the see-through airport security that will show your nude form to the screeners behind the machines.

Lots of readers have asked who they should contact to complain about this. Send your comments directly to TSA Chief of Staff James Fuller via his e-mail address. Remember, being nice and polite gives your message a better chance of being heard.

Catfish Hunted

The 124-pound catfish that Tim Pruitt caught near Alton, Illinois. To put that in perspective, that's bigger than most elementary school kids.

It died while being transported to Kansas City, where the 58-inch long, 44-inch circumference catfish was going to be put on display. A fish expert from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which was transporting the catfish, said, "The stress of being transported like that could have been too much." The same thing happens to most carnival goldfish when they're brought home in a baggie one day and end up dead and flushed down the toilet the next day.

The problem now is finding enough tartar sauce to serve with the giant catfish -- if you can find anyone who would eat anything caught in the Mississippi River!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Shelley Michelle, Body Double

This afternoon on my KMOX show, I talked with Shelley Michelle, who calls herself the World's Most Famous Body Double.

That was her body you saw, not Julia Roberts', in "Pretty Woman." She's also doubled Kim Basinger and Madonna, and once you see her, you'll be surprised to hear that Shelley has also doubled for a couple of actresses who don't look anything like her -- Sandra Bullock and Barbra Streisand.  Listen to the conversation here.

She'll be featured next month on a VH-1 special, "Hollywood Secrets Revealed: Love Scenes Exposed," and co-stars with Stacy Keach in the new DVD release, "Galaxy Hunter."

Burt Reynolds slaps sloppy reporter

Burt Reynolds was on the red carpet for another "Longest Yard" premiere when a CBS News producer asked him about the movie. When Reynolds learned that the producer hadn't seen the remake or the original, and knew nothing about either one, he gave him a playful slap in the face. "The Early Show" aired the video today, and Reynolds is catching some unwarranted flak.

What they didn't say was why you'd send a member of your news team to go cover the premiere of a movie they know nothing about. Granted, there's little if any real discussion going on during a red carpet walk-and-talk, but do a little bit of homework, fer chrissake. A quick Google or IMDB search would've turned up more than enough background to help form a decent question or two.

There's a lot of moaning about media bias, but not nearly enough about media members doing a lame job like this.

"Lost" season finale

"Lost" wrapped up the season without answering a lot of questions, but it raised quite a few for next season. I'm not sure what the hell is going on -- or whether the wispy black smoke is the monster, or what's down the hatch -- but I do know two things: 1) JJ Abrams makes riveting television; and 2) I don't want my head wounds cauterized with gun powder.

Meanwhile, my wife was way ahead of me on Walt being the boy that The Others wanted to take. Caught me completely by surprise.

They're discussing it over at TV Squad, with some interesting theories. As for Arzt, I'm glad he's gone, because everytime I saw Daniel Roebuck I couldn't help thinking of him as Jay Leno in "The Late Shift."

If you missed it, ABC will rerun the "Lost" season finale Saturday night.

A Prom or A Tractor Pull?

How do you take your date to the prom in rural Vermont? Why, in the bucket of daddy's tractor, of course!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bill Maher replies

Thanks to Dan (in the comments section of my earlier item) for pointing me to Bill Maher's reply to Congressman Bachus. He's right on the money:

I'm not a congressman, I'm a comedian. There's nothing I can really do to help or hurt our troops (although anyone who's watched my shows or read my books in the last twelve years knows I'm a pretty ardent supporter of the military). But a congressman, there's someone who can actually DO SOMETHING to help our troops. In fact, a case could be made that it's a lot more treasonous for someone in his position to be wasting his time yelling at a comedian.

Spicy Paris

Paris Hilton does absolutely nothing for me, physically or any other way, but her car-washing ad for Hardee's is getting a lot of attention (and complaints from the usual loudmouth suspects).

Does anyone believe that Paris eats at Hardee's? We know she's had a couple of quarter-pounders in her mouth, but still....

If I were in charge of the campaign, knowing that everyone's aware of her sexual antics, I would have closed the spot with Paris saying, "Remember, always use condiments."

While we're at it, here's how Paris Hilton's look has changed from her teen past to her "that's hot" present.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

They Don't Need No Stinkin' Viagra

Kudos to the officials who have finally realized that it wasn't such a good idea to give free Viagra to convicted sex offenders and rapists. If they can't get it up, that's a good thing. But since they can't get the little blue pills without a prescription, the unanswered question is, who's the doctor who prescribed them in the first place?

Bachus vs. Maher

Spencer Bachus, a congressman from Alabama, wants HBO to cancel "Real Time With Bill Maher" because of a comments on a recent show. While discussing the military's problems in meeting its recruiting goals, Maher said, "...we've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit, and now we need warm bodies...." Bachus thinks Maher is a traitor and his remark amounted to treason.

No, congressman, it's the truth. England wasn't fit for service in the armed forces of the United States, nor is anyone like her, or Charles Graner, or the others who have sullied the reputation of this country while wearing its uniform during wartime.

I'll bet Bachus didn't even see the Maher show nor the context in which he made those remarks. In his grandstanding, Bachus is showing off his own ignorance and proving that he's some pretty low-lying fruit himself.

More importantly, when Bachus took the oath of office, he swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States. That includes the Bill Of Rights, which contains this tiny little amendment that guarantees Americans the right to freedom of speech without squelching by the government.

Bachus has every right to agree or disagree with Maher, but no government official should call for the cancellation of any radio or TV show just because the host's opinion bothers him.

If Bachus wants to hear more from the very opinionated Maher, he should listen to this appearance by Bill on my KMOX show last week.

Store Wars

If you don't mind a little pro-organic-food propaganda, this is a cute supermarket "Star Wars" parody -- with Cuke Skywalker, Obi Wan Cannoli, Princess Lettuce, Darth Tater, Chewbroccoli, and more. [thanks to Pat for the link]

Monday, May 23, 2005

Gary Schroen, First Into Afghanistan

Gary Schroen, a 35-year CIA veteran who commanded the first American team on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11, was on KMOX show today to talk about his experiences and his book, "First In." We talked about how the war in Iraq distracted from our efforts to get Osama Bin Laden despite the marching orders he was given to bring Bin Laden's head back in a box (he says the government was "rash and reckless"), whether the Afghanis could control and defend their own country if we pulled out, his response to the allegations of torture and murder of prisoners by US military interrogators in Afghanistan, and the millions of dollars in bribe money he and his team of seven disbursed while fighting the Taliban in those first two months after 9/11/01. Another fascinating first-person story. Listen to the conversation here.

Up and Running With Five Legs

This calf is up and running, with a leg up on everyone else, literally -- it was born with 5 legs!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Where's The Outrage Now?

Where's the outrage? Why aren't all the people calling Newsweek "treasonous" for supposedly endangering lives with the Quran story now saying the same thing about The Sun and The New York Post treasonous? What would the reaction have been if the Saddam underwear picture had been on the front page of the NY Daily News, or the Washington Post, or the St. Louis Post-Dispatch? Where's Scott McClellan's lecture and demand for an apology on this one? If Newsweek is to blame for raising the ire of every America-hating thug in the world, why aren't the Sun and the Post? Could it be that they're owned by Rupert Murdoch, and thus can never be accused of media bias? Nah, that would be hypocritical.

Saddam Line of the Day

Best line of the day:  Mike Woodruff e-mails, "After looking at that picture, I think I know where Saddam is hiding at least one of those WMD.......jeesh!!!"

Six Flags Over Molesters

Six Flags announced yesterday that their tickets will have new fine print on the back, barring entry to convicted sex offenders. Their spokesperson says Six Flags added the new wording as "an extra level of protection."

Against what? With all those kids in the park everyday, it sounds like a good idea, but it's completely untenable and unrealistic.

My engineer, Kevin, used to work at Six Flags, and tells me that the park holds about 40,000 people (5,000 in Hurricane Harbor, the rest on the rides side). How are they possibly going to check them all? There's no way they can do background checks on every person who passes through the turnstiles -- they have enough trouble keeping the backpack-checking line moving on a busy day.

Six Flags acknowledges this impossibility, but says that someone acting inappropriately could be subjected to a check and thrown out of the park. Isn't that the way it should be already, regardless of your criminal history? The rule is simple: if you misbehave, you gotta go.

This may stem from an incident in 2000, when a 19-year-old employee molested three girls while strapping them into a ride. He was arrested, there was a lawsuit, and Six Flags settled for over a million bucks. But he wasn't a visitor. He worked there. In that case, doing background checks on all of its employees might have tipped them off to a problem -- if he had a record, of course.

Like so much of what passes for protection in America these days, this move may make people feel more secure, but will not make actually make Six Flags any safer.

Saddam Hussein in his Underwear

London tabloid's jailhouse photo of Saddam Hussein in his underwear.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Star Wars: Revenge Of The Acronym

Am I the only one who noticed that the acronym for the subtitle of Star Wars 3 is ROTS?

What Color Is The Threat Level?

Parody film explains origins of the color-coded terrorist threat warning system.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Original Rubber-Faced Man

There was a time in the 1960s and 1970s when you couldn't turn on a TV variety show without seeing an impressionist. I'm not sure why we don't see modern-day versions of these performers anymore outside of Las Vegas, where acts like Danny Gans still play to packed houses.

Maybe it's that there is no such thing as "variety acts" on TV in the 21st century, with the exception of occasional guests on the late night shows. That unique form of comedian, the impressionist, peaked when several of the best impressionists -- Rich Little, David Frye, Fred Travalena, Marilyn Michaels, George Kirby, Charlie Callas, and, of course, Frank Gorshin, who has just died of lung cancer at age 72 -- banded together for a series called "Kopycats," which ran on ABC for about four months in 1972. My buddy Paul Murphy and I were obsessed with that show. We would talk about each episode the next day at school and recite the sketches verbatim from memory, doing impressions of the impressionists.

We weren't alone. Many pros copied note-for-nte from these greats, too. David Frye did the definitive Richard Nixon and William F. Buckley, and everyone else imitated him. No one has ever done Barbra Streisand better than Marilyn Michaels. Any Kirk Douglas impression you've seen in the last 40 years was really a facsimile of Frank Gorshin's Kirk.

Gorshin was the most rubber-faced of the bunch. He didn't just get the voice right, he somehow managed to contort his skin and bones into a physical duplicate of his comedic subject. He was the Jim Carrey of his day. In fact, he no doubt inspired some of Carrey's early standup material, which was almost exclusively impressions, too.

Interestingly, Gorshin appeared on one of the most-watched TV events ever, but very few people remember his part. On February 9, 1964, he appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" along with several other acts. He did his standard stuff, but the audience was a little impatient because they were waiting breathlessly for the second set by the stars of that Sullivan show. That was the night The Beatles made their American primetime debut.

A couple of years later, Gorshin got his best-known role, as The Riddler on TV's "Batman." He only did it for ten episodes before being replaced by John Astin, but Gorshin left his mark as one of the show's Three Best Villains Ever (along with Cesar Romero's Joker and Burgess Meredith's Penguin). He then did a memorable appearance on an episode of the original "Star Trek" with a face like a black-and-white cookie.

But it was the impressions that Gorshin was best at -- and which made him, ironically, an original.

Bill Maher

Bill Maher was back on my KMOX show this afternoon. We talked about censorship, Jeff Gannon, religious extremism, why he doesn't have more conservatives on his show and in his audience, non-smoking laws, blaming the food industry for obesity, how he can keep a straight face opposite Larry King, what he thinks of the Newsweek controversy, and about the woman who sued Bill for promising to marry her. Whew! As always, Bill doesn't hold back on his opinions one bit.  Listen to the conversation here.

The best part of Bill's "Real Time" series on HBO is the New Rules segment that closes each show. He's compiled many of them into a book which will be released in September, but you can pre-order it now. The show itself will be back in August and, until then, he's doing standup dates (including here in St. Louis on Friday) to prepare for an HBO comedy special that will air in July.

Gerald Posner on the Saudi-US Connection

Gerald Posner returned to my KMOX show today to talk about "Secrets of the Kingdom," his new book about the inside story of the Saudi-US connection and how our "partners in peace" use their petrodollars to influence the American power elite, plus shocking revelations about how the Saudis have developed a nuclear fail-safe system to protect their oil wells and supply. If you have any doubt that the Saudis are more dangerous to the US than Iraq ever was, listen to what Gerald has to say. This is important stuff.  Listen to the conversation here.

Off the air, Gerald told me that he's had trouble getting some mainstream media to book him as a guest, because they're too busy with segments about the Michael Jackson trial and other nonsense. He commented that news priorities have changed in just the last couple of years since his last book, Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11." For instance, one major morning TV show that has always welcomed him in the past refused to even talk to him about "Secrets of the Kingdom" -- either because his information is too incendiary, or the current political climate makes them afraid to tell any story that might create a backlash.

That's a sad commentary on the current state of the news media. I'm more than happy to have him on my show, and the response from my listeners -- and people buying his books -- shows that there's a huge appetite for Gerald's work.

Wonder About This Woman

Forget Kirstie Alley, what happened to Wonder Woman?

Worth Your Time

A librarian writes about her brush with the FBI, which helped shape her views against the Patriot Act.

The Columbia Journalism Review weighs in with several good points on the Newsweek matter.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

News Weak

While the blogosphere went crazy over the Newsweek story yesterday, I wonder how many of them picked up this press release from the Pentagon, in which the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, says that the deaths and rioting in Jalalabad were not connected to the magazine's report; it was related to the ongoing political problems in Afghanistan.

That flies right in the face of headlines like this one, from Rupert Murdoch's London tabloid, The Times: "Newsweek sparks global riots with one paragraph on Koran." Perhaps the Times should also look up the definition of "global." The riots took place in two countries, hardly a global event.

It's also important to note that Newsweek gave the Pentagon a chance to vet the story, but no one waved them off the Quran item. Obviously, the military didn't foresee the rioting as a consequence of running the item, either.

None of this is to excuse Newsweek's methodology, in which an item attributed to an anonymous source was printed without confirmation from other sources. That's bad policy in any story, but worse -- and more dangerous -- in a story as volatile as this one.

We're dealing with a culture which ranks a symbol as more important than human life -- much like those in the US who go crazy over flag burning and would kill anyone who dared commit that act. One Pakistani protester, representative of far too many religious zealots, exemplified this problem when he told Newsweek, "We can understand torturing prisoners, no matter how repulsive, but insulting the Quran is like deliberately torturing all Muslims. This we cannot tolerate."

More disturbing than that, however, is the fact that people would riot over this small news item in the first place. I've never understood what it is that makes anyone hear some news -- flushing the Quran, the Rodney King verdict, a sports team winning a championship -- and decide to leave their home and destroy their community.

"My team won the Super Bowl, so I just have to turn a car over and burn it!" "A jury made a bad decision, so I'm going to steal a television!" "Someone half a world away might have done something disrespectful to a copy of a book, so I'm going to kill someone!"

Shouldn't the blame for any damage resulting from these acts be placed solely at the feet of those who committed those acts, and the leaders who may have urged them on?

"Survivor: Pulau" winner Tom Westman

"Survivor: Pulau" winner Tom Westman was on my KMOX show this afternoon. I told him it was nice to see the strongest player actually win, rather than being voted off by a bunch of weaker players who just coasted through by never showing their personalities. We talked about how he won, whether Jeff Probst had stuck around for all 12 hours of the final challenge, whether Ian could have beaten Katie, why he wouldn't let any members of his tribe take a shower, and whether his FDNY colleagues have hit him up for a piece of the million dollar prize yet. Listen to the conversation here.

"Crash"

A week ago, my wife went to see "Crash" and loved it so much she told me I had to see it, too. Over the weekend, I did, and she was absolutely right. It's the best movie I've seen in a long time, a wonderfully woven web of stories about race and racism, with a wide assortment of characters and plots.

Watching it, you wonder how the pieces will fit together and marvel at how they eventually do. "Crash" also includes one of the best daddy-daughter scenes I've even seen on screen, a quietly moving sequence about a father helping his kid overcome her fears so she can fall asleep while maintaining the innocence of childhood. It also serves as powerful foreshadowing of a heartbreaking later scene, but that's all I'll say -- do yourself a favor and see it without seeing a trailer, a plot summary, or anything else that could ruin it.

Writer-director Paul Haggis, who won an Oscar for his "Million Dollar Baby" screenplay and an Emmy for his work on "thirtysomething," has outdone himself with "Crash." He gets very good solid performances out of his ensemble, which includes Don Cheadle, Brendan Fraser, Sandra Bullock, Thandie Newton, Lorenz Tate, Ludacris, Ryan Phillippe, and Jennifer Esposito.

If "Crash" is not nominated for Best Picture this year, it'll be almost as large a miscarriage of justice as one of the sub-plots of his movie masterpiece. Don't miss it.

Friday, May 13, 2005

TV Reporter Roughed Up By Cops

Video of TV reporter in DC getting roughed up by cops for videotaping them.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

No Running In The Capitol

Pretty amazing that they were able to evacuate the Capitol in under six minutes today during the off-course airplane scare. One factor had to be the Capitol cops telling people to "Run! Run! Run faster!!" I was reminded of every fire drill we had at school, when the teachers would tell us emphatically not to run in the hallways. I guess there's a greater chance of trampling and stampeding with kids in elementary school than adults in post-9/11 Washington.

National Driver's License

With all the talk about who can and can't get a driver's license under the Real ID act which President Bush will sign soon, why is it we don't have a national driver's license yet? I'm a privacy advocate, and there are certainly concerns about the information that will be required and gathered under Real ID, but I don't understand the concerns of those who oppose the idea of a national driver's license.

Your state-issued license is already valid in every other state, and you use it as identification when you board a plane, cash a check, pick up tickets at the box office, and on and on. The laws aren't all that different from one state to another, so why not have a national standard and a USA driver's license? Most other countries already do it that way. It could still be handled by the license bureaus in each state, who could still collect the fees, with the only change being the look and conformity of the license.

I mentioned this on my KMOX show today and got several e-mails, including this one from Richard, retired police officer: "Another point with regard to national security. As a St. Louis cop, I'm familiar with the Missouri license and perhaps with an Illinois license, and I can usually spot a fake -- but I have no friggin' idea of the current 2005 format of a North Dakota license, or a Vermont license, etc. If someone shows me something that looks reasonably official, I'm gonna accept it. Keep in mind that, lately, all states seem to change their format every few years."

Exactly.

Bikini Billboard

34-year-old realtor's bikini billboard (no, it's not a Cinemax movie) causes some controversy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Intolerant Pinhead du Jour

Gerald Allen, an Alabama state legislator who wanted to pass a law that would ban spending public money on any "printed or electronic materials or activities" that "sanction, recognize, foster or promote" a homosexual lifestyle. As an editorial in the Tri-City Herald pointed out, this could mean libraries couldn't buy books by Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde, or many others.

Allen says he pushed the bill because, "It's not healthy for America, it doesn't fit what we stand for. And they will do whatever it takes to reach their goal." I assume that when he says "they" he means gays, but I don't know what he means by "their goal." Could it be that "they" want Americans to read more, so they don't turn into intolerant jerks?

Fortunately, the Alabama legislature rejected his bill, but he says he'll bring it up again next session to "protect the hearts and souls and minds of our children."

Yes, let's keep our kids from reading "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof," "Streetcar Named Desire," "In Cold Blood," "The Important of Being Earnest," and other great pieces of literature That'll keep them pure, and leave them plenty of time to read the US Constitution -- which Mr. Allen might want to brush up on, too.

Amazing Race 7 Finale

"The Amazing Race 7" finale was the most exciting episode of any reality show, ever.

My wife and I have seen every moment of all seven seasons, deciding as we watch which one of us would do a Roadblock, how we'd handle the Detours, how important language and map skills are, and other strategies, as we play along from the safety of our living room.

We can't remember being on the edge of our seats as much as we were watching Uchenna and Joyce scramble to get together enough money to pay off their Miami cabbie before racing to the finish line -- where, ironically, they won the million dollar prize, enough to pay off an entire fleet of cabbies. We'd been pulling for them all the way, especially after Joyce had her hair shaved off during a Detour in India. We were glad that Ron and Kelly didn't take the title, because we'd just had it with her whining (I bet Ron feels the same way).

My wife would've been happy if Rob and Amber had won it, but it seemed right to me that they came in second. I hope there are no future celebrity appearances on the show, because it changes the texture of the race, which should be about "regular" Americans and their internal relationships while racing around the globe.

Host Phil Keoghan tells me that the next season of "TAR" is a family edition, with kids as young as 8 eligible to compete on teams with their parents. It will be shot this summer (while school is out) and air this fall.

There's video of an event at the TV Academy a couple of weeks ago with Keoghan and the executive producers of the show which you can watch here -- but frankly, you'll learn a lot more from my interview with brothers Brian and Greg from this season, and an in-depth discussion with Phil Keoghan, too.

Don LaFontaine & Joe Cipriano

Two of the top voiceover talents in the country were on my show today to talk about their profession -- you may not know their names, but you'll recognize them as soon as you hear their voices.

Don LaFontaine is arguably the most succesful voiceover artist of all time, with over 4,000 movie trailers and tens of thousands of TV promos among his credits (he's the one saying "In a world..."). Joe Cipriano has been the voice of Fox's TV comedies since 1988 and the CBS comedies since 1997, and has been the live announcer for the Grammys and other award shows. They are among the contributors to Joan Baker's book, "Secrets of Voiceover Success" (with proceeds going to Alzheimer's research).

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Why Can't The Coach Wear A Suit?

Mike Nolan, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, asked the NFL if he could wear a suit on the sidelines during games, instead of the team sweater, poncho, jacket, whatever. The league turned him down, saying that he and all other coaches must wear NFL-sanctioned team clothing.

It's part of their marketing plan, because you know most fans decide to buy team merchandise based on what the coach is wearing. If he were to dress like legendary coaches Tom Landry, Hank Stram, and Vince Lombardi, it might affect sales of jerseys and running shoes, and we can't have that.

Speaking of coaches' garb, I still don't understand why baseball managers wear a uniform during the game. It's not like there are any player/managers in the game these days. Tony LaRussa wasn't going to take over behind the plate after Jadier Molina's injury. I can't hear Wayne Hagin saying, "Here comes number ten, the skipper, as a pinch runner!" Not gonna happen, so why not let 'em wear street clothes in the dugout? Same thing goes for the pitching coach and the rest of the non-playing staff.

Maybe Nolan should suit up in a full 49ers uniform, complete with pads, for a game next season.

Down Goes Frasier!

Kelsey Grammer falls off stage while speaking at Disneyland.

Full Moon

Jeff Olsen suggests captioning this one "Full Moon."

Gridlock

The media is once again going crazy over the annual gridlock survey by the Texas Transportation Institute. That's because not one reporter takes the time to do a little math and gather some perspective on how bad our commutes really are, and why.

This year's report doesn't take into account that people are moving further and further away from downtown areas, so that outlying counties (e.g. St. Charles, Missouri) are now considered bedroom communities. People are willing to sacrifice a few more minutes in the car to and from work in exchange for more houses and larger property at lower prices. It also doesn't address the phenomenon of suburb-to-suburb commuting, which is on the increase across the country.

Do our roads desperately need work? Absolutely. But it would be nice if someone dialed back the panic a little bit and put this annual Texas report in context. Here's what I wrote on the subject four years ago:

Pardon me while I slip into my alter ego, who I call Mr. Perspective. In that guise, I have no super powers other than the ability to apply rational thought to news stories that are otherwise swallowed whole by the media at large, and then blown way out of proportion.

Let's start with this headline in today's paper: “Study Ranks Area Among Worst For Road Congestion.”

It’s based on a new report from the Texas Transportation Institute about how much time we’re spending in our cars going to and from work everyday. According to this report, St. Louis is the 9th-worst metropolitan area for road congestion. You know it’s an important report because it’s not written in real, everyday English -- they call us “motorists” instead of “drivers,” as in “motorists, use caution” rather than “drivers, be careful!”

The report says that St. Louis drivers lose an average of 44 hours a year to traffic delays -- or “more than one workweek.” That sounds like a lot. Here’s where Mr. Perspective comes alive, applying simple math to the claim.

If you lose 44 hours a year on the road, that’s less than an hour a week. It actually works out to about 10 minutes a day. That’s five minutes in the morning, five minutes in the evening. Not so much anymore, is it?

But no one would print a headline based on the real story: "You Spend Less Time In Traffic Than You Do in Line Waiting For A Mocha Latte At Starbucks!"

Monday, May 09, 2005

Tiger Man

Odd that a man with tiger stripes tattooed on his face can't find work.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Damn That Traffic Jam

You think you've been in bad traffic jams. They were amateur hour compared with your average day on I-405 in Los Angeles. During my vacation there this weekend, I had multiple opportunities to enjoy "The 405," home to the worst traffic congestion I've ever experienced (and I've driven in 9 of the 10 ten most crowded cities in America).

In the morning, The 405 is packed. Noontime, overloaded. Afternoon, hopelessly jammed.

On Friday at 4pm, it took me an hour to go six miles. That's a minute per tenth of a mile. Children who just learned to walk could have passed us in a blur. There were no accidents, no construction, no visible reasons for the backup other than pure volume. I doubt anyone has used cruise control on The 405 for at least a decade, because you can't set it to go that slow.

You've heard of these drive-by shootings in LA (they had another one Sunday, their fourth in six weeks -- I'm lucky to be alive, frankly). If it happens on The 405, it can't be called a drive-by, it's more of a near-by, because after the shot is fired, the shooter is going to still be right there next to the victim, stuck in traffic with no escape route.

Maybe this explains another southern California phenomenon. They seem to have more donut shops per capita than anywhere else on Earth. I'm not talking chains like Dunkin' Donuts or Donut King -- although they do have one big local chain named Winchell's -- I'm referring to local mom-and-pop donut shops about every two blocks. Ramona's Donuts, John's Donuts, Yashim's Donuts, Mr. Donut, Mrs. Donut, Donut Land. I'm surprised Matt Groening hasn't licensed Homer Simpson's likeness to a retail outlet named "Mmmmmm, Donuts" yet.

Perhaps these delicious doughy delights are what's keeping Los Angelenos busy in their cars while stuck on The 405. It's about the only thing that could make that hellish drive worthwhile. Almost.

Postscript: On my LA trip, I didn't stop into any of these donut places, but did have lunch at a place I've heard of for years but had never been to: Roscoe's House of Chicken 'n Waffles. Yeah, that's what they serve, and that's what you gotta have on your first visit. It's a little odd seeing a cup of syrup on the plate next to a leg-and-thigh quarter of fried chicken, but once you've committed to downing this oh-so-healthy combo, it does go together, and it's damned good.

Don't Wait For ESPN To Call

A college freshman tries to be a TV sportscaster and fails miserably.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Monkey Trial Anniversary

Today marks the 80th anniversary of John Scopes' arrest. He was the teacher in Tennessee who was busted for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution in a public school. The "monkey trial" that summer was about as big as Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson, and OJ Simpson combined, with William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow facing off as opposing counsel. Bryan won, Scopes lost and was fined $100, but evolution soon became standard fare in schools across the land.

Over the last few years, there's been some backsliding in school districts across the country -- Kansas being the most famous, but not the only example -- as fundamentalists have tried to sneak in "creation science" as an alternative curriculum and insisted that textbooks and teachers tell students that evolution is not the only accepted theory. It is the only accepted scientific theory, but that hasn't stopped legislators like Cynthia Davis, here in Missouri, from trying to undermine the way biology and other sciences are taught. Fortunately, the state legislature has thus far rebuked her efforts. Maybe some of them listened to the late Pope John Paul II, who said that evolution was not incompatible with faith.

Hard to believe this battle is still being fought eight decades after Scopes. Perhaps we still haven't evolved as much as we should.

Louie Louie, Again Again

"Louie Louie" is still creating controversy, almost 50 years after Richard Berry wrote it and 42 years after the Kingsmen recorded their mumbled version of it.

Paula Dawning, the superintendent of schools in Benton Harbor, Michigan, wouldn't let the McCord Middle School marching band play the rock classic in a town parade this weekend after one parent -- one parent -- complained that it was inappropriate because of its lyrics.

It's been over a quarter-century since the FBI -- after wasting two years and untold taxpayer dollars -- determined that not only was "Louie Louie" not obscene, it was "unintelligible at any speed." It has since become a staple of rock radio and a favorite of marching bands across the country (so, this one time at band camp, we played a song that was featured in "Animal House" and "The Naked Gun"), including a version by the Rice University Marching Owl Band on this compilation.

All this superintendent of schools had to do was a quick Google search to discover that there's no problem with the song, especially since the marching band wouldn't be singing it! Or better yet, she could have told this one tightass parent to stick her complaint in a marching band tuba. Instead, her response was that if a majority of band parents supported their kids playing the song, she would reconsider.

Thankfully, the more enlightened parents stepped up -- or maybe one of them printed out the real lyrics and showed them to her -- and Ms. Dawning reversed herself late Thursday.

That marching band, they gotta go now.

Jennifer Wilbanks "Leaving On A Greyhound"

That Jennifer Wilbanks song parody I just played on my KMOX show, "Leaving On A Greyhound," is by Jessica Urick.  Enjoy.

When The President Talks To God

You don't see much political protest on network TV entertainment shows anymore, so it was very surprising to see a performer named Bright Eyes singing his song "When The President Talks To God" on Leno's show the other night. Forget about Corey Clark's Paula Abdul allegations, this is the boldest thing I've seen booked on a late night show in a very long time. If you missed it, the whole thing's here.

Amazing Sand Art

1 man + 1 light + 1,000's of grains = Amazing Sand Art!!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Seat Belt Quandary

I've been flying for years and seen that flight attendant safety demonstration hundreds of times. You know, the one that starts with instructions on how to operate your seat belt. I couldn't imagine that there could be any adult on the plane who couldn't understand this simple mechanism -- after all, they must have been in a car at some point in their life before getting on board the plane, right?

Wrong. Yesterday, on my way back from Los Angeles, I sat next to a woman who had no clue how the seat belt worked. She was an older Asian woman, traveling with her middle-aged daughter. I was on the aisle and mom was in the middle seat between us, struggling to make the metal tip somehow connect with the buckle. She tried lifting the lever and putting the tip in there. When that didn't work, she tried forcing the belt through the holes in the end of the tip. No good. Finally, she simply gave up and held the two pieces together in one hand. She was obviously too embarrassed to ask her daughter for help, and I didn't want to exacerbate the situation, so I didn't volunteer any assistance. I don't know how she made it from her Asian homeland to the US in the first place, but it was probably on a sea-going vessel that didn't require seat belts.

The irony here is that the safety demonstration had still been absolutely no use. At this point in America's airborne history, flight attendants do these things by rote and just breeze through the required verbiage. But even if they had taken it slower and offered a more detailed explanation of how to harness yourself to your seat, it wouldn't have helped the woman next to me, because she didn't speak a word of English.

Fortunately, the daughter eventually noticed mom's difficulty and showed her the proper way to buckle up. Now, it was time for that next technical stumper -- the fold-down seat-back tray table.

Breastfeeding Animals

She's got the tigers by her breasts -- that's how this woman is feeding the cubs.

And here's a middle-aged woman breastfeeding a monkey, which she considers her child

Monday, May 02, 2005

Anthem Singer On Ice

Canadian singer forgets words to Star Spangled Banner, ends up on her butt on ice.