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

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Cruise-ing With Aliens

Tom Cruise has been mouthing off a lot lately, but he's taking unnecessary flak for this answer to a German newspaper's question about whether he believes in aliens:  "Yes, of course.  Are you really so arrogant as to believe we are alone in this universe?  Millions of stars, and we're supposed to be the only living creatures?  No, there are many things out there, we just don't know."

On this one, he's right. It is arrogance to presume that Earth is the only place in the vastness of this universe that is capable of sustaining life.  Many brilliant men and women, like the late great Carl Sagan, have said exactly that for a long time.  Mathematically, the odds would be heavily against that many solar systems not having some life form within at least one of them.

The problem is not with Cruise, but with those who hear "alien" and immediately think of a semi-human-like form they've seen in some movie.  Here's a paragraph I wrote on the subject in January, 2003:

The close-encounters types always have the same description of the alien, too.  Of course, the visitors are able to converse in whatever your native tongue is, no matter where you are.  Visually, the species that allegedly spawned us has almond-shaped eyes, hands with three fingers, a slow gait, no hair.  Darwin was wrong!  We're descended from Homer Simpson!

Once you think about all the other life forms we have on Earth -- from a pine tree to a duck-billed platypus -- who's to say that life elsewhere in the universe won't be in those shapes and sizes, or one that we've never seen before?

The really good news for Cruise is that this means so many more possibilities for love-mates he can exploit in public to promote a movie project in the future.

WSOP Women

Dan e-mails, "Do all of these WSOP events restrict events by gender and not allow women to compete against the men? I don't really understand why there has to be a Ladies event.  Why can't the women be allowed to compete against the men?  There's no great physical strength involved in poker, it's a mental
game, yet every time I'm flipping through the channel and come across a poker game I notice that it's always just the men.  Why not give a chance for the women join 'em?"

Women are eligible to enter any WSOP event, and most of the big-name pros (e.g. Jennifer Harman, Annie Duke) won't enter the Ladies Only event for exactly the reasons you stated -- they want to be judged as poker players, not female poker players.  Personally, I'm waiting for the WSOP tournament limited to bald, bearded guys named Paul Harris.  I might have a chance of making it to that final table.

Kenny Rogers vs. Cameraman

Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers really didn't want a TV cameraman to get him on tape. Naturally, his reaction was caught on tape.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Most Disgusting Story of the Day

A 14-year-old girl goes to use the toilet in a park.  It's in an outhouse -- not a flush toilet, just a seat with a pit below.  When she sits down, she looks down and sees a man staring up at her.  The perv was wearing waders, just standing in the muck, waiting to get his peek-a-boo thrills.  The cops wouldn't touch hazmat-man until firefighters hosed him off and decontaminated him.  Story here.

A Soldier's Wish List

Today on my KMOX show, I talked with Julieann Najar, who runs A Soldier's Wish List, which sends letters and care packages to our men and women serving overseas in five different countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Kosovo and South Korea).  Julieann says she and her volunteers now have 1,400 soldiers on their list, and they try to fill every request -- from beef jerky to a microwave oven (!) -- although they weren't able to send a ping-pong table to Iraq.  She'd be happy to take your donation.

Jennifer Tilly, WSOP Champion

Jennifer Tilly will never win an Oscar, but she does have a World Series of Poker bracelet.  She just won the Ladies Event at the WSOP 2005, making her the first Hollywood name to take the title in any WSOP event.  It helps that her boyfriend is Phil "The Unabomber" Laak, one of the top pros on the circuit, who was busy at the time playing heads-up with Johnny Chan in the $2,500 Pot Limit Hold 'Em tournament (Chan won, nabbing his record 10th WSOP bracelet).

They're about halfway through the 40+ different tournaments that make up the WSOP, with the big one -- the $10,000 buy-in No Limit championship -- starting on July 7th and running for 8 days.  Word is that they'll allow 6,600 entrants, and first prize will be a cool ten million dollars.  ESPN's coverage is going to be huge this year, stretching from the middle of August all the way through November, at which point Norman Chad's head will explode.

Meanwhile, James McManus is doing a daily journal from the WSOP for the NY Times. McManus wrote the terrific poker book "Positively Fifth Street" about his experiences at the WSOP 2000, when he used his advance from Harper's to enter the big event, where he worked his way all the way to the final table, surprising even himself.

CHiPs in Porsches

Fun with photoshop: California seems to have a lot of trouble with high-speed chases, so why not give the cops a Porsche instead of a Camaro to catch the bad guys?

Hundred Acre Woods: The Real Story

Following the deaths of John Fiedler and Paul Winchell, who provided the voices of Piglet and Tigger in the Winnie The Pooh series, KMOX newsman Brett Blume wrote "Hundred Acre Woods: The Real Story"...

Word on the street has it that Eeyore and Roo are next on the hit list.  Seems all the victims -- past, present and future -- at one time or another slighted their co-star, Christopher Robin.

Unfortunately for them, he grew from that wide-eyed innocent bounding through the Hundred Acre Wood into a cold-hearted killer-for-hire and mob hit man with a hair-trigger temper (and twitchy trigger finger, to boot).

But guns aren't the only weapon-of-choice for Christopher "C-Killa" Robin.

Police haven't commented officially, but it's a poorly-kept secret that Tigger was garroted, gangland-style.

For Piglet, it was a Columbian necktie, after he witnessed the Tigger hit and was threatening to squeal.

Then there are the other oddities in Pooh's old neighborhood.  Seems nobody's seen Owl since 1983, shortly after he told a reporter that Christopher Robin was the worst child actor since "that kid from Courtship of Eddie's Father".  Rumors have it that Owl no longer gives a hoot because he's buried under a ton of concrete in the end zone of Hundred Acre Wood stadium.

Then there's the attempted hit on little Roo. He was bouncing home from school when he heard two sharp cracks and felt the whiz of bullets zinging over his head and slamming into the trunk of a tree right next to him.  But little Roo had a secret -- he knew about the mysterious deaths before him and he was packin'.  He reached into his pouch, pulled out a Glock loaded with hollow points, and fired off a couple of wild shots in self defense.  One clipped a tree branch, which fell on top of his would-be assassin, giving Roo time to escape.

So now it's on in the Hundred Acre Wood, which barely resembles the bucolic setting of yore.  It's more like a war zone these days.

Rabbit's mined his carrot patch.  Eeyore pulled off his tail and used the nail to permanently seal off his front door.  Gopher's gone underground for good, refusing to emerge until C-Killa's behind bars or cooling off on a slab somewhere.  Kanga's posted armed guards outside her hutch and now sends Roo to school in a bullet-proof Escalade driven by an ex-Navy Seal.

But perhaps most surprising of all are rumors of who C-Killa's actually working for -- the Big Pooh himself.  Seems the pudgy little guy gave up the "hunny" and now likes "the honeys".  Word is he lost big at the track trying to make some quick cash to support his lady bear friends.  So he organized a gang to knock off the Hundred Acre bank, but somebody tripped an alarm and Pooh was captured at the scene.  Serving 10 to 20, Pooh hit the weights and transformed himself into a fearsome physical specimen.  He emerged with a new image and new nickname, "the Pooh-father".  Now he's on a mission to clean up his old hood, the HAW, by taking out any and all competition by whatever means necessary.  C-Killa, it seems, is just a puppet with the Pooh-father pulling the strings.  Fear reigns where once there was only sunshine and joy.

So stay out of the HAW, especially at night, unless you want to find yourself "sleeping with the Owl"!

Copyright 2005, Brett A. Blume.
Reprinted on with permission of the author.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

File-Sharing Head Shops

One of the Supreme Court rulings yesterday involved Grokster and other file-sharing software.  Essentially, the court ruled that, if you make something and distribute it, knowing that other people will use it commit an illegal act -- like downloading copyrighted material -- then you can be held liable.

This reminded me of every head shop I've ever seen (come to think of it, do they even exist anymore?).  They sold bongs and other devices used to smoke pot, but the cops couldn't do anything about them because the owners could claim that the giant water pipe they were selling wasn't intended for use with marijuana -- you could put tobacco in there, instead.  Funny, in college, I don't remember anyone in my dorm filling their bong from a bag of roll-your-own Marlboros.

Moon Hoax originator dead

Phil Plait, who brilliantly debunked the Apollo moon hoax claims, blogs about the death of the man who started it all, Bill Kaysing.

You're The Man

Guy sees a camcorder set up as a store demo and decides it's his moment to shine. You talkin' to me? Well, you're the man!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Hey, Ho, It's Winchell-Mahoney Time...

Legendary ventriloquist Paul Winchell died over the weekend.  Having watched his show in my tiny years, I was going to write about his remarkable history -- how many people did a kids' TV show AND invented an artificial heart? -- but Mark Evanier has done it better than I ever could.  Mark, who knew Winchell personally, has the best obituary and other details on his site.

Here's To You, Mr. Ear Wax Man

Jason Torchinsky noticed something odd about the tissue he used to clean some wax out of his ear.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

An Afternoon On Fire

"There's a big fire at Jefferson and Choteau!"

That was the voice of a caller to my KMOX show, alerting me to the story that would within minutes take up the rest of the afternoon.  It was 3:35pm Friday.

I got as many details out of him as I could, as my producer, Fred Bodimer, relayed the tip to our news department.  Moments later, several other lines lit up with callers who had also seen the fire:  "There are flames shooting way up in the air!"  "We're two blocks away and can still hear explosions!"  "I was in my car when everyone started running!"  "The windows in our building were bending from the blasts!"

The KMOX newsroom jumped into action.  Two reporters, Megan Lynch and Michelle Wirth, left the building immediately and headed to the scene.  Other news people worked the phones.

Fred simultaneously kept the calls coming in and told me what was going on via the off-air feed into my headphones, like Holly Hunter feeding information to William Hurt in "Broadcast News."

By 3:40pm, we were in total breaking news coverage mode.  At about that time, KSDK-TV broke into their programming with a live shot of the fire from their helicopter.  Through the dense black smoke, we could see explosions sending flames shooting high into the air like solar flares.  I described this for my listeners.

Listeners kept calling with eyewitness accounts.  Soon, Megan was on the scene and had a report.  We went live to her and she described what she could see (and feel) from as close as she could get.  As she was talking, Fred tipped me that Michelle was on another line, also from the scene, with a local resident who had heard the first explosion.

Kevin Killeen came into the studio from our newsroom to report that the fire was at a business called Praxair, which provided atmospheric and industrial gases, and that there hadn't been any reports of injuries yet.

Amidst more caller eyewitnesses, news director John Butler sat down to provide some quick background on Praxair.  Then Megan and Michelle were ready with more information from the scene.

Via the talkback system, Fred said in my ear, "CBS is now feeding your show to the entire radio network."  I didn't have time to process that, but later found out that stations in other cities had put KMOX on the air so their listeners could hear what was going on in St. Louis -- my sister-in-law in New Jersey was shocked to suddenly hear my voice coming out of her radio, which was tuned to WCBS in New York.  A friend in DC heard it, too.

I kept bouncing back and forth between callers and reporters, recapping the story often for anyone who might just be tuning in.  Listeners were now reporting debris flying all over the place, including in the adjacent residential neighborhood.  One guy said a cylinder had landed in his yard, some ten blocks away.

I threw it to airborne traffic reporter and pilot John Larrabee to report on the Praxair fire from above.  He stayed up for about a half-hour before it became too dangerous for him to both fly the plane and be on the air, because of the explosions and all the other news and police aircraft circling the site.  So he went back to the airport to pick up Captain Rodger Brand, who took over the reporting while John kept them safe but within viewing range.

I glanced over at the three TV monitors we have in the studio to see that MSNBC was now airing the live shot from the KSDK helicopter, as was CNN.  The latter was getting information on air via phone from one of the first reporters on the scene, KMOX's Megan Lynch (who did the same for Fox News Channel later).

Fred told me not to worry about going to the network news at the top of the hour or getting to any commercials.  As we rolled into the 4pm hour, we were the only radio station devoting nonstop coverage to the event.

Bob Hamilton, a veteran KMOX newsman, sat down next to me in the studio.  Bob happens to live three blocks from Praxair and, since he works the night shift on KMOX, had been asleep when the explosions woke him up.  He described his first person experience, then stayed in the studio for the next two hours providing the neighborhood perspective and helping to define the boundaries of the area that was closed off and which roads to avoid.

Listeners kept calling to report seeing the smoke from miles away.  Dan McLaughlin, one of our sports guys who was at the ballpark to cover the Cardinals/Pirates game that evening, called to tell me that none of the players were practicing on the field -- they were all huddled around radios and TVs following the story.

Kevin returned with more information and the amazing point that we still had no reports of fatalities or injuries.  Even SLU Hospital, which would have caught the first trauma cases, hadn't seen any yet.

Newswoman Carol Daniel raised the question of whether the smoke and fumes from this explosion might be toxic.  Fred hooked me up with a chemistry professor to explain the possibilities.  As firefighters pumped water onto the site from at least three companies, St. Louis Fire Department spokeswoman Kim Bacon told me they were testing the air and trying to determine the cause of the fire, but there were no results yet.

I've always had an open-door policy during my show -- anyone with anything good can come in and sit down at a microphone at any time.  Now the entire team was feeding me information, one right after the other, both in the studio and from the scene.

My adrenaline was really pumping.  I was aware of nothing else but this story and this broadcast.

Chuck, a former Praxair employee, called at about 4:30pm.  This gave us an insider, someone who knew the plant and could explain what was on fire and what might have caused it.  I kept him on the air for several minutes, throwing every question I could think of at him.  I told him I was amazed that no one had been reported injured and wondered if the workers were prepped and drilled for just such an emergency.  He said nothing like this had ever happened there before, but yes, everyone knew what to do, where to go, and where the firewalls were, just in case.

Our traffic team reported that the police were going to close Highway 40, concerned about the airborne cloud of smoke that had moved north from the fire.  That meant a major artery in and out of the city was shut down, and we'd have to give listeners alternate routes.  It wasn't bad enough that this happened while people were leaving work for the weekend, but we also had 50,000 fans coming into town for the Cardinals game.

As we approached the top of the hour, Fred suggested we take a break, go to the network newscast and re-group.  As the 5:00pm tone sounded, I turned off my microphone, took off my headphones, and got up to stretch my legs.  Fred told me I had been talking for 80 minutes straight without a break.

My engineer, Kevin Niemeier, who pushes all the buttons and handles all the audio feeds during my show, also stood up and let out an audible sigh of temporary relief.  He was doing a great job staying on top of the very hectic technical end of the show.

As I made a bathroom visit, Carol picked it up out of the network (which had included some of our own audio!) to reset the story and fill in everyone who was just getting off work.  At about eight after, as I walked back into the studio, I was told that the Cardinals had pushed back the starting time a half-hour because of the havoc on the roads.  I jumped on the air with Carol to report that news and keep the flow going.  My boss, Steve Moore, called to say that we should try to get a few commercials in -- we hadn't played one since 3:30pm -- so we took a break.

Eventually, the police chief and the mayor called in from the scene with their official assessments.  Mayor Slay wasn't happy when I told him that several residents of the area had told me they'd had concerns for years about having an industrial neighbor like Praxair.  He responded that he'd never heard those concerns, but was going to look into them and the possibility of getting the company out of there.  As he hung up and I went to commercials, I wondered if Praxair had any company left, at least at that location.

By now, the fires were mostly out, although the hot zone would remain for quite awhile, and the traffic snarls wouldn't ease for a couple of hours.

I wrapped things up as the clock headed to 6:00pm, and Bob Hamilton took over the microphone for the half-hour evening news block (regular anchor Rick Edlund was still stuck in the congestion on Highway 40).  As I left the studio, several people -- including our General Manager, Dave Ervin -- offered congratulations on the broadcast, and I praised the newsroom and our behind-the-scenes staff for keeping us on top of the story better than anyone else.  There's a reason they've won all those awards.

As the rush of energy that had kept me going for the last two and a half hours subsided, all of that afternoon's information was replaced in my brain by one thought:  I love doing this for a living.

Jack Coughlin, Marine Sniper

Jack Coughlin was the top-ranked sniper in the US Marine Corps until he retired last month with more confirmed kills than anyone else on active duty in the US military. He served in the Gulf War and the War in Iraq, where he was among the first troops into Baghdad, and was there the day the statue of Saddam Hussein was famously pulled down by Iraqi citizens and American troops. We talked about those experiences, his training, the science of being a sniper, and why hiding behind a bush is not a good idea when someone's shooting at you, even from several hundred yards away.

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

Frontline: Private Warriors

Here's my conversation with Marcela Gaviria, one of the producers of "Frontline: Private Warriors," about the role of private contractors in the war in Iraq.  We have almost as many of these civilians and security forces as we do regular military -- more than 120,000 -- all of whom are better paid and better taken care of than the troops we're supposed to be supporting. In essence, a large part of this war has been outsourced to Halliburton, its subsidiaries, and companies from other nations.

Regarding the infamous incident in Fallujah, Gaviria explained who the Americans were who were burned, ripped apart, and hung in effigy, what they were doing there, and how the Marines were forced to go in an save a situation they would never have found themselves in if it were not for the recklessness of the private contractors.

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

The Genius Factory

David Plotz, an editor at Slate, has the story on "The Genius Factory," a sperm bank set up by Robert Graham in an attempt to make smarter humans through genetic breeding.  The donors were supposed to be limited to Nobel Prize winners (only three ended up contributing), but the roster was later expanded to other smart guys.  The women who were eligible to use this genetic goo had to be members of Mensa, the high IQ club.  Plotz tracked down several of the offspring of this parenting experiment to see if, indeed, they'd turned out as remarkable as their parents.  We also discussed the evil side of the project, including eugenics and racism.  Listen to the conversation here.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Tom Cruise vs. Matt Lauer

It started off as another by-now-boring appearance when Tom Cruise talked to Matt Lauer on The Today Show on Friday, with the obligatory questions about "War of the Worlds" and his romance with Katie Holmes -- but when the discussion turned to Cruise's recent remarks about psychiatry and pharmacology, the movie star's tone turned a lot more aggressive.  Cruise offered himself as an expert on the subject and mocked Lauer for not knowing what he's talking about, at one point telling the host, "there's no such thing as chemical imbalance."  (Note: unfortunately, you can't fast forward through the interview, and the good stuff doesn't come until about 8 minutes in -- you can watch it, or read the transcript).

One other point.  Am I the only one who thinks that Cruise's laugh is a little too boisterous during interviews?  It was especially apparent the other night with Letterman.  Maybe he's over-acting it on purpose, maybe he's trying to ingratiate himself with the host, but it's awfully odd seeing him pretend that every attempt at humor is the funniest thing he's ever heard.  The last time I saw someone reacting that hysterically was back in college, when the effect was enhanced by the use of some botanical products that created a pretty good chemical imbalance.

Somewhere in Hollywood, Pat Kingsley is wincing.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Andre & Steffi's commercial

My wife's locked onto the Wimbledon coverage every day -- anytime there's a major tennis event, we have a role reversal in our house and it becomes the husband telling his wife to turn off ESPN and come have dinner -- which means she's seen the Andre Agassi/Steffi Graf commercials about a thousand times already this week.  They seem to be on everytime I walk through the room, but I hadn't thought of the angle that a blogger named Bob Sassone did -- in the spot with their kid playing against Taylor Dent, did mom and dad leave the boy at the tennis courts without any adult supervision?

Car Flipping

A website dedicated to exotic and/or expensive cars that have been flipped, wrecked, or ruined.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

PBS funding

I got into the PBS funding controversy with Matt Welch, media columnist for Reason magazine, and James Baum, president of KETC, the PBS station here in St. Louis. My opposition to tax dollars going to PBS and NPR isn't a partisan one, but rather an attempt to keep politicians from sticking their nose into content of any kind.

Listen to how both sides responded here, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Steve Jobs commencement speech

Steve Jobs gave the commencement speech at Stanford University ten days ago, despite the fact that he's a college dropout.  In fact, he embraced the idea of leaving college to concentrate on new challenges and doing what you love.  Hey, it worked for me -- and for Jobs, who went on to found Apple Computers and Pixar Animation, two companies that changed the face of modern entertainment techonology.

John Madden

I've made fun of John Madden several times through the years -- the clip of Madden and Pat Summerall overusing the word "cantilever" during one NFL broadcast towards the end of their run at Fox was the most requested piece of audio on my radio show for months on end.

There was a time when Madden brought genuine insight to NFL broadcasts, but he's been coasting for a long time and is now nothing more than an amalgam of cliches and master of the obvious.

It's nice to see that I'm not alone in my lack of respect for this broadcasting "icon," who just signed a deal to move to NBC in 2006 when that network takes over Sunday Night Football.  John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune joins in my disdain and disbelief for the almost-unanimous veneration Madden receives.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Kitty Four Eyes

At the other end of the spectrum, a kitten was born with two mouths, two tongues, two noses, and four eyes.  Naturally, its name is Gemini.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Fixing the Riverfront

Every afternoon, from the windows of the KMOX studios, I look out on the grounds of the Gateway Arch, which lead down to the muddy waters of Mississippi River.  Then I glance across at the other river bank in East St. Louis and wonder why it hasn't been developed into a major business and entertainment destination.

Over the weekend, a local group announced that a 34-acre park will be built there, named after Malcolm Martin, a philanthropist who dreamed of the venue as a companion to the Archgrounds on the other side of the river.

That's nice, but it's not enough.

The current view of the east side is depressing.  It's littered with industrial smokestacks, a grain elevator, some railroad tracks, and not much else.  But the view from the east side, looking westward upon the Arch and the St. Louis skyline, is breathtaking, particularly in the early evening.  That's the view you saw on television during the World Series or when the Rams hosted a Monday Night Football game.  It makes one helluva picture.

Why not exploit that, as other cities have, by building a business district that incorporates not only the Casino Queen, but also restaurants, nightclubs, stores, and more?  Certainly, the poverty-stricken city of East St. Louis could use the economic infusion of all that capitalism -- and I believe people would stream there if they were offered a clean, safe, fun place to hang out and enjoy the view.

The first roadblock would obviously be getting the current owners to go along with the plan and move out of the way.  But we won't have to bother convincing them, because we're going to use on them the same mechanism that local municipalities have used on private citizens who were deemed to be "in the way" of economic development:  Eminent Domain.

If it's good enough to use to force people out of their homes in the Sunset Hills subdivision so another shopping center can be built -- a strategy that's being employed more and more across the country, pending a Supreme Court decision in a Connecticut case that could come any day -- then Eminent Domain is certainly good enough to use to rebuild a struggling city and create lots of jobs in the process.

That's just the first step of many that need to be taken, but we're not trying to walk on water here -- just on the waterfront.

Ex-Mayor Says the KKK is OK

There was some odd witness testimony today in the trial of Edgar Ray Killen, the former KKK member charged in the "Mississippi Burning" murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerener, who were helping to register black voters in 1964.

The defense called a character witness named Harlan Majure, who said that the accused was a good man, and that Killen's membership in the Ku Klux Klan didn't change his opinion.  Majure said the Klan "did a lot of good" and was a "peaceful organization."  That's the same sort of nonsense spewed in support of street gangs and the mob, who may do some things to support local causes, but also do a lot more harm than good.  You'd have to be moronically myopic to not see past that.

Worse, Majure -- who served as the town's Mayor in the 1990s -- claimed he had no knowledge of the Klan's bloody past.

No knowledge?  He's never heard of the Klan killing people simply because of their skin color?  Never? Did he think all those burning crosses were because someone forgot a flashlight?

That's not revisionist history -- that's ignorance.  I know that Philadelphia, Mississippi, is a small rural town, but surely they have books, newspapers, magazines, televisions, and any number of other sources of information.

If Majure is at all typical of the people in that town who made up the jury pool for this trial, then Killen is going to walk out of that courthouse a free man.  As I write this on Monday night, the jury has already told the judge that they're deadlocked six to six.  That's after three hours of deliberation.  The judge told them -- correctly -- that three hours isn't nearly enough time to deliberate a murder case before declaring yourself a hung jury, and that they had to get back in there Tuesday morning and talk it over some more.

Maybe while they're in there, they can ask each other if they ever heard that the Klan wasn't -- and isn't -- a peaceful civic booster organization that loves people of all races, creeds, and colors.

And when they get out, they should consider a donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors the activities of hate groups like the KKK.

Update: on Tuesday morning (6/21), the jury found Killen guilty of manslaughter.

Phil Plait, Supporting Science

Phil Plait has posted a beautiful piece about the importance of science in an age of buffoonery, new age nonsense, and other such foolishness.  Don't just read it -- encourage others to read it, too.  It's that good.

Phil calls himself The Bad Astronomer, but he's actually a very good one who uses his website and speeches to debunk bad astronomy and bad science.  He works in the physics and astronomy department at Sonoma State University, and appeared on my radio show several years ago to rebut the ridiculous Fox TV special about the Apollo Moon Hoax (which offered up bogus evidence to support the claim that men had never landed on the moon).

Phil is also one of the main attractions every January at James Randi's "Amazing Meeting."  I've attended the last two and already plan to be at the 2006 edition.  When we get a little closer, I'll post registration info for the event here.

Gilligan's Island Pie Fight

TBS is burning up the broadband with the promo for "The Real Gilligan's Island," which consists of a pie fight between Ginger and Mary Ann.  After 10pm, the site contains a version "for mature audiences."  In the accompanying behind the scenes mini-doc, the producers call the pie fight spot "art" -- but can't keep a straight face while saying it.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Second City

I've seen Second City perform several times, in Toronto, Vancouver, and DC, but never in their home theatre in Chicago -- until this weekend, when my wife and I went to see their 91st show, "Red Scare."

I was very impressed. While many people think of Second City as a troupe of improvisational comedians, their stage shows are fully scripted -- some of the scenes may have been created as improvisations, but the final product seen on their mainstage is a fast flowing sketch revue.

And it works. "Red Scare" is funny, biting, clever, and very well performed.

The night we were there, several seats in the center of the audience were being reserved for VIPs. My wife guessed that they might be family and friends of the cast, but when we saw that the VIPs were given folders with 8x10's of the performers, I surmised that these must be talent scouts. After all, Second City (along with the Groundlings in LA) has long been the place from which the stars of numerous late-night and primetime shows have been plucked.

Sure enough, the next day, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was in town looking for "fresh faces" and checking out the talent.

While all six members of this Second City revue were excellent, keep an eye out for three of them -- Brian Gallivan, Maribeth Monroe, and Antoine McKay -- to be called upon to make the leap to TV very soon.

When it happens, remember that you read it here first.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Just back from a long weekend away, which included a couple of days in Cleveland, a trip I took solely to visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I'm glad to report it was well worth the effort.

The RRHOF was designed by architect IM Pei, and from the moment I walked through its glass pyramid exterior, with classic tunes pounding out of the speakers, I began to relive the soundtrack of my life. This isn't just the music I grew up with, this is the music I played on the radio for so many years.

The experience begins below ground, on the first of seven levels of exhibits, where the permanent collection is located. There, the history of rock is traced from its earliest roots in the blues, through its birth in the era of Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley, through the British Invasion of the early 1960s, the Motown years, the Woodstock generation, the 1970s singer/songwriters, the New Wave -- and on and on up the escalators to other levels and through each era that has defined rock and roll.

There's one exhibit honoring Alan Freed, the radio deejay who coined the phrase "rock and roll" while on the air in Cleveland -- which is why the RRHOF is located there -- right through his role in the payola scandals which eventually destroyed him.

There's another exhibit about the technologies that made rock accessible to the masses, from the transistor radio through the iPod. There's a tribute to Les Paul, the genius of electric guitars and early recording techniques. There's the Jimi Hendrix Surround Sound Theater (not exactly a quiet room). There are the outfits and instruments various rockers have worn and used onstage.

The top two floors are currently home to a featured exhibition about The Who's "Tommy," from its birth as Pete Townshend's rock opera to the movie version (with Ann-Margret, Elton John, and Tina Turner), to the stage version that played on Broadway for a couple of years.

Truth be told, I've always thought the "Tommy" plotline was silly -- that deaf, dumb, and blind kid who sure liked to play pinball -- but the music transcended the concept and became a classic. Here, it gets the full treatment, including an hour-long documentary with commentary from all the major participants.

Throughout the RRHOF there are interactive screens where you can see and hear the music of the inductees, the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll, and various video and audio displays that put the music into context. One of these is a multi-screen presentation of every single person and group that's been inducted into the RRHOF (inductees aren't eligible until 25 years after their first recording, so the Class of 2005 includes bands that started out around 1980, like U2 and The Pretenders).

My wife and I spent nearly five hours in the RRHOF one afternoon, then returned the next day for another two hours or so -- I was determined to see everything they had to offer -- and left wanting still more. If you're like us, either start early and stay all day, or go for the two-day pass to save a little money.

Dick Durbin's Nazi reference

I've been away for several days, so I haven't had an opportunity to comment on the Dick Durbin controversy, but several e-mailers have demanded that I say something about it.

Okay, I'll say the same thing I've been saying for years: Stop comparing anything with Hitler specifically or Nazis in general, particularly when you're arguing about something lower on the horrible-scale than genocide and a megalomaniacal attempt to take over the world.

It doesn't matter whether you're a liberal or a conservative, a Republican or a Democrat, pro-life or pro-choice, for or against the death penalty, on either side of or whatever your cause du jour may be, or just pissed off at the boss who just fired you after years of loyal service. He may be a complete jerk, but he's not Hitler.

Let's save the extremism for actual extreme circumstances -- there are very few that come close to even being considered in the same breath as The Holocaust!

Jon Stewart and the Daily Show staff said it pretty well the other night (thanks to Mark Evanier for the link).

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

9/11 Victim Wastes Millions

Remember all that money you donated to help out the families of victims of the 9/11 attack? Meet Kathy Trant, whose husband worked for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center and died that horrible day.

Kathy's friends and neighbors helped raise about three million dollars to help her out. Then the federal Victim Compensation Fund -- that's your money -- kicked in another couple million. So, what did Kathy do with all that money?

She spent it, like crazy. Here's a sample of her shopping list over the last three years or so:

  • a $350,000 basketball court, a pool, and hot tub

  • a $20,000 cherry-wood pool table for the renovated den

  • 7 flat-screen TVs

  • $500,000 worth of shoes

  • a $60,000 SUV, plus a brand new BMW

  • trips to Europe, Asia, and Jamaica

  • $50,000 for 4 Caribbean cruises with friends

  • $30,000 to take 20 friends to the Bahamas

  • $15,000 to take 10 friends to Las Vegas

  • $70,000 to take 6 friends to the Super Bowl

  • $13,000 to rent a beach house in North Carolina for a week

  • $11,000 for breast implants for friends

  • hundreds of dollars for Botox injections for friends

  • Parties for her teenage sons and their friends

  • Watches, puppies, tattoos -- and on and on

In all, Trant has spent 90% of the money in just three and a half years. Now she's complaining that she only has $500,000 left and is worried about her future.

Well, boo freakin' hoo! Most Americans will work all their lives and never have half a million dollars. It's hard to work up even an ounce of sympathy for Trant.

I don't care how much grieving you're going through. This is just irresponsible. And where were her friends during all this? They didn't put a stop to it because she was lavishing gifts on them. She was a human gravy train.

She says she it didn't even make her feel good, and feels guilty now.

Good! Feel guilty!

It was bad enough when charities were collecting money for the 9/11 victims and then the funds weren't getting to the people who deserved it. But it's worse when the money did go to someone like Kathy Trant, and she's too stupid to hold onto it

No More Boy Toys In Bed

Maybe this botched prosecution of Michael Jackson did have one positive outcome.

This morning on "Today," attorney Thomas Mesereau said Jackson will no longer share his bed with young boys: "He not going to do that anymore. He's not going to make himself vulnerable to this anymore."

Notice there's no admission that doing it is wrong. It's a realization that, in doing so, he's leaving himself open to legal action. That's not the same thing.

Why didn't Jackson come to that realization 11 years ago, when he made the $20,000,000 payoff to another boy? He obviously didn't learn a lesson in writing the big check.

Perhaps the specter of jail time, even without a conviction, was enough to wake him up. Maybe.

No Video For You!

All he wanted to do was videotape his daughter's tap dance recital, but -- despite the face that he paid for the lessons, paid for the costume, paid for the tickets, and is the girl's father -- he ran into a policy prohibiting it, because of copyright issues. Ludicrous.

#1 in the P-D

The St. Louis Post Dispatch website,, maintains a list showing which recent stories their readers have e-mailed to other people.

I'm proud to say that for the last several days, the #1 item on that list has been my op-ed piece, "When My Daughter Grows Up, Her Life Won't Include...."

Thanks to all who have let me know how much they enjoyed it, and those who sent me suggestions for a follow-up.

John Marshall, King of Collectible Records

One of my most popular guests for over a decade, John Marshall, the King of Collectible Records, will be back on my KMOX show this afternoon at 3pm CT.  If you still have vinyl records sitting around gathering dust but wondering if they're worth anything, John will do on-air appraisals for you, and talk about the most-valuable records still out there.

For more info about John's record collecting kits, including his book which lists the value of over a million records, check out his website.

Bad Prosecutor

Only one comment on the Michael Jackson verdict. Tom Sneddon has earned a spot in the Marcia Clark Bad Prosecutor Hall Of Fame. Which means he'll probably become a legal analyst for Court TV next.

Papered Dorm Room

While one college student's away, his buddies decide to play, by filling up his half of a dorm room with newspaper from floor to ceiling.  Meanwhile, several moms and dads are thinking, "well, at least they've learned recycling at school!"

Monday, June 13, 2005

Jabba the Orangutan

I think I saw this guy ruin a chair at the pool last week.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Ryan's Shot

It's a Movie Of The Week, waiting to be made. The story of Ryan Belflower, a special education student who gets into a high school basketball game and fulfills his dream. Somewhere in Hollywood, Ryan may be the next "Rudy."

Friday, June 10, 2005

Bill Payne of Little Feat

Here's my conversation with Bill Payne of the classic rock band Little Feat.

We talked about what it's like to be a rock pianist, back to the days before he met Lowell George and formed the band, when he was living out of his car.  We also discussed how he was one of the first musicians to play two keyboards at once on stage, who influenced him, how the band's songwriting worked, and what he thinks of fans who tape, trade, and download Little Feat concerts and music.

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

Your Eyes Will Deceive You

Try this optical illusion and see if you see green instead of magenta.  Thanks to Chris Benack for the link.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Ads on Uniforms

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, wants to allow advertising logos on team uniforms as a way of developing another revenue stream.

Maybe NBA fans would go for it, maybe not, but I'm sure major league baseball fans would hate it.  I asked several Cardinals fans about it this afternoon, and they were nearly unanimous in rejecting the idea -- even if the owners tried the line, "but it would keep ticket prices down." Riiiiight.

Cuban should read this Just Plain Harris column I wrote last year when Bud Selig wanted to sell out and put Spider-Man logos on the bases and on-deck circles.

Advertising has its place, of course -- on this website and on my KMOX show!

World's Worst Golf Swing

The Golf Channel decided that Brian Weir's swing was so bad, they just had to give him some free lessons.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Stupid Questions About the Jacko Trial

Andrew Cohen, legal analyst for CBS News, is fed up with the stupid questions he's constantly asked about the Michael Jackson trial.

I'm proud to say that, in the many times we've talked on my KMOX show, I've never asked Andrew any of these questions -- I always come up with stupid questions of my own.

Costas is King

Isn't this how Jay Leno replaced Johnny Carson?

CNN has signed Bob Costas to be the sole fill-in for Larry King when the Big Suspender takes a night or ten off.

This is great for Costas, one of the premiere interviewers in the business who, unlike King, actually asks real questions of his guests.  Costas is a go-to guy, a true broadcaster, who can go one-on-one with anyone about anything.  He proved that with his NBC "Later" show several years ago (which should be a DVD boxed set by now!!) and his HBO "On The Record" series, too.

Prediction:  the nights Costas subs will get higher ratings than King's average, forcing CNN execs to consider whether they have to keep King on through the end of his contract in 2009.  Costas is also unlikely to suck up to his guests like King does during commercial breaks.

Bill Carter is probably already working on his next book, "The News Shift."

Border Security

Gregory Despres showed up at the US-Canada border, carrying a hatchet, a sword, a knife, brass knuckles, and -- oh yes -- a blood-stained chain saw. Nevertheless, he was allowed into the country.

He should have been denied entry based on his photo alone.

Missing In Aruba

In the Natalee Holloway story, here's something that no one else has brought up.

Why would any parent allow their kid to go on one of these trips? A vacation like this is nothing more than a spring break trip, which until a few years ago was something you did in college. Now, 18 year olds are going off just days after graduating high school, a hundred at a time, to a place where the drinking age is 18, and they're a little lax on checking IDs at the bar.

It's essentially beach at day, party at night, and their parents don't see the potential for problems. I don't care if your kid is an honor student, a "good kid." That's what they've said about Natalee, and she was out partying at a local bar until 1:30am, when she left with three local guys she had just met, and the missing-girl story began.

Why would she do that?

Because 18 year olds are idiots. I was, you were, they all are. At 18, you're told you're "an adult," and given some adult responsibilities, but you don't really know what it's like to live in the grown-up world yet. You think you do, you think you know everything, but you don't. Many of these kids are away from home for the first time without adult supervision -- I don't care how many chaperones there are, they can't keep track of a hundred 18 year olds! -- and, even if they're not looking for trouble, it will find them.

Given the chance, your average teen wants to act cooler, richer, and older (which is not the same as more mature) than they really are. A co-worker pointed out to me yesterday that trips to places like this used to be activities reserved for the upper-class or for adults who had saved for years. But now we have an entire middle-class generation of kids who have been influenced by MTV's outrageous spring break antics and the lifestyles of Paris Hilton and her ilk, with parents willing to pay the freight so their kids aren't left out.

That's not to say that kids shouldn't go away at 18, whether it's off to college, or to do some domestic or international travel, or to enjoy a vacation. But when you send your kid off to a place where there's very little to do besides hang out in the sun until night falls and the parties begin, you're being naive to think that your little darling won't get caught up in the "fun."

Or don't you remember what you were like at 18?

Tom & Katie

Dear Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes,

On behalf of every human being, please SHUT UP.

The People of Earth.

The White Ho

Someone at MSNBC left a little something out in this caption for White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

World Series 7th Games

This afternoon on my KMOX show -- in the midst of a week when the Cardinals are playing the Red Sox and Yankees -- Barry Levenson talks about his book, "The Seventh Game: 35 World Series That Have Gone The Distance."

Cardinal Nation vs. Edgar Renteria

St. Louis Cardinals fans are known not only for their baseball knowledge, but for their manners. Opposing players are rarely booed and occasionally cheered when they make great plays. The harshest words are not reserved for opponents, but for umpires who make mistakes (from birth, every St. Louis child knows the story of Don Denkinger).

That's why it was so unusual tonight to hear the crowd booing Edgar Renteria, the Boston Red Sox shortstop. You see, until this season, Edgar was the Cardinals shortstop. Then he decided to move to the World Series champs for about a million more per year. That pay raise is probably not even covering the difference in the cost of living between St. Louis and Boston, but it was the lack of loyalty that ticked off a lot of Redbirds rooters.

Tonight, the Red Sox were back at Busch Stadium for the first time since they swept the Cards in the World Series -- in fact, it's the first time the two have ever played a regular season game here. There was definitely revenge in the air along with a sell-out crowd, and the subtext of Edgar's return wasn't lost on anyone in Cardinal Nation.

When Renteria came to bat in the top of the first, he was greeted with more than a smattering of boos. The majority of the fans recognized that as unlike how Cardinals fans usually act, so they stood and cheered for their former shortstop. It was a divided crowd, to say the least.

Renteria didn't have a good night. He hit into two double plays, but they were a mere prelude to the problems he faced in the bottom of the 8th. With two outs and Yadier Molina on first, Cards pitcher Matt Morris -- in the midst of pitching a beaut of a four-hit complete game -- came to bat. Matty Mo hit a ground ball to short that should have been an easy out. But Edgar booted the ball, so both Molina and Morris were safe.

Now to the top of the order. That's David Eckstein, the sparkplug who came to town to take over shortstop after Edgar left. St. Louisans love this guy because he's nearly impossible to strike out and he hustles, big time -- when he gets a base on balls, he runs to first base!

If Edgar had made the play on Morris' grounder, Eckstein wouldn't be at the plate, but there he is, swinging away and lining the ball down the left field line. Molina and Morris are off and running and, when the dust clears, they've both crossed the plate and Eckstein has slid, head first, safely into third.

The crowd goes nuts and gives Eckstein a standing ovation. The irony is apparent to every one of the 50,000+ at Busch Stadium. The former shortstop blew it and the new shortstop took advantage of the mistake to drive in two runs.

That's when the chanting began. "Ed-gar! Ed-gar! Ed-gar!" Taunting like I've never seen or heard at Busch Stadium. While the boos came from the minority earlier, the chanting is definitely by the majority now.

The Red Sox get out of the inning without any more damage, but when they bat in the 9th, the second man up is....Edgar Renteria.

By now -- and it's only been five minutes -- the pendulum has swung back the other way. There are still some fans chanting "Ed-gar! Ed-gar!", but a lot more are clapping for him. It's as if Cardinal Nation has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other (pardon the Anaheim pun, considering that's where Eckstein played last year), and it's made the crowd a little schizo.

Renteria doesn't get on base, nor do any other Red Sox, and the game ends in a 7-1 rout -- and Matt Morris improves to a record of seven wins and no losses.

The Cardinals got their revenge on their World Series foes, and the fans got their licks in, too. I'd bet Edgar's not getting a good night's sleep.

Gonna be interesting to see what develops in game two tomorrow night.

U2 Can Pretend You're U2

An improv group imitates U2 doing a rooftop concert, and fools a lot of fans into believing they're really Bono and the boys.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Larry King Sucks Up To Bushes

Why does Larry King throw such softball questions at guests like the Bushes?  Because during the commercial breaks, he's hitting them up to appear at events he's involved in.  Thanks to Harry Shearer for posting the video.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

World Series of Poker

The World Series of Poker is underway in Las Vegas.  Although the big championship tournament doesn't start until July 7th -- with at least 7,000 entrants over 8 days and a grand prize of $10,000,000 expected -- there are lots of other tournaments building up to it.  Card Player has live details.

Penn & Emily & Moxie

Congrats to Penn Jillette and his wife, Emily, on the birth of their baby girl yesterday. The AP quotes Penn as explaining why they've named her Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette: "We chose her middle name because when she's pulled over for speeding she can say, `But officer, we're on the same middle name is CrimeFighter.'"

Friday, June 03, 2005

Cinderella Man

This afternoon on my KMOX show, just as the Russell Crowe movie hits the big screen, I'll talk to ESPN's Jeremy Schaap about his book, "Cinderella Man: James Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History."

Crazy Frog

Thanks to about two dozen contributors, here's the Crazy Frog video.

The music -- a new version of "Axel F," which has become both the number one song and ringtone in the UK -- quickly becomes as annoying as the "Hamsterdance."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Fun Stuff

While re-designing this site, I came across some pages that get a lot of hits, but haven't been updated in awhile.  Check 'em out:

Life's Most Important Questions

The Good Wife's Guide

Movies You Might Not Know

The Movie Cliches List

If I Were An Evil Overlord

30 Books Every Kid Should Read Before Graduating High School

The Worst Song Ever

Best Country Music Titles

SF 49ers Video

Hard to believe SF 49ers PR director Kirk Reynolds was fired for making this "diversity training" video for the team, including strippers, bad racial jokes, and more.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Deep Throat: Tim Noah Knew

Tim Noah of Slate has been all over the Deep Throat story for years. In 1999, he talked to Mark Felt and asked him point blank if he was Deep Throat. Felt denied it. Noah followed up by asking if it would be so bad if Felt was Deep Throat. Felt replied, "It would be terrible. This would completely undermine the reputation that you might have as a loyal, logical employee of the FBI. It just wouldn't fit at all."

On my show today, Tim and I talked about that story, and the theory that Felt leaked the information to Bob Woodward because he'd been passed over for the directorship of the FBI after J. Edgar Hoover's death. We also discussed the high school kid who once outed Felt in term paper, based on his friendship with Carl Bernstein's son.

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

Deep Throat: Joe Strupp on Anonymous Sources

Joe Strupp of Editor and Publisher was back on my show today to talk about the use of anonymous sources in the context of the revelation of Mark Felt as Deep Throat.  I also asked him how bad it was for the Washington Post that this big story didn't break in their paper, but in Vanity Fair.

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

Right vs. Left, Right vs. Wrong

A listener named Greg just e-mailed, "Paul, in yesterday's show you discussed whose lie was greater, Nixon's or Clinton's.  I did not hear the following view, but would appreciate your comment -- Nixon lied to cover up an act of others, Clinton lied to cover up his own act.  I enjoy listening to your show."

That's a good point.  What I don't understand is the extremists on both sides who refuse to admit that their guy did something wrong at all.

They can't see right and wrong, they can only see right and left.

Deep Throat Backlash

Today at 5:15pm on my KMOX show, I'll talk with Tim Noah of Slate magazine, who has done great work on the Deep Throat story through the years.

And at 2:10pm, I'll talk with Joe Strupp of Editor and Publisher, who says there's "New Life for Anonymous Sourcing as Deep Throat Speaks"

On the backlash I predicted yesterday, I agree with everything Mark Evanier says about the Nixon cockroaches -- from Charles Colson to Pat Buchanan -- who are coming out of the woodwork to denounce Mark Felt.

The Washington Post has a blog, "Deep Throat Revealed."