Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton's Little John?

Gavin Edwards of Rolling Stone magazine has compiled some of his favorite questions about rock and roll mysteries, myths, and urban legends, into a book, "Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton's Little John?" This afternoon on my KMOX show, he answered that questions and many others, including:

  • Did Randy Bachman sing "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" to mock his brother's stuttering?
  • Does The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" end with the guy burning down the woman's apartment?
  • Where did band names like Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, and Wang Chung come from?
  • Does John Mayer really see music as colors?
  • In Def Leppard's "Rock of Ages," what the heck does "Gunter Gleeben Glausen Globen" mean?
  • It's been a quarter-century since the first CDs came out -- are they going to start disintegrating soon, or will they last forever?
Listen to the conversation now with our new embedded player...

Phil Rosenthal, "Everybody Loves Raymond"

Phil Rosenthal, creator and executive producer of "Everybody Loves Raymond," was on my KMOX show today with some behind-the-scenes stories about running that show and his book, "You're Lucky You're Funny."

We talked about his battles with the network over an actress he didn't want to play Debra Barone, why he cast Brad Garrett as Robert, why he told the writers to go home and fight with their wives, and why there wasn't a spinoff when "Raymond" went off the air.

I also asked him about his job interview with David Letterman and his lunch with Johnny Carson, which happened after he did President Clinton's funny "Final Days" video for the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2000.

Listen to the conversation with our embedded player or at this link.

Spam-O-Lantern

Carl Huber says Halloween doesn't mean you have to make a jack-o-lantern out of a pumpkin. You could use a pepper, or some ground beef, or the ever popular Spam...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Say No To Daylight Saving Time?

Now that we're back on Standard Time, here's an oddity from forty or fifty years ago. In this compilation of drive-in movie intermission clips, there's one that warns the viewer not to let the government switch us to Daylight Saving Time, as if it's some sort of nefarious plot.

I'm guessing it was produced by the Association Of Guys Who Make Clocks With No Adjusting Dial. If you can pin down for me when or where this might shown, or shed any (day)light on it, I'd appreciate the info. Meanwhile, I'm headed to the snack bar for some popcorn and barbecue...

WH Suppressing Science, continued

Yet again, the Bush administration has been caught suppressing science, this time in the Interior Department.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fox News Alert

Set your DVR: I just found out I'll be on Fox News Channel this Sunday at 12:30pm CT, talking with anchor Brian Wilson about all the issues that have been in the news this week in Missouri on the lead up to Election Day.

Ballpark Village

On the cusp of winning the World Series, the Cardinals announced their deal with the city of St. Louis to build Ballpark Village on the land just north of the new Busch Stadium (nice public relations timing, eh?). It would involve $56 million in TIF money, towards a $387 million development that will include offices, condos, retail, and restaurants.

Jeff Rainford, chief of staff for Mayor Slay, was on my KMOX show this afternoon to explain the deal. Listen to the conversation here (and note how I have to stop him a couple of times to make it less technical and more lay-speak).

They claim Ballpark Village will be a new year-round downtown destination attraction. I have my doubts that anyone in the suburbs will come downtown just for the ESPN Zone, which is the kind of place the developers, the Cordish Company, have put in their projects in Louisville and Baltimore.

Don't get me wrong, it would be nice to have downtown alive with people on nights other than when there's a ballgame, but nothing I've seen or heard about the Ballpark Village plans has convinced me that will happen, yet.

In other words, I'm from Missouri -- Show Me.

Steve Irwin on "South Park"

On "South Park" this week, Satan hosts a Halloween party, and there are lots of dead celebs, including Princess Diana, Adolf Hitler, and Steve Irwin -- complete with the stingray sticking out of his chest. Naturally, people are complaining that this is in terrible taste. Most of those people, of course, have never watched "South Park," where this is fairly standard stuff.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Michael J. Fox & Katie Couric

Katie Couric talked to Michael J. Fox about the commercial controversy today. Fox said he wasn't under-medicated for the McCaskill commercial, he was overmedicated. He claimed that without the medicine, at this point, he wouldn't even be able to speak.

Since Katie's ratings are so low that you probably didn't see any of it, the whole thing -- and her blog entry about it -- are here.

Slow Down, Alvin!

Remember Alvin & The Chipmunks, whose "Christmas Don't Be Late" became a perennial holiday radio staple? When the original came out on vinyl, many of us slowed it down on our turntables to hear what Ross Bagdasarian (a/k/a David Seville) was doing to create that Chipmunks sound. Now, it's a little easier, via digital technology, as this blogger has discovered.

Worth A Link

  • Aaron Barnhart of the Kansas City Star is upset that Jim Talent's campaign is using the paper's name in anti-McCaskill ads by quoting people who have appeared in stories, but making it appear the quotes come from Star editorials.
  • Ken Levine offers a funny sample of what the script would look like if Aaron Sorkin wrote a show about baseball.
  • A profile of one of the best war correspondents of our time, Richard Engel.
  • Linda Stasi previews tomorrow night's Letterman show, which includes a "rematch" with Bill O'Reilly (when he was on the show in January, Dave told him, "I have a feeling that 60% of what you say is crap!").

Got Pine Tar?

Here's the t-shirt I gave away on my KMOX show yesterday. It was provided by Teamwear Sports here in St. Louis. Tell them I sent you.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Michael J. Fox and The Commercial

With the controversy over Michael J. Fox's commercial for Claire McCaskill, it turns out that a lot of people -- both on and off the radio -- don't know what they're talking about when it comes to Parkinson's Disease. So I decided to do something unorthodox and ask an expert.

Today on KMOX, I talked with Dr. Joel Perlmutter, the neurologist who treated Jack Buck, to get the facts on Parkinson's Disease and an explanation of why Fox is moving around so much in the commercial (and we did it from a non-partisan point of view). The doctor said that Fox's movements, which he referred to as "fidgeting and writhing" are absolutely due to the medication he's taking for the disease, and are a very common side effect of that therapy, not because Fox is over-acting or didn't take his medication.

Listen to the conversation here.

We also had a discussion this afternoon on the opposing ad that features Cards pitcher Jeff Suppan, plus Kurt Warner, Patricia Heaton, and Jim Caviezel.

The latter played Jesus in "The Passion Of The Christ" and opens the commercial with a message in Aramaic, because there just aren't enough political messages targeting the Aramaic-speaking demographic. Made me wonder if the same people behind this campaign are the ones pushing for English-only legislation: "These foreigners have to learn to either speak English or the language of a long-dead civilization if they want to stay here!"

As for Suppan's participation, some have questioned whether the guy who's scheduled to pitch Game Four of the World Series (which meteorologists tell me won't happen until Halloween night) should be appearing in a political ad that will air during the game. It's a non-issue. Suppan has the right to express his views, just like anyone else, and you have the right to ignore them, just like anyone else.

The contradiction arises when those who are on one side of an issue make a fuss because a celebrity has dared speak their mind for the other side of the issue. You hear, "What does he/she know about this, and why does his/her opinion matter so much?"

I'd have no problem with that line of thinking, if it were consistently applied. If you make that point for those with opposing viewpoints, you also have to stand by it for those with viewpoints you agree with. In other words, if you don't like Jeff Suppan's part in the debate (because he's just an athlete), then you can't like Sheryl Crow's part on the other side of the debate (because she's just a singer).

On the other hand, I don't care what any celebrity has to say about any political matter, but I do have a unique take on Amendment 2. I don't believe that it does allow human cloning, as some of its opponents claim, but if it did, that would only make me more in favor of it. I dream of the day thousands of human clones grow up, healthy and strong, and come back to kick the crap out of the people who make all these noisy, negative, obnoxious political ads in the first place.

WWE vs WS

A listener named Zeb e-mails:

Paul, thought you might find this interesting. As you may or may not know, WWE( World Wrestling Entertainment) was in town to do a show last night (10/24/06) at the Scotts Trade center. I have a relative who works in the suites at the center and was working the show last night. Around the 5th inning of the CARDINALS game I received a call from her asking for an update of the World Series. I thought this was kind of strange considering the amount of TVs located in the suites and surrounding areas, so I asked why she wasn't watching the game. She told me that when the staff arrived for work at Scotts Trade, WWE had stipulated that there were to be no TVs on in the suites during the wrestling performance. She said she had spent 1/2 of the night going in and out of suites turning off the TVs 4 or 5 times and having to explain to the customers, who had already paid for their tickets, that they could not watch the CARDS because WWE did not want the TVS on. She said that at one point a WWE rep. threatened to have the cable feed to the entire building cut off if the suite staff could not keep the TV's off, which would of meant no CARDINALS GAME in the concourse as well. Now I don't know about you but if I had paid 2 to 3 hundred dollars for a suite, I would watch whatever I liked, especially my home team in the World Series. Its not like WWE would lose money by allowing their fans to watch a baseball game. They are still getting the ticket money. Does this sound strange to you?
Absolutely. I could see if they objected because the TVs were too distracting to other fans, but having been in those suites, I've seen them on with no problem. On the other hand, maybe they're afraid that if anyone looked away from the arena for even one minute, they'd lose track of the incredibly complex plot lines that make up all WWE events.

More Bad Jocks

Bob Reno, publisher of BadJocks.com, was back on my KMOX show today to talk about bizarre sports stories like the father who pulled a gun on a coach when his son wasn't getting enough playing time, the HS principal who gave a soccer player a wedgie, and the story that sounds like a plot for the next Caddyshack sequel.

Listen to the conversation here.

Christine Brennan returns

Christine Brennan stopped into my KMOX studio today while she's here writing about the World Series for USA Today. We talked about the Kenny Rogers controversy, whether the new baseball labor agreement will do anything about steroids, and more.

Listen to the conversation here.

Read Christine's USA Today columns here. Her book is Best Seat In The House, which we talked about earlier this year. Listen to that conversation here.

Boy Stuck In Vending Machine

Remember the scene in "Toy Story" where Woody and Buzz end up inside a vending machine? Meet 3-year-old Robert Moore, who found himself in the same predicament after climbing inside in an attempt to get a SpongeBob SquarePants toy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

No St. Louis Music At The World Series?

St. Louis is in the national spotlight tonight, hosting game three of the World Series. So why hasn't Major League Baseball chosen any St. Louisans to represent us in singing the National Anthem or "God Bless America"? Detroit got hometowners Bob Seger and Anita Baker, but we're stuck with country stars Trace Adkins, JoDee Messina, and -- the ultimate insult -- Billy Ray Cyrus.

As I discussed this afternoon on KMOX with Joe Edwards (owner of Blueberry Hill and The Pageant), there are lots of singers from the St. Louis area who would have been better choices:

  • classic rockers like Chuck Berry, Sheryl Crow, Michael McDonald, and Tina Turner;
  • rappers like Nelly and Murphy Lee (or any of the St. Lunatics);
  • country stars Gretchen Wilson and Sarah Evans (granted, she's a little busy with her "Dancing With The Stars" divorce);
  • or "American Idol" star Nikko Smith, son of Ozzie.
Hey, we would have been happy with Stan Musial playing the harmonica before throwing out the first pitch!

Listen to the conversation here.

Ticketmaster vs. Scalpers

You're not planning on selling your World Series tickets, are you? Today on my KMOX show, Kent Smetters explained how, if Ticketmaster and other organizations had their way, it would be illegal everywhere to re-sell tickets to sports events and concert-- unless you do it through the team or event promoter, allowing them to make money off it instead of you. That includes websites like Stub Hub, Craigs List, and eBay.

Listen to the conversation here.

Here's a column I wrote last year, "Scalping The Scalping Laws."

Lou Dobbs "War On The Middle Class"

CNN's Lou Dobbs was on my KMOX show this afternoon to talk about his new book, "War On The Middle Class." I'd tell you what we discussed, but the lengthy subtitle of his book will give you a pretty good idea: "War On The Middle Class: How The Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How To Fight Back."

Listen to the conversation here.

Marathoner Falls At 26 Miles, 384 Yards

Whoever was responsible for putting a slippery decal one yard before the finish line at the Chicago Marathon this weekend should be fired. The Kenyan who won the race, stepped onto that mat at the 26-mile-384-yard mark, slipped and fell and hit his head -- without breaking the tape that marks the end of the race. Fortunately, his feet ended up under the tape and across the finish line, so he was declared the winner. Then he was taken to the hospital, where he's expected to make a full recovery.

See the story and the video here.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Larry Miller

Comedian Larry Miller, who you've seen in movies from "Pretty Woman" to "Waiting For Guffman" and dozens of others, was on my KMOX show this afternoon to talk about his funny new book, "Spoiled Rotten America: Outrages of Everyday Life."

As you'll hear, Larry is as easy-going as a guest can be, in a wide-ranging discussion touching on daydreaming about women we've known, being a Little League dad, being impatient with the most mundane things, products with built-in obsolescence, and having to wear a toupee for a movie role (in Christopher Guest's next, "For Your Consideration," due next month).

Listen to the conversation here.

Larry's blog is here.

Dirty Car Art

You've seen cars with so much dirt on them that someone had to write "Wash Me" on the rear windshield? Scott Wade has taken that to a whole new level -- he calls it Dust Art. Click on this sample to see more...

Worth A Link

  • Ken Jennings, the all-time "Jeopardy!" champ who was on my show last month, describes the good and (mostly) bad of taping an episode of NBC's "1 vs 100" game show.
  • USA Today's Robert Bianco echoes many of the points I've made about why "Studio 60" is failing.
  • ThinkProgress points to President Bush's comment to George Stephanapoulos yesterday that "we've never been stay the course" in Iraq, then links to several White House transcripts from occasions on which the president has said exactly that.
  • And then there's the Congressman Mark Foley Action Figure, complete with a Blackberry and a bottle (of wine?). Act fast, the eBay auction ends tonight.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Inside Iraq's Green Zone

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, former Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post, was on my KMOX show today to talk about what life is like in the Green Zone, and what's wrong with the way the Bush administration is dealing with the continuing violence and reconstruction of Iraq.

We talked about the underestimated power of religious leaders like Moqtada Al-Sadr, the failed management of Paul Bremer in his stint as our top man in Iraq, and why the training of the Iraqi army and police has gone so slowly.

One of the amazing revelations in our conversation (and Rajiv's book, "Imperial Life In The Emerald City") is how much politics, not experience, played a role in who was sent to Iraq to set policies and implement them -- even to the point where some candidates for post-war roles were asked about their thoughts on Roe v. Wade and other matters that had no bearing on whether they were qualified for the job.

Listen to the conversation here.

Truth Behind Online Gambling Law

Here's a terrific video on the truth behind the new law banning online gambling, which I wrote about a few days ago. It names two of the legislators (Goodlatte and Frist) who were behind the legislation, reveals who they got campaign contributions from, and the loopholes and downright hypocrisy in what they've done [thanks to Stuart Snyder for the link].


Also, here's a column by George Will, who calls this Prohibition II and points out that "the new law actually legalizes online betting on horse racing, internet state lotteries and some fantasy sports."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Phil Plait vs. Katie Couric

My pal Phil Plait takes on Katie Couric for her boneheaded criticism of NASA on the CBS Evening News.

First, Ms. Couric:

NASA’s requested budget for 2007 is nearly 17 billion dollars. There are some who argue that money would be better spent on solid ground for medical research, social programs, and in finding solutions to poverty, hunger, and homelessnees… I can’t help but wonder what all the money could do for people right here on planet Earth.
Part of Phil's response:
The money spent on space has direct results here on Earth as well. The irony is that the ability of Katie to appear to millions of people (well, fewer every day according to her ratings — oh, snap!) is due to the space program. Or does the term "satellite TV" mean something I’m missing? Maybe she could ask whoever the weatherman is on her show if (s)he thinks the space program is a waste of money. Does she think about all the instruments and the designs of the planes she flies on which owe their existence to the first "A" in NASA’s name? Look, I know a lot of people don’t know this stuff. I know, too, that NASA could do a better job of talking about this kind of stuff. I also know Ms. Couric is not a journalist, but c’mon, she plays one on TV. It’s simplicity itself to actually, y’know, do some research.
The whole thing's here. If Katie had a little less scientific knowledge, she'd qualify for a job in the Bush administration.

NBC-Ya!

NBC announced today that, in addition to firing 750 people, they're also eliminating comedies and dramas from the first hour of primetime every night, in favor of reality shows and game shows.

So, Howie Mandel has job security. But NBC would have been better off by vowing never to program another show based on what happens backstage at another one of their shows. "Studio 60" is on its last gasps of life support, and "30 Rock" would work only if Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey teamed up to kill Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski and make a workplace show Americans might want to see.

I wonder how many of those 750 people made the decision to put this dreck on the air in the first place.

Foley Story Gets Sleazier

Ugh. Just when you thought the Mark Foley story couldn't get any sleazier, along comes Rev. Anthony Mercieca, the then-33-year-old priest who abused Foley at age 13. This pedophile doesn't see anything wrong with having given a pubescent boy a naked massage, skinny dipping with him, etc. None of this excuses Foley's actions with congressional pages, but one has to hope that this behavior doesn't get passed on to yet another generation of young men.

NFL TV

Next year, one of the baseball championship series won't be on over-the-air TV (even in teams' home markets) because TBS has bought the rights. Now, there's talk that the NFL might head in that same direction by moving their games onto their NFL Network once the current broadcast rights deals expire in five years or so.

Today on KMOX, I asked NFL VP of Media Operations Glenn Adamo about this, and about the flexible scheduling that will move around the start times and networks of some games later this season, to keep NBC from having Sunday night duds. We also talked about whether NFL Network broadcasters -- like Bryant Gumbel and Cris Collinsworth -- will be muzzled now that they work directly for the league.

Listen to the conversation here.

The real bottom line on the sports-on-TV moves is that a whole generation of people has grown up not knowing the difference between over-the-air networks and cable or satellite channels. To them, it's all TV (even HBO), and they just need to know what channel the game is on. ESPN is proving that with Monday Night Football, which is getting big enough ratings that if it were included in the overall TV ratings, it would be one of the top 30 shows.

Tagged Out

Lots of e-mailers have written wanting my comments on the game of tag being banned by yet another elementary school, this time in Attleboro, Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, it's just symptomatic of the litigious times we live in, with school districts afraid that some kid will fall and scrape their knee, followed by their lowlife parents filing a lawsuit. I say, a kid who goes through childhood without some cuts and scrapes is a kid who didn't have any fun.

Six years ago, I wrote a column on the death of dodge ball, so this sort of thinking isn't brand new. It is merely the continuation of the drop in spontaneous fun we allow American children to have. There's very little unsupervised, unplanned kid stuff left in this country, and it is the parents who are to blame.

A few weeks ago, my mother was in town, and I took her and my daughter to the historic district in St. Charles to walk among the shops and enjoy a nice fall day. At one point, we walked down to the banks of the Missouri River. When my daughter spotted a big grassy field, she turned to me and asked, "Dad, can I run here?" I said, "Of course," and she took off with a huge smile on her face, running around with complete abandon. I was thrilled, and then I was sad. Thrilled to see my daughter this happy, but sad that it has become such a rarity today -- not just for her, but for most suburban kids.

Their lives are scheduled so heavily, their sports activity so organized, their homework load so heavy, their free time so limited, that the simple concept of fun has been forced into the background. And now, they can't even break out into a game of tag during recess, which itself has become a precious and rare commodity.

More and more schools are doing away with or reducing recess and gym classes -- and then we wonder why we have a childhood obesity problem in this country. What do you expect when you don't let kids run around and burn off a few calories? Worse, you end up with kids who have so much natural energy pent up inside them that it can find its way out in other, less constructive ways (and then we give them medication to bottle it up even more).

This is a vicious cycle we're reaping, the literal destruction of childhood fun.

What's worse, with no one allowed to play tag anymore, there's some kid somewhere who will perpetually be "it."

Nutty Buddy

Thanks to Danny for tipping me to this video for the Nutty Buddy, a new athletic cup. This guy's approach is hysterical, and I bet he's selling a lot based simply on this video. See for yourself.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Poisoning of Habeas Corpus

Keith Olbermann had a terrific piece on "Countdown" tonight on the poisoning of habeas corpus in the Military Commissions Act that President Bush just signed. Olbermann made some of the same points that Judge Andrew Napolitano made on my KMOX show a few weeks ago. Read the transcript or watch the video here.

Jim Gaffigan

Comedian Jim Gaffigan has created a superhero crimefighting duo, "Pale Force," which he's been showing on Conan O'Brien's show. He's also producing weekly webisodes, with guest appearances by Eartha Kitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman. We talked about it when Jim made an appearance on my KMOX show this afternoon. And yes, we also discussed the everlasting appeal of Hot Pockets.

Listen to the conversation here.

Jim's comedy concert "Beyond The Pale" is available on both CD and DVD.

John Feinstein returns

Sportswriter John Feinstein was back on my KMOX show today to talk about the Cards-Mets NLCS series, the Miami-FIU fight, Tony Kornheiser on Monday Night Football, and the paperback release of his book, "Next Man Up."

Listen to the conversation here.

Judge Says No More Babies

Mandy Nelson has been told by a judge that she can't have any more kids out of wedlock as part of her probation in a forgery case. He says he did it to help her with her financial difficulties. Today on KMOX, Mandy told me she was stunned by the judge's decision -- and it's a moot point because she had her tubes tied two years ago.

Keep in mind that, although she's had trouble with the law before, Mandy is not a child abuser, her children haven't been taken away, and she's not on the public dole. These are petty crimes -- by what authority can a judge tell her she can't reproduce?

My colleague, Kevin Wheeler, raised an interesting point: would a judge ever do this to a middle-class family that has three kids but is in bad financial shape because of lots of credit-card debt and a huge mortgage?

Listen to the conversation here and then add your comments on whether the judge should be able to issue such an order.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Smoking Gun's New Book

This afternoon on my KMOX show, I talked with Andrew Goldberg, one of the editors of The Smoking Gun, about their new compilation of odd stories, mug shots, legal paperwork, primadonna concert riders, and more. The book is "The Dog Dialed 911."

Listen to the conversation here.

Scott Ritter "Target Iran"

This afternoon on my KMOX show, I talked to Scott Ritter -- who was right in everything he ever said about Iraq -- about his new book, "Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plans for Regime Change."

Ritter makes the case that Iran does not have the capacity to make nuclear weapons, and that the IAEA has access to their nuclear enrichment facilities, but has not found any evidence of a weapons program. He says the US intelligence agencies also have no proof either, yet the spin we keep getting from the White House (and Israel) is that Iran is the next big threat we have to deal with, and they're beating the war drums to that end.

Listen to the conversation here.

Don't expect to see Ritter talking about this on Fox News Channel. Unfortunately, he's not getting the attention he deserves from other media outlets, either. Don't get me wrong -- I like the fact that I almost have an exclusive with Scott every time he's on, but his message is so important, I wish he would be given more widespread coverage.

Skydiver Sets Parachute Ablaze

Another extreme sports video -- this guy's skydiving, and it's not quite thrilling enough for him, so he uses a flare gun to set the parachute ablaze [contributed by Jim Sonnemaker].

Monday, October 16, 2006

Solving Truancy

Sara Hopfer has the best idea I've heard in awhile.

We were talking this afternoon on KMOX about how to cut down on truancy and keep more kids in school. The president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, Jim Shrewsbury, told Charlie Brennan this morning that he and Superintendant Diana Bourisaw would like to have a daytime curfew in place. It would mean that kids under 17 would not be allowed on city streets or public places between 9am and 2:30pm on weekdays (with exceptions for religious holidays, field trips, etc.).

Several of my callers doubted whether this would work, and whether it was a reasonable use of police officers' time and effort in a city that has so many other problems. There didn't seem to be overwhelming support for the proposal, so I asked for other suggestions.

That's when Sara e-mailed me:

My idea to keep kids in school is to make it a requirement that they are in school a certain number of days to get their driver's license. Kids nowadays tie everything to their independence and their cars are so important to them. They should have to show a school record showing that they were in school the required number of days before they could get a permit or any form of driver's license. What do you think of that idea?
I like it, Sara. I like it a lot. How about you? Add your comments below.

Worth A Link

Ken Levine remembers his friend Jerry Belson, a great sitcom writer on such shows as "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Odd Couple," who died last week.

Bill Carter on Television

Aaron Barnhart was off today, so Bill Carter (TV critic for the NY Times) filled in on my KMOX show this afternoon. We talked about the hits and misses of the fall season, the resurgence of "ER," the success of moving "Grey's Anatomy" to Thursdays, and more.

Listen to the conversation here.

Bill was on with me in May for an in-depth discussion of his book, "Desperate Networks." You can listen to that earlier converation here.

Larry Garrison, News Broker

This afternoon on my KMOX show, I talked with Larry Garrison about his role in bringing out details of the Natalee Holloway, John Mark Karr, Terri Schiavo, and Robert Blake stories. He has acted as broker for family members, witnesses, jury members, and others who were involved and wanted to tell their stories -- Garrison then made deals to get them exposure with Diane Sawyer, Larry King, etc.

Listen to the conversation here.

Garrison's book is "The NewsBreaker: A Behind the Scenes Look at the News Media and Never Before Told Details about Some of the Decade's Biggest Stories."

The Human Camera

Alan Light contributes the Picture Of The Day -- "they call Stephen Wiltshire the Human Camera because he can see something once and draw it precisely from memory. Stephen is autistic. In this clip, he sees Rome for the first time via helicopter and then in three days draws the entire city in exact detail, down to the number of windows in the buildings, columns in the Coliseum, and back streets and alleys. Goosebump-inducing."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Recipe For Radio Disaster

One of the big stories in the radio industry on Friday was that Air America has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. That doesn't mean they're going off the air, but it certainly isn't good.

I've known all along that Air America wasn't going to succeed, and it has nothing to do with it being liberal. The problem was that its first priority was its political agenda, instead of good broadcasting.

Most of the people they hired to do shows had very little (if any) radio experience. You don't start what you hope will be a national network by putting on hosts who have never had any success in the medium. You'd think was an easy mistake to avoid, but failures through the years from Mario Cuomo to David Lee Roth prove that Air America was not the only company making it.

Radio is not a starter kit.

I know a little something about this, because it's what I've been doing for a living my entire adult life. Most people don't consider us very far up the show business ladder (on a good day, we get slightly more respect than carnies and circus clowns), but that doesn't mean that anyone with a mouth is qualified to be on the air. Just because you can talk cleverly at cocktail parties, or in speeches, or in the guest chair on someone else's show for a few minutes, does not mean you'll be able to handle the pressure of coming up with several hours of entertainment and information every day, five days a week.

When Air America started, they hired all sorts of writers and producers and political insiders -- they thought they could fill the air time with wacky sketches. One of the people involved in that, and on the air, was Lizz Winstead. She's known for exactly one successful thing, "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central -- and it didn't become a major success until long after she'd left (following a run-in with then-host Craig Kilborn), and it morphed into its current buzz-creating version thanks to Jon Stewart. On Air America, Winstead bombed.

So did most of the other hosts, with the exception of Al Franken and Randi Rhodes. Franken won't be there much longer, having moved to Minnesota to start running for the Senate in 2008. That won't be a major loss, because even my most liberal friends find his Air America show exceedingly boring and have already given up on it.

Does this mean that liberal radio hosts can't succeed? Not at all. There are a couple out there who are slowly developing an audience, including Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller, neither of whom is on Air America. And then there are those wacky morning shows all across the country that aren't obsessed with political firefights, but who probably tilt a little more to the left than to the right, particularly on social issues. The difference is that they're more concerned with entertainment than propaganda.

If you were starting a new restaurant chain, and hoping to have outlets in every major city in America, you probably wouldn't hire a staff of people whose only experience was eating out on a regular basis. You'd want chefs and waiters who had not only worked in the food service business before, but were good at it. So why would anyone believe that model could work in radio?

Air America isn't alone in traveling this woeful path. There's a new group called Greenstone Media that's trying to develop radio that will appeal to a female demographic. It's backed by an all-star group of rich and famous women who, again, have no idea what makes good radio, but they'll pony up millions of dollars nonetheless.

Meanwhile, there are dozens of successful radio hosts on the air right now -- getting ratings, creating buzz in their towns, making the phones ring and hitting the target demo -- who would love to have the opportunity to take their shows national (please note that this is not my way of begging for a syndicated show, as I'm very happy doing what I do every afternoon on KMOX!), but there's no one offering them anything.

Instead, that deal was given to Whoopi Goldberg. I rest my case.

Unlucky Lady

Talk about a victim of coincidence.

In 1997, Kathleen Caronna went to the Thanksgiving parade in New York City. It was a stormy day, and some of the balloons were blowing around a lot. One of them, the Cat In The Hat, banged into a streetlight, knocking it over and hitting Kathleen in the head. She spent 24 days in a coma with a fractured skull.

Fast forward to last week, when Cory Lidle's plane crashed into a Manhattan condo high-rise. Guess whose apartment the plane hit? Yep, Kathleen's. The engine was found a few feet away from her bed. Fortunately, she wasn't there at the time, but she was on her way home when the accident happened.

Kathleen's gotta be hoping the "things happen in threes" rule doesn't apply to her.

Bill O'Reilly vs. US Constitution

Thanks to Randy, who e-mailed me something Bill O'Reilly said on his radio show last week:

You know, I don't really care who wins the election in November. The only thing that bothers me is the Supreme Court because I don't want secular-progressive judges on the court, and they're more likely to come about if Nancy Pelosi and her crew are in there.
WRONG.

Even if the Democrats do gain enough seats to have a majority in the House, and Pelosi becomes Speaker, she'll still have nothing to do with judges being appointed to any federal court. If O'Reilly had read the US Constitution (specifically Article 2), he'd know that only the President can appoint federal judges, and must receive the Advice and Consent of the US Senate. The House of Representatives has as little to do with the process as facts in an O'Reilly rant.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Online Gambling Hypocrisy

Today, President Bush signed the ports safety legislation, which also includes a ban on internet gambling. What one has to do with the other, or why an online poker game might be a threat to national security, I have no idea.

The problem with the online gambling ban is hypocrisy of our politicians criminalizing betting in one form, while promoting it in so many others. Every state in the country has a lottery, and several take part in multi-state lotteries like Powerball and MegaMillions, which means the gambling crosses state lines. No one is suggesting we shut those down. Nor would they ever tell churches to knock off their bingo nights, and we know about the growth of all those brick-and-mortar casinos across the country.

Obviously, our nation has embraced gambling -- or rather, allowing adults to gamble if they like. Even now, in the midst of the baseball playoffs, we have mayors like Slay and Bloomberg making very public wagers on the Cards vs. Mets, with the payoff coming in toasted ravioli, pizza, and lemon ices. They not only made the bet, but they publicized it to the press and on their websites. But if you wanted to make a bet on that series, the only place you could do it legally is Las Vegas. God forbid you place that wager with an online sports book. What's the difference? Why is it okay for politicians to make these bets out in the open, but not the rest of us?

Opponents of online gambling always throw up the classic red herring, "we have to protect the kids." This kind of protection is not the government's job, it's the job of parents -- just as I have to make sure my daughter is not giving out a lot of personal information on MySpace.com, and you have to ensure that your son isn't running up your cellphone bill by sending 10,000 text messages to his friends.

If my daughter were to somehow use my credit card or bank information to start playing poker or betting on sports online, she'd feel plenty of consequences right here in our own house -- there would be no need for an FBI agent to get involved. If she's old enough to have money of her own and ends up losing it, well, that's one of life's lessons, which she could just as easily learn in a real-world casino.

Don't tell me it's about gambling addiction, either. No law prevents a gambler from going to a local casino and losing several hundred dollars every single day. And there's no restriction on the number of lottery tickets they can buy, either -- even though the odds of winning are worse than being hit by lightning. What message does that send, that the worse you are at math, the less you should be restricted?

The new legislation won't stop online gambling. It will make it a little more difficult to transfer money in and out of those accounts for awhile, but eventually, the offshore sites will figure out a way to bring their customers back, because there's just too much money at stake.

All that money is another part of the argument, because the government isn't getting its share of taxes from the revenue. But legalizing it would kill two birds with one stone. One, they could monitor and regulate the gaming, taxing the revenue of both the online operators and the players. Two, the large corporations that run the biggest brick-and-mortar casinos would be encouraged to enter the business, and customers would be much more likely to do business with brand names they know and trust, like Harrah's and MGM Mirage and Wynn. Those publicly-traded companies would make sure that things are on the up and up, because any cheating or other scandal would endanger the billions of dollars they could be raking in. Thus, it would be safer for the gambling consumer. Making it illegal may have the opposite effect, driving the business underground even more and allowing it to be run by the shadiest and least-secure organization -- akin to what happened with alcohol sales during Prohibition.

It will be interesting to see if this legislation has an effect on the World Series Of Poker next year. Nearly three-quarters of the 8,773 entrants in this year's Main Event got there by winning satellite tournaments in online poker rooms. If the legislation is successful, those numbers will drop off dramatically.

Ironically, poker has been played by people at every level, including even the most conservative politicians -- Richard Nixon used the money he won in the Navy to finance his first run for Congress. George W. Bush played lots of poker at Harvard Business School. The late William Rehnquist used to host a weekly poker game, even when he was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

One of the parties that was pushing Congress for this law is the NFL, which supposedly detests the notion that anyone might bet on football. I can understand their concern, worried about how gambling might influence how games are played. Yet every newspaper in America prints the point spreads every day, every office building in the country has some sort of fantasy football league, and the league forces its teams into full and timely disclosure of any injuries or other roster changes. Who is that for, if not for the sports bettors? The NFL is an enabler, and another gambling hypocrite.

The most offensive part of this online gambling legislation is the presumption that the government has the right to tell us how to spend our hard-earned money. It most certainly does not. They don't place a restriction on the number of shoes my wife can buy, nor the number of songs I can download from iTunes, and they can't shut down some eBay addict who is bidding on some ridiculous tchotchke at three in the morning. If they tried that, they'd start a revolution. So why is it their business if some poker player (whether it's a med-school student, an auto mechanic, a Fortune 500 CEO, or your favorite radio personality) is playing no-limit hold'em for a few hours in an online poker room?

Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom was in my KMOX studio this afternoon to talk about his new book, "For One More Day."

We also talked about the ALCS-leading Detroit Tigers, Mike Martz and the not-leading-anything Detroit Lions, and the Rock Bottom Remainders (the band he's in with Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, and Steven King). I also had him tell a story about Jack Lemmon during the filming of "Tuesdays With Morrie."

Listen to the conversation here.

Dick Cavett

Dick Cavett was back on my KMOX show to talk about his classic interviews with Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, and Groucho Marx. They're included on the collection on his new DVD, "Hollywood Greats," and are being featured on Thursday nights on TCM.

Listen to the conversation here.

You can also listen to my earlier conversation with Dick about the shows he did with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Side note: when we booked this interview, I was told that Dick was on a very tight schedule and we had to wrap things up by a certain time. Since I've been on the other side of that -- being the next person in an interview tour, waiting for the previous host to finish so I can start on time -- I try to be respectful of these requests. However, sometimes, the guest is having such a good time, or has more stories to tell, that they don't seem to care about the schedule. As you listen to the interview, you'll hear me try to bring things to a conclusion a couple of times, but Cavett just wants to keep going -- and I wasn't going to cut him off until I absolutely had to hit a commercial break.

Edible Wedding Dress

When a Ukranian baker got married, he wanted his wife to wear an edible wedding dress, so he spent two months making her one out of flour, eggs, sugar, and caramel.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Frank Caliendo

No one does a better John Madden impression that Frank Caliendo -- everyone else is imitating his impersonation -- and he proved it this afternoon on my KMOX show. In a wide-ranging discussion which also included appearances by Presidents Bush and Clinton, Leno and Letterman, and even Ted Knight, Madden kept re-appearing to hilarious effect.

Listen to the conversation here. Visit Caliendo's website for his DVD and more samples of his work.

Free Hugs

A guy named Juan Mann walked around with a sign that said "Free Hugs." Naturally, lots of people were skeptical, but some took him up on his offer. Eventually, he handed the signs to others, who then offered their own hugs to strangers (I'd be willing to bet that the young women with the signs had a lot more people who wanted hugs than Juan or the other guys).

Of course, this sort of activity couldn't be allowed to continue, so the police shut him down. Then he started a petition drive and got support from thousands of people, and a few more hugs, too.

Make of this what you will, but give it a look [thanks to Michelle Stephens for the link]...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

LA Notes

Notes from my recent trip to LA...

Had a terrific dinner with Jon Macks at a steakhouse he suggested called The Lodge, where he had promised me two things: Jimmy Caan and Peppercorn Bacon. We didn't see Jimmy (and if we did, he'd have been Mr. Caan to me, or at best, James), and I wasn't sure what to expect for the other. On my way there, I wondered if Peppercorn Bacon was some porn star I hadn't heard of, or did Kevin Bacon have another kid and give it one of those weird Hollywood names (yes, I'm talking about you, Apple Paltrow). It turned out to be neither. When you sit down at the bar at The Lodge to have a drink, you can munch on a bowlful of honey-roasted almonds, or on one of the long, cooked slices of peppercorn bacon sitting in a tall glass. Having never had a bacon finger-food snack, I chose the latter, and it was both delicious and salty. That is, of course, the idea behind both munchables -- to make you even more thirsty. Mission accomplished. Over dinner, Jon told us about several new projects he's working on, none of which I think I'm allowed to mention yet, but suffice it to say that he had to run out on us after a couple of hours to go do some work at Billy Crystal's house.

Mark Evanier took us to the Second City Theater to see Totally Looped, in which several improv comics and voice talents add the dialogue and sound effects for film clips they haven't seen before. The evening is organized and directed by Vince Waldron, who has written several books on classic sitcoms including "The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book." Among the voices the night we were there was Laraine Newman, who is often joined by Dan Castellenata and others. Pretty clever stuff, worth your time if you're in LA on one of the nights they're doing the show.

The hotel we stayed in was the first I've seen with a clip on the drapes. You may have noticed how hotel drapes always close in the middle, but never all the way, so when the sun comes up, it has just enough of an opening to shine right into the room -- usually on your eyes as you try to sleep. I've solved the problem in more than one hotel room by overlapping the two sides of the drape and then holding them in place with a chair or floor lamp. This place had a clip we could use to accomplish that purpose, a nice simple solution. They could avoid this problem altogether by just making it one long drape that pulls all the way across, but that seems to be against the basic rules of hotel room design.

The traffic in LA is now officially the worst in the US. One night, I was going to have dinner at the house of an old college roommate. It was about a 30 mile ride, so I planned on it taking an hour. Thanks to the incredible backups that are so commonplace on The Five and The One Oh One, the drive actually took two hours. And that's wasn't the only time or road on which we ran into traffic congestion -- it was pretty much omnipresent. I can't imagine having to deal with that on a regular basis as a commuter, and it must be a thousand times worse for any business that makes deliveries or has to be on the road all day long (which might just be how long it takes make one trip!).

Speaking of getting around, if you rent a car from Hertz, I seriously suggest getting their Neverlost GPS system. Very easy to use, and only about $8/day. Beats having to figure out the maps in a town you're not familiar with, and quite good at getting you directly to an address or intersection. Downside is its inability to come up with alternates when you run into a massive traffic jam on the one route it gives you.

Poker players in LA are among the rudest I've experienced anywhere. Several of them crossed the line into downright abuse, particularly of the dealers, when it was totally uncalled for. Perhaps it's a cultural thing, because most of the dealers are Asian and most of the abusers are not (although the players are majority Asian at most tables), but regardless, it was wholly inappropriate. Whatever the problem was, these were locals and regulars -- not tourists -- who berated both the staff and the other players. One player kept playing bad hands and then yelling at the dealer when he'd lose, as if the dealer had the power to control the cards and was doing it on purpose. I've seen this behavior at a couple of the local poker rooms in St. Louis and other cities I've played in, but this was by far the worst and most shameful.

Knuckleheads In The News®

Remember that song by the Motels, "Take the L Out Of Lover, And It's Over"?

A county in Michigan has to spend $40,000 fixing a typo on their election ballot, and has learned that "public" is a lot more private when you leave out that letter.

Could have been worse. They could have misspelled "election."

Randy Larsen on North Korea

Want to know the bottom line on the North Korea story? Check out the eight-minute discussion I had this afternoon with Col. Randy Larsen, our CBS News Homeland Security Consultant. He puts the whole thing in perspective perfectly. Listen to the conversation here.

Tom Gardner, Motley Fool

Today on my KMOX show, I talked with Tom Gardner of The Motley Fool about the Google/YouTube deal, old media vs. new media, and whether there's money to be made investing in alternative energy and China. He also revealed the Fool's new CAPS program, which is like fantasy football for stock-pickers.

Listen to the conversation here.

Arming Teachers

After talking about it on my KMOX show yesterday, I wrote a whole piece on the idea of arming teachers to protect our schools from intruders, a notion put forth by both Missouri Governor Matt Blunt (whose staff later went into spin mode to deny that's what he meant) and a Wisconsin legislator, in response to several recent incidents.

Unfortunately, a software glitch killed my blog entry. I'll re-write the piece later, but the comments have been preserved below, and you're welcome to add yours.

Pencil Furniture

Ever drop a pencil and have to dig through the chair cushions to find it? It's easier with this furniture, because there are no cushions, but lots of pencils.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Steve Fossett

On my KMOX show this afternoon, I talked with Steve Fossett, the extreme sports-adventurer who has set 115 world records, including the first solo round-the-world balloon flight in 2002 and the first solo round-the-world by airplane flight in 2005 -- clearly, this guy has a little more testosterone than I do.

I asked him about having to avoid flying over countries that are a little hostile towards Americans, how he went to the bathroom and how he slept on these multi-day solo voyages, and how he manages to steer a hot air balloon in the first place.

He also told an interesting story about the Iditarod dog-sled race and former President Bill Clinton. Listen to the conversation here.

Fossett's autobiography is "Chasing The Wind."

Topless Car Wash

When some guys pulled into a topless car wash, this probably wasn't what they were expecting. [thanks to Greg Damon for the link]

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Drawing Dead

Inside the poker room at the Commerce Casino, as long as there are players at the tables, nothing stops the games. They go on 24 hours a day, all year long, and the only non-human sound you hear is the constant clicking, stacking, and shuffling of chips.

That changed just after 2:30am today, when gunshots rang out.

It took about a half-second for me to register what I'd heard and hit the floor, as did the other players and dealers in the room. The gunshots had come from right outside the main entrance of the casino, preceded by quickly approaching police sirens. We stayed on the floor, looking in the direction of the front door, wondering if some crazed nutball had burst into the country's largest poker room, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in play, in an attempt to rob and kill us all.

After five or six minutes, with the disturbance seemingly over, many tables quickly emptied, as frightened people used the back exit to head for their cars.

A few of us stood up to investigate. I talked to a casino security officer who was keeping people from leaving via the front door, and he told me what had happened:

The California Highway Patrol and LA Sheriff's deputies were involved in a high-speed chase on I-5 with a man in a black Scion, when the suspect suddenly pulled off the highway and into the entrance to the Commerce Casino. He headed for the front door, where he drove into the valet lane, with police right on his tail. When he smacked into the back of a Porsche and couldn't go any further, he jumped out and fired several shots at the police. They returned fire, killing him. His female passenger was taken into custody.

I had heard 5-7 shots, but the security guy, who had been right at the door and seen the whole thing, told me it was more like 15-20. Officers quickly marked off the area with yellow police tape, declared it a crime scene, and no one was allowed to leave through the front. That meant that everyone who had a car parked in the valet area couldn't leave, either -- many of them were given a hotel room, but most used it as an excuse to stay and play more poker.

Thankfully, no one inside the casino had been hit or hurt (although that Porsche owner was probably having a fit!). There was a new edge and electricity in the room, particularly as stories were passed around by people who had heard pieces of this, rumors of that. One guy leaned over to me and, after hearing that the suspect was dead, said, "He tried to out-shoot the cops? Talk about going all-in!"

But mostly, despite a corpse and a major police presence some 20 yards away, poker players did what they do best -- riffling chips and telling stories.

I filed reports on the incident for KMOX, in a live phoner with overnight man Ralph Graczak, and for CBS Radio News (the story eventually made the wires). Then I went back to the game, too.

Side note: I couldn't help but wonder why the suspect thought this casino, about 20 miles east of Los Angeles, was a good place to try to escape. After all, a huge operation like this has hundreds of surveillance cameras, so it wasn't like he was going to find a safe hiding place. I've heard that more fugitives run to Las Vegas than anywhere else, despite it being the city with more security cameras than any other in the world. Ah, the criminal mind at work.

Update at 11am: I've gotten a few hours sleep and just checked the scene outside. The yellow tape is still up, with several patrol cars and CSI-types doing whatever they do eight hours after an incident like this. The valets are now walking customers to their cars, and new inbound traffic is being pointed towards the back, where the steady stream of another day of card players continues.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Unlocking The Meaning of "Lost"

Today on my KMOX show, with the new season of "Lost" starting tomorrow night, I talked with Lynette Porter, author of "Unlocking The Meaning of Lost."

Listen to the conversation here.

Zero Tolerance Strikes Again

In Marion, Indiana, four girls were suspended from 8th grade because they wore the same outfits to school. The principal says it's a violation of the code of conduct, although he won't say how. It has something to do with gangs, because you know how many girls in gangs wear a white blouse and red suspenders. Details here.

Fall Out Of Bed & Sue

Don't know how I missed this one a couple of months ago. Ted Frank writes about the New Jersey college student who fell out of bed and sued the bed manufacturer for not warning him that he might fall out of bed.

What's Your Daughter's Boyfriend's Middle Name?

Steven D. Levitt, co-author of "Freakonomics," says "The next time your daughter brings home a new boyfriend, be sure to ask his middle name," and if it's Wayne, you can expect trouble.

Fingernail Lady

Lee Redmond can scratch your back from across the room. She hasn't cut her fingernails since 1979 -- they are now over 24 feet long, and in the Guiness Book of Records.