Thursday, November 30, 2006
- Eric Mink on the Michael Richards incident.
- Bryan Curtis on the problem with Christopher Guest and "For Your Consideration."
- Ken Levine on why TV shows and movies that are "improvised" aren't as funny as the well-written ones.
- Ken Jennings on "the new Alec Baldwin, the dissipated, paunchy, stains-on-the-shirt character actor Alec Baldwin."
posted at 8:40 AM
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
More good insight on Iraq today on my show from Rajiv Chandrasekaran, including:
- the impact of 36 members of Iraq's Parliament walking out;
- lack of confidence in President Al-Maliki;
- whether our military will withdraw from Al-Anbar province, and what that would mean.
Update on the Peace Wreath story from Monday...
The homeowner's association has apologized to Lisa Jensen and Bill Trimarco for telling them to take down their Peace Wreath: "We had a misunderstanding with your 'Christmas decoration' and for that we apologize. We withdraw any and all previous requests for removal of your decoration."
Lisa says she and Bill are happy, not just with the decision, but also with the outpouring of support, including many who were willing to pay the $25 daily fine for them. She told the Durango Herald,
"We received calls from people who called themselves grandmas, mothers, military families, veterans, devout Christians, agnostics, atheists, a Rabbi, veterans of various wars, people with children in Iraq. It seems whenever someone tries to say 'peace on Earth,' it is met with so much resistance. The incredible amount of support we have received over the last couple of days really is proof to us of how many people believe in peace and in our right to say it."
No word on reaction from Bob Kearns, the evil head of the homeowner's association who started this whole thing.
Here's the piece my colleague Kevin Wheeler wrote on why Mark McGwire should be in the Hall of Fame. He makes some great points.
My attitude has always been that if athletes or entertainers are willing to put their bodies at risk for my entertainment, I have no problem with it, whether it's Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O or Mark McGwire and Jason Giambi.
posted at 10:44 AM
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Jim Rittenberg bought a video camera at Best Buy, but ended up with a jar of pasta sauce in the box instead. On my show today, his wife Melisa explained how it happened, how they handled it, how Best Buy reacted, and how the issue was resolved. Then Jason, a listener who used to work at that Best Buy store, called to explain how this could happen. Remember this is a chain that charges a 15% "restocking fee," when it seems that all they do is put boxes back on the shelf without checking them out first. Listen.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Quick reviews of three movies I've seen in the last week:
"Stranger Than Fiction" is the kind of original storytelling we need more of. Will Ferrell reins in all his wacky urges and shines as an IRS agent who hears a woman's voice narrating his life. It turns out the narrator is Emma Thompson, an author who always kills off her main character. Maggie Gyllenhall give another good performance (since "Secretary," she's done solid supporting work in "Criminal" and "Monster House," and has become one of the best actresses of her generation) as a baker that Ferrell first audits, then falls for. When you add Dustin Hoffman, doing what he always does, and a very understated Queen Latifah, you get a world I was completely drawn into, and walked out smiling -- exactly what you want from a movie.
I'm a sucker for James Bond movies, but for too long, they have simply sucked. "Casino Royale" may save the franchise, and Daniel Craig is just right as 007. The action sequences are perfect, including an early foot chase that is nothing short of remarkable. Fortunately, they've cut out the over-the-top gadgets of some of the recent movies (there's nothing as ridiculous as an invisible car), and given Bond a love interest who is smart and beautiful (you won't snicker as you did when Denise Richards was cast as a nuclear scientist). There's even a funny moment when Bond is given an injection and says "Ouch!" -- this from a man who's been beat up, knocked over, and bruised in every way without ever uttering an objection. My problem with "CR" comes in the poker scene, in which Bond must (of course) beat the villain in a winner-take-all tournament. After giving his female colleague a lecture on how you win at no-limit hold'em -- not by playing the cards but by reading your opponent -- his ultimate victory comes in the kind of hand that never shows up anywhere but in a movie. With four people all-in for the final pot, it's even more unlikely than Edward G. Robinson's straight flush beating Steve McQueen's full house in the climax of "The Cincinnati Kid." Then again, it's a lot more interesting than those boring games of baccarat that Bond used to play.
"For Your Consideration" is a big disappointment. Maybe it's because Christopher Guest and Company set the bar so high with "Waiting For Guffman" and "Best In Show." They started to slip a little bit with "A Mighty Wind," but even that's a masterpiece compared to "FYC." Unlike those, this one's not a mockumentary, but that's not all that's wrong. It feels like a sketch that went on too long, based on a premise that wasn't that funny to begin with. In fact, the basic concept is so lame, you'd think Aaron Sorkin had written it for the show-within-a-show on "Studio 60." Guest's repertory company is full of talented people, but they're becoming redundant, and maybe it's time to get some new players. Besides, how many really good comedies have there been about the behind-the-scenes machinations of making a movie? "FYC" certainly isn't one of them.
In Durango, Colorado, Lisa Jensen and Bill Tomarco refuse to take down their Christmas wreath. Their homeowners association wants it removed because it's in the shape of a peace sign, which they say violates the rules and offends other residents. Since when is peace an offensive notion?
Here's an update and resolution to the story.
posted at 9:26 AM
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Interesting to see Michael Richards try to do a mea culpa on Letterman tonight, thanks to Jerry Seinfeld. Wow, was that awkward, leaving the impression that Richards is a guy with a lot of issues and personal demons to deal with. It's obvious that Seinfeld considers Richards a friend, and wanted to do something to help him -- I'm not sure this accomplishes that.
Meanwhile, here's some Sein-Imation, pencil animation of a couple of scenes from the series that they're using to promote the release of Season 7 on DVD.
posted at 12:00 AM
Monday, November 20, 2006
Michael Richards was already having trouble keeping his career going post-"Seinfeld," but his rant over the weekend at an LA comedy club will bring whatever momentum he may still have had to a screeching halt.
In response to some heckling from a couple of black guys in the audience, Richards spewed a venom-filled rant at them, complete with multiple uses of the n-word. Naturally, someone in the crowd caught it on video, which you can now watch on the same website that broke the Mel Gibson anti-semitic rant story.
While his frustration at being heckled is understandable, anyone who has ever done standup has had to deal with it, and most comedians have a stockpile of material they bring out for just such an occasion. If the crowd likes the performer, they want to see him crush these vocal interlopers with a few perfectly-phrased comments, which helps the comic retain control of the room. Richards does exactly the opposite, goes berserk, loses the crowd, and then, realizing it's a lost cause, drops the mike on the floor and walks off-stage.
It's not just racist, it's sad and lame.
posted at 9:04 AM
Sunday, November 19, 2006
On Tuesday, The Beatles are releasing "Love," the soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil show that features mash-ups of lots of their songs, as remixed by George Martin and his son, Giles, from the master tapes, and have incorporated some of the original versions and outtakes and alternates from the "Anthology" series. In doing so, they've created new versions that will have Beatles fans listening closely to identify where this riff or that musical phrase came from.
It's gonna be on a lot of holiday wish-lists.
The Beatles still don't allow any of their music to be downloaded, especially via iTunes, but there are a couple of options using a non-recordable Flash Player. Four of the songs are here [thanks to fellow Beatles fan Paul Grundhauser for the link] and, for a limited time, there's a free preview of the whole album, plus a video documentary here.
If you want to buy the whole album, use this link.
posted at 8:58 PM
Since my wife is laid up recovering from knee surgery, we spent some of this weekend watching a DVD of eight episodes of Aaron Sorkin's 1998 series, "Sports Night."
It's interesting to view it now, after "The West Wing" and while "Studio 60" is struggling to find an audience. All three share that quick, witty banter that Sorkin is known for, plus Thomas Schlamme's walk-and-talk directing style, plus lots of talented cast members. It's easy to see precedents for what they're trying to do on the new show, but the difference is that "SN" was full of likeable characters.
"S60" seems to revel in phony internal controversies, rivalries, and conflicts, while "SN" was full of people who clearly enjoyed working with and for each other. It shared that sensibility with "WW" -- villains and troublemakers were outsiders, not regulars.
The oddest thing about watching "SN" again (we saw all 45 episodes when it first aired) is that we'd forgotten it had a laugh track, which was completely out of place, just like on the earliest episodes of "M*A*S*H." Whichever network pinhead mandated that made a big mistake, which they realized by season two, when it went away.
The other thought that struck me was "What ever happened to Josh Charles?" Other members of the cast went on to success (Felicity Huffman in "Desperate Housewives" and movies, Peter Krause in "Six Feet Under," Joshua Molina on "WW" and producing "Celebrity Poker Showdown," Sabrina Lloyd on "Numb3rs," and the always classy Robert Guillame), but Charles hasn't been nearly as visible. Someone give this guy another series! And while you're at it, give Sabrina Lloyd a nice big movie role -- we need to see more of her.
posted at 8:28 PM
Friday, November 17, 2006
Thursday, November 16, 2006
The perfectly-placed billboard on the side of Highway 40 said, "Cingular has the fewest dropped calls of any wireless carrier."
What made me notice it? I had just lost the connection on my cell phone. There's a big dead spot there for about a quarter of a mile. With Cingular service.
posted at 9:11 AM
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Michael Konik was back on my show today to talk about his new book, "Smart Money: How The World's Best Sports Bettors Beat The Bookies Out Of Millions." We discussed what it was like being part of an organization that routinely outwitted the top sports book managers in Las Vegas, how he handled friends who wanted to share his information, and how he loved living the high-roller lifestyle. We also talked about the hypocrisy of the NFL's anti-gambling stance and the new ban on online gambling. Listen.
Konik is a terrific gambling writer, author of the classics "The Man With The $100,000 Breasts" and "Telling Lies And Getting Paid."
Things got ugly at a Pee Wee football game in Corpus Christi, Texas, when a coach -- who had been warned to stop cursing on the sidelines -- attacked the 18-year-old referee. That set off a brawl involving several of the parents.
Two things to take note of: 1) the physical condition of several of the dads, who have apparently been on an all-trans-fat diet; and 2) the mother who runs over and kicks another mom in the butt, knocking her over. What a fine set of role models all around for these five- and six-year-olds!
Story here, raw home video here.
posted at 8:51 AM
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
On my show this afternoon, I talked to Robert Greenwald about his new documentary, "Iraq For Sale," in which he exposes the war profiteering that has come from privatizing so much of this war.
Instead of supporting the troops, companies like Halliburton and CACI are racking up huge profits, while hundreds of millions of your tax dollars are being wasted and lives are being risked unnecessarily -- not to mention the abusive interrogations at Abu Ghraib, which were conducted by some of these private contractors. Thanks to their incestuous relationships with politicians and high-ranking Pentagon personnel, these companies were given no-bid contracts, and there was been absolutely no oversight of their activities by Congress.
Lots of reaction today to the story of a ten-year-old boy who was suspended from school for two days after asking his teacher for a hug. The same kid had been reprimanded a month ago for telling her she "looked sexy." Most callers and e-mailers think the school overreacted, but reject the family's argument that the kid was completely innocent. Check out the story here [link fixed], then add your comments below.
posted at 3:14 PM
Friday, November 10, 2006
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Sad to hear about the death of Ed Bradley this morning at age 65.
I dug through my archives to find a great story Don Hewitt, the longtime executive producer of "60 Minutes," told me about the day Ed Bradley announced he had change his name to Shaheeb Shahab.
CBS News has posted several highlights from his career, including "60 Minutes" segments he did with Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Denzel Washington, and the recent Duke rape case. They also have video from him on April 30, 1975, doing a live report on the fall of Saigon, having just escaped Vietnam to a studio in Manila. As you watch that one, imagine any network reporter today appearing on camera with his shirt unbuttoned and showing off his chest. Then again, Bradley was the only network guy I remember who wore an earring.
I wrote about the documentary "Hacking Democracy" which aired on HBO earlier this week, and then spoke to Bev Harris, the woman at the center of the story.
Now, you can watch the whole thing on Google video. I don't know how long they'll keep it up there, so catch it while you can.
posted at 10:22 AM
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Verbatim from President Bush's press conference today, referring to Nancy Pelosi's ascension to Speaker of the House:
In my first act of bipartisan outreach since the election, I shared with her the names of some Republican interior decorators who can help her pick out the new drapes in her new offices.Good to see that Mark Foley and Ted Haggard have something to do.
posted at 4:16 PM
Here's the lesson from the last 16 months of the Bush administration: if the President praises you effusively in public, you should immediately start packing up your desk.
First, to FEMA Director Michael Brown during the Hurricane Katrina cleanup: "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job!" Days later, Brownie was looking for another job.
Last week, Bush said Donald Rumsfeld was doing a "fantastic job" as Defense Secretary. Today, he's being pushed out (in another brilliantly time Karl Rove move to grab the headlines away from the Democrats' election victories).
If I worked in the White House, I'd worry anytime the President said anything positive to me. "Hey, Harris, nice job on that report!" Gulp -- better update the resume!
Exception: when Bush "appreciates" your "hard work." This is just standard stuff he throws off all the time. In fact, he even "appreciated" the Democrats today.
posted at 3:09 PM
That's the question I asked Dr. Paddy Ross on my show. He's one of the scientists at Washington University's School Of Medicine who are thrilled today with the Amendment 2 victory (that's the stem cell initiative that Missourians voted for yesterday). I had Ross explain what this means for researchers, how it affects funding, and whether this will mean a push to pass similar legislation at the federal level. Listen.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
The results are in from the annual Election Day voting, and once again my listeners have chosen THE WORST SONG EVER.
The winners, and those that preceded them...
THE WORST SONG EVER 2006
#1) Captain & Tenille "Muskrat Love"
#2) Tiny Tim "Tiptoe Through The Tulips"
#3) Maria Muldaur "Midnight At The Oasis"
THE WORST SONG EVER 2004
#1) Billy Ray Cyrus "Achy Breaky Heart"
#2) Tiny Tim "Tiptoe Through The Tulips"
#3) Melanie "Brand New Key"
THE WORST SONG EVER 2003
#1) Morris Albert "Feelings"
#2) Led Zeppelin "Stairway to Heaven"
#3) Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods "Billy Don't Be A Hero"
THE WORST SONG EVER 2002
#1) White Stripes "Little Room"
#2) Ween "Push The Little Daisies"
#3) Los Del Rio "Macarena"
THE WORST SONG EVER 2001
#1) Richard Harris "Macarthur Park"
#2) Ween "Push The Little Daisies"
#3) Paul Anka "You're Having My Baby"
THE WORST SONG EVER 2000
#1) Captain & Tennille "Muskrat Love"
#2) Morris Albert "Feelings"
#3) Vanilla Ice "Ice Ice Baby"
THE WORST SONG EVER 1999
#1) Morris Albert "Feelings"
#2) Debby Boone "You Light Up My Life"
#3) Paul Anka "You're Having My Baby"
posted at 4:11 PM
I know it's election day, and we're all sick of campaign ads, but I have to share these with you. In Denver, there's a ballot initiative to legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, and a group called the Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative Committee is running these ads...
posted at 8:49 AM
Monday, November 06, 2006
Bob Greene was back on my show today to talk about his book, "And You Know You Should Be Glad," one of the best books I've ever read about friendships, particularly those that last a lifetime. We had a long discussion about it when the book was published in May, so today we talked about the response he's had from readers and the friends he wrote about. I also had Bob tell a wonderful story about how he and his friend Jack, at age 12, made calls to sports stars like Jerry Lucas and Jack Nicklaus and interviewed them for their junior high newspaper. Listen.
Just watched a fantastic documentary on HBO, "Hacking Democracy." It's about how the electronic voting machines that have been used for the last several years are not secure, how vote totals can easily be manipulated, and how companies like Diebold -- with multi-million dollar contracts -- are not doing their job in making sure that our votes, the most essential part of democracy, are tabulated correctly.
The documentary is based on the work of Bev Harris, who started the grassroots organization BlackBoxVoting.org after finding discrepancies in both local and national elections -- and complaints from both Republican and Democratic candidates and supporters. With so many of these machines about to be used again, Bev was on my show this afternoon to talk about whether these security holes have been plugged, or we're in for another round of problems. Listen.
See the schedule for the next time HBO airs "Hacking Democracy," including several opportunites on Election Day.
It will make you think twice about that touch-screen or optical scanner you think is registering your vote -- particularly after you see the Hursti Hack, in which a Finnish computer expert manages to change votes right under the watchful eye of one Florida elections supervisor, by changing the code on one of the Diebold memory cards used in the machine.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Lots of reaction on Friday's show to the school bus driver who was fired after flipping off President Bush.
He was in Washington state doing a fundraiser for Congressman Dave Reichert. When their motorcade went by several school buses on a highway ramp, several students waved, but the bus driver gave the finger. Apparently, Reichert saw it and contacted the school district, which decided this was inappropriate behavior, and fired the driver. Her union has filed a grievance on her behalf, but the district says she has a bad track record and this was the last straw.
The question I asked was, putting her history aside, is this a firing offense? If I were her employer, I certainly would have reprimanded her and told her that sort of action could not be repeated, but I wouldn't have let her go. It has nothing to do with politics -- I would have had the same reaction regardless of his party -- or that this was the President of the United States. If she had simply flipped the bird at another driver in traffic (for all we know, she was reacting to having to sit there waiting while traffic was blocked off so the motorcade could go by), I would have given her the same consequences.
Listener reaction was split right down the middle. What do you think?
posted at 11:50 AM
Bob Wright, CEO of NBC Universal, has a great op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about how the FCC should butt out of content, and stop pandering to small-minded special interest groups.
No one suggests broadcast networks adopt an "anything goes" approach. All broadcast networks employ standards experts who vet thousands of hours of programming to make sure it doesn't violate sensibilities. Of course they make mistakes, and neither audiences nor government officials have been shy in voicing concerns -- to which the networks respond. Over-the-air broadcasters -- who are the most responsible, community-focused providers of programming in the business -- do an excellent job. Indeed, the vast majority of complaints about specific shows filed with the FCC (99% in 2004) came from organized interest groups who regularly trawl for complaints from individuals who never saw the show in question.
The FCC should formulate policies that take advantage of advanced technology, rather than hark back to solutions developed in -- and for -- a bygone era. An appropriate FCC policy would recognize that our TV audience is quite varied; that some programs at all hours should appropriately serve the two-thirds of households that do not have children; and that blocking technology is a 21st-century solution that is consistent with the Supreme Court's admonition that the government is constrained by the First Amendment to use the least restrictive means to address "indecent" programming content.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Shepard Smith is doing his Fox News Channel shows from O'Fallon today and took a few minutes to call into my show this afternoon. We talked about how the senatorial race here may be the one that tips the balance of power in Congress, whether the local issues on the ballot have become more important to voters than the war in Iraq, and what he's hearing from Missourians. Listen.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I'm trying something new on this site and would appreciate your feedback.
When I post audio files, you will now see an embedded audio player appear, which will allow you to listen to the file without leaving the site or using an external mp3 player.
The first two files with the embedded Odeo flash player are Phil Rosenthal and Gavin Edwards. If you have a moment, please check them out and let me know how they work for you. I'm sure there will be some users who don't have flash installed in their browsers, and I anticipate a couple of other complaints which I may be able to work around, but want to see how this version works for you.
This will not affect those of you who subscribe to the podcasts or listen via iTunes, but will make it easier to quickly access the audio.
You can enter your comments below or use the "E-Mail Paul Harris" link on the right side of this page. Thanks!
The AP story from Wisconsin reads, "A Hartford man has been ordered to serve 60 days in jail and two years' probation for putting photographs of his genitalia on cars driven by women in Menomonee Falls. ... He pleaded no contest to the charges, which accuse him of putting photos on cars parked outside department stores."
He did what? Let's think this through for a second, which is probably longer than he did. Some questions:
- What was he trying to accomplish -- picking up chicks? Because you know how much women love seeing anonymous pictures of a strange man's genitalia when they're left behind under the windshield wiper like an advertising flyer.
- How did the cops identify this guy? Was there a lineup? Did witnesses ID him based on the photos?
- How did he know which cars belonged to women?
Well, that explains it. The old "I was really depressed so I snapped some quick pix of my package and left them on random windshields at the mall" excuse.
Case dismissed, except for this -- he's also facing six other counts of doing the same thing in several other towns.
posted at 9:30 AM
Quick thoughts on the current John Kerry brouhaha:
- John Kerry says he was trying to make a joke. John Kerry should never attempt this because, as he has proven time and time again, John Kerry has no sense of humor. He may be the least funny person on the planet, with the possible exception of Dick Cheney. John Kerry could not tell a joke if his life depended on it -- or an election.
- John Kerry is not running for anything this year, so nothing he says on the campaign trail matters, but I'd bet that the RNC already has added this footage to the anti-Kerry commercials they'll air next time he runs. The man actually manages to swift-boat himself. Any minute now he'll announce that he voted against telling the joke before he went ahead and told the joke.
- None of this matters at all in the grand scheme of things. It has nothing to do with any issue that's important, but serves as yet another political distraction. You want to talk about Iraq and our troops? Then have a real discussion of the war, not some ridiculous foot-in-the-mouth comment.