If you like trivia, check out my other site, THE HARRIS CHALLENGE, and play every weekday!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Space Age

During a discussion of Microsoft's new tabletop computer last night, I heard one analyst refer to this as "real space-age technology."

I'm sure she meant this was cutting-edge, 21st-century stuff, but space-age? So, it's technology from more than four decades ago? That's when we went into space! I'm surprised she didn't find it "hip."

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Freebie

I've just discovered a cool new service for your cell phone.

Instead of calling 411 to get someone's phone number -- incurring a fee of anywhere from 75¢ to $2.00 -- call 1-800-FREE-411. The service won't cost you a penny besides your cellular airtime, but you'll have to sit through a 10-15 second commercial message which is not overly annoying. It's completely automated, and every time I've tried it, the voice recognition software has worked perfectly for both residential and business listings. The service works from your landline phone, too.

I have no financial interest in this whatsoever, just passing it along. You're welcome.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Jon & Jay, 15 Years Later

In the late 1980s, Jon Macks was a full-time political consultant who listened to my then-morning radio show in Washington, DC. One day, he called and offered to write jokes for me -- not as a new job, but just for the fun of it and a little (very little) extra money on the side. He quickly proved himself to be a prolific joke writer, turning out huge amounts of topical material every day, and getting it to me by 6am. He snuck me a little bit of insider political insight, too.

After a couple of years of this, he called and said he had some bad news -- he'd gotten a better offer. Jay Leno was about to take over "The Tonight Show," and had hired Jon as a fulltime writer for his monologue. I immediately joked to Jon that he should forget about it, that I would double whatever Leno had offered. Remarkably, Jon turned me down and took the job in Burbank, but promised that he'd still contribute to my show.

Tonight marks 15 years of Jay Leno hosting "The Tonight Show," and Jon is still there cranking out jokes for the monologue every day -- and the volume has increased because Jay's monologue is at least twice as long now as it was then. He has also parlayed his writing abilities into other opportunities, including several books, and has become one of the top go-to guys for writing award shows, including the Oscars and Emmys.

And yet, after all these years, he still makes time in his schedule to do a segment on my show every Friday afternoon. Today, we talked briefly about his experience with Jay, his recent work on the Country Music Awards, and why he put Eva Longoria's needs above mine last week. Then he threw in a couple of jokes about Rosie O'Donnell leaving "The View," Paris Hilton finding religion, and using moose dung as an energy source.

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

Lost Questions Answered

Erin McCarthy at Popular Mechanics was curious about four scientific questions from the "Lost" season finale:

  • Is it possible to ignite dynamite with a gunshot?
  • Would a grenade really work under water?
  • Can you really break someone's neck with your legs?
  • Would Rousseau's radio transmitter really have blocked the sat phone signal?

I knew the answer to that last one was "no," since they'd have to work on completely different frequencies. But read McCarthy's explanation for that and the others here.

Gas vs. Other Liquids

Upset at how much you're paying for a gallon of gas? How about the price you pay for other liquids?

Joel Makower forwarded the updated comparison, which finds Evian at $6.40/gallon, Red Bull at $30.69/gallon, Robitussin at $109.76/gallon, and more -- all the way up to scorpion venom (if you could buy it by the gallon, you'd pay over thirty million dollars!). Meanwhile, I filled up the tank with regular gas at $3.11/gallon this morning in St. Louis.

The complete list is here.

Paul Is Dead, Creatively

This is the video of Paul McCartney's new single, "Dance Tonight," and it's incredibly unimpressive -- yet another lame ditty made up of about six lines of bland lyrics repeated ad nauseum. On the other hand, it's also terrible musically, and the visual effects look so cheap they're reminiscent of the videos he was doing with Wings, three decades ago. When your body of work is better represented by the "American Idol" finalists doing a medley of your songs, something has gone horribly wrong.

McCartney's new album, "Memory Almost Full" -- let's hope the other songs are better -- will be available June 5th at a Starbucks near you.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Josh Hancock Lawsuit

Huge reaction to the lawsuit filed by Josh Hancock's father today on my radio show, and in my News 4 At 6 segment on KMOV-TV.

Josh was the Cardinals relief pitcher who died at the end of April in an accident on Highway 40, when he rammed his rented SUV into the back of a flat-bed tow-truck whose driver had stopped to help the driver of a Geo Prism that had been involved in an early accident.

The police report said Hancock's BAC was .157, he wasn't wearing a seat belt, he was speeding (68 in a 55), and was on his cell phone at the time of impact. For several hours before his death, he'd been drinking at Mike Shannon's Steak and Seafood Restaurant.

The lawsuit puts the blame on Shannon's for letting him leave that night -- even though Pat Shannon says she offered him a cab -- and on the tow truck driver and company, and even the driver of the Prism!

This will do nothing but erase any sympathy for Josh's family and sully his memory (if his self-destructive behavior that night hadn't already done so). Shame on the family for even filing this suit.

Lost Redeemed

After an overly-confusing season, hurt by the long hiatus between the fall and spring episode runs, I thought "Lost" pulled off a pretty good season finale last night. Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of unanswered questions. Ideas, anyone?

  • Was this the first "Lost" episode to acknowledge that they get off the island?
  • Why couldn't Charlie have locked that room's hatch from the OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR?
  • Where did Walt come from? (it's obvious why producers had to get his character off the island -- the actor who plays him had a major growth spurt and no longer looks like a young boy)
  • How did Locke survive being shot by Ben?
  • How did Mikail lose all that blood from the spear gun shot and still get into scuba gear long enough to get outside the porthole with the grenade?
  • Whose funeral did Jack attend, and who does Kate have to get home to?
Beyond those puzzles, the best line of the night belonged to Hurley: "I save them, dude! I saved them all!"

Update 7:58pm...Someone has put up a frame grab of the obit Jack was reading. Take a look and see if you can figure anything out from it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Elliott Davis, You Paid For It

If you're a public official and Elliott Davis shows up with his cameraman, you're not having a good day. Elliott does the "You Paid For It" segments three times a week on Fox 2 here in St. Louis, and he's very good at sticking his microphone in your face and not backing down until he gets an answer. Even then, he's not afraid to put your phone number up on the screen and tell his viewers to call and bug you until you fix whatever's wrong.

Today on my show, Elliott talked about the stories he's done for the last 15 years, the results he's gotten, and how he's held these public servants accountable for their actions. He also talked about the story that almost got him killed -- the bullet intended for him ended up in the shoulder of his photographer, Larry Washington, who survived a very close call but was out for two years.

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

Friday, May 18, 2007

Cop Calls 911 Over Pot Brownies

Here's that hysterical 911 call I played on my show this afternoon. It's a cop from Dearborn, Michigan, who got in trouble for confiscating marijuana from a suspect, then taking it home and making pot brownies. After he and his wife and eaten all the brownies, he called 911 and told them to send over a rescue team because he was freaking out and thought they were dying.

The scandal is that the Dearborn police department let this cop resign rather than charge him with a crime (they also didn't do anything about another incident involving the cop's wife, who admitted taking cocaine out of his patrol car and going on a three-week binge). Makes those St. Louis cops and their scalped tickets scandal seem mild.

The audio is here, the story is here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Fantasy American Idol

As heard on my show today...what would "American Idol" be like if the contestants were famous singers like Sting, Stevie Nicks, Chryssie Hynde, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, and others? Marc Hirsh wrote this very funny parody about how it would go with those fantasy contestants.

For example, here's the entry on Courtney Love...

“I’m going to regret this,” said a smirking Simon on passing Love through to the semis, and her appearance and behavior quickly made her the season’s love-or-hate contestant. Randy often started with full-body laughter before declaring, “Dude, that was not good.” Even Paula struggled to find something positive to say, while Simon simply trotted out “horrendous.” She went down in flames on “One Song Glory” from “Rent” during Broadway Week.
And this one for Stevie Wonder...
Wonder’s audition was a treacly, triumph-over-adversity display that initially turned off many viewers. But his rapid ascendancy stunned even the judges, prompting Simon to say “When we put you through, we had absolutely no idea how good you actually were. Really, really great.” Paula practically adopted him, while Randy could never get past Wonder’s disability, declaring, “You sing that good and you’re blind! Unbelievable.” He bowed out during Elton John Week on a scorching, funk-laced version of “Bennie And The Jets.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bruce Dern

Bruce Dern has made a career out of being one of the all-time movie bad guys, and we had a great time talking about some of those roles today on my show.

He told stories about having to shoot John Wayne in "The Cowboys," getting advice from a Vietnam Vet on playing his role in "Coming Home," being directed by and learning from Alfred Hitchcock in "Family Plot," and more. I also asked him how uncomfortable he was seeing his daughter, Laura Dern, in explicit love scenes like those in "Wild At Heart."

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bob Barr

In the 1990s, I despised Bob Barr because he was one of the leaders of the GOP impeachment gang. Since then, he has left Congress and discovered his libertarian side, and we find ourselves having a lot of common ground.

Today we discussed why Sen. Frank Lautenberg's proposal to ban firearms sales to anyone on the terrorism watch list is a bad idea. It may seem a no-brainer that makes sense (after all, keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists seems right), but remember that these are people only suspected of terrorist ties, not those convicted of terrorism or any other criminal act.

Listen to Barr explain further why this would be a bad law, and why he regrets helping to write the Patriot Act in 2001.

Soldiers Offline

The Pentagon has cut off access for soldiers to social networking websites, claiming it was taking up too much bandwidth. I railed against this decision on my show yesterday, and then received this e-mail from a listener named Mary:

I was rather put off by your comments regarding the Department of Defense limiting/eliminating soldiers’ time on sites such as MySpace or Facebook. I agree that soldiers have a very dangerous job in extremely challenging conditions, but that should not be correlated with an implied right to use their employer’s machines and bandwidth to update their personal sites. I don’t believe the government’s action should be construed as lack of support for troops. This is no different than any corporation enforcing usage policies regarding corporate equipment.
I couldn't disagree more. Our men and women in uniform have different conditions than you and I do. We can go home at night and use our home computers to do whatever we want. The soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have no "home" to go back to at night. They are on a military base or property at all times, have no private room to plug in and play, and I have no problem giving them a lot of slack when it comes to their down time.

This may be a generational thing. For the 18-25 year-olds who are fighting this war, those website are the primary method of communication with friends and family. Cutting off their access to it is denying them the ability to see photos of babies born while they've been away so long, news of their kids doing well in school or scoring a goal at a soccer game, seeing the faces of their spouse or girl/boyfriend, or just keeping in touch with friends back home.

The bandwidth costs money, but so what? Give the troops the things they need, so that after a day in hell, they have something to look forward to. There's enough money for corrupt Iraqi politicians, overpaying private US contractors, and flying Congressmen and Senators to Baghdad so they can buy a rug at a local market. If we can do that, surely we can give our military personnel an unfettered internet connection. I'd bet that very few taxpayers would object.

This policy should be reversed immediately.

Monday, May 14, 2007

John Feinstein "Tales From Q School"

Sportswriter John Feinstein, author of "A Good Walk Spoiled" and three other best-selling golf books, is back with "Tales From Q School: Inside Golf's Fifth Major." We talked about it this afternoon on my show. I asked him if all this exposure to the world of professional golf had improved his game at all, whether making the tour guarantees you'll make money as a golfer, and had him tell the story of Peter Jacobsen being threatened by a really bad golfer in his foursome.

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

Out of Line

Last night on "60 Minutes," Mike Wallace profiled Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who wants to become the Republican nominee for President next year. At one point in the interview, during a discussion of how Romney met his wife Ann, Wallace asked if they'd had pre-marital sex.

That question was way out of line.

Wallace should be ashamed of himself, and producer Ruth Streeter should have cut it out of the broadcast. What the Romneys do (or did) behind closed doors is no one's business but theirs. The sexual history of a presidential candidate should not be open to discussion, any more than it should be for a teacher, a firefighter, a stock broker, or a radio talk-show host. We have to stop this national obsession with what other people do with their own genitals.

The exceptions would be if there were proof that the interviewee's sexual activity involved a criminal act, or in an attempt to show the hypocrisy of that candidate's public statements. For instance, if Romney had spent the last decade preaching pre-marital abstinence in his speeches, he'd be open to questioning about his own habits. But even then, if we were talking about something that occurred in his personal life several decades ago, it would be hard to make the case that it was still relevant.

There are much more important matters on which to make our electoral decisions, matters that exist in both the present and future tenses. Romney's views on the war in Iraq, fixing the health care problem, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and even examining how his religious beliefs impact his political choices -- those are valid lines of inquiry for someone running for president.

Delving into someone's sexual history has nothing to do with the kind of leader they'd be. Let last night be the last time the question is asked of anyone.

Sign On The Door

With my daughter about to become a teenager, this column by Bruce Cameron (the man behind "8 Simple Rules") put a smile on my face. With his permission, I'm reprinting it here:

From a sign I recently posted to my teenage daughter's bedroom door:

Welcome to your room! Please take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with these instructions, which, like all of your father's rules, are designed to make your stay in his house comfortable and less inconvenient to his life.

Room Access: When you first enter the room, you'll notice that you'll have some trouble pushing the door into its fully open position. This is because you've elected to ignore the drawers and closet space provided for you, instead organizing all of your clothing in large heaps on the floor. I've given up trying to change your ways, so I've decided to make the best of the situation and assign your bedroom as sleeping space for our new puppy, who has proven so difficult to housebreak. Yours is the only room in the house where I can be reasonably sure it won't ruin the carpet.

Maid Service: Please note that we do not provide maid service for you, and even if we did I'm not sure a maid would be up to the task of making your bed. Your covers appear to have been run through a tree shredder--how you manage to sleep underneath what looks like a beaver dam is anybody's guess. Apparently you don't have enough time in the mornings to straighten your blankets, so I've decided to get you up each morning a full fifteen minutes earlier than the day before, until we find an hour that affords you the opportunity to address the situation. This will continue as unbroken process until I am waking you up before you've even gone to bed. If you think I'm bluffing, you probably don't remember that when you were a baby, you woke me up at four thirty every single morning for a year.

Bathroom: Speaking of mornings, you and your teenage sister have been playing out the same drama over the bathroom every weekday for as long as I can remember. It's a longer-running show than Cats, and it always climaxes with one of you standing in the hallway and screaming at the other. To preclude even one more encore presentation of "I Need To Use The Bathroom You've Been In There An Hour Hurry Up You're Making Me Late," I've done something rather innovative to the bathroom door: I've removed it.

Guests: Your room is your "property," as you often state, to the same extent as your contribution to the house payment, which is to say, zero percent. Still, you can have anyone you want in your room, as long as the person doesn't have any personality defects, such as "male."

Curfew: We have, by my calculations, spent over two hundred man hours arguing about curfew, which I always want to be "early" and you prefer to be "never." The whole exercise was, in my opinion, a real waste of breath, since you ignore the rules anyway. Apparently--and I cannot fault your logic here--you believe that if you just stay out late enough, I'll fall asleep and you can claim you were home in time and didn't want to wake me. To resolve this matter, when you're out on a date, I'll stretch out in your bed and wait for you to return. If I fall asleep, I imagine you'll decide it's okay to wake me up when you get home.

Incense: Recently you've taken to filling the atmosphere with strawberry-flavored pollution. Unfortunately, as is true with the music you listen to, the walls of your room don't prevent your tastes from leaking out into other people's senses. In fact, it sounds and smells as if the band has been playing so loudly they've set their instruments on fire. This is why I've put an exhaust fan in your room with the on/off switch in mine.

Of course, there is a more simple way to handle this: You're of legal age, now, you could just move out. I suppose it's inevitable that you're going to be doing so anyway. And then these rules will be unnecessary. Yet somehow I don't think I'll be happier; after nearly two decades of living with you, I sort of like having you around.

Copyright 2007, W. Bruce Cameron.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Stanley Bing "Crazy Bosses"

Today I talked with Stanley Bing about "Crazy Bosses." He says that in the last couple of decades, we've seen a new form of crazy boss, and breaks them down into five categories: The Bully, The Paranoid, The Narcissist, The Wimp, and The Disaster Hunter. Bet one of those applies to your boss -- or maybe to you.

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

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"

A few days ago, I posted the Color-Changing Card Trick as the Picture Of The Day and got a ton of hits for it. In fact, it's become one of YouTube's most-viewed videos.

Today on my show, I talked to Dr. Richard Wiseman, the creator of that trick and many other cool psychological experiments, including how to write the best personal ad, the funniest joke in the world, why you can't remember where you left your keys, and what subjects to avoid when speed-dating.

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