Thursday, May 31, 2007

Spell Check

  • Aaron Barnhart is right on the money in his review of ESPN's coverage of the National Spelling Bee
  • Slate explains how spelling bees are different in other countries
  • The best non-fiction movie about spelling bees: "Spellbound"
  • The best fictional movie about spelling bees: "Akeelah and the Bee"

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."

Movie Monitor

The Regal movie theater chain has introduced a wireless device they give to select patrons, who can then report problems in the theater...

The folks at New York magazine didn't think that covered enough real-life situations, so they designed their own device...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Let Whose Kids Walk?

In Fort Worth, Texas, there's a controversy about 613 high school seniors who weren't allowed to walk across the stage at commencement because they hadn't passed the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) exam, and they can't graduate until they do. So, a dozen protestors showed up outside one high school to demand that the district change its policy, and the strength of their argument was perfectly captured in the screen grab above, taken from local TV coverage. Note the wording of the sign: "Let Are Kids Walk!"

Maybe the parents should be forced to take the TAKS exam, too.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Over 400,000 Sudanese have been killed. Over 2.5 million have been dispaced from their homes. Those are the growing numbers from the genocide in Darfur.

Today, President Bush announced additional US sanctions against Sudan. Will that help? Is there anything that can stop the mass murder being conducted by a government against its own people? Is the solution diplomatic and political, or will there need to be military involvement? Are these sanctions too little, too late?

I discussed these and other questions today on my show with Alex Meixner, US Policy Coordinator of the Save Darfur CoalitionListen.

High Power Lines

Ever wonder who works on those electrical lines, the ones high up on the towers, dozens of feet above hills and countryside? Guys like this, who understand the science of electricity and how to manage it -- and deal with their phobias, too [thanks to Chris Hargraves for the link]...

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.


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.

Paul Rieckhoff returns

Lots of issues to talk about with Paul Reickhoff today on my show. He's the executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an outspoken advocate for our men and women in uniform.

I asked Paul about the strain and drain our troops are feeling due to extended deployments, and his reaction to John Edwards' suggestion that you celebrate Memorial Day by hoisting anti-war banners and signs at parades and other events. That's a proposal that just as exploitative and tasteless as if war supporters used the day to promote their cause.

We also talked about the war funding bill compromise reached today between the White House and Congress, what the troops are telling him about how the surge is going, and the question of using timelines and benchmarks in the war.


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.

Worth A Link

  • Kip Esquire on a consumer group's ridiculous demand that Barbra Streisand's concert in Rome next month be canceled because the tickets cost too much
  • Christine Brennan on Michael Vick's fighting dogs
  • Yahoo Answers delves into the biggest question for Sunday's "Sopranos" episode -- what the heck is a Lincoln Log sandwich?

Knocked Out With One Punch

National Geographic animation shows how a single punch can knock someone out...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Handful of Turtles

Quite a handful -- five hatchlings of an endangered species known as Egyptian tortoises. They are the offspring of several tortoises that were found in a smuggler's suitcase two years ago in Naples, Italy. All of them now belong to the zoo in Rome.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

15 Years Later

Tonight marks the 15th anniversary of Johnny Carson's last "Tonight Show." But that wasn't his last TV appearance. Just under two years later (5/13/94), he did this walk-on during a Letterman broadcast from LA.

You'll note that Carson seems ready to deliver a line after the standing ovation, but with his usual impeccable timing, decides to simply get up and walk off with a quick "Good night" to Letterman. Perfect.

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.


Hand Shadows

This may be the best use of hand shadows I've ever seen, even if it does end up being a car commercial...

If that embedded video won't play, click here to see it.

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.

How Much Is Gas?

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.”

Congress and Gas Prices

Should Congress do something about gas prices? Mark Cooper thinks so, and testified about it before the House Judiciary Committee committee yesterday.

This afternoon, he was on my show to explain what he wants them to do, and what the reaction was from the congressmen regarding increasing refining capacity, and forcing auto manufacturers to raise fuel economy standards. That led to me asking Cooper, who is research director for the Consumer Federation of America, why he isn't talking about the sacrifices individual Americans have to make to help solve this problem.

All this comes at a time when AAA says Americans aren't cutting back on travel plans for Memorial Day weekend, despite the price of gas.


Man From Mars Radio Hat

No, that's not an early version of a satellite radio receiver. It's one of the bizarre vintage ads you'll find on this site. [thanks to Jeff Olsen for the link]

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.

Speeding Sofa

How fast does your couch go? Check out this video of the new world record holder, who got his specially-designed sofa up to 92mph! No word on its EPA rating for cushions-per-gallon.

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.

Jerry Falwell's God

With the news that tele-evangelist creep Jerry Falwell is dead (and somewhere, a Tele-Tubby is smiling), enjoy Roy Zimmerman performing his song "Jerry Falwell's God"...

Added at 8:13pm: Timothy Noah at Slate has compiled a Jerry Falwell Hit List.

Cow With Two Noses

Meet Lucy, the cow with two noses. Okay, it looks like one snout and one nose, but what's the last time you saw that on a cow? The story is here.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

Two observations about "Spider-Man 3."

1) In "S3," when the black goo from space turns Peter Parker into his evil alter-ego, isn't there a better way to show that he's gone to the dark side than just having Tobey Maguire comb his hair forward? Don't get me wrong. I think Maguire's a good actor, and he was especially good in this role in the second movie, when he had to play Spider-Man as a lonely, unappreciated hero who didn't earn a penny from saving all those lives. But if there's one thing Maguire can't play, it's The Bad Boy, so simply giving him bangs and having him dance like a third-rate John Travolta does not make him seem evil. It makes him seem like Crispin Glover.

2) How many times will Kirstin Dunst's character, Mary Jane Watson, have to fall from great heights before she decides she's had enough of being Spider-Man's girlfriend?
"Peter, I like you a lot. I may even love you. But there are only so many times a girl can be hurtled off a skyscraper and see the sidwalk rushing up at her before she decides she'd like to live a slightly more normal life. I know you've always been there to catch me, and I appreciate it, but one of these days you'll be fighting a gooey purple amoeba-looking villain, and I'll be hanging by my fingertips from the outside of some construction crane that just can't bear the weight of being crushed under a giant anvil of sludge, and I'll slip and you won't be there to catch me, and, well, I guess I'm trying to say that, before that happens, we're through right here and now."

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.

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.

Hair Dresser

If you take your eyes off that model, you might notice that the dress she's wearing is made entirely from human hair. A Croatian company made it from 165 feet of blonde hair. What a waste -- they could have donated it to Locks Of Love and done some good with the hair.

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 braeks 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.

Yo, Yo-Yo!

When I was a kid, I thought I was pretty good with a yo-yo, even if I had to stop every once in awhile to unwind the knotted string.  Little did I know that someday there would be guys who could do stuff like this.  Warning: the moves are amazing, but the song will make you crazy.

Thanks to Dave King for the link.

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.

After hearing Richard, you'll want to buy his book "Quirkology: the Curious Science of Everyday Lives." Richard's website has lots more, too.

Affirmative Action Debate

On my show today, Tim Asher, executive director of the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative, made his case for a referendum to do away with affirmative action in education, employment, and public contracts. He's trying to get enough signatures to get the proposal on the ballot next year. On the other side of the debate was State Senator Joan Bray, who made the case that affirmative action has been a successful practice for years. Listen.

Colby Buzzell's Ambush Story

A couple of months ago, Colby Buzzell was on my show. He was an infantryman in Iraq who blogged about his war experiences. Listen.

His writing was so good, a publisher turned it into a book, "My War: Killing Time in Iraq," an all-too-real look at the day-to-day life of a US soldier at war. Having sat next to him in our studio, I can tell you that this guy is the real deal. You not only want him on your side in a fight, you also want to listen to him tell stories about other fights he's been in, with the rawness and intensity mixed with cleverness and humanity.

One of his stories was about the day his unit was ambushed, and he looked over from his position atop a tank to see a man pointing an AK-47 at him and firing. The PBS special "Operation Homecoming: Writing The Wartime Experience" included a version of that story in the form of this clever animation...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Month of Mayhem in Iraq

Today on my show, some first-person perspective on the war in Iraq from CNN's Michael Holmes, who has been their eight times -- and actually covered the conflict outside the Green Zone. His special, "A Month of Mayhem," will air Saturday and Sunday at both 7 and 10pm CT.

Holmes has a very good answer for critics who say the media is only reporting the bad news from Iraq, and contends that much of what we see is actually sanitized (he has seen a lot of hellish activity that he could never show on TV). I asked him whether there's such a thing as a normal safe day for most Iraqis and how they know who the enemy is when there are no uniforms.

Holmes is very fond of the troops -- having spent lots of time with young soldiers and seen them mature on the job -- and is among those who believe the US can't pull out of Iraq now, so we discussed what "a win" would mean, what needs to happen before victory can be declared, and whether Gen. Petraeus is the man for the job.


Divorce Billboard

Here's the controversial billboard that was up in Chicago for two days before being torn down last night. Lawyers complained that it demeaned their image. Religious groups complained that it was inappropriate. Marriage counselors complained that it would cause more people to get divorced. Naturally, all the publicity has made the phones ring off the hook for the women who run the law firm.

Their Generation

Pete Townshend's classic lyric, "Hope I die before I get old," means a little bit more when it's sung by a 90-year-old man. That's Alf, lead singer of the The Zimmers, a group of British senior citizens who are the subject of an upcoming BBC documentary. The finale puts the group of old folks inside Abbey Road Studios to sing The Who's "My Generation."

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sunglasses Face Catch

One guy throws the sunglasses, the other guy catches them -- with his face!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Up-Close Tornado Video

Storm chasers Reed Timmer and Joel Taylor were only 50 yards away from the violent tornado that touched down in Ellis County, Oklahoma, this weekend -- and had the video camera rolling...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Parents & House Parties

Hot topic on my show today is a new ordinance in Olivette (MO) that makes parents reponsible for underage drinking at their house, even if they aren't present while the house party is going on.

Supporters say it will not only protect teenagers, but also cut down on noisy, rowdy house parties that take place all over West County on a regular basis.

I question how you can hold parents accountable for something their children do while they're not even there, and how effective the law will be if the underage drinkers themselves are not held more responsible than they currently are (what message does this send to them?).

The ordinance reads,
It shall be unlawful for any person in control of a premises [defined as own, lease, or rent], to leave a premises when it is reasonably foreseeable that said premises may be used for a gathering at which alcoholic beverages or controlled substances may be in the posessesion of or consumer by minors.
Among the many calls to my show this afternoon was one from Olivette city councilman (and former mayor) Jim Baer, who defends the ordinance -- and says you should never leave teenagers home alone.


Color-Changing Card Trick

One of the highlights of The Amazing Meeting each year is an appearance by Dr. Richard Wiseman, a British psychology professor who does some very interesting and very entertaining research, much of it about perception. Here's a sample of his work, The Color-Changing Card Trick. See if you can catch him making the switch...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Gas Prices

With gas at (or above) the $3/gallon mark here in St. Louis -- up 5¢ in a day, 24¢ in a week, 50¢ in a month -- we were back on the topic today on my show.

Do you know what the secret is to spending less on gas? You have to use less gas. That's the only way -- not those crazy e-mail ideas you get about a one-day gas strike, or boycotting one brand of gas (check for why those won't work), not the politicians who want to pass price-gouging legislation, not price controls (a disastrous move when it was tried during the oil crisis three decades ago). It comes down to supply and demand, and that equation can only be changed through conservation:  use less, pay less.

It's both simple and difficult, and it means sacrifice, which is why there isn't much talk about it. It's just like the formula for losing weight, which also boils down to four words:  eat less, exercise more.

That's too hard for most of us. We want a magic pill or a diet where we can eat whatever we want without moving around and still have the pounds melt away. That doesn't work, and there's no magic pill for lower gas prices, either. So stop asking everyone else to make one.

Today I asked Ben Brockwell of the Oil Pricing Information Service how much higher he sees gas prices going, considering we haven't even gotten to Memorial Day and the demand of "summer driving season" yet. Listen.

Bird Splat

Don Stevens submitted this photo, with the note:
I am an astronomer from Ohio. I work for a local university at their observatory, Perkins Observatory. As I was setting up for one of our weekend public programs, I noticed something on the glass of one of the doors. I was amused at what I beheld. As you can see from the picture, a bird had an unfortunate encounter with the door. From the imprint it looked as if the bird was going full speed with no clue the glass was there. We did not find a body so I imagine the bird survived the encounter. The imprint is clear enough to know it was a pigeon. From the other "material" radiating out from the impact zone, it was a big surprise to the poor bird.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Worth A Link

  • Mark Fisher writes about a judge in DC who is abusing the legal system to sue a dry cleaner for losing a pair of pants. They were willing to settle the case for the remarkably high sum of $12,000. The judge refused. He wants more. A lot more. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $65 million!
  • Steve Chapman debunks the alleged pay gap between men and women.
  • Casey Lynch debunks claims by Dr. Phil and others that video games are responsible for the carnage done by Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho -- it turns out Cho didn't own any video games or gaming consoles.