I'm going to share a medical secret with you. It's about having a colonoscopy, as I did yesterday.
When my physician first told me I'd have to have one, I was a little nervous, but I've reached the age where you're supposed to get screened for cancer and other problems, so I was resigned to it. Fortunately, they didn't find anything wrong. Even more fortunately, the whole hospital experience was a breeze.
What nobody told me was how un-breezy the day before was going to be. Remember, this is a procedure that tens of millions of people have had done. Two members of my extended family have had a colonoscopy within the last couple of years, but neither one of them -- nor anyone else -- ever shared with me the day-before warning. Since I'm sure you can't count on your friends or family either, I'll be the one to give you a heads-up.
The problem is that before the gastroenterologist goes exploring around in your colon with a camera on a tube inserted in your rear end, you have to be, um, as empty as possible. To achieve that, I was given two different kinds of laxatives. One came in pill form and was no problem. The other came in a powdered form, the equivalent of industrial-strength Drano.
The instructions from the doctor said that, on the afternoon before the procedure, I was to mix this prescription laxative with 64 ounces of a non-dairy, non-juice liquid and start drinking it every 10-15 minutes starting at 3pm. I checked the bottle to see how much I'd be consuming, and it read 255 grams. Turns out this laxative is also prescribed to people with serious constipation, in which case the dose is 17 grams per day -- and I had to have all 255 grams, meaning I was about to swallow two weeks worth of laxative in two hours!
I briefly considered stirring this stuff into a half-gallon of water, but didn't think I could take that taste. Instead, I added a whole bottle of orange Gatorade -- I can't stand the stuff, but I figured that the orange flavor would mask the taste of the chalk-like powder.
I was wrong.
It took me exactly one glass to realize that this was going to be an experience in nastiness that would go on until I finished it all. And this stuff works quickly. I had only finished the second glass when I began the first of several hurried visits to the bathroom. I'll leave out the disgusting parts of this, which I'm sure you can imagine, but suffice it to say that it was clear how the rest of my afternoon and evening were going to play out from that point on. I consider it one of the most unpleasant days of my life.
Somewhere around the fifth glass, I considered just giving up. Then I realized that would mean having to start the whole process again some other time, so it just seemed to make sense to get it over with. It also occurred to me that, despite not eating anything all day long, I wasn't hungry at all. My brain must have recognized that adding anything solid into this human sluice-gate system of mine, where whatever went in would be coming right back out, was not a pleasant prospect.
By the seventh glass, I thought about President Bush -- but not in a political cheap shot sense. He had just undergone a colonoscopy 9 days earlier, and the media had duly reported that doctors had removed five polyps from his colon and everything was fine. What they failed to mention was that he must have gone through the same preparations I was in the midst of. That means he'd gone through the same discomfort and was just as frequently out of action. Sounds to me like the 25th Amendment should have been invoked the day before the colonoscopy, too. There's no way even the President of the United States could have been thinking clearly while drinking down this Gatorade Goo and making frequent visits to the presidential potty.
The next morning, my wife and daughter drove me to the hospital, and here's where the easy part began. The staff at Barnes West were nice and efficient and had me ready to go within 15 minutes of my arrival. The toughest part was figuring out how to tie a bowtie knot behind my back on that backwards hospital gown (I actually was concerned with making sure that it was completely closed back there, until I remembered that half of the nursing staff was about to get a very good view of my butt, and it was just one of many they'd face that day).
Soon, gastroenterologist Dr. David Goran came in and explained what was going to happen during both my colonoscopy and endoscopy. He joked that they'd be sure to use a different tube when they went down my throat into my stomach than the one that went up the other end into my colon. He asked if I had any questions, and when I didn't, he said, "Okay, then we'll see you later." For a moment, I thought this meant he was leaving. Then I realized they were about to give me the general anesthesia. In the next moment, I was unconscious. In the moment after that, they were waking me up and he was telling me that everything had gone well and I was fine.
Because I wasn't awake for any of it, I have no memory of anything being done. There's actually part of me that wonders if anything was done, since I didn't feel a thing during or after the procedure. It's like when the mechanic tells you he's changed the oil on your car -- how do you know if he really did? It's not like Dr. Goran showed me a used air filter he'd replaced. I'm sure there's medical photographic evidence, but I'm not really interested in seeing it. After all, how would I know it came from inside me? I doubt that I'd recognize my own colon with any degree of certainty.
None of that mattered. I'd been checked out and there were no problems, so after they released me from the recovery room, the next stop was our favorite pizza place. No, I didn't wash it down with Gatorade. But I did make a mental note to tell everyone I could how easy the actual colonoscopy was and how horrible the day before had been.
Please recognize that I'm not telling you any of this to discourage you from having a colonoscopy, which is a potentially life-saving procedure. I hope you live long enough to have many of these screenings, and that each one shows nothing wrong.
I just want you to know what you're in for on the day before, since no one warned me.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
I'm going to share a medical secret with you. It's about having a colonoscopy, as I did yesterday.
Today I talked with Aaron Barnhart about the death of TV legend Tom Snyder and the possibility that Jimmy Fallon will replace Conan O'Brien when the latter takes over "The Tonight Show" from Jay Leno in 2009. Listen.
I was always a Tom Snyder fan, from the "Tomorrow" show to his ABC radio show to anchoring "Primetime Sunday" to his CNBC talk show to his Letterman-assisted return to late night on CBS in the mid-90s. Snyder obviously loved being on camera, and was the consummate TV entertainer. Like Regis Philbin, he commanded your attention, whether doing an interview or telling a story about something he'd noticed earlier that day. Even after he retired from TV, I kept up with him via his now-defunct website, where he shared stories, rants, and Colortinis.
It's a shame that NBC hasn't released more of his classic "Tomorrow" shows on DVD. For now, there's one 90-minute show with Tom and the Grateful Dead, Timothy Leary, and Ken Kesey, and another compilation with Tom interviewing punk and new wave acts like Elvis Costello, Joan Jett, and Patti Smith -- plus his raw encounters with John Lydon of the Sex Pistols and Wendy Williams of the Plasmatics. It's riveting stuff, and there's certainly more in the NBC vault that should see the light of day (or night, in his case) again.
Gary Stocklaufer weighs 516 pounds, and that's why he can't adopt his cousin's son. As Gary explained today on my show, the court cited his size as the reason to deny him approval for the adoption of baby Max. Ironically, the judge is the same one who allowed Gary and wife Cynthia to adopt another boy six years ago, when Gary was even larger than he is today.
Does size matter? Most of my callers were shocked by the court's decision, but a few said that Gary's likely to face health problems because of his obesity and that would have a direct effect on his ability to care for Max. Listen.
Two years ago, I was happy to fulfill Jan Baron's request to emcee a fundraising dinner for the Gateway Chapter of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. A remarkable group of people filled the room that night, all dedicated to helping people. I was especially moved by the story told by a teenage girl who talked about how CCFA and a team of doctors and nurses had helped her get through some very tough times, and how she just wanted to be treated like every other kid.
I was reminded of her story as I read a wonderful piece in today's Detroit Free Press by Jeff Seidel. It's the inspirational story of a boy named Alec, who lives in excruciating pain because he suffers from Crohn's disease. Like that teen girl, Alec lives a life his friends don't understand.
When he's not in the hospital getting IV treatments or spending time in a wheelchair, Alec tries to play Little League baseball. He's not very good -- Alec went almost the entire season without a hit -- but he tries, and his coaches didn't hesitate to send him to the plate against the best team in the league in the bottom of the 7th with two outs and two men on.
What happened next is like something from a Hollywood script, but better. You'll want to read the whole story.
posted at 11:40 AM
That's the Fish 'N Flush, a toilet with a working aquarium in the tank. This would seem to appeal more to men than to women, who would be facing away from the fish while taking care of business, right? The manufacturer's website says it "turns the bathroom into the center of attention," but it doesn't explain how it protects the fish against a night of burritos and coffee.
Monday, July 30, 2007
When I heard that NBC had a new fall series starring Uri Geller ("Phenomenon"), I knew I had to get James Randi back on my show to talk about it.
Apparently, this is similar to a series that ran in Israel, in which Geller was caught cheating on camera and held up to ridicule in the national press. Even by reality TV standards, this is really bottom-of-the-barrel stuff NBC is digging up, and they should be ashamed. Criss Angel (of A&E's "Mindfreak") is also involved in the show, and since Randi spoke to him recently, we talked about that, too.
I also asked Randi to tell the story of mentalist Banachek -- who performed at this year's Amazing Meeting and is a consultant on Angel's show -- who started his career as a teen by conning some paranormal researchers at Washington University, with Randi's help.
Here's my conversation with Bruce Calkins, general manager of Moller International, the company that has been trying to bring a Flying Car to market for several years.
He claims they have one now that would go for about $90,000 -- much less than the previous models, which would have cost close to a million. I asked him when they were delivering mine, whether I'd need an FAA license to fly it, and how quickly it would get me up and above the coming traffic snarls during The Big Fix on Highway Forty.
Personally, I'd like to get one of these and take it to a convention of people who believe we've been visited by UFOs, then hover above them and speak in some sort of robotic alien voice.
Here's video of the M200X Volantor flying car in action, with inventor Paul Moller at the joystick. You'll notice a crane with a tether to the top of the car -- I believe that's just a safety harness, not part of the mechanics of lifting and moving the vehicle...
Friday, July 27, 2007
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
I had a lot more coverage of the veterans healthcare issues on my show this afternoon.
Part of it was about the Presidential Commission which gave their recommendations to Bush today. This is the group he appointed after the Washington Post uncovered the Walter Reed scandal earlier this year, with Bob Dole and Donna Shalala the lead duo of the nine-member commission. In the Oval Office today, they gave Bush plenty of ideas that can be implemented immediately, many of them simply by executive order, since the Department of Veterans Affairs answers directly to him.
Naturally, Bush (as he always does) told them how much he appreciated their hard work -- and then said he wouldn't implement their recommendations right now. This is the same way he handled the feedback from the Iraq Study Group and the 9/11 Commission, first thanking then, then shoving their report in a drawer. Many of my listeners were outraged by any delay in fixing the veterans healthcare oversights, and expressed their dissatisfaction by calling the White House directly.
I discussed this with commission member Tammy Edwards, who has been an activist for veterans benefits since her husband was injured in Iraq two years ago and ended up with burns over 80% of her body. Listen.
When it comes to issues regarding soldiers who have served in this war, I always invite Paul Reickhoff back to my show. He's executive director of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America and, unlike the members of the presidential commission, Paul is not afraid to name names and place blame on the people responsible for letting the care of our men and women in uniform get so bad. Listen.
I also called upon the two US senators from Missouri.
Claire McCaskill explained how she's been there for the veterans since arriving in office earlier this year, and was a co-sponsor of a bill to address VA issues after the Walter Reed story. I challenged her on why this matter has become so wrapped up in politics, and why the Democrats have allowed it to get lost in the politics of funding the war in Iraq, when it would be so much easier to separate it and ensure that our veterans get the care they deserve. Listen.
Kit Bond followed, and when I asked him if he would pressure Bush to act immediately on the recommendations of the commission, he reported that the Senate had just passed (by a unanimous voice vote, I later learned) the Dignity for Wounded Warriers that McCaskill and Barack Obama had sponsored. Since his son Sam is a Marine serving in Iraq right now, Bond has a vested interest in making sure our veterans get taken care of when they return home. It was nice to hear him give credit to McCaskill and others. Listen.
Finally, our CBS News Capitol Hill correspondent Bob Fuss reported on hearings today in the House Veterans Affairs Committee regarding how the VA has denied mental health treatment to many veterans who have come home with post-traumatic stress disorder. One way they do that is by telling soldiers that they had a pre-existing personality disorder which makes them ineligible for care. This is a classic and indefenisble example of our government lying to our troops and refusing them the benefits they were promised when they volunteered for the service. Listen.
The challenge here to politicians of both parties is to make this a wedge issue. Rather than arguing about divisive issues like gay marriage just to appeal to your own political base, why not fight for the Americans who have volunteered to go where they're told to go and do what they're told to do, rather than allowing them to be abandoned or buried in bureacracy.
From the people who brought you the Cuba Gooding Jr. Cialis parody, here are the Role Models Dolls, starring Britney and friends... [thanks to John Jobst for the link]
While we're on the subject, here's an idea for Lindsay, Paris, Nicole, and the other members of the Brit Pack: use some of that party money to buy a limo and hire a driver. Then, when you ingest whatever you enjoy so much, you won't have to get behind the wheel yourself and take the lives of other drivers into your hands.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
"Support The Troops!" is our national mantra, but it apparently only applies until they return home. Then, it's more like "ignore the troops" -- particularly those who may need help from the very government they have served. This is a shameful way to treat our men and women in uniform.
Months after the scandal at Walter Reed, several veterans groups have sued the Department of Veterans Affairs, on behalf of hundreds of thousands of returning troops, for denying them disability pay and not giving them the mental health treatment they need. Today on my show, I spoke with Gordon Erspamer, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit.
He explained that, even though federal law mandates at least two years of health care to injured veterans, they are not getting it, especially when it comes to the mental health problems that affect troops who have been exposed to the horrors of this war. Worse, the VA has a backlog of around a half-million disability payments that have not been processed.
This is not a political matter. There's no left or right on this. This is about our government lying to our troops. They were promised they'd be taken care of, but that care is not being provided. The government that sent them to war is ill-prepared to deal with them when they return to the homefront. It is more than negligence, more than arrogance. It is the shame of a nation.
After the interview, I asked my colleague Carol Daniel for her reaction, considering her brother-in-law is fighting in Iraq right now. Carol got so choked up she could hardly express her anger. You may feel the same way.
As Erspamer spoke, I couldn't help but remember Donald Rumsfeld's line, "You go to war with the army you have." But eventually, that army -- the one you didn't provide enough flak jackets for, the one you didn't provide armored vehicles for, the one you didn't have a decent war plan for -- comes home. Some of them may seem intact because they have all their limbs still connected, but the ramifications of what's going on in their heads must be dealt with, and they deserve better.
Read the actual lawsuit claim here.
The London Telegraph has a story of a moment in Beatles history that's been untold until this week. It was the Summer Of Love, and the Fab Four were in an Abbey Road studio, hooked up to a worldwide satellite TV broadcast, performing "All You Need Is Love." In the US, it was seen on PBS stations. In the UK, it was on the BBC.
What you may not know is that the show included artists and performers from 14 countries, each chosen to represent their homeland: Pablo Picasso from Spain, Maria Callas from Greece, etc. The Beatles were the entry for England, and that did not go down well with some viewers.
In letters sent to the BBC -- revealed this week for the first time in response to a Freedom of Information request -- British viewers complained, "We did not do ourselves justice" and "Have we nothing better to offer? Surely this isn't the image of what we are like. What a dreadful impression they must have given the rest of the world" and "We flaunted The Beatles as the highlight of British culture, no wonder we have lost our image in the eyes of the world."
John, Paul, George, and Ringo were never told of the negative feedback. In fact, manager Brian Epstein was told by the BBC that the audience loved it.
That may have been true -- that the vast majority of the audience enjoyed their performance -- but there were then, just as there are today, a group of people who just weren't going to like anything "these kids" did. It may be difficult to believe, 43 years after Beatlemania came ashore, that anyone could view the band that way, but there were plenty of people on both sides of the ocean who felt threatened by changing tastes in pop culture encroaching on their safe world of entertainment. They were appalled by rock and roll, sure it was a horrible but passing fad, and determined to diss it whenever exposed to it.
Now, of course, the generation that grew up loving The Beatles has, in many cases, grown up to have adopted the same curmudgeonly attitude towards the musical favorites of the current younger generation: "Oh, these kids today, with their hair, and their music, and their clothes!"
Four decades ago, that meant rock and roll, hair to the shoulders, and pants that were too tight. Now, it means hip hop, hair that's different colors, and pants so loose they hang off the butt.
The real pressure will be on the next generation to come up with musical tastes, hairstyles, and fashion choices that offend their parents. All you need is....time.
Drew Carey will become host of "The Price Is Right." Howie Mandel does "Deal or No Deal." Bob Saget is in the midst of "1 vs. 100." Joe Rogan plays on contestants' "Fear Factor." Jeff Foxworthy asks "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?"
Clearly, if you want to host a game show these days, you first have to have a career as a standup comedian. But that's not how it always was. Used to be you had to work in radio first.
Bob Eubanks and Jim Lange were successful DJs before Chuck Barris chose them to front "The Newlywed Game" and "The Dating Game." Wink Martindale was a morning star in Memphis and at five different Los Angeles station before becoming synonymous with the words "game show host."
Art Fleming, host of the original "Jeopardy" in the 1960-70s, spent several years on the air in North Carolina and Ohio. After that incarnation of "Jeopardy" went off the air in 1979, Art returned to radio and spent a dozen years on KMOX.
Pat Sajak did afternoon drive in Nashville before becoming a TV weatherman and wheel-spinner. Tom Bergeron spent several years on the radio in New England. Even Bob Barker, who Carey will succeed, spoke into a radio microphone for years before Ralph Edwards chose him to host "Truth or Consequences."
But that era is over. Nowadays, the only way a radio guy gets a national TV hosting gig is to follow in the footsteps of Ryan Seacrest and outlast guys named Dunkelman.
Two other things. Since Barker got in trouble for a sex scandal involving the models on "TPIR," it'll be interesting to see how Drew Carey acts around them. After all, here's a guy who makes no secret of the fact that he's been a regular in more than one high-end strip club.
Oh, and the best game show host on TV these days is Pat Kiernan, the dry quizmaster on VH1's "World Series of Pop Culture." He not only runs the game well, but knows just how much to ad-lib and when. Perfect.
Sandy Tolan was back on my show today to talk about Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron. A few years ago, Sandy wrote the book "Me and Hank," about his correspondence with the Braves slugger at the time he was breaking Babe Ruth's career home run record. This afternoon, he offered some perspective on that achievement (and how Aaron handled the thousands of death threats and racial hatred that accompanied it) and compared it to the Bonds situation. Listen.
This weekend, Sandy had a piece on Salon urging MLB commissioner Bud Selig to be there when Bonds breaks the record, rather than repeating Bowie Kuhn's no-show mistake in 1974 for Aaron. Shortly after our interview, Selig announced he would "try" to be there. Gee, I hope he can get a ticket.
Sandy was last on my show a year ago talking about his book "The Lemon Tree," about a relationship between a Palestinian and an Israeli.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Ken Burns was on my show this afternoon to talk about his documentary "The War," a 14-hour look at World War II which will air on PBS beginning September 23rd. Burns has once again taken a huge subject and humanized it, personalized it, by showing us The War through the eyes of the people of four American towns. Thanks to a DVD set PBS provided, I've watched several hours already, and I'm quite impressed.
We talked about getting WW2 veterans over their long-time reticence to speak about their war experiences, the emotional impact of what they'd been through, and what it was like for the Americans who helped liberate the concentration camps. One of the most striking parts of "The War" regards the shameful interment in this country of American cities of Japanese descent, and the previously untold story of how some of them were then sent into combat on the front lines. We also touched on the social changes at home with women going to work en masse, and how the war jump-started the US economy after the long post-Depression malaise.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
I enjoyed Robert Wuhl's "Assume The Position 201" so much when it debuted this weekend on HBO that I invited him to talk about it today on my show. We talked about what he calls "the stories that made up America and the stories America made up" and challenging what we thought we knew.
I also asked him about his work on the 1982 series "Police Squad" (which begat the "Naked Gun" movies), why he was only in the first "Batman" movie, and the movie that cable made famous -- "Hollywood Knights."
Since Wuhl is a longtime friend of Barry Bonds, I couldn't help but wonder if there's such a thing as a "lighter side" to Bonds and if he thinks the criticism of Bonds is deserved. Listen.
Was Mayor Slay right to turn down a request to make September 2nd "Ike Turner Day" in St. Louis when Ike is in town to play at the Big Muddy Blues Festival? Looks like he rejected the idea after lobbying from women who don't want a wife-abuser honored like that -- but the Mayor hasn't offered any explanation for his decision.
Tom "Papa" Ray, owner of Vintage Vinyl, thinks the Mayor was wrong. As he explained on my show this afternoon, our town honors Charles Lindbergh for his aviation feats without regard for his adultery/bigamy/anti-semitism. Listen.
So, the question is, what should be considered when giving someone a public honor? Do Ike's musical accomplishments qualify him, as they did when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 2001 -- or does his history as a wife-beater disqualify him?
What about Chuck Berry, who had his own legal problems? Or the drug history of Ray Charles, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix? Since Heather Mills accuses Paul McCartney of hitting her during their marriage, would Slay deny McCartney a day in his honor if he came back to St. Louis?
Our studio is right across the street from the Archgrounds, a/k/a the Jefferson National Expansion Material -- named after President Thomas Jefferson who, while one of our greatest founding fathers, was also a slaveowner who had sex with slave Sally Hemings.
These mayoral proclamations, by the way, are not along the lines of the Medal Of Honor. Even Slay admits that the threshold for them is very low.
One year ago today, St. Louis was hit by massive thunderstorms that knocked out power throughout the area and caused havoc at Busch Stadium, too. Here's a repeat of the video taken that night at the ballpark in which a garbage can blows across the concourse and takes down one fan pretty hard...
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
After I told this story on my show a few minutes ago, I got several e-mails from people who want to see it so they can share it with everyone they know. It's the story of Aaron Dallas, a man who somehow got fly larvae under the skin on the back of his head -- and he could feel them moving around! Details here.
posted at 4:42 PM
Art Holliday was on my show this afternoon. When he's not anchoring the morning news on KSDK-TV, Art is making a documentary about Johnnie Johnson, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who was one of the architects of that great American art form, best known for playing piano on those early Chuck Berry hits.
We talked about the rock legends Art has interviewed for the movie (from Eric Clapton to Bonnie Raitt to Bo Diddley to Bob Weir), why Berry hasn't appeared on camera yet, how Keith Richards pushed for Johnnie to be inducted into the Rock Hall, and much more.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
My colleague Jon Grayson is a big fan of Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers and found this amateur video of the band performing after an Arizona Diamondbacks game last Friday.
If you forward to about the 2:55 point, you'll see two fans run out on the field, and the cops who chase them down. One cop tackles the woman with a great NFL-style takedown from behind, and then three other cops get the guy. Meanwhile, the band plays on -- and the song title, appropriately, is "Down Together."
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Jeffrey McCall was on my show this afternoon to talk about his book, "Viewer Discretion Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Influences."
We talked about Sen. Jay Rockefeller's attempts to have Congress give the FCC power to regulate violence on TV (including cable and satellite!), and the whole notion of nanny government and its role in what you see and hear. We also discussed why the Fairness Doctrine should not be revived, and he had a very interesting answer to my question about whether Americans are consuming more media than ever.
McCall is media studies professor at DePauw University.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Whenever I'm in New York, I'm always amazed at the sacrifices people are willing to make to live there. An hour-long commute is nothing. Spending two or three thousand dollars a year to take the train from the suburbs to downtown and back every day is just the price of living near The City. The overcrowding, the smells (both sweet and fetid), the constant activity -- all very exciting for a couple of days, but it leaves me longing for my nice, quiet suburban life here.
While in New York over this weekend, I read an article about a piece of Manhattan real estate going for $225,000. That sounds like a lot where you live, but it's a bargain in that town -- if you were getting a house for that kind of money, or even an apartment.
But you're not.
For your $225,000, you're buying a parking space. It's not in some exclusive residential neighborhood, or underneath Trump Tower. It's in the garage under your average apartment building. And once you've convinced your banker to give you a parking space mortgage at a reasonable rate, and made your down payment, you still haven't fulfilled your contractual obligations, because you still have to pay a monthly fee for maintenance.
Yes, just like a condo, you have to pay for the upkeep of your parking space. I suppose that means that when the lines start to fade, they get repainted, and if you drip some oil from your engine, someone wipes it off the concrete.
Some people who buy these spaces don't even have cars to put in them. They buy them as investments, knowing that there isn't going to be a parking space glut anytime soon, so the value of that chunk of garage is going to go up.
Personally, I'm holding out for a really good deal on an elevator. I figure I'll buy high and sell low.
posted at 11:57 PM
Here's that LA Times piece I discussed on my show this afternoon, in which Ned Parker points out Saudi Arabia's role in the violence in Iraq:
About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures made available to The Times by the senior officer. Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, he said. Fighters from Saudi Arabia are thought to have carried out more suicide bombings than those of any other nationality, said the senior U.S. officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity. It is apparently the first time a U.S. official has given such a breakdown on the role played by Saudi nationals in Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgency. He said 50% of all Saudi fighters in Iraq come here as suicide bombers. In the last six months, such bombings have killed or injured 4,000 Iraqis.That's Saudi Arabia, the country that gave us 17 of the 19 suicide skyjackers on 9/11/01. The country that we won't lift a finger against because of the black goo under their sand. The country that treats its women like third-class citizens and can't stop the Wahabbists from teaching anti-American and anti-Semitic hatred in its madrassahs, thus fomenting exactly the kind of mentality that breeds terrorists. The country whose role in that terrorism gets ignored while the spotlight is shone on Iran and Syria.
That's Saudi Arabia, our Partner In Peace.
Read Parker's entire piece here.
Ridley Pearson was back on my show today to talk about his new crime novel, "Killer Weekend."
I asked him how hard it is to start a new series, how people he knows feel about him basing fictional characters on them, and whether the plot -- a sheriff trying to foil an assassination attempt on a female presidential candidate -- brought him a visit from the Secret Service.
We also talked about the upcoming third book in the "Peter and the Starcatchers" series he writes with Dave Barry, which is due in October. Ridley revealed why the books won't become movies, but could become Broadway shows.
Bill Engvall returned to my show today to talk about his new sitcom, "The Bill Engvall Show," which debuts tomorrow night on TBS. We talked about it being a family comedy -- a rarity on TV these days, because the kids don't rule the house and the father isn't an idiot -- and how the "naked argument" scene you may have seen in the promos is based on a real-life situation. Listen.
- Stephen Dubner asks, "If public libraries didn't exist, could you start one today?"
- Ken Levine on how broadcasting baseball games isn't always done under the best conditions (some of these stories are from his classic book, "It's Gone! No, Wait A Minute," in which he recounts how he traded in the life of a sitcom writer for a few summers in the broadcast booth)
- Kelli B. Grant on "The Cheapest Days to Buy Certain Items"
posted at 10:03 AM
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Paul Reickhoff returned to my show this afternoon to discuss the progress report that says the Iraqi government has not met any of the benchmarks for repairing and stabilizing their country. The Bush administration denies this, of course, and insists we wait for the mid-September report from Gen. Petraeus -- but if there's no evidence by then of the Iraqis stepping up, what's Plan B?
Reickhoff is executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and always provides good perspective on issues related to this war. Listen.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Cedric The Entertainer returned to my show this afternoon to promote his Celebrity Bowling Ball, which goes down this Thursday night at the Bowling Hall of Fame here in St. Louis. We also talked about his new movie "Talk To Me" (starring Don Cheadle), his daughter's high school graduation, and how he can tell Shaq's sneakers by smell. Listen.
Kate Hanni returned to my show today to express her disappointment in Congressman Jerry Costello, who (in a June appearance on my show) promised to include more consumer protections in the FAA reauthorization bill, but hasn't lived up to those promises.
Kate also revealed how the airlines treat your lost luggage -- which they call "unclaimed" luggage, as if you didn't want it back and decided to abandon it or forget about it when it didn't show up at your destination -- by shipping them to a warehouse and then auctioning them off on eBay. Listen.
Looks like we're having some success in our efforts to force the Kansas City Royals to use Abba's "Dancing Queen" as their 7th-inning stretch song. From the original list of ten, they have narrowed the choices down to four, and "Dancing Queen" is one of them. The others include two versions of "Kansas City" (one by the Beatles, the other by Wilbert Harrison) and, for some reason, Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."
I'm sure they'll choose one version of "Kansas City," but if those two split the vote, and you vote often enough for Abba, we have a chance of squeaking by with "Dancing Queen." Here's the link -- just fill in some bogus info for the address page, then vote as often as you like.
posted at 4:06 PM
If you went to a comedy club in Boston in the 1980s, there was a 100% chance that you'd see either Lenny Clarke or Denis Leary onstage. Often, you'd get both of them, and maybe Steven Wright, too. Now, Leary stars on "Rescue Me" as firefighter Tommy Gavin, and his old buddy Clarke is part of the cast, as Tommy's Uncle Teddy.
Clarke was on my show this afternoon to talk about the show, how his longtime friend Leary resisted giving him the job, and about the early days in those comedy clubs. I also asked Clarke about the recent controversy involving Jack McGee, who went public with his anger at Leary because he was unhappy that his character (Chief Jerry Reilly) committed suicide in last week's episode.
We also discussed how Clarke contributes story ideas to "Rescue Me," and a classic real-life story involving Clarke, a large amount of alcohol, a city bus, and his mayoral campaign.
After yesterday's thrilling match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Christine Brennan writes about how nice it is to see a sport where its current stars pay tribute to those who came before them (Venus Williams saying she wouldn't be where she is if it weren't for Billie Jean King) and how those stars from the past actually show up to honor the new breed (Bjorn Borg congratulating Federer on tying his record of five consecutive Wimbledon championships).
One other Wimbledon note to NBC: please bring back Dick Enberg. He's the greatest multi-sport play-by-play announcer ever, and continues to do top-notch work on the ESPN telecasts. So, why aren't you using him, too? If John McEnroe can do both, so can Enberg -- and the two of them together are a great team. Ted Robinson isn't bad, but Enberg is the best, and the telecasts aren't as good without him.
posted at 10:33 AM
The annual Running Of The Bulls has started again at the San Fermin festival in Spain. I always root for the bulls, hoping they'll gore as many of the idiots as possible. Here's video of today's run, in which you can clearly see the bulls having a better day than the humans -- not only do some of the idiots get run down, they then get run over by other idiots who are part of the stampede behind the bulls.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Just days ago, I wrote about the uselessness of Kellogg's announcement that, to help fight the child obesity "epidemic," they would make their cereals healthier -- an effort I believe will have no effect on the eating habits and size of American children.
Now, a report says federal programs, at a cost of over a billion dollars each year, do not convince kids to eat more nutritiously, either. The Associated Press reviewed scientific studies of 57 programs targeting nutrition education, and found that 93% of them failed. Only four showed any success in changing the way kids eat.
One program gave free fruits and vegetables to fifth-graders, but the longer the program continued, the less they ate. Why? They didn't like the taste. Another program rewarded kids who ate fruits and vegetables, but guess what happened when the rewards stopped? So did the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Their eating habits hadn't been changed at all.
Have none of the people behind these programs ever been a child? Do none of them have children?
What's ironic here is that, while kids aren't changing their eating habits, those intent on affecting behavior still refuse to change their own -- they'll continue to throw good money after bad.
That money, of course, is really your tax dollars in action. And you were going to spend it in the produce aisle this weekend, weren't you?
- In 1972, George Carlin was busted at Milwaukee Summerfest for doing his routine about the seven words you can't say on television. Thirty-five years later, a reporter tracked down the police officer who arrested Carlin and offers a little history lesson.
- Richard Hatch, the first "Survivor" winner, is upset that he's still in jail while President Bush commuted Scooter Libby's sentence: "What a country! Excessive sentence! Where's my pardon/commutation?"
- Speaking of Scooter, if he's pardoned by Bush, does he get back the quarter-million-dollar fine he paid this week? Slate has the answer.
- Blender magazine lists the 100 Days That Changed Music, a fun argument-starter that includes lots of highlights, but also plenty of low points like #71, from November 16, 1985: "Starship’s 'We Built This City' reaches No. 1, the low-water mark of soul-crushing corporate rock -- delivered by the onetime tie-dyed standard bearers of hippiedom."
posted at 9:06 PM
We were talking today on my show about how Cardinal Nation will greet Barry Bonds this weekend at Busch Stadium, especially with him only 4 homers away from tying Hank Aaron's all-time record. Many callers said they can't get past the steroids allegations, and would boo him heartily. Several others said they'd like to see him hit home runs here, because they want to be part of the historic season in which he passes Aaron. There were also a few who hoped to get the ball once it's over the wall, and then sell it for a tidy sum on eBay.
Then there's this e-mail from Philip Agne:
Why I'll cheer Barry Bonds: because I'm a baseball fan.
Hear me out folks. I know this is not a popular view, but let's put some perspective on this. Has Barry taken steroids or growth hormone? Probably. Have others in this era? Absolutely. Have they all had the chance? No doubt! Would Hank Aaron have done the same in this era? Can't say no. Would Babe Ruth have done the same in this era? Same answer.
If I'm gonna boo Barry, or sit on my hands, as some suggest, I might as well do it all day at the ballpark. This is the steroid and growth hormone era. That's just the way it is. Baseball let it happen just like they let stimulants happen for over 90 years. They finally got around to doing something about that last year.
Do we seek to put asterisks by the marks of the "greenie" era? Nope. Why start now? Were they cheating? Not really. No rule against it. Just like steroids. Was it illegal? You bet! Do we accept that as a lesser infraction? Seems that most do. Do we wanna march the old timers out in front of Congress?...LOL. No way!
I hated watching these young guys lie, so don't make those old men do it. I take part of that back. One guy I know didn't lie, and he was the one vilified. Barry is simply the scapegoat here. He is a good one too. He wasn't well liked before he got big so it's easy to hate him now.
Now I'll get to the real reason I cheer Barry. He is the best player of this era, and everything that came with it. I can't blame him for when he played the game. I still love the game so I'll cheer Barry. It's not perfect and neither is he.
posted at 4:13 PM
Lots of reaction to my comments on yesterday about Abbey Taylor, the 6-year-old girl in Minnesota who had her small intestines sucked out by the drain in a wading pool.
I said that the golf course where the accident took place shouldn't hide behind their lawyers and deny that they'd done anything wrong. Instead, they should get ahead of the story, apologize to Abbey and her parents for this horrific accident, and promise to help pay her medical bills for a long time.
I understand about fiduciary responsibilities, and getting the insurance company's liability people involved, and all the rest. But we're talking about a little girl who, through no fault of her own, started out playing in the water and ended up with a lifetime of colostomy bags and intravenous feeding.
I felt the same way last month after Kaitlyn Lassiter lost both her feet when the cable snapped on that Six Flags ride in Kentucky. If you're the CEO of that company, you shouldn't wait for the lawyers and paper-pushers to vett what you're going to say. You immediately issue a statement offering your sympathy to the girl and her family, promise other Six Flags customers that you'll conduct a full safety investigation (of not just that ride, but every ride in every one of your parks), and you offer to pay all of Kaitlyn's medical expenses related to the accident forever.
In other words, you act like a human being who cares, not like some bureaucrat worried about the corporation's bottom line. Worse, in too many of these stories, you end up in court fighting the family with a team of lawyers, all to save a couple of million dollars which, in the end, won't bankrupt you, but will make their lives a little better.
It's not like there's an epidemic of intestine-sucking going on in America's pools -- there have been an average of 10 incidents a year since 1990 -- but, if there's any upside to this, there's the hope that other pool owners will hear Abbey's story and check the suction on their drains to prevent a similar accident hurting another kid.
And that someone in the management of that golf course in Minnesota hasn't had their heart sucked out.
A woman loved "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" so much that she watched it over a hundred times, saw the show in a London theater, and even bought the lunchbox. Knowing how she felt about the movie, her husband decided to build the title car for her. He bought a Land Rover and spent four years converting it into the car with wings. I can't post the photos, but you can see them here.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
It's a cinch to install, with just a power cord and the USB connection into the back of the PC, and comes with the Audacity software, which enables you to do noise reduction, click removal, and other functions to clean up the pops and hisses inherent in the vinyl. The turntable has both 33 and 45rpm speeds, so you can record at the higher speed and then use Audacity to convert the data to the correct speed as a time saver.
My only gripe with Audacity is the label-and-export function, which is not as smooth as it should be. But that's not Ion's fault. They built a durable turntable that does what it's supposed to do, allowing me to find a lot of music that I'd forgotten about and would probably never buy in a digital form (since I'd have to pay 99 cents a song, I figure I've already amortized the cost of the turntable two or three times over).
Here's the link.
posted at 9:43 AM
Judith Thomas e-mails,
Is it possible for you to put on your blog the article you read a few years ago re: what happened to the signers of our Declaration of Independence? I would like to share it with family and friends. It is truly remarkable and sad what those men sacrificed for the freedoms we are able to enjoy to this day.Rather than posting that oft-emailed piece, I'll link to Snopes' investigation of its claims, some of which are true, some false.
I'll also suggest checking out the movie version of the great Broadway musical "1776," which gets an annual viewing in my house. Here's an op-ed I wrote 3 years ago about a controversy that cropped up around showing that movie in school.
posted at 9:36 AM
Monday, July 02, 2007
MSNBC anchorwoman Mika Brzezinski refused to lead with the Paris Hilton story the other morning, resorting to tearing up the copy, telling the director to move the teleprompter forward to the next story, and finally shredding the copy when producers gave it to her a third time. Since only two dozen people are watching MSNBC in the morning, here's what you missed...
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Considering all the bad stories we've had in the last fortnight about airline passengers stranded on the tarmac, here's a good one -- if it's true. A Continental flight crew supposedly ordered 10 pizzas and had them delivered to a jet that sat on the ground for almost 4 hours. They asked the passengers not to tell Continental, or their jobs would be endangered. The question is, how did they get the pizzas past TSA?
posted at 7:04 PM
Kip Esquire points out that The War On Terror did not prevent last week's London car-bomb attempt: "The plot was foiled, not by warrantless wiretapping, not by Guantanamo, not by Britain's Big Brother panopticon system, not by seizing laptops at border crossings, not by liquids bans on airplanes, not by random suspicionless searches on subways......but by an ambulance crew and a tow truck driver just doing their jobs."
Stephen (Freakonomics) Dubner on the "gas-price gap" and the "smoking gap."
Cory Doctorow on how Google is offering HMO's the opportunity to buy ads to be shown opposite searches for Michael Moore's movie "Sicko."
Ken Levine offers up a montage of George Wendt as Norm Peterson on "Cheers."
Walter Dellinger on last week's Supreme Court ruling on race and schools.
Kiichi Miyazawa is dead. Outside of Japan, the former Prime Minister will forever be remembered as the man President George H.W. Bush vomited on in 1992.