New to the Movies You Might Not Know list: two movies written by Scott Frank.
First is "The Lookout," with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a guy who was a big shot in his small town until a tragic car accident, which left him some mental problems and a job as a janitor in a bank. He gets drawn into a plot to rob that bank by some locals who know his history and take advantage of him. Jeff Daniels plays his blind roommate. Isla Fisher plays, well, the Isla Fisher redhead vixen role. With Bruce McGill as the kid's father (this guy has had quite a career as a character actor since he was D-Day in "Animal House").
Second is "Out of Sight," based on an Elmore Leonard book, with George Clooney as an escaped con and Jennifer Lopez (before she was J-Lo, in a very solid performance) as US Marshall Karen Sisco, who is assigned to track down Clooney and falls for him in the process. The scene with the two of them locked in the trunk of a car is worth the whole movie. With the always-reliable Ving Rhames, plus Dennis Farina, Steve Zahn, and an almost unrecognizable Albert Brooks.
Scott Frank later went on to write the underrated "Karen Sisco" TV series, which had a too-brief run on ABC with the yummy Carla Gugino as the title character. He's also responsible for the screenplays for "Get Shorty," "Minority Report," and "The Interpreter."
Check out the entire Movies You Might Not Know list and let me know one of your favorites I've left off.
Friday, August 31, 2007
New to the Movies You Might Not Know list: two movies written by Scott Frank.
Today I talked with Robert Kaplan about his PBS documentary "Inside America's Empire." It's a fascinating look at how our military is trying to fight the global war on terrorism with ideas, not just arms, and how the front lines are not just in Iraq and Afghanistan. He refers to the special forces as "warrior/diplomats," because of their mission, which is more about training and working with indigenious armies than in fighting their battles for them. Kaplan believes this serves our interests much better than a policy of isolationism would. Listen.
Kaplan's new book, "Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts," explains this work even more, going into detail about how far-flung the US military really is (we currently own or rent some 700 bases around the world).
Today I talked with John Shelhorse, attorney for Delea Payne, the daycare center driver who was arrested after leaving a 3-year-old boy in a van outside the St. Louis Science Center earlier this month on a field trip.
Shelhorse explained what happened on August 7th, and how the boy was left behind. The case has gotten renewed attention because of last week's death of a 7-month-old boy left in a car by his parents, who were not arrested.
Shelhorse says it's not fair that his client, a black day care center employee, has been charged with a crime while the parents of Sophia Knutsen, who are white medical professionals, have not. He's not advocating that they go to jail, but also doesn't think his client should be prosecuted when the boy turned out to be unharmed.
How about this for a high school prank?
In Hilliard, Ohio, there's a rivalry between Davidson and Darby high schools. For their annual football game, Davidson student Kyle Garchar spent 20 hours devising a card stunt for the crowd. He snuck into the Darby's stadium before the game and put cards on the seats in three sections, with explicit instructions on when to hold up the cards so everyone could see them. What the Darby fans in those seats didn't know was that they were spelling out "We Suck!" Naturally, Kyle got the whole thing on video, which you'll see below.
There were some empty seats, so the message doesn't look as good as it should, but you've got to give Kyle some credit for creativity and effort. Unfortunately, instead of credit, the principal at Davidson gave Kyle a 3-day suspension and banned him from extracurricular activities.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Gary Stocklaufer called me this afternoon with some bad news.
Judge John O'Malley has refused him a re-hearing in the matter of adopting Baby Max, saying "the petitioners were given a full and fair opportunity to present all evidence regarding this matter, which resulted in a finding by the Court that placing the child in the custody of the Petitioners would not be in the child's best interest."
Gary and Cindy are at the end of their rope, having spent over $10,000 and exhausting their savings to fight for their son. Now, they've hired a new attorney and hope to appeal the decision. What isn't being taken into account here are the wishes of the birth mother, who personally asked Gary and Cindy to take care of Max.
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, if Gary's weight was the only reason the court used as an excuse not to allow him to adopt Max, then all his efforts to lose that weight -- including gastric bypass surgery at Renaissance Hospital in Dallas -- should be taken into account.
Judge O'Malley should give Gary and Max another chance.
posted at 4:42 PM
Today on my show, I talked with Noel Blanc about his father, Mel Blanc, the voice of so many classic cartoon characters -- Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Barney Rubble, Sylvester and Tweety, etc.
Mel taught Noel how do to some of those voices, but the son never went into the father's profession fulltime. We talked about what it was like growing up with his Dad and his alter egos, and various aspects of Mel's career. We also discussed Noel's current role as a spokesman for Great American Ink, which sells animation cels from classic Warner Brothers and Disney cartoons.
Two years ago, I wrote a column advocating "Scalping The Scalping Laws." Among my reasons for making scalping legal was the simple fact that you can buy anything else in America and re-sell it for any price you like (thus the success of eBay). Today, the Missouri House and Senate have passed an economic stimulus bill that includes language legalize ticket scalping. It's headed for Governor Blunt's desk, and he's likely to sign it.
For years, sports teams and concert promoters and venues wanted authorities to crack down on scalpers, claiming it hurt their fans. What they were really protecting was their own interest, of course. They didn't like the fact that someone else was making money on their product.
Now, teams and promoters have done a 180, and support allowing the re-sale of tickets to all events. Why? Once they realized they can't stop out-of-state ticket brokerages and fans using online sites like StubHub, they decided to get a piece of the action themselves. The teams want to set up their own re-sale operations, in which they could add a "service charge" to the transaction, and urge season ticket holders to conduct all business through that official site. They also claim it would cut down on counterfeiting.
Today on my show, I asked Michael Naughton for his perspective. Naughton is VP of Finance and Ticketing for the St. Louis Rams.
Here's another experiment. It's not one of his, but Richard Wiseman introduced me to it at The Amazing Meeting 4 last year. The video was produced by the Professor Daniel Simons at the Visual Cognition Lab at the University of Illinois.
In the video, you'll see a group of college students tossing basketballs around in a hallway. Some are in white shirts, some are in black shirts. The idea is that you have to count the number of times the students in the white shirts touch a basketball. It takes a keen eye to keep track of them as they move around. I can't embed the video for copyright reasons, but you can watch it here, then come back to this page for the second part.
Okay. Now, go back and watch it again -- the exact same video -- this time keeping an eye on the students in the black shirts, and see if you notice anything you missed the first time.
Note: If you're going to comment on this, please don't give anything away.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
On the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I had Jed Horne back on my show this afternoon to talk about how New Orleans is doing. He's the former metro editor of the Times-Picayune and author of "Breach Of Faith," a definitive narrative on what the storm did to his town.
I asked him what people in New Orleans think of President Bush, Mayor Nagin, and Governor Blanco. We also talked about why the levees still haven't been rebuilt to a safe level, how the economy of the city is doing, whether people who went back to New Orleans have stayed, and how important the Saints were last season to the area's morale.
This afternoon, I spoke with director John Badham, who shared some great stories from the many movies and TV shows he has made through the years.
Badham explained how he got John Travolta to walk in unison with "Stayin' Alive" when shooting that iconic opening scene for "Saturday Night Fever," and how he later battled with the actor over a scene on a bridge. That led to a discussion of why a director should never go to the mat with his cast, as Badham mistakenly did with Richard Pryor while shooting "The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings."
We also talked about how Badham humanized the computer in "War Games" by giving it a distinctive voice, why he was fired from the movie version of "The Wiz," and why making an episode of a TV series is much harder than making a feature film. Badham started as a TV director, moved to movies, and has recently worked on episodes of "Heroes," "Crossing Jordan," "Las Vegas," and "Psych."
Badham's book, "I'll Be In My Trailer," is a great primer for aspiring moviemakers or anyone who's just a movie fan. Listen.
The rules of the men's room aren't written down anywhere, and they're not exactly passed on from generation to generation. If you're a guy, you just grow to understand and follow them. Unless you're Senator Larry Craig, apparently.
For his sake, let's review...
Rule #1: No talking. There might be lengthy conversations going on in the Ladies Room, but men keep it to a minimum, usually no more than a "hey" or a "howzit going?" You're here for one purpose, then wash your hands and get out.
Rule #2: No looking. Sideways glances at the urinals are frowned upon, and sneaking a peek through the crack in the stall door can get you a ballpoint pen in the eyeball. It's okay to check for feet under the door, but otherwise, keep your eyes on your own business.
Rule #3: No touching. This one should go without saying.I don't know how you even get your foot under the partition between stalls to a point where you touch the foot of the guy next door. Even Cirque du Soleil contortionists find this move odd.
Rule #4: Check to see if there's toilet paper in the stall before you sit down. If you don't, you risk having to talk to the guy next door and begging him to spare a square. This is funny when Elaine Benes does it, but unbelievably awkward in the real world.
Rule #5: Courtesy flush.
Thanks to Senator Craig, we have to add one more rule:
Rule #6: If you're charged with soliciting gay sex by touching tootsies with an undercover cop in an airport men's room -- and you weren't doing it -- don't plead guilty!!! Instead, deny it immediately and fight the charges, rather than risk besmirching your reputation. This is especially true if you've already had to deal with similar allegations in the past. As history proves time and time again, keeping quiet about it and/or trying to cover it up will only make things worse.
Being straight, I'll admit to a lack of knowledge on the whole concept of trying to pick someone up in the bathroom. It's not just that we're all guys in there, it's that we're in a public men's room, an inherently disgusting place. I don't care if the janitor has just come through and cleaned up -- it won't stay that way. In a really busy public bathroom, there's enough effluvia to keep a colony of bacteria happy for a century. And this is where you're looking for some action?
I feel sorry for the undercover cop who was assigned to that duty, if you'll pardon the expression. Sitting in that stall for long periods, just waiting for a guy next door to make his move. At a certain point, any violation of the Rules Of The Men's Room is going to be worthy of an arrest, if only because it means getting out of there.
The only worse job has to be men's room attendant. Something must have gone horribly wrong in your life to get to the point where you choose that as your occupation. Who wants to spend several hours a day in there, hearing those sounds and smelling those smells?
Talk about a profession that long ago passed the point of necessity. I can operate my own faucet, thank you very much. In some men's rooms, the attendant empties out the paper towel dispensers so you can only get them from him. Then he stands there while you wash your hands, hovering and violating Rule #2, waiting for a tip. I much prefer those motion-activated dispensers, which never make you feel guilty for not handing over a buck.
I can't help but shake my head everytime I see a men's room attendant who has laid out that little display of items for sale, from cologne to candy. Mmmm, there's nothing I love more than a Three Musketeers bar I bought in the bathroom. Yuck. How is this guy staying in business?
He could at least post the Rules Of The Men's Room on the wall, just in case any US Senators come in.
It's been awhile since I posted one of Roy Zimmerman's satirical songs. This one is a brilliant swipe at the Defenders of Marriage -- many of whom end up being outed, divorced, or otherwise disgraced in numbers in direct proportion to the volume of the bile they spew. With a special tip of the hat to Senator Larry Craig...
Zimmerman has more songs here.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Four weeks ago on my show, I talked with Gary Stocklaufer, who was not allowed to adopt Baby Max because Gary weighed over 500 pounds -- despite the fact that Max is Gary's cousin.
The baby's mother couldn't take care of Max, so Gary and his wife Cindy (who are already foster parents for Bobby, who is now 8 years old) took him in and filed the paperwork to legally adopt the infant. That's when a judge took Max away from them.
Today, Gary was back for an update. He has lost 83 pounds, and last Friday underwent gastric bypass surgery that will help him lose another 100 pounds by the end of September, and a total of 225-250 pounds in the next year. So, if his weight is the only obstacle the state agencies cite as the reason to deny Gary's adoption of Max, they will no longer have that excuse.
But Gary and his wife Cindy still can't catch a break -- the judge won't grant him a new hearing and Baby Max's guardian ad litem has filed motions blocking his adoptive efforts. All of this is not only draining pounds from Gary's body, but bucks from his bank account, too.
Regis Philbin will begin the 20th year of his nationally syndicated morning TV show next week (even though they're promoting it as the "20th anniversary," it went on the air 9/5/88). To celebrate, the show producers have posted video of the "host chat" segment from that first morning with Regis and Kathie Lee.
By this point, Regis had been doing the local New York version of this show for five years, including three and a half with Kathie Lee, and Regis had been successful essentially the same show elsewhere (e.g. "AM Los Angeles").
Few television personalities have been able to make as personal a connection with viewers as Regis. "Host chat" has always been the core of his success. His ability to spend 15 minutes every morning talking spontaneously, without any writers, about what he did the night before, the frustrations of his daily life, etc., made him unique in the TV business.
With "host chat," and Regis' natural broadcasting skills in place, taking the show national was more a matter of technical matters and marketing than putting on a whole new product from scratch.
As you'll see, the Regis act hasn't changed much through the years, although somewhere along the way, he adapted several aspects of Dana Carvey's impression of him (e.g. shouting for emphasis, referring to himself in the third person). The video segment also includes an idiotic visit from an astrologer -- Regis always fell for that crap -- who, to my knowledge, never gained any fame anywhere besides his appearances on this show.
Monday, August 27, 2007
On my show this afternoon, I talked with BadJocks.com publisher Bob Reno about the ongoing problem of hazing among college athletes -- with photos of their activities showing up on social networking sites like Facebook and WebShots -- and the schools that aren't doing enough to stop it. Listen.
Today I talked with PETA activist Dan Mathews about the Michael Vick case, the guilty plea the judge accepted today, and what kind of punishment PETA feels would be appropriate.
Mathews and I are polar opposites -- he's a vegan, I'm a carnivore -- but I don't understand how anyone showed up outside the courthouse today to support Vick. On the other hand, I disagree with PETA's efforts to get the NFL to put a clause in its player contract banning cruelty to animals "in all its forms." Pretty hard for a sport played with a ball called the pigskin, which is made of leather. Would it mean players couldn't wear leather, or have leather seats in their Escalades, or have burgers served at the concession stand at The Dome?
We also talked about whether PETA's extremist attitude and actions (many of which Mathews led) help or hurt the animal rights cause, and about the full page ad taken out by the Center For Consumer Freedom which claims that PETA has killed over 14,000 dogs.
Mathews' book is "Committed: A Rabble-Rouser's Memoir."
Friday, August 24, 2007
Today, I joked with comedian Jeff Cesario about Nicole Richie's hellish 82-minute stint in jail, the single day behind bars Linday Lohan has been sentenced to, and what Michael Vick's punishment should be. We also discussed subjects as varied as the Arena Football championship game you missed this weekend and how shaky the Iraq government is.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
I always kid Jeff about how well his DVD ("You Can Get A Hooker Tomorrow Night") is selling, but it's actually a very funny hour of his standup. You can through Jeff's website. There's more of Jeff's material at his sports parody site Sportalicious.com, too.
Here's the newest illusion from Professor Richard Wiseman, "Corkology." See if you can figure out how it's done...
Wanna know how he did it? Here's the reveal. Don't forget Wiseman's book, "Quirkology: How We Discover The Big Truth In Small Things."
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Again today, St. Louis public schools sent kids home early because it was too hot (the heat index was over 100 before noon), and announced that schools won't even open tomorrow. That's three days this week that no one has been able to teach or learn anything other than how to sweat -- in the first week of school -- because 30% of city schools have no air conditioning.
Even the suburban school districts (like the one my daughter attends, where classes started on August 13th!!) are suffering from the heat and humidity. Kids are getting nauseous and dizzy on busses. Elementary schools aren't letting them go outside for recess. Sports teams and marching bands are calling off practices. Teachers are uncomfortable.
All of this is more evidence in favor of my argument that schools shouldn't start until after Labor Day. Revert to the Jerry Lewis Rule -- when you see him on the telethon, school starts in two days. Take these two weeks at the end of August and move them to the first two weeks of June, when average temperatures are 8-10 degrees cooler. You still get in the same number of days, but avoid the heat problems in August, not to mention the increased energy costs of trying to cool the school.
Of course, the administrators are nice and cool in their air-conditioned offices. Today on my show, I asked Deanna Anderson, assistant superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools, whether the district was considering moving the calendar schedule, and was surprised at how vehement she was that nothing needs to be changed. None of her arguments hold up logically -- listen for yourself.
Today I talked with Marlise Kast about her years as one of the top tabloid reporters for The Globe and other supermarket tabloids. She told great stories about crashing William Shatner's wedding and partying with Bobby Brown, plus details on how money gets sources to talk about celebrities (from friends and family to bouncers and hairdressers) and how she became addicted to "dishing the dirt, getting the gossip, and selling her soul."
Get more of Marlise's stories in her book, "Tabloid Prodigy."
After all the positive response to yesterday's video from Professor Richard Wiseman, here's another one, "Missing Piece"...
Richard's book "Quirkology: How We Discover The Big Truth In Small Things" will be published September 3rd, but you can order yours now.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Earlier this year, I talked with Professor Richard Wiseman on my show about some of the psychology experiments he has conducted, and I posted his Color Changing Card Trick. It quickly became one of the most-viewed pages on this site.
Richard has continued to produce his Curious Psychology videos, and here's the third in the series, "The Prediction"...
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
If you heard that the US government has assigned Behavior Detection Officers to monitor how you look and act in public, would you think it was something from a science fiction novel, perhaps a bit Orwellian? It's not. They're real, and they're already in airports, with more on the way (as many as 500 by the end of next year).
As a poker player, I know there are some assumptions you can make about people based on their actions and expressions, their "tells." But, as Patti Davis writes, if these "specially trained security personnel" are looking for potential terrorists based on fear, disgust, and other negatives feelings in the faces of air travelers, they won't have to look very far:
Let’s see, fear and disgust in an airport? I’m frightened and disgusted weeks before I have to show up at an airport. In fact, I’ve pretty much sworn off the whole idea of going anywhere by airplane. It’s bad enough that I might be trapped in a crowded plane with no food or water and nonworking toilets for hours; now there are security agents interpreting our facial expressions.Her whole column is here [thanks to Patrick McGraw for the link]
But what about the woman who is getting on a plane to see a dying relative? Or the man who is traveling to another state to see a cancer specialist in a last bid for extending his life? What about the guy who just had a fight with his spouse and now worries that a plane crash would mean their last words were in anger? We’ve all had the experience of having a bad day, being in a rotten mood—especially at the airport, which has become a modern-day chamber or horrors. On those days, doesn’t it seem like everyone we meet looks sour and unpleasant?
posted at 4:56 PM
Casey Lartigue and Eliot Morgan were hosts on an XM channel aimed at black listeners. A couple of months ago, they did a show in which they debunked urban legends in the black community, including the controversial Memorandum 46. That's a supposedly official memo written in 1978 by Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser for President Jimmy Carter, which outlined an alleged government strategy to undermine black leadership in the US.
When Lartigue and Morgan produced for their audience sufficient evidence that Memo 46 was fake, they were fired. Today on my show, they explained why, what the truth is behind Memo 46, and the reaction they've had to that show. It's a classic case of "you can't handle the truth" combined with people who willfully perpetuate a lie, to their everlasting shame.
Casey writes more about this on his blog.
If you're interested, here's one copy of Memorandum 46 that's been posted in the blogosphere. Note that Brzezinski's name is spelled incorrectly -- unlikely on an official memo he supposedly authored.
Several listeners thought I was joking yesterday afternoon when I did a Knuckleheads In The News® story about the gun exchange this weekend in Orlando, where people brought in pistols, rifles, zip guns, shotguns -- and a surface-to-air missile launcher. Well, here's proof, as seen in the Orlando Sentinel...
Since the policy was "no questions asked," the guy didn't have to explain where it came from, but he did tell the paper that he'd tried to get rid of the weapon at the dump, which wouldn't take it.
What did he get from the cops in exchange? A pair of size-three sneakers for his daughter.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Sportswriter John Feinstein was back on my show this afternoon to talk about his new novel, "Cover-Up: Mystery At The Super Bowl," in which his two teen detectives discover a team owner (who bears a striking resemblence to Dan Snyder) covering up the use of human growth hormone by his team.
We also talked about Michael Vick's legal problems, and what his plea bargain means for any possible return to the NFL. And we discussed Tim Donaghy's gambling scandal, which may expand and include other NBA referees. Listen.
Beloit College has released their annual Mindset List, a general explanation of what 18-year-old college freshmen know, think, and have experienced. Here are 10 of the 75 items on the list:
- They have never had to distinguish between the St. Louis Cardinals baseball and football teams
- The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union
- They have known only 2 Presidents
- A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents'
- "Google" has always been a verb
- Madden has always been a game, not a Super Bowl-winning coach
- They have no idea why we needed to ask "...can we all get along?"
- They have rarely mailed anything using a stamp
- Most of them have never had the chance to eat bad airline food
- Television stations have never concluded the broadcast day with the national anthem
The whole Beloit list is here.
Also see my column, "When My Daughter Grows Up, Her Life Won't Include..."
posted at 10:25 AM
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I'm adding two documentaries to the Movies You Might Not Know list.
First is "The Kid Stays In The Picture," a cleverly made look at the career of movie mogul Robert Evans, from his start as an actor to his dozen years running Paramount Pictures, where he oversaw the production of "The Godfather," "Chinatown," "The Odd Couple," "Rosemary's Baby," and "Love Story." Evans wrote his autobiography, and the audio-book version was so popular in Hollywood that it was turned into this documentary. It's much more than another episode of "Biography" -- it's an insider's story told in riveting first-person fashion. The stories about Mia Farrow and Ali McGraw alone are worth it.
Second is "The War Room," the behind-the-scenes look at Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, as run by James Carville, George Stephanopoulos, Paul Begala, Dee Dee Myers, and others. They were the ones who led the Clintons through the minefield of the electoral process, and became household names in the process. It's one of the best views of a political machine in operation, with unprecedented access to the personalities and decisions that put The Man From Hope into the White House, for better or for worse.
As always, if you have an entry worthy of the Movies You Might Not Know list, let me know.
Friday, August 17, 2007
This afternoon on my show, comedian Jeff Cesario joked about the heat, the size of his iPhone bill, Michael Vick's legal troubles, the game-fixing NBA referee, and a tennis gambling scandal, too. Listen.
Jeff's DVD is "You Can Get A Hooker Tomorrow Night" and you'll find more of him at Sportalicious.com.
Malle Hawking spent over a year building this aircraft carrier -- out of Legos! It includes aircraft, a hangar, catapults for launching the jets, movable elevators, radar dishes, and more than 200,000 Lego pieces. See more photos here.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
This afternoon on my show, we had extensive coverage of the death of police officer Norvelle Brown, who was killed on the streets of St. Louis last night.
Brown was a real hero, a rookie who asked to be assigned to the neighborhood he grew up in, one of the toughest parts of the city. He had received a commendation for bravery just a few months ago. Let's hope the "stop snitching" attitude that's prevalant in some communities doesn't keep people from coming forward with tips that lead to the arrest of the individual(s) responsible for this.
Let's also hope that once the investigation is complete, there will be a thorough examination of whether a rookie cop in St. Louis should be on patrol by himself. Chief Mokwa says that St. Louis doesn't have adequate resources to put two officers in every patrol car. Mayor Slay says that if Chief Mokwa tells him he needs more cops, he'll get more cops. But that's like Bush saying he listens to his generals. Forget about the politics -- with 25% of the police force on the job less than five years and 10% of them with only 1 year of experience, it's clear that we not only need more cops, but we need more cops who will stay on the job.
And we certainly need more police officers like the late Norvelle Brown.
Listen to my conversation about this with Mayor Slay.
Today on my show, I talked with Senator Joe Biden, who wants your vote for President. With so many current events to talk about in a limited time, we didn't discuss his book, "Promises To Keep," but you can order it by clicking that link.
Biden called in as we were discussing a bizarre new lie-detector reality show that Fox will air this fall, so I pulled him into the conversation before we talked about more serious issues, like:
- a report in the LA Times that the upcoming report from General David Petraeus on the surge in Iraq will actually be written by the Bush administration.
- whether the extremely low approval ratings for the Democrat-led Congress are because we're still in Iraq
- what his plans for drawing down troops are and whether he'd leave US troops there
- how he'd fix the problems with medical and mental health care for our returning troops
- today's conviction of Jose Padilla and whether the "enemy combatant" issue had been handled correctly
- and finally, a lightning-round on other issues.
Regardless of what you think of Biden, you have to admit one thing -- he's a very smooth politician when he keeps his foot out of his mouth. But please don't take Biden's appearance on my show as an endorsement. We have offered the same opportunity to the other candidates of both parties, and he was the first to take us up on it.
With the temperatures over 100 degrees this week, several people have forwarded this e-mail to me. I don't know who wrote it, but thought you'd enjoy it, too.
It is so hot in St. Louis...
- The birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground.
- The trees are whistling for the dogs.
- The best parking place is determined by shade instead of by distance.
- Hot water now comes out of both taps.
- You learn that a seat belt buckle makes a pretty good branding iron.
- The temperature drops below 95 and you feel a little chilly.
- You discover that it only takes two fingers to steer your car.
- You actually burn your hand opening the car door.
- You break into a sweat the instant you step outside at 7:30am
- You realize that asphalt has a liquid state.
- Farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying boiled eggs.
- Your biggest bicycle wreck fear is, "What if I get knocked out and end up lying on the pavement and cook to death?"
posted at 9:15 AM
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Today I spoke with Sharlene Martin, the literary agent who arranged the deal to publish OJ Simpson's book "If I Did It" at the behest of the family of Ron Goldman. I asked her why Fred Goldman wants the book out now (when he tried to block its publication last fall), how many copies she expects to sell, and whether any of OJ's words would be changed. I also asked if she thought the whole project was ghoulish, which it certainly was when OJ was going to profit from it. Listen.
I know we're only up to August 15th, but this is already the Lawsuit Of The Month.
Update 8/16/04: The Smoking Gun has discovered even more bizarre lawsuits this guy has filed, against Barry Bonds, Bud Selig, and Hank Aaron's bat -- not to mention Nascar, Tony Danza, Plato, the Pope, the cast of "WKRP In Cincinnati," and the Liberty Bell. Details here.
posted at 5:09 PM
On my show today, Stephanie Mencimer argued that we don't need tort reform, and that the people pushing it have lied to you, using cases like the McDonald's hot coffee suit as extreme examples.
She also claimed that the rise in medical malpractice premiums should not be blamed on lawsuits, that we don't have a surplus of frivolous lawsuits in the US, and that class action lawsuits do help consumers even if they don't seem to get a lot out of them. Mencimer also explained why "loser pays" doesn't work, citing one state that instituted a "loser pays" legal system at the behest of doctors who, less than a decade later, begged that it be reversed because it was costing them more.
Dan Rather's HDNet series did an in-depth look last night at electronic touch-screen voting, and discovered lots of problems. Unfortunately, I don't get HDNet at home, but I did watch this nearly 13-minute chunk of the touch-screen expose.
I still believe the technology can work and make it easier for all of us to vote, but there's a pattern of greed, avarice, and defective screens that will have to be overcome first -- much of it due to outsourcing the work on the machines to the Philippines. Considering that our own government hasn't made this a priority, there's little to indicate that those problems will be fixed before the 2008 presidential elections.
If you get HDNet, here's a schedule of when you can see a rerun of the entire show. If not, take a look at this sample...
Wired magazine is on the story, too, following through on Rather's report to wonder why the Federal Election Assistance Commission wasn't aware of the international sweatshops making the touch-screen voting machines that were then used in the US.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
There's been a lot written today about the late Phil Rizzuto, from his hall of fame career as a Yankees player, to his years in the booth broadcasting Yankees games, to his penchant for leaving those games early to beat the traffic, to his cheesy commercials for The Money Store.
But for the vast majority of Americans who never heard or saw any of that, Rizzuto is best remembered as the guy doing the play-by-play of Meatloaf trying to score with Karla DeVito in the rock classic "Paradise By The Dashboard Light." The legend goes that The Scooter recorded his part separately, without knowing what the song was about, and was so furious when he learned what he'd been used for that he even refused to accept a gold record the record company tried to give him.
His part starts around 3:30 into the song (baseball purists will note that the game clips inserted into the video don't correspond with what Rizzuto is saying at all)...
When you're considering job applicants, the law says you can't consider their gender, their race, their religion, or several other factors that are collectively known as protected classes. Byron Rushing wants to add weight to that list. The Massachusetts state representative wants to pass legislation that would prohibit discrimination against fat people in the workplace and elsewhere.
Today on my show, Rushing explained the rational for his proposal, which he sees as a civil rights cause. BTW, he wants this to apply to height, too. If this passes there, you'll probably see a similar attempt here soon. Listen.
Sergio Garcia was disqualified from the PGA Championship this weekend for signing an incorrect scorecard. This is not the first time a player has been disciplined for this, but the question is why golf continues to stick by this silly rule.
In what other professional sport are the players supposed to keep score, and then can be DQ'ed for getting it wrong? That tournament was televised, which means the network knew what Garcia's score was. The leaderboard knew what his score was. The guy carrying around the little mobile leaderboard knew what his score was. The other players knew. Viewers at home knew. Garcia certainly knew. But because Garcia's playing partner, Boo Weekley, put down a 4 instead of a 5 on the 17th hole, and Garcia didn't notice the error, he was kicked out.
Huh? It's not like he kicked his ball out of the rough onto the fairway, or picked it up and carried it to the green, where he discretely dropped it in the hole.
I know golf fanatics are all about tradition, but then so are baseball nuts, yet the batters aren't charged with keeping track of balls and strikes. There are umpires and scoreboards and other players around to make sure it's correct.
The only level of sports where this even comes up is with kids. At the end of an inning of a Little League game, the moms who are keeping score for their sons' respective teams always compare: "I think they got 11 runs in that inning. Is that what you got, Mary?" Once Mary confirms it, that's the official score -- but they players don't have to keep track.
Imagine the NFL running the way the PGA does. Some offensive tackle doesn't admit that he held the defensive end on a touchdown play, or a receiver steps out of bounds but no one notices, then after the game he signs the scorecard and, just by that act, the game is forfeited. That can't happen because of instant replay technology, but there are just as many cameras focused on a golf tournament, so why leave it up to that low-tech penciled-in scorecard?
I'm just glad this doesn't apply to miniature golf, because I can never remember if I got a 4 or a 5 on the windmill/waterfall combination on 17.
Monday, August 13, 2007
The women of Hollywood through the generations. The striking similarity in every one of them is the eyes. As you watch, you'll find yourself thinking "who was that?" or "isn't that...?" and before you can answer, she has morphed into another actress [thanks to Chev Elt for the contribution]
Update @ 4:52pm: I just heard from the guy who created this, Philip Scott Johnson, who turns out to be a listener here in St. Louis. He's created some other clever morphing videos, which you can see here. Philip says,
I haven't really had any local exposure yet -- been kind of quiet. I was actually anonymous until August 1 but then I figured I might as well start taking credit. I have another video called Women In Art that has been viewed over 5 million times and was shown on ABC last week - I Caught. It was the most blogged video in the World the first three weeks of June.
Friday, August 10, 2007
In a tragic accident on January 29th, 8-year-old Ryan Wesling was killed when 85-year-old Grace Keim drove her 1992 Chevy Cavalier through the wall of a school cafeteria in Shiloh, Illinois. She was on her way to a driving class at a nearby senior citizen's center when she turned down the wrong street, because disoriented, panicked, and plowed into the school. Grace was forced to give up her driver's license and pay a $500 fine, but that's not the end of the story.
Ryan's family is suing Grace, and this week they added the school district and the contractor who built the wall to the lawsuit.
Today on my show, attorney Jack Spooner explained why, claiming that the district didn't ensure that the wall was "crash-worthy" and safe. I asked him what the family wants from this suit, and whether they're suing the district because it has deeper pockets than Grace. Listen.
After that conversation, I got a call from Jim Vernier, Mayor of Shiloh, who says this lawsuit is frivolous. Listen.
Today's Picture Of The Day was contributed by Fran Goedeker, who e-mails,
This guy's name is David Armand, and he's a standup comic, and also a mime. He typically closes his shows with a mime routine done to a relatively famous song, and he really struck gold when he chose Natalie Imbruglia's song, "Torn". My understanding is that at first she was not pleased about his routine done to her song, as she considered it an insult. Eventually, she realized that she was basically a one-hit wonder, and that she should enjoy every moment of recognition and fame. Well, David Armand (using the moniker of Johan Lippowicz as his "mime" name) was an instant online hit, so he and Imbruglia were invited to perform together at The Secret Policeman's Ball, a benefit for Amnesty International. Here's the result, a live performance where she surprises the audience by singing live, and then joins in with David for an unforgettable show.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
The Skyview Drive-In has been a Belleville landmark since 1949, but it may be approaching its last days. The property has been on the market for five years, and now there appear to be a couple of interested buyers -- who would likely close the drive-in and use the 17 acres for another commercial venture.
Today on my show, Steve Bloomer, owner of the Skyview, explained why he's selling it and provided a little bit of history for what is now the last drive-in theater in the St. Louis area. Listen.
Mike Wood of West Salem, Ohio, was tired of people speeding down his street, and figured they'd slow down if they saw children. So, he took digital photos of his sons, printed them, mounted them on lifesize cutouts, and put them in his front yard. Sure enough, drivers have slowed down -- some have even yelled at him for letting his "kids" play so close to the road. He's getting requests from all over the country from people who want to duplicate his idea.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
After Barry Bonds hit home run #756, I knew I had to talk to Lance Williams. He and fellow San Francisco Chronicle reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada wrote "Game Of Shadows," the book that blew open the Bonds/BALCO steroids story last year.
Today I asked Lance what he was thinking when Bonds hit the record-breaking homer last night. He then provided an update on the federal grand jury investigation and baseball's own internal look at steroids in the game. I was also curious whether everyone in San Francisco is happy about Bonds' achievement, and what kind of e-mail Lance received from Giants fans today.
Here's my original conversation with Lance from March 29, 2006, when the book was published.
I've talked often about the huge number of private contractors who are part of the war in Iraq, in numbers greater than the Americans in uniform.
Today on my show, I talked to one of those contractors, Carter Andress, about his experiences in the Red Zone in Baghdad and why he's there in the first place. I asked him if he can ever walk down the street by himself, how he conducts business in a place that's so dangerous, whether Iraqi forces are accepting more responsibility (and can they handle it?), and what he's heard about corruption and fraud by contractors who are ripping off American taxpayers.
Listen (note that the first few minutes of audio are a little rough because he's on a bad satellite phone connection, but we fixed it for the rest of the interview).
As the Department of Transportation announced that airline delays have reached record levels, Kate Hanni returned to my show for an update on legislation giving airline passengers a bill of rights.
Unfortunately, those protections aren't in place yet, and the ones that are proposed don't go far enough. They would force the airlines to give us food, water, air conditioning, and unclogged bathrooms only after we've been sitting on the tarmac for three hours -- and there's a battle over whether they should have to return to the terminal to allow us to de-plane at that point.
The DOT report says that the number of aircraft sitting on the tarmac for an extended period more than tripled from May to June -- with 462 planes parked there for at least three hours! That's 15 planes a day, every day, for a month! And how about that Continental flight on June 8th that sat on the tarmac at Newark for 383 minutes before taking off for Denver (that's longer on the ground than in the air).
Congress keeps waiting for the airlines to do something about this, but they have proven they won't, so some good consumer protections must be passed.
This seems to be an easy win for any politician. They all fly on a regular basis, and must know the frustration of having to sit on the plane with no answers and no services. Why not get behind consumers on this issue? What's the downside? I suppose it's because the public won't remember the support on election day, because this isn't a wedge issue that people vote on -- it's more important to keep gays from marrying, right? -- but why not put some realistic travel regulations in place, and then enforce them?
My wife and I stopped watching the "Ebert and Roeper" movie review show once Roger Ebert was physically unable to do it any longer. We had watched its predecessor, "Siskel & Ebert" for years and years, and stuck with it after the death of Gene Siskel because we liked Roger so much. After Roger's illness prevented him from appearing on camera, it became quickly apparent that Richard Roeper just isn't strong enough to carry the show with assorted guest critics. What we really missed was the incredible chemistry that Gene and Roger had for so many years.
Fortunately, Buena Vista has finally digitized the entire library of their shows together and made them available online. I just browsed through some of the classic Siskel & Ebert reviews and was reminded of what a great team they were. It didn't matter whether they liked each other, or what their off-camera relationship was -- these two guys loved movies more than anything else, and that passion was on display for us every week. They were also very good at tipping us to many movies that weren't going to play at the mainstream multiplex, and deserve credit for sending a lot of us to the theater to see masterpieces like "Hoop Dreams."
For a sample of their work together, take a look at Gene and Roger disagreeing vehemently on Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket." There's no one reviewing movies that way on TV anymore, and I miss them both.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
posted at 11:16 PM
In between her roles as Winnie Cooper on "The Wonder Years" and Elsie Snuffin on "The West Wing," Danica McKellar stopped acting long enough to go to college and get a degree in mathematics. Now she's written a book called "Math Doesn't Suck," targeted at middle-school girls who probably feel the same way about the subject as she did in 7th grade.
As the father of a 13-year-old girl in a world where Paris and Britney and Lindsay get so much attention, I like Danica's message that cute and smart is better than cute and dumb -- a role model who says you can have a beautiful mind and body.
I talked to Danica about her book on my show this afternoon. And yes, I asked her if anyone ever suggested a "Wonder Years" reunion show. Listen.
If you're the producer of "Showtime At The Apollo," you're looking for performers who can appeal to the target audience at home and the crowd in the theater, who are not shy about showing their disdain for those who take the stage and aren't worthy of the spot. So, when a white guy in his mid-40's who looks homeless shows up with dirty stringy hair and coke-bottle glasses, and he wants to perform a Marvin Gaye classic, you'd probably reject him without even a moment's thought, worried that the crowd would toss him out on his butt faster than Fifty Cent at the Grand Old Opry.
But then you'd miss an amazing performance by Super Bad Brad, a street performer who works on the sidewalks of Manhattan with his boom box and microphone. It took him exactly two seconds of vocals to win the tough Apollo audience over...
Monday, August 06, 2007
- Your tax dollars in action. The Washington Post says you paid for 190,000 rifles and pistols that the Pentagon supplied to Iraqi security forces -- guns which can no longer be traced, and are likely being used by insurgents in Iraq to create mayhem and kill American soldiers. The man in charge of that program in 2004-5 was Gen. David Petraeus, now considered the man who will save the war. If only his troops knew that the guns that are being fired against them were supplied by the US government.
- On the subject of airport security, the president of the Airline Pilots Security Alliance says "our entire approach to airline security is almost completely ineffective against a threat like Al Qaeda"
Friday, August 03, 2007
When Dave Callaghan saw the new lamb that was born on his farm last Friday, he did more than a double-take. Then he counted the legs -- and found seven. Unfortunately, it had to be put down yesterday because it's insides were screwed up, too. And Dave didn't have enough mint jelly, either.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
A few weeks ago, in discussing illegal immigrants, I wondered why unions weren't being more vocal about the problem since, quite often, those illegals are taking jobs at sub-union wages and being exploited in ways similar to those that led to the beginnings of the union movement a century ago.
The Carpenters Union here is upset about those jobs being lost, and has pressured the city of O'Fallon, Missouri, to do something about a construction site (partially funded by tax dollars) which has allegedly been employing a couple dozen illegals. The developer claims that all of his workers provided social security numbers, and that verification of their legal status is a job for the feds, not for his company.
Yesterday on my show, I talked this over with Bob Lowery, city administrator of O'Fallon, and Terry Nelson, head of the Carpenters Union. We talked about what an employer's responsibility is in regard to checking that work status and whether some of these workers are being paid off the books and in cash to keep the problem quiet.
The most stunning part of our conversation came towards the end, when I asked Bob what happened when the city reported these violations to agents at Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Even after they had uncovered people on these sites who were smuggling more illegals in from Mexico, the feds essentially told him that they wouldn't do anything about it.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
This afternoon on my show, I talked with Les Stroud, whose "Survivorman" series has become must-see TV in my house.
Les is the guy who gets dropped in extreme locations and left alone for a week with no food, no water, no shelter -- and no camera crew. I asked him about the controversy swirling around Bear Grylls (star of the similar show "Man vs. Wild"), who apparently has staff with him on his adventures, and is accused of sneaking off to sleep in a cabin at times.
Les, on the other hand, has no one with him. In addition to having to survive and escape the environment he's left in, he has to lug some 50 pounds of camera equipment to capture his week on video for our entertainment. I asked him how he manages to get some of the shots he gets, how he knows which plants to eat, and whether knowing how to start a fire is the most vital skill he possesses.
British TV reporter Sue Turton was doing a live shot about flooding in a local town when a passerby casually reached down and pinched her on the butt. He kept going, and so did she. Sue says she doesn't want to press charges, but the cops are looking for the guy anyway, since they got a pretty good shot of his face...