When I picked the Packers + 7 @ the Cowboys tonight, I didn't know three things: 1) Brett Favre would leave the game injured and not return; 2) Charles Woodson wouldn't be in the Packers secondary; and 3) the officials would make some horrible calls, including that final pass-interference call against Green Bay that was clearly not interference. Final score: Cowboys 37, Packers 27.
This is the first game I've watched at length on NFL Network, and it became quickly apparent that Bryant Gumbel is horrible as a play-by-play man. The man uses the word "appears" about every two minutes ("it appears he has the first down," "it appears we have a flag on the field," "it appears the Packers have scored a touchdown," "it appears I'm still as much of a pompous ass as I always was").
As bad as Gumbel is, that's how good Cris Collinsworth is as an analyst. He makes great points, does a very good job of explaining why things happened, and doesn't hesistate to second-guess coaches, players, and officials. He deserves to be on the #1 team on a real network working with a real broadcaster.
With my prognosticating skills in a miserable slump, let's see if I can make up for it with another Upset Pick for Sunday. The Browns are in the playoff hunt and should beat the Cardinals, so I'll take the spread to win. Make it Cleveland +1 at Arizona.
Season record: 5-7-1
Thursday, November 29, 2007
When I picked the Packers + 7 @ the Cowboys tonight, I didn't know three things: 1) Brett Favre would leave the game injured and not return; 2) Charles Woodson wouldn't be in the Packers secondary; and 3) the officials would make some horrible calls, including that final pass-interference call against Green Bay that was clearly not interference. Final score: Cowboys 37, Packers 27.
posted at 10:35 PM
- Channel 4 anchorman Larry Conners defends airing the Tony LaRussa DUI video: "How many who called about La Russa would be locked to the television and watching the video replay over and over or going to our website and seeing it numerous times if the DUI had involved Barry Bonds, a high ranking politician, a police chief and so forth?"
- If your daughter wants the new video game "Coolest Girl In School" for Christmas, read this before you buy it
- ZDNet has compiled a list of the Ten Worst IT Disasters of All Time
- Carey Greenberg-Berger on why dialing 911 on your Verizon cell phone could be dangerous
posted at 10:24 PM
Today I talked with Mike Price about his 18-year-old daughter Stefanie being stalked online by a boy from her high school (who she didn't even know). The boy posted between 500 and 1,000 disgusting messages on her MySpace page over the course of three months, even going so far as to tell her she should sleep with a gun at home because he was going to drug her, rape her, and kill her.
Mike and Cheri, Stefanie's parents, contacted the O'Fallon (MO) police, who tracked down the 16-year-old responsible for the threats. And what was his punishment? He pleaded guilty to ... wait for it ... littering (!). Mike says the O'Fallon prosecutor admitted to him that he hadn't even looked at the file before settling the case.
While not as tragic as the Megan Meier story, this is another example of the online harassment, stalking, and bullying that is becoming more and more common -- and a legal system that isn't keeping up with it. It's also a cautionary tale for parents who allow their teenagers to spend time on MySpace and other sites.
Today I talked with Mike Boland of MADD about the Tony LaRussa DUI arrest video (which you can watch here)
LaRussa, the longtime Cardinals manager, pleaded guilty yesterday -- or rather, his attorney did the paperwork in Florida while Tony was here in St. Louis for a Joe Buck roast. As punishment, he will have to go to DUI school, empty his checkbook for the huge amount of $678.50. and do 25 hours of community service, which he can cover at his own Animal Rescue League organization if he likes.
Boland feels that's not enough, even though it's standard for first-time DUI convictions. Boland wants legislation that would put a mandatory ignition-interlock on the car of offenders, and he wants LaRussa to record a video announcement that would be shown on the Jumbotron at Busch Stadium during all Cardinals home games, reminding people not to make the mistake he made and use a designated driver.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
I'm sitting here watching a movie I'm pretty sure was not released theatrically, at least not in most American cities. It's called "Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party," and I have just added it to the Movies You Might Not Know list.
Tobolowsky is an actor whose name you don't recognize, but whose face you've seen in over 100 movies and TV shows -- in fact, as I write this, he's listed 184 times on IMdB.com -- including "Groundhog Day," in which he played Ned Ryerson, the guy who pesters Bill Murray on the sidewalk.
He's also a hell of a storyteller, which is what he does in this movie. As he celebrates his birthday, Tobolowsky shares stories from his life, his career, and his relationships. He tells how he was named one of the 100 coolest people in LA by Buzz magazine (and lost to Andy Dick). He tells how he encountered a school of dolphins while swimming in the ocean. He tells how friends reacted when he told them he was going to be a father. He tells what happened when someone slipped LSD into everyone's drinks at a party.
Then he tells what it was like playing the head Klansman in "Mississippi Burning," giving a speech in front of a crowd of extras who were really members of the Klan, and it's riveting.
As you -- and the group of friends assembled at his house -- listen to him talk, you get drawn in, and don't want him to stop. Considering Tobolowsky is pretty much the only person who speaks for 87 minutes, that's quite an accomplishment.
Today I talked with Rich Eisen, the lead man on NFL Network, who's in Dallas for the big Cowboys-Packers game tomorrow night. In addition to that matchup, we discussed some stories from his new book, "Total Access," including the odd pre-game rituals of some players and how Marshall Faulk hazed him at the Pro Bowl. I also asked Eisen about the impact of Sean Taylor's murder (NFL Network has the Redskins game next Thursday) and whether the Patriots can complete a perfect season. Listen.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
- Stephen King jokes that Time should put Britney and Lindsay on its cover as "Persons Of The Year" to make a point about the difference between real news and fake news
- Joe Nocera explains why paying for cable channels a la carte would cost you more money and reduce your viewing options
- Howard Mortman on politicizing the murder of Sean Taylor
- Ken Jennings on schools and Wikipedia
posted at 10:50 AM
Here's a trick Penn & Teller put into their Rio act not long after the 9/11 attacks, to make some very important points about freedom, the flag, and the Bill of Rights...
A few months later (on 12/8/04), P&T did a version of the flag trick on a sixth-season episode of "The West Wing," and pushed the point even further (thanks to Penn's friendship with "WW" producer Lawrence O'Donnell)...
Monday, November 26, 2007
Judge Duane Bailey of Madison County (IL) was on my show this afternoon to talk about a new program he and his colleagues have developed for dealing with kids who don't go to school.
Explaining that "being punitive doesn't help," Bailey says this program is for hardcore truants who have missed 10% of the school year. The program offers kids an option. They either go back to school, and show improvement in their grades over a 12-week period, or take the community service option and do some manual labor. The first alternative includes assistance in the form of tutoring and discovering what's making the kid miss school in the first place, from drugs to bullying to whatever. It also involves the parents, who are often happy to have an authority figure like Bailey help them deal with this issue.
Bailey says the idea is to have the courts deal with kids this way, rather than having to deal with them later when they're arrested for petty (and often not-so-petty) crimes, beginning a lifetime relationship with the criminal justice system.
It's sad, but I expect a big company to put me through customer service voice-tree hell when I call for help. Still, our dealings with AT&T this weekend were ridiculous.
Our latest bill came on Friday, and was approximately triple last month's bill. We have a combined bill for our home service, DSL, cell phones, and Dish Network, and it seemed that the cell phone charges were suddenly sky-high.
So I called the customer service number on our bill and got that perky automated voice that demanded my cell number and other information, then gave me several options to choose from, none of which got me through to an actual human being, until about the 9th layer of Dante's Phone Tree. That person looked up my information and said that my account was paid up in full. I countered that I had a bill in front of me that said otherwise. She said, "Well, we don't have anything like that on my screen. Maybe you should talk to Accounts Receivable."
Before I could object, she patched me through to what should have been another human being, but turned out to be another robotic phone tree voice, which informed me that a customer service representative would be "happy" to help me after a wait of six minutes. Even though I know that "happy to help" is a euphemism for "underpaid, bitter, and hoping not to have the job outsourced to India," I had no choice. I put the speaker phone on and spent the time answering my e-mail.
When a human person finally picked up the line (after, ahem, eight minutes), she told me that she couldn't help me because she only worked for AT&T Wireless, and this was a matter for the people in the Combined Billing department. Before the first of several profanities could work their way from my brain to my lips, I was back on hold, being transferred to yet another person. Fortunately, the third human came on the line relatively quickly, only to tell me that the problem was obviously in their cell phone division and that, if I'd be kind enough (!) to hold, she'd connect me to someone there who could help me. I didn't even bother suppressing my chortle.
By this point, I was convinced that I was talking to people in adjacent cubicles of the same office who had decided that, in return for being forced to work on a holiday weekend, were determined to take it out on anyone foolish enough to call and require assistance of any kind. Well, you know what happened next. The fourth person I was transferred to, from the cell phone division, told me the exact same thing the first person I had spoken to had told me ("we don't have any charges like that on our screen").
It was at this point that I slammed down the phone and asked my wife to deal with it. It's not that she's more patient than I am -- it's that I simply can't fathom how several people who work for the same company's customer service department can not only offer absolutely no service, but also have completely different information about my account and refuse to believe that my complaint is valid. Because I'm the kind of person with so much free time that I think it's hysterical to create phony scenarios with bogus billing data to see how they'll react.
My wife, on the other hand, knows these situations well. I call her our Family Ombudswoman.
She once got a case of Ragu spaghetti sauce sent to our home because they had changed the recipe of our favorite sauce. I have invoked her name with store clerks who wouldn't take back an item, telling them they had two choices: accept the return and give me a refund, or deal with my wife later, in which case they'd end up accepting the return and giving me a refund. The woman once got an entire new high-chair delivered to our doorstep because the one she'd bought in the store had a small rip in the fabric.
So I knew she could bring AT&T to its knees, or at least get an explanation of what the hell was going on with our phone bill. And she would do it by getting to the first person, and then making him stay on the line and fix this, no matter how long it took or how many supervisors had to be dragged into the conversation, without being transferred all over AT&T-land.
The end result? It took almost an hour, but she finally uncovered the truth. It turned out that AT&T hadn't billed us for our cell phone service for several months -- since I bought my iPhone and began Combined Billing. So the charges are accurate, and we really do owe the amount on our bill, contrary to what some of their own employees see on their computer screens.
That's fine. I don't mind paying for services I signed up for and use (the miscellaneous fees and taxes that are tacked on are a whole other argument), so we'll gladly pay the bill. But I know we're not alone in our frustration with this and other customer service departments. If your company writes "Question about your bill? Call this 800 number" on the invoice, then it is shameful to force your customers to go through this obstacle course of non-assistance.
After all, not everyone is married to The Family Ombudswoman.
The WGA has put together a series of short videos with "Speechless" celebrities to show the effect of the writers strike on the creative process. Among the best are this one with David Schwimmer and Kate Beckinsale and this one with Jeff Garlin.
The shorts were conceived by St. Louisan George Hickenlooper and his team. Nikki Finke has all ten on her site.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
NFL games are becoming like poker bad beats -- you're doing everything right and way in the lead until the last minute of play or the last card, when your opponent pulls off an improbable victory.
That's the story of my Upset Pick gone wrong today. The Broncos were up by two touchdowns with just a few minutes to play, but they made enough mistakes (like kicking right to Devin Hester, even after he'd returned a punt for a TD) to let the Bears catch up and tie them before the end of regulation, then drive down the field and kick the winning field goal.
I had the Broncos +2, they lost by 3, 37-34. My season record falls to 5-6-1.
posted at 7:17 PM
Marisa Tomei is still amazingly hot.
I just saw "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead." It features terrific performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, and Albert Finney, well directed by Sidney Lumet. Since Tomei's character is married to Hoffman and having an affair with Hawke, we get to see quite a few scenes of her topless, and I have to say that, at 43 years old, she looks remarkable.
When I mentioned this to my wife, she replied, "Well, sure, she probably has her own trainer and nutritionist, not to mention some work done."
That's not the point. The point is that Marisa Tomei is still amazingly hot.
It is no longer permissable for anyone to refer to Eli Manning's team as "The New York Football Giants."
It has been two generations since the baseball Giants left New York for San Francisco. The only other sports teams in New York that call themselves the Giants are in youth leagues, and we know we're not watching them during NFL coverage or SportsCenter. Yes, Chris Berman is responsible for this, but even he seems to have knocked it off, or at least toned it down, while other announcers keep this ridiculous phrase alive (as Matt Vasgersian just did on Fox a few minutes ago).
Stop it. It sounds as idiotic as referring to Tony LaRussa and the St. Louis Baseball Cardinals.
posted at 3:12 PM
Thursday, November 22, 2007
A little bonus reading while you're waiting for the turkey to cook and the family to stop arguing for just a minute or two...
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
- Who is the best Cardinals manager of all time, Tony LaRussa or Whitey Herzog?
- Who was more responsible for the Rams' Super Bowl victory, Dick Vermeil or Mike Martz?
- Should Stan Musial have a better statue outside Busch Stadium?
James Lipton, host of "Inside The Actor's Studio," was on my show this afternoon, promoting his book, "Inside Inside."
We talked about the actors who have impressed him most, the actresses who don't believe they're beautiful, the episode in which Elton John wrote a song on the spot, what brings on those emotional moments with his guests, and other highlights from his show.
I didn't ask Lipton about Will Ferrell's impression of him, but we got to a couple of stories from his life that you probably don't know -- Lipton's days as a pimp in Paris, and how his wife ended up as Miss Scarlet in the board game Clue.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Several listeners have demanded that I post the audio from yesterday's show of me making fun of Lesley Stahl, because of something ludicrous in her report on "60 Minutes" about forcing fast food outlets to post calorie counts on their menu boards.
In that piece, she went into a Subway restaurant (with their head of marketing) and ordered a sandwich. It became immediately apparent that Stahl had never been in a Subway before, wasn't familiar with the concept of ordering her own sandwich, and that even the simplest arithmetic was beyond her.
I could go on and on about it here, but it's better if you just listen -- then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
This morning's POTD contribution is from Jim Clarida, who e-mails,
Last month or so, you had a show about Generation Y, the class of 2011, who were born in 1989. You read a list of items these kids would not remember because they are too young. One was television stations going off the air. Well, after reviewing some old tapes from my 80's childhood (I'm in my 30s now), I found a recording I have of KTVI coming on the air. It was actually recorded because KTVI used to air "KidSongs" at 6 AM on Saturday mornings, so I set my VCR for a few minutes before 6, and was able to record them coming on the air. Check it out, and enjoy the 1980's!
Monday, November 19, 2007
Fr: Media Control Central
Re: Stories That Must Be Done During Thanksgiving Week
Monday: Do's & Don'ts of Holiday Travel. Include important things that the public can't figure out on its own, like a reminder of how to pack clothes neatly in a suitcase.
Tuesday: Deep Fryer Turkey Scare Stories. Dig up video of that guy from last year who burned down his house and ruined the family get-together.
Wednesday: Live Shots From The Airport. Start this at 5am, and keep doing it until there actually is a crowd of anxious travelers lined up out the door. Do not mention that a great deal of their anxiety came from getting around the many live trucks blocking traffic outside the terminal.
Thursday: Parade. Include not just the local Thanksgiving parade, but also interviews with a few people who have to make a last minute run to the supermarket because they forgot cranberry sauce. Also report on how much more this year's average Thanksgiving meal costs, and interview the Butterball Hotline lady (who has likely been outsourced to Bangalore, India).
Friday: Busiest Shopping Day Of The Year. It doesn't matter that today is not the busiest shopping day of the year -- that's always the last Saturday before Christmas, because that's when men finally remember they have to buy something for their wife, who bought gifts for the rest of the family back around Halloween -- play up the hype, especially for your advertisers.
Saturday: Retailers Report. Based on exactly one day of shopping, but hundreds of analysts making predictions, report that retailers are having a tough holiday shopping season.
Sunday: Back To The Airport. Remind the public that if they haven't left for the airport already, they're screwed.
Monday: They're Dead. Report the number of people who died on the road during the holiday weekend, and how high gas prices didn't seem to keep Americans from traveling long distances to eat and argue with their families.
Future File (Upcoming Stories To Work On):
- Fire hazards of Christmas trees.
- Increased popularity of online shopping.
- Find a Jewish family that can explain Hanukkah.
You may have seen the promos for "Frank TV" during TBS' baseball playoffs coverage -- ten second snippets of Frank Caliendo as various famous people. "Frank TV" will debut tomorrow night, so I invited him back to my show this afternoon to talk about it.
He says he's got a "Seinfeld" parody in which he plays all four characters, and since this is Thanksgiving week, John Madden will make an appearance, too, probably with a turducken recipe. I asked Frank what impact the writers strike is having on his series, and whether he's working up impressions of any of the presidential candidates for next year (in case the show gets picked up after these five episodes).
Here's Frank's website. His standup special "Frank Caliendo: All Over The Place" will rerun Wednesday night (11/21).
Every day for the last two weeks, dozens of listeners have sent me an e-mail that's been going around the internet, asking that I please plug it on both my show and this website. As always, those who have forwarded it have done so without checking to see if it's for real.
The e-mail in question this time is the one asking people to send holiday cards to recovering soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital. It sounds like a good cause, but there's a good reason for my refusal to broadcast it: Walter Reed won't accept those cards, and they won't actually go to a soldier -- any soldier.
Here's the hospital's official statement...
Walter Reed Army Medical Center officials want to remind those individuals who want to show their appreciation through mail to include packages, letters, and holiday cards addressed to 'Any Wounded Soldier' or 'A Recovering American Soldier' that Walter Reed cannot accept these packages in support of the decision by then Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Transportation Policy in 2001. This decision was made to ensure the safety and well being of patients and staff at medical centers throughout the Department of Defense.
In addition, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer accepting "Any Service Member" or "A Recovering American Soldier" letters or packages. Mail to "Any Service Member" that is deposited into a collection box will not be delivered.
Instead of sending an “Any Wounded Soldier” letter or package to Walter Reed, please consider making a donation to one of the more than 300 nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping our troops and their families listed on the "America Supports You" website.
posted at 11:15 AM
The latest episode of "Mythbusters" was a two-hour supersized special in which they tested bigger myths, like the one about a taxi blown away by the exhaust of a jet engine.
They tried to do this one a couple of years ago, but couldn't get a big jet (or permission to do the stunt). This time, Kari, Grant, and Tory not only tested the myth on a cab, but also on a school bus and a light plane. This runs about 10 minutes, but is worth it for the vehicular carnage...
Here's my interview with "Mythbusters" co-star Adam Savage from earlier this year.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
- Rachel Sklar on this weekend's "Saturday Night Live" episode -- not the rerun that NBC aired, but a new, live show produced by the writers and entire cast at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York as a benefit for the crew members who have been temporarily laid off during the writers strike.
- As Borders announces that they're installing flat-screen TVs in their stores to show ads, news, and original programming, Allison Wood rails against the annoying practice of putting TVs everywhere we go, from retail outlets to the post office to gas pumps: "Here's a news flash: just because we have the technology—and a 24/7 font of information—does not mean we have to infuse it into every last molecule of available time."
- Virginia Heffernan on the DVDs of the early seasons of"Sesame Street," which come with a warning: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”
posted at 8:01 PM
If I had made my Upset Pick on Tuesday, I would have gotten the Dolphins plus ten and a half points, which would have covered the spread in today's game. By Thursday, the line had dropped to nine and a half points, which made me a loser. Argh!
Final score: Philadelphia 17, Miami 7. My season record: 5-5-1.
posted at 6:53 PM
- Walter Shapiro on Hillary Clinton's claim that she is ready to do the job of President "on day one," and Chris Dodd's rebuttal: "Anybody who stands before you and says, 'I'm ready to do the job on Day 1' ought to be disqualified. This is unique, this job. [When] you can sit behind the desk in the Oval Office, you can be better prepared and I believe I am. But you can't be totally prepared for this."
- Michael D. Shear on John McCain's claim that, if elected President, he'd reject Secret Service protection
- Robert Weintraub on why so many NFL games suck this season, and how to to fix them.
posted at 2:06 PM
Friday, November 16, 2007
Comedy writer Jon Macks is still on strike from "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," but he checked in on my show this afternoon, to report on how things are going on the picket line (with presidential candidate John Edwards as special guest). Since Jon doesn't have the monologue as an outlet for the jokes filling his brain, he did some riffing on Michael Jordan's divorce, Barry Bonds' indictment, Lindsay Lohan's jail stay, and more. Listen.
This is a week I normally would not make a pick. There's just no game that jumps right out and says "I'm the one, go with me!" However, I vowed to make an upset pick every week this season, regardless, so why not go way out on a limb?
Under normal conditions, I recommend betting against a rookie quarterback (the Patrick Ramsey Rule), and would usually stay away from the worst team in the league. But since I'm out on this limb, let's step out even further and see if a little twig will hold me up. I'm going with the Dolphins -- not to chalk up their first win of the season, but to cover the spread.
Take Miami +9.5 vs Philadelphia. Season Record: 5-4-1.
posted at 4:57 PM
William Cohen, former US Senator and Secretary of Defense, was back on my show this afternoon to talk about his novel, "Dragon Fire." We also discussed Congress' reluctance to approve more money for the war without wording about withdrawing troops, and what that will mean going forward. Then we talked about Gen. George Casey's comments that the Army is "out of balance" and stretched too thin, the IAEA's report this week on Iran's nuclear capabilities, the volatile situation in Pakistan, and more. Listen.
Previously on Harris Online...
Thursday, November 15, 2007
After President Bush announced his proposals for reducing air travel congestion and delays this morning, I called Kate Hanni for her reaction. Kate is the woman behind the Coalition for Airplane Passengers Bill Of Rights, and we've spent lots of time this year talking about her attempts to get changes made in the way you and I are treated when we fly.
While she liked having the presidential spotlight pointed at this ongoing problem, Kate points out that Bush only spoke about relieving pressure on flights on the east coast, which will have little bearing on midwesterners or others who get stuck in the nightmare that is Chicago's O'Hare Airport. She also believes this is just more talk, with very little action, and nothing more than a temporary band-aid, not a long-term fix.
Dan O'Neill, a sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch, has helped compile a book about Sportsman's Park, which was home to more major league games than any other stadium -- including 10 World Series -- before closing in 1966. All those years of both Cardinals and Browns games meant that the greats of the games passed through the place or called it home. There's even the story of the day Babe Ruth met little Billy DeWitt, who is now majority owner of the Cardinals.
Listen, then order the "Sportsman's Park" book here.
The House Judiciary Committee held hearings yesterday on online gambling. Annie Duke, one of the top poker players in the world, testified brilliantly in defense of lifting the ban on poker websites (and others).
As I said last year (when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was snuck into the Port Security bill at the last minute), it's not the government's business to tell me what to do with my money, particularly when we have no limit on the number of state lottery tickets you can buy (talk about hypocrisy!).
Annie's a perfect spokeswoman for the Poker Players Alliance because she's not only a successful pro, but also a mother of four who has supported her family with poker...
Here's my conversation with Annie Duke last year.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Patrick Rule urges you not to drive on Sunday, December 2nd. He says it's a way to protest rising gas prices -- and by parking your car that day, you're also conserving, and thereby saving some money.
That's the real bottom line question: will Americans get to the point where they're willing to make sacrifices in their own lives to help out their own bottom lines? Most of the arguments about gas prices rely on someone else making a change -- from asking the government to act somehow, to blaming environmentalists and oil companies for no new refineries coming online, to forcing auto manufacturers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles, and on and on.
Rule insists (and I agree) that it's much more a matter of personal responsibility. Will one day of no-driving force ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, and BPAmoco to their knees? Of course not. But many of my listeners like the symbolism of a no-drive day (which may tell you that not many of them have to work on Sundays!).
Ironically, with gas prices averaging $2.98/gallon in St. Louis (up from $2.09 a year ago today) and oil prices settled in at over $90/barrel, the Secretary-General of OPEC announced this morning that he sees no need to increase oil production. Well, of course he doesn't! That's the entire supply and demand concept in action. If they produce more oil, prices would go down, but while prices are high and demand isn't decreasing, they can clean up. There's very little incentive for them to act any other way.
I don't know many people who are doing a lot of excess driving. It's not like Missourians would wake up that Sunday and decide to "go for a drive," unless they had a specific destination they had to visit. Still, a message of conservation is one we're not hearing from our national or state leadership, so it has to be on us, individually, to make that choice to sacrifice. Or not.
Patrick Rule's website has more info.
On my show today, I talked with Jonathan Karsh, host of the CBS reality show "Kid Nation." He's the guy who appears to run the challenges and hand out the gold stars at the town councils that end each episode. Karsh says there's a big change coming in tonight's show.
I asked him whether the kids came to the show knowing how to act because they'd seen other reality shows, and whether the cameras changed them. We discussed Laurel (the very impressive member of the town council who appeared on my show before the season began) and Taylor (the pageant queen who came off as the villain of the season).
I also asked a question my daughter -- a big fan of the show -- has been wondering about: do the $20,000 gold stars create a lot of jealousy in Bonanza City, or become an incentive for some of the kids to work harder?
CBS hasn't committed to a second season of "Kid Nation" yet, but if the writers strike goes on for a couple of months, they'll almost certainly be looking for more reality programming like this.
Here's my interview with "Kid Nation" executive producer Tom Forman.
posted at 4:52 PM
Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson returned to my show today to talk about their third Peter Pan prequel, "Peter and The Secret of Rundoon."
We discussed everything from which of them came up with the flying camel that poops on its enemies (take a wild guess!) to how the giant snake from their book manifested itself in a real-life incident at their appearance in Miami a few weeks ago. I asked them if they owe a debt to JK Rowling for getting kids to read big plot-heavy books, and whether Disney is planning a theme park ride based on the "Peter" series.
We also talked about the all-authors rock band they're in (The Rock Bottom Remainders), Dave's presidential campaign, and how long it took Ridley to answer his daughter's question which set these books in motion.
Kevin Colvin, an intern at a bank, sent an e-mail to his manager on October 31 saying:
I just wanted you to know that I will not be able to come into work tomorrow. Something came up at home and I had to go to New York for a couple of days. I apologize for the delayed notice.The next day, his boss, Paul Davis, took a look at Kevin's Facebook page to see if there were any details about what everyone assumed was a family emergency. Instead, he found that Kevin had posted a photo of himself at a Halloween party the night before. So Paul dropped Kevin an e-mail, and cc'ed the whole office:
Thanks for letting us know -- hope everything is OK in New York (cool wand)
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
You know the nursery rhyme about the old lady who lives in a shoe? Well, here's a guy who lives in a toilet. The 4,500-square-foot home was built as a 24-foot-high toilet bowl at a cost of over a million bucks. The South Korean owner, Sim Jae-Duck, is an advocate for nicer public bathrooms. Raed about it here, then decide if he flushed his money away.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Kevin Sites has covered wars, disasters, and conflicts around the world, and has compiled some of the stories in "In The Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars."
This afternoon on my show, I talked with Sites about some of those adventures, including the infamous incident in Fallujah, where Sites videotaped a US Marine shooting an Iraqi prisoner. We discussed the fallout from that footage, the decision to air it in a censored form, and the international consequences of telling the story.
We also talked about covering the Indonesian tsunami, the role of the internet in his reporting, the impact of big-name network anchors going to disaster scenes to take over coverage of a story, and who is to blame for the lack of foreign news coverage in the American media.
Kevin Sites has his own website, provides content for Yahoo on the Hot Zone site, and is working on a new project called People Of The Web.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Friday, November 09, 2007
On my show today, I talked with TV comedy writer Jon Macks, who hasn't written any jokes for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" this week because of the strike. He reported what it's been like on the picket line, talked about celebrities who have shown up to show their support for the writers, and explained the anger towards Ellen DeGeneres for continuing to produce her show during the strike. And there's the solidarity at home in Jon's family -- they all want him to get another job, quick!
Jon Macks is a longtime staff writer for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," author of several books including "How To Be Funny," and is developing a major motion picture for Universal. He has also written for the Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, Comic Relief, A Capitol Fourth, and many other TV events.
This afternoon on my show I talked with two filmmakers who are being featured tonight at the St. Louis International Film Festival, both of whom grew up here.
One is James Gunn, who directed "Slither," wrote both "Scooby Doo" movies, and worked on "Dawn of the Dead." The other is Ryan Eslinger, whose first movie "Madness and Genius" caught the eye of Sharon Stone, who agreed to co-produce and star in his second movie, "When A Man Falls In The Forest."
I talked with Gunn about his years at Troma Films, where such classics as "Tromeo and Juliet" were made. He also gave an impassioned speech in support of the writers strike, even though it will impact him financially, as he has had to pull out of writing Ben Stiller's new project. BTW, I did not ask Gunn any questions about his wife, Jenna Fischer, as they're in the process of getting divorced.
Eslinger explained what happened when he visited Stone's home to talk to her about working together, how he financed his first film with part-time jobs at Best Buy and Wild Oats while in high school, and how far he's come since he was a ticket-taker at the AMC West Olive 16.
Kyle Swanson has heard all the discussion on my show this week about the No Hugging rule in Mascoutah schools. As a student at Mascoutah Community High School, Kyle says he's going to make t-shirts that say Hug For New School Rules, and already has lots of people who want one.
When I asked if he's had problems with the district's PDA rule, Kyle told me that he and his girlfriend got in trouble for holding hands while coming down the stairs after the end of school one day a few weeks ago -- even though the school handbook specifically mentions that hand-holding is permitted. That led to a broader discussion of whether he's witnessed inappropriate public displays of affection in school, and whether any of his friends have gotten in trouble for violating the policy.
Here's an interesting link sent by Michael Conner. It's a World Clock, which keeps track not only of the time, but also the global population, extinct species, number of cars produced, deaths by various diseases (from cardiovascular to leprosy, traffic accidents to war), and more.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
John Sayles was in my studio this afternoon to talk about his new movie, "Honeydripper," which kicks off the St. Louis International Film Festival.
"Honeydripper" is a blues bar in rural Alabama in 1950 run by Danny Glover and Charles S. Dutton, who need a big crowd on Saturday night if they want to save the business. There's lots of music, family intrigue, and Sayles says some interesting things about race in the deep south at that time. The cast includes Stacy Keach, Mary Steenburgen, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Lisa Gay Hamilton.
Gary Clark Jr. is a hot young guitarist from Austin who has a featured role in the movie. He was with Sayles this afternoon, so I stuck a Stratocaster in his hands and had him play a couple of songs live in the studio.
I also talked to Sayles about how he directs "name" actors, what led him to this story, and how he deals with actors with different styles. We also discussed his work on several Bruce Springsteen music videos and on the script for "Jurassic Park IV."
You can also listen separately to the songs Gary Clark Jr. performed on my show: "China Doll" and "Shotgun Man." There's more music on his website.
Normally, I'd take Denver this week, but with Jay Cutler out, it's a no-touch game. Instead -- and I can't believe I'm saying this, because it means going with Mike Martz again -- I'm taking the Lions to beat the Cardinals. With the spread, the upset pick is riding on Detroit continuing to prove it's for real this year.
Take DET +1 at AZ. Season record: 5-3-1.
posted at 4:59 PM
Yesterday on my show, Megan Coulter got her say about the hugging incident that led to her serving two days of after-school detention in Mascoutah (IL).
The 13-year-old denied the claims of Supt. Sam McGowan and gave her version of what happened -- both the incident at the basketball game that resulted in a warning, and the hugs after school last Friday that drew the detention. She also explained that she didn't realize that the school's PDA rule applied to hugging, which she says is just a natural part of the way she was brought up. Megan says the school should be much more specific in defining what's allowed and what isn't.
She also said that, earlier yesterday, she and the other 8th-grade girls had all been brought to the school auditorium, where an administrator expressed displeasure that "someone" was making a big deal about this (of course, all the girls at the school know that "someone" is Megan).
Megan's mother, Melissa, says she's going to the next school board meeting to try to get the PDA/hugging rule changed. Based on the volume of calls and comments I've received, she may have a lot of support in the community.
In Fort Wayne, Indiana, Charlie Farrell knew there was construction planned for Calhoun Street, but when he didn't see any orange barrels or cones, he turned left, headed down the block and, moments later, discovered an 8-foot-hole in front of the Hilton Hotel. He had a pretty good view of the bottom of the hole from the front seat of his Chevy Lumina. It turned out there were construction barrels at the intersection, but Charlie didn't seem them because they were widely spaced so dump trucks could get through. He climbed out of the hole unhurt, and the car was eventually pulled out, too.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Janessa Gans spent more than two years as a US official in Iraq. While she was there, she lived in the Green Zone but traveled all over the country, guarded by Blackwater employees. Today on my show, she had some harsh words for the way she saw the Blackwater guards act towards Iraqis -- actions which she says serve to undermine the US mission in Iraq by turning locals against Americans and possibly into terrorists.
Gans doesn't think of the Blackwater security forces as mercenaries, and isn't calling for all private security contractors to be removed from Iraq. But she does think that their unregulated status and overly aggressive actions are harming the effort to win the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis, at a time when we can least afford it.
After her comments on Blackwater, I found Gans' analysis of the current situation in Iraq and the problems we've had there to be very refreshing. She says some things that I haven't heard anyone else come forward and say, particularly about the lack of political will on the part of the Iraqi leadership.
Gans, who also spent time in Afghanistan, continues to consult the State Department on Iraq while she's a visiting professor of political science and Middle East politics at Principia College. Gans is founder of The Euphrates Institute, a non-governmental organization that seeks to "capitalize on the growing need and desire of many to bridge the divide between the Muslim and Western worlds."
What's the most dangerous nation on Earth? Catherine Scott-Clark says, without a doubt, it's Pakistan, which has been making news this week with the instability of Pervez Musharraf and his military government.
Scott-Clark and fellow invesigative journalist Adrian Levy have spent the last couple of years looking into Pakistan's nuclear threat, and uncovered several disturbing revelations, which they lay out in their book "Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons."
Today on my show, Scott-Clark said that Pakistan is missing large amounts of fissile material, which no one is holding them accountable for. She claims that our government has known about Pakistan selling nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya for more than two decades. Scott-Clark explains the role of AQ Khan, the Pakistani nuclear mastermind who is being shielded from US investigators by Musharraf, and how your tax dollars are involved, through financial aid the US has passed to Pakistan since Jimmy Carter was President.
After Monday's discussion with Melissa Coulter about her daughter, Megan, being punished for hugging some friends at school, I invited Mascoutah Schools Superintendent Dr. Sam McGowan onto my show to explain the policy.
It became immediately clear that McGowan is a "rules are rules" and "this is the way it's been for a long time" kind of guy. When I challenged him -- saying the rule was bad, not the people -- he was not happy.
He started off by saying that he could't speak about Megan's case specifically because of Illinois state law, but later did exactly that. When I pointed this out, he denied doing it. He also claimed that Megan's hug brought "discredit to the person and the school" (a patently ridiculous argument), and that public displays of affection are banned in the academic area because schools are about learning. But Megan's punishment was for hugging a friend outside the school on the way to the bus stop, not in a classroom or even in the hallway.
McGowan also seemed thrown when I asked why two football players can hug after scoring a touchdown but two friends can't hug in the cafeteria after acing a tough exam. If the rule applies to everywhere on school property, what's the difference?
Surely, there are physical acts that are inappropriate in a school setting. You don't want kids making out against the lockers or holding hands in class, and you certainly have to guard against unwanted touching of any kind, as sexual harassment. But when two friends hug after school on a Friday afternoon before they part for the weekend, who is harmed and how is the school discredited?
This is a bad rule, badly applied. In enforcing the rule with zero tolerance, the district takes away the ability of the adults in the school to judge what's appropriate and what's not -- teachers who know their students and judge them every day. Again, in our discussion, McGowan explained why judgement can't play a part in the application of the rule, but when I bring it up later, he denies that's the case.
It's apparent in talking to McGowan that he's the kind of guy who is not used to being challenged or having someone disagree with him publicly. I think he needs a hug.
Melissa Coulter says she's appealing her daughter's punishment (two days of after-school detention, which she served Monday and Tuesday) in an attempt to get the rule changed. I hope she gets a lot of support from other parents in Mascoutah.
During question time in the Australian parliament, while another legislator was speaking, Kevin Rudd was a little bored. So, his left hand started wandering up to his ear, and soon, he had dug out some ear wax. Next, in an act that memorialized him in the Gross Guy Hall of Fame (like the Smales kid in "Caddyshack"), Rudd ate the ear wax...
[thanks to Jack Greer for the contribution]
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Kathleen Madigan was back on my show today in advance of her appearance at the Ameristar Casino this Thursday night. We talked about bad songs, the effect of the writers strike on friends of hers in the TV business, whether she'll appear on another season of "Last Comic Standing," and why she isn't very good at blackjack.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Today's election day, and with no major races to decide in our area, it's time for an annual tradition on my show -- voting for The Worst Song Ever!
The polls are closed now, and the votes are tallied. We had lots of good nominees, several of whom got plenty of support, including "Billy Don't Be A Hero," "We Built This City," "My Humps," and "Timothy."
Our winner is one that's gotten perennial mentions, and actually won it six years ago. The runners-up, however, are new to the top three. In fact, the song at number two had never gotten more than one vote in previous balloting.
That said, the results of this year's election are...
THE WORST SONG EVER 2007
#1) Richard Harris "Macarthur Park"
#2) Minnie Riperton "Lovin' You"
#3) Michael Jackson "Ben"
In previous years...
THE WORST SONG EVER 2006
#1) Captain and Tenille "Muskrat Love" #2) Tiny Tim "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" #3) Maria Muldaur "Midnight At The Oasis"
THE WORST SONG EVER 2004
#1) Billy Ray Cyrus "Achy Breaky Heart" #2) Tiny Tim "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" #3) Melanie "Brand New Key"
THE WORST SONG EVER 2003
#1) Morris Albert "Feelings" #2) Led Zeppelin "Stairway to Heaven" #3) Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods "Billy Don't Be A Hero"
THE WORST SONG EVER 2002
#1) White Stripes "Little Room" #2) Ween "Push The Little Daisies" #3) Los Del Rio "Macarena"
THE WORST SONG EVER 2001
#1) Richard Harris "Macarthur Park" #2) Ween "Push The Little Daisies" #3) Paul Anka "You're Having My Baby"
THE WORST SONG EVER 2000
#1) Captain and Tennille "Muskrat Love" #2) Morris Albert "Feelings" #3) Vanilla Ice "Ice Ice Baby"
THE WORST SONG EVER 1999
#1) Morris Albert "Feelings" #2) Debby Boone "You Light Up My Life" #3) Paul Anka "You're Having My Baby"
posted at 4:45 PM
Monday, November 05, 2007
No hugging in school! The discussion on my show this afternoon was sparked by this e-mail from listener Melissa Coulter:
Do you hug your child? Do you teach them to give a hug to help another through a rough day? Well, if you live in the Mascoutah Community School District, you'd better not!Melissa and I talked about this stunning zero-tolerance rule on my show today, with lots of listener calls, including a couple of teachers who work in schools with similar rules. What's remarkable is the inability of administrators to discern the difference between what is and isn't appropriate.
Picture it...Friday afternoon, 3:20pm...
You are a 13yo girl. You & your friends are separating for the weekend. You give a friend a hug on his way to the bus. The vice principal tells you that you were warned the week before & now you have detention. So you are turning to go home & another friend comes up to you & hugs you and, of course, the vice principal sees & now you have TWO, yes that's right TWO, after school detentions.
It's called Public Display of Affection & there are NO exceptions here. Yes, it's in the student handbook but not as hugging. There are no specifications so those of us who thought it meant kissing, holding hands, etc. were way off base.
There is no room in the Mascoutah School District for understanding or caring. I tried talking to the vice principal, Mr. Blakely, who is as compassionate as a fence post. I left a message for the superintendent, Dr. McGowan, which is thus far unanswered. This school district is spiraling out of control in the hands of an administration that is high-handed & closed-minded.
I am hoping that someone will help me get through to them because they don't want to listen or explain their views. They just want us to fork over the tax money & keep quiet. Well, I'm tired of that!
This afternoon, I talked with Tom Brokaw about his new book, "Boom! Voice of the Sixties." Think of it as Sons (and Daughters) of the Greatest Generation.
The title ("Boom!") isn't just a nod to the baby boomers, but also acknowledgement of the explosive impact of the events that made up the decade (which Brokaw doesn't define as 1960-69, but rather from the death of JFK in 1963 through Nixon's resignation in 1974). We discussed the assassinations of RFK and MLK, the civil rights struggle, the anti-war effort, and the impact of sixties music.
I also asked him how his wife Meredith handled segueing from society's expectations of a young bride in the early sixties through the years of women's liberation. In the book, Brokaw shares memories with Jane Pauley, Colin Powell, and many others, and writes about how baby boomers Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich were so similar.
Brokaw says the verdict isn't in on the 60s yet, but that hasn't stopped a backlash against much of what made that decade so different.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
- Drew Carey on why it's about time medical marijuana be legalized nationwide
- Steve Chapman on why the pundits should stop assuming that Hillary and Rudy already have their respective nominations locked up
- Rob Beschizza has compiled 10 Tips For Dealing With James Randi for anyone considering taking the Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge (or refusing to, and attacking Randi instead)
- Michael Dobbs about that ridiculous chain e-mail going around attacking Barack Obama for not putting his hand over his heart while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (the fact-checker points out errors such as, at the event in question, the participants were not reciting the Pledge, but listening to the National Anthem)
- Phil Plait on Dennis Kucinich seeing a UFO
Favre came through big time today for the Pack, who beat the Chiefs outright as I predicted, so they didn't even need the 2 points to cover the spread. Final score: GB 33, KC 22.
And congratulations to the Rams for their first non-losing weekend of 2007.
My season record improves to 5-3-1.
posted at 4:52 PM
Friday, November 02, 2007
AJ Jacobs returned to my show today to talk about his latest live-it-and-write-about-it experiment. He spent a year trying to follow all the rules of The Bible, more than 700 in all, and kept track of his adventures, which he recaps in "The Year of Living Biblically."
The rules included the Ten Commandments, of course, but also some less-known guidelines, like the ban on mixed fibers that made him throw out all his poly-cotton clothes. We talked about how hard it was to avoid coveting, the challenge he faced in avoiding lust while interviewing Rosario Dawson, and the time he actually stoned an adulterer.
Jacobs really got into the project, allowing his beard to grow unshorn and, for a few months, walking around in a white robe and sandals. You don't have to imagine how that went over with the TSA screeners at the airport, because I asked him. We also discussed how his wife reacted to all of this, including the hut he built in their living room. That didn't stop him from going forth and multiplying, as he and his wife begat twins.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
With "The Amazing Race" about to start its 12th season, Phil Keoghan was back on my show today to talk about what we can expect this year.
We talked about the teams (including the dating goths from Kentucky who wear pink), the couples who somehow believe going on The Race will help patch up problems in their relationships, the locations (some new ones this year), and how the producers have ramped up the pressure of the roadblocks and detours.
Add some stubborn animals, a change to the format of the race, and several eye-candy teams from California, and we're ready to hit the road with Phil and his gang of travelers.
In previous seasons, I have always started out pulling for whichever team includes a bald, middle-aged guy. Phil tried to assure me today that I'll have a few to choose from, but I'm not sure I believe him. To see what I mean, listen.
Henry Coffer is the only barber in Charleston, Missouri, and may be the only hair collector in the entire state. He's been saving the hair he cuts off customers' heads for several years and adding them to the hairball that he hopes will put him in the Guinness book. Until then, he keeps adding to the 167-pound mass, which sits in the bed of his pickup truck.
I'm waiting for someone to approach Guinness with a cat big enough to cough this thing up...
Thursday, November 01, 2007
TV legend Ed McMahon was back on my show today to talk about his book, "When Television Was Young: Live, Spontaneous, and in Living Black and White."
Ed says he was there the day FDR did one of the first TV broadcasts in 1939, and talked about being part of one of the first telecasts via coaxial cable. He also told early-TV stories about his friends Dick Clark, Merv Griffin, and Jerry Lewis (including a secret broadcast Lewis did with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson for an audience of one -- Albert Einstein!).
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Do you see the dancer spinning clockwise or counter-clockwise?
The creators of this effect say that clockwise means you're right-brain-oriented, making you logical and interested in details -- counter-clockwise means you're more creative and interested in the big picture.
Personally, I like to stare at the image for a few seconds, then look away, then try to make her spin the other way just by concentrating. See if you can do it, too (there is no trickery involved in the image).