Monday, December 31, 2007

Everywhere Like Such As

The most-viewed Harris Online Picture Of The Day in 2007 was the one starring Caitlyn Upton, Miss South Carolina, in the Miss Teen USA pageant. Here she is again, in all her pageant queen glory...

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Upset Picks End A Tough Season

With two more losses today (Jacksonville and Seattle), my Upset Picks season comes to a miserable close, with a record of 8-12-1, far behind last's year's 75% winner. As always, it could be worse. I could be Scott Linehan.

Resolved

Prof. Richard "Quirkology" Wiseman has released the results of his year-long study of New Year's Resolutions, involving some 3,000 people. Now he's looking for people who want to participate in the 2008 study.

For more on Wiseman, including his two appearances this year on my KMOX show and his YouTube videos that have been viewed over four million times, click here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Jon Macks

"Tonight Show" comedy writer Jon Macks made his final appearance of the year on my KMOX show this afternoon.

We talked about what will happen when Jay Leno returns to work on Wednesday and whether Jon and his fellow writers plan on picketing at NBC, which means any celebrities who appear on the show will have to cross the picket line. Jon says he isn't sure what Jay will do for a monologue since, as a WGA member, he's not supposed to write any material (even for himself) during the strike.

Jon requested that I not ask him on the air about the deal David Letterman has made to return with his writers next week, because he had no comments to make on the record -- but he was in the mood to joke about his New Year's Resolutions and some of the celebrities who made news this year.

Listen.

Misadventures In Advertising

Thanks to listener Mark Russell for tipping me to Fortune magazine's list of this year's Misadventures In Advertising, including Jessica Simpson doing commercials for Pizza Hut and then revealing that she's allergic to wheat, tomatoes, and cheese.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Upset Picks, Week 17

With a season record of 8-11-1, I'm not going to make it back to .500 for the year unless I make three upset picks this weekend. Unfortunately, with all the playoff teams resting starters, there's not much that's appealing, so I'm only going with two games: take Jacksonville +6.5 at Houston and Seattle +1 @ Atlanta.

More Movies You Might Not Know

Just added to the Movies You Might Not Know list:

  • "Once" was an indie hit earlier this year, and deservedly so. It's about a street busker in Dublin and a Czech immigrant he meets on the sidewalk, who team up to create some clever rock songs, which form the soundtrack for their unique relationship. The guy is Glenn Hansard, who you may have seen in "The Commitments," and the woman is Marketa Irglova, who teamed up with him to perform some of these songs during appearances on Letterman and elsewhere. If you missed "Once" in theaters, get it on DVD.
  • "Derailed" starts out as a meet-cute romance, with Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston as people married to others who meet on a commuter train to Chicago and eventually end up in a hotel room for an affair. From there, things change quickly, and you're in the middle of a thriller. At times, Owen's adventure is reminiscent of Griffin Dunne's hellish night in "After Hours," but when it's over, the movie has redeemed itself. And any movie is enhanced by the presence of Giancarlo Esposito.
  • "Frankie and Johnny Are Married" is the story of TV director Michael Pressman ("The Practice," "Picket Fences"), who decides to stage his own production of the two-person drama "Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune," starring his wife, Lisa Chess. Unfortunately, the show keeps running into problems, particularly with Alan Rosenberg as the male lead. The movie has a documentary feel and everyone uses their real name (a bold move for Rosenberg, whose character is a major jerk). Not for everyone, but if you're into behind-the-scenes showbiz stories, you'll enjoy it.

What Song Is This?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Civil Liberties Watch

Judge Andrew Napolitano is a staunch defender of civil liberties, as he has proven in his several appearances on my KMOX show and his books, not to mention his work as senior judicial analyst for Fox News. In October, Judge Nap gave the keynote address at the Reason in DC conference, "Civil Liberties In Wartime." You can watch it here.

And
Radley Balko predicts more erosions of civil liberties in 2008, such as:

  • Standing on the sidewalk will become a crime.
  • Cities will begin seizing the cars of people who play their stereos too loud. In fact, they'll seize the cars based on the word of someone else that the car's owner was playing his stereo too loud.
  • Proving there's no part of your life the Nanny State can't reach, states will begin asking bars to install talking urinal cakes , which will warn men as they relieve themselves that drinking and driving isn't cool.
  • The Bush administration will claim it has the power to kidnap citizens of foreign countries for violating U.S. law, and extradite them to the U.S. for trial and imprisonment—even for white collar crimes unrelated to terrorism, and even for acts that aren't illegal in the countries where the target is a citizen.
  • Watch, as some overzealous district attorney will charge middle school kids with sex crimes for such childhood shenanigans as slapping fellow classmates on the buttocks.

The irony is that we don't have to wait until the new year to see if Balko's predictions come true, because all of those attacks on civil liberties -- and more -- happened in 2007! Read his full list here, complete with links.

Mat Ricardo's Tablecloth Trick

I'd never heard of this guy until listener Ron Bellin tipped me off to him. He's a British performer named Mat Ricardo, doing six funny minutes on a Dutch TV show...


Monday, December 24, 2007

Have Yourself An A Cappella Christmas


The group is Straight No Chaser, performing in Bloomington, Indiana, in 1998.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Upset Picks Split The Difference

I thought the weather in Buffalo and the loss of Jeremy Shockey would work against the Giants, but the Bills couldn't hold them off and the spread wasn't enough to help against a 38-21 NYG victory.

On the other hand, the Eagles did the same thing to the Saints that they did to the Cowboys, so I didn't even need the spread to win that one with a 38-23 victory.

So, a split week leaves my season record at 8-11-1 going into the final week of regular season.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Jon Macks

On my KMOX show this afternoon, Jon Macks talked about the continuing writers strike, how he feels about his boss (Jay Leno) going back on the air January 2nd, and whether he and the other writers will still be picketing. Then Jon joked about his trip to Austin, why Christmas is different in Hollywood, and the pregnancy of Jamie Lynn Spears. Listen.

John Marshall, King of Collectible Rock

John Marshall, king of collectible rock, was back on my KMOX show this afternoon appraising your old vinyl records (we had one guy with a Supremes album that's worth $1,200), as he's done for many, many years with me.

John is offering his record-collecting price guide for half-price ($19.95 instead of $39.95) until midnight tonight -- just call 800-654-1967 and mention The Paul Harris Show. You can find his other record-collecting kits and get online appraisals at his website (note that the half-price offer is not valid there, and it has a different phone number, too).

Aaron Barnhart's TV Year In Review

On my KMOX show this afternoon, Aaron Barnhart and I talked about the TV Year In Review.

The big stories included the writers strike, viewers doing more time-shifting than ever via DVRs and online streaming. It was the year the "Sopranos" went away, "30 Rock" came into its own, and a slew of shows had female lead characters. We discussed all of that, plus a few disappointments like the "Grey's Anatomy" George-and-Izzie story line and its misguided spinoff, "Private Practice." Aaron named his best new shows of the year, too.

Listen.


Aaron Barnhart is TV critic for the Kansas City Star and is always online at TVBarn.com. His regular segment on my KMOX show airs Mondays at 4:15pm CT.

Polish Postcard Prank

This guy is offering a unique prank opportunity. He's going to Poland during Christmas break, and will send three postcards from there to a person you choose. He'll include personal details about the addressee, which you'll provide, which will leave them scratching their heads about who they know in Eastern Europe who has such intimate knowledge of their lives. To make it even better, one of the postcards will be a 1995 promotional piece for Mariel Hemingway's short-lived CBS series "Central Park West," and another will be from the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Medical Myths

A new report debunks some long-held medical myths:

  • People should drink at least eight glasses of water a day
  • We use only 10% of our brains
  • Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death
  • Shaving hair causes it to grow back faster, darker, or coarser
  • Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight
  • Eating turkey makes people especially drowsy
  • Mobile phones create considerable electromagnetic interference in hospitals.
Authors Rachel Vreeman and Aaron Carroll checked them out and found all of them either false or unproven.

That's Steve At The News Desk

My friend Steve Morris has done a couple of funny commercials for Bear Mountain Ski Resorts in California. One of them goes like this...


And the other one goes like this...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Worth A Link

  • Gary Stocklaufer, the Too Fat For Fatherhood dad, will get his adoptive son back before the end of the year after a court ruling this week
  • Brian Lowry writes an open letter to people who send him vitriolic e-mail after Drudge posts a link to one of his stories (welcome to my world, Brian!)
  • Mitt Romney tries to explain how he "saw" his father marching with Martin Luther King when there's no evidence George Romney ever did
  • Jerry Useem, in a Fortune piece from earlier this year, makes the case that Apple is America's best retailer

Bet They Learned Their Lesson

Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo have agreed to pay a settlement of $31.5 million for running ads for online gambling sites.

Putting aside the absurdity of the government -- here in the person of US Attorney Catherine Hanaway -- continuing to crackdown on what Americans do with their own money in their own leisure time, have these tech companies really been punished harshly? After all, in the time it took me to type this blog entry, each of them has earned more than enough to pay their portion of the fine. Sergei Brin and Larry Page, the men behind Google, probably carry that much in pocket change.

In the meantime, your government wants to remind you that gambling is bad for you. Now go out and buy more state-issued lottery tickets.

Retiring #28

The Rams retiring Marshall Faulk's #28 tonight at halftime of the Rams-Steelers game got a lot of hype ahead of time, particularly on NFL Network, which has Faulk broadcasting the game. Rich Eisen and I even talked it up on my KMOX show this afternoon.

Considering that this guy's not only a legendary running back but also an employee, how many highlight clips of Faulk in action did they show as part of this big night? I watched closely so I could get an exact count, and the total was ..... zero. Sure, Bryant Gumbel kept mentioning the honor over and over, and Bob Costas was brought in to emcee the ceremonies on a midfield platform, but wouldn't it have been nice to have NFL Films put together a five-minute montage of Marshall doing what he did so well while wearing #28? The guy played in two Super Bowls, racked up some very impressive numbers every season, and scored more touchdowns than all but three men in NFL history -- there's plenty of material for a video tribute.

Maybe there was such a montage played on the big screen at The Dome. If you were there and saw one, let me know. They should have played it for the home audience.

Update 12/21/07: Harry Hamm tells me that there was a highlights montage on the Dome video screen during halftime, and they also had tributes to Faulk throughout the game, including Dick Vermeil, Peyton Manning, and many others. But Harry also reports that at no point during the halftime ceremonies did anyone from the Rams step up to the mike to honor Faulk (considering the boos from the crowd when Costas mentioned John Shaw and Jay Zygmunt, that was probably a wise move). Still, I'm pointing my finger at the NFL Network for not showing the whole jersey-raising ceremony, including the video.

Stewart & Colbert Returning

Alan Sepinwall reports tonight that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will bring back "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" on January 7th, without their writing teams, even if the strike isn't over. It'll be a little more difficult than when Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, and Jimmy Kimmel return on January 2nd, because the Comedy Central shows rely tremendously on scripted material. As for David Letterman and Craig Ferguson, the WGA is meeting with Worldwide Pants tomorrow to barter a deal that would allow them to resume their shows with their writing staffs.

We'll cover some of this when Aaron Barnhart joins me at 2pm tomorrow afternoon on KMOX for his TV Year In Review hour.

Mike Allen, Politico.com

Mike Allen of Politico.com returned to my KMOX show, with more great analysis of the presidential race.

Mike was the one at President Bush's press conference this morning who asked for reaction to Bill Clinton's proposal that, after Hillary becomes President (!), Bill and Bush 41 go on a worldwide tour to improve America's image. Bush 43's reaction: "that will be a one-man trip."

With the Iowa caucuses coming up in two weeks, I wondered why Rudy Giuliani -- who was hospitalized here in St. Louis last night and today -- has been slipping in the polls, and whether Clinton's camp is worried about her inability to pull away from Obama and Edwards. Mike pointed out an interesting similarity between those campaigns. I was also curious what impact the Christmas weekend will have on the candidates' activities in Iowa.

Listen.


Read Mike Allen's Playbook column for daily updates on the campaign.

Upset Picks, Week 16

I'm going to try to double up again this weekend.

With bad weather forecast for Buffalo this weekend, Eli Manning should have a tough time moving the ball (not having Jeremy Shockey hurts, too). I'm going with the Bills +3 vs. the Giants.

Before the season, I picked the Saints to go to the Super Bowl, which is obviously not going to happen. I don't think their collapse is complete yet. On the other hand, the Eagles beat Dallas, and may be able to put up the same effort in New Orleans. Take Philadelphia +3.5.

Season record: 7-10-1.

Rich Eisen on Rams-Steelers & Marshall Faulk

Rich Eisen from NFL Network returned to my KMOX show this afternoon while he's in town to cover the Rams-Steelers game at The Dome tonight. We talked about his colleague Marshall Faulk having his number 28 retired tonight during the halftime ceremonies, and whether Marshall will (and should) take a job in the Rams front office for next season.

Listen.


Eisen was last on my show three weeks ago telling stories from his "Total Access" book.

Noncompetitive Recess

Here's the article we're talking about now on my KMOX show, about a school that not only keeps kids from playing tags and dodgeball at recess, but tells the kids they can't even walk around without a school nurse present. Oh, they can play kickball -- as long as they don't keep score. [thanks to Jennifer G for the contribution]

I've covered this subject before, in a 2000 column on dodgeball, a 2006 column on banning tag, a discussion with author Paula Spencer on protecting kids from everything except fear and earlier this month in an interview with David Harsanyi about his book "Nanny State."

It Isn't Christmas Without Darlene Love

One of the great holiday TV traditions that's missing this year because of the writers strike is Darlene Love's annual performance on Letterman's show of "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)," which first appeared on the 1963 Phil Spector album "A Christmas Gift For You."

The first time Love did this with Paul Shaffer and the band was in 1986. Each year since, Letterman's crew has made the production of the song even better, and Love's voice has somehow gotten stronger. Here's how great she sounded last year, on the 20th anniversary...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

FAA Cuts Back on Flights

Today on KMOX, I talked with Kate Hanni about whether the FAA limiting the number of flights taking off from and landing at New York's aiports will have any impact on the vast majority of fliers across the country, including here in the midwest.

None of those airports is among the ten busiest in the US, but Kate sees it as a net positive if they don't cancel those flights but instead move them to less-busy times of the day. So, you'd still be able to fly at some point in the day, but there would be less chance that you'd get caught up in the mass confusion that comes when more flights are scheduled to take off than an airport can handle.

We also talked about the Airline Passengers Bill Of Rights, which Kate has been chief spokeswoman for. It has become law in New York state, but the airlines are challenging it in court before it can gain traction and pass nationally.

Listen.

Cars That Don't Run On Gas

As a followup to the energy bill discussion this afternoon on my KMOX show, I called upon Greg Damon to talk about the French car that runs on compressed air, whether plug-in hybrids will become more popular in the next decade, and his thoughts on using ethanol as an oil alternative and/or additive.

Greg is host of the KMOX Auto Show and was named the BP/Amoco Ultimate Golden Mechanic.

Listen.

The Energy Bill, Ethanol, and You

Congress overwhelmingly passed the new energy bill, and President Bush signed it this morning -- but is it good for you?

Today on KMOX, I talked it over with Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at Public Citizen. He's happy to see fuel economy standards raised, but wonders why they weren't made higher with shorter deadlines. He also explained the downsides of the bill, from the continuing subsidies for oil companies to the lack of support for solar and wind energy development. With the mandates for increasing the use of ethanol six-fold, we discussed who is really going to benefit and whether that alternative fuel source will be a net negative because of the increase in costs for food and other products, not to mention that ethanol-based fuel is less energy-efficient than oil-based fuel, so you'll have to use more of it, thus increasing your costs even more.

The bottom line question is this: how great can the energy bill be for us if the big automakers and oil companies are happy with it?

Listen.

Mom Of The Year

I know there are 12 days left in 2007, but is it too early to name Lynne Spears the Mom Of The Year? What a job she's done with her daughters, Britney and Jamie Lynn. What a coincidence that her publisher has decided to delay Lynne's book on parenting. She must be so proud.

Jackass 2.5

Johnny Knoxville and pals are back with a straight-to-video sequel made up of stunts they shot for "Jackass 2," but didn't include in that film. Until the end of the year, you can watch it stream for free here. After that, it'll be on DVD and iTunes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Frank Caliendo Returns

Frank Caliendo was back on my KMOX show to talk about tonight's finale of his TBS series, "Frank TV," and his upcoming appearance at The Pageant in St. Louis.

With the big numbers his TV show has been getting, I asked him whether he'll do more when the writers strike is settled, and whether he's going to continue to tour as much as he has. We also talked about the keys to his imitations of Al Pacino, President Bush, Charles Barkley, and others. And, of course, with Brett Favre being named starting quarterback for the NFL Pro Bowl team, John Madden had to make an appearance, too.

Listen.

Bad Jocks Of The Year

Bob Reno of BadJocks.com was back on my KMOX show this afternoon to run down his Bad Jocks Of The Year.

Everyone knows about Michael Vick, Barry Bonds, and the other pros, but only Bob shines the spotlight on 40-year-old coaches who marry their 16-year-old students, moms who help 15-year-old cheerleaders get beer from passing cars on the highway, jocks who do stupid things and then post their photos on MySpace and Facebook, and on and on.

Listen.

15 Days Until Highway 40 Closure

With just over two weeks until Highway 40 closes, I had Dan Galvin (Gateway Constructors) and Linda Wilson (MODOT) on my KMOX show this afternoon to answer questions about the project from me and lots of listeners.

We discussed the striping problem on I-44 which has to be done by the end of the year, whether MODOT will avoid doing construction on adjacent roads and highways during the two years 40 will be unavailable, how north-south bridges and streets will be affected, and much more.

I also got their reaction to Joe Passanise's comments on my show yesterday, when he accused MODOT of not doing an economic impact statement (turns out they did two), and hoped to build enough public support to keep the highway open. Joe had a meeting about it last night, and attracted only about three dozen supporters. Chances of success at this point: zero.

Listen.


Here's the MODOT website for The Big Fix, as we're calling it.

Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2007

Comets, black holes, stars, and moons. You'll find all of them in Phil Plait's list of the Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2007, including this supernova...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Aaron Barnhart on TV

Today on KMOX, I talked with Aaron Barnhart about Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien returning to their shows (without their writers) on January 2nd, whether David Letterman will be able to negotiate a deal that allows him to come back (with his writers) the following week, and the chances that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert might be doing new shows anytime soon. We also discussed Aaron's appearance with Chris Matthews on "Hardball" last week.

Listen.


Aaron will be back on my KMOX show at 2pm (CT) Friday to spend an hour talking about the Best and Worst TV of 2007.

Here are more stories from Aaron's trip to New York last week, including walking the picket line with striking writers and getting an award from CableFax magazine.

You'll find Aaron in print in the Kansas City Star and online at his TV Barn website. He's on my KMOX show every Monday at 4:15pm CT.

Joe vs. The Big Fix

With 16 days to go until the closure of Highway 40, Joe Passanise still wants to stop it. Today on my KMOX show, he explained that MODOT hasn't considered the real economic impact of the closure, and wants them to consider alternatives. He wants you to contact Gov. Blunt and other public officials, or he may try legal action to get a temporary restraining order against the work.

I don't think he has any shot at even slowing down the construction, but you can listen to his arguments (including calls from other listeners) and make up your own mind. Here's his website.

Update 12/18/07: MODOT's Linda Wilson and Dan Galvin answered Joe's points as well as other questions about The Big Fix on my KMOX show -- listen here.


Passanise spent 30 years as a professional transportation engineer for the St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic.

Fly Lie, Continued

On Friday, I quoted Michael Boyd's comments about why President Bush's big announcement about opening up military-only fly-zones to ease the holiday travel crunch would not help lessen congestion in the air and was thus little more than bogus pandering.

Today, USA Today backs that up with analysis that shows that, "Airports are crowded and hectic this time of year, but much of the perception about holiday air travel is wrong." The report shows that air travel around Christmas and New Year's didn't even crack last year's top 20 busiest days, adding, "The bottom line: taking a flight on virtually any Thursday or Friday during the summer is worse. Seats are just as packed, there are more flights, and there is a greater likelihood of being delayed, due primarily to thunderstorms and volume."

It also says that the day before Thanksgiving -- which is always referred to as "the busiest travel day of the year" -- actually ranked 36th. That doesn't include people on the roads, but it should put an end to the oft-repeated lie.

I say "should" because I see very little chance that my colleagues in the news media will bother pointing this out. Instead, they will continue spewing the traditional pablum about busy holiday travel, just as they do with "Black Friday" (which is not the busiest shopping day of the year) and "Cyber Monday" (ditto for online shopping).

So what is the busiest holiday for travel? According to USA Today, it's the Friday before Labor Day, which is still only the 14th busiest day of the year.

Car Wash Crazy

I don't know where this was, but the story is that a car wash customer became upset when he couldn't find his glasses and decided to take it out on the equipment [thanks to Jack Landers for the contribution]...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Upset Picks, a Double Winner

After a horrible stretch of losses, both of my Upset Picks for this weekend were winners! I liked SF +8 vs. Cincy, and the 49ers won it 20-13. This afternoon, I had Jacksonville + 4 @ Pittsburgh, and the Jaguars took it by a touchdown, 29-22.

My season record improves to 7-10-1.

Late Show Writers On Strike

As the NY Times reports that Letterman may be close to a deal to get his show back on the air in the next couple of weeks, Aaron Barnhart has posted video from his trip to NYC last week, where he met members of the "Late Show" writing staff on the picket line. Note that because of the weather, Aaron had his video camera in a plastic bag, part of which you can see in the frame...


Here's the Letterman writers' blog.

Worth A Link

  • I almost never agree with Charles Krauthammer, but this column on the candidates and the role of religion in this election is right on the money
  • Ken Levine explains why Christmas in Hollywood means plastic surgery season
  • Greg Beato says you should thank McDonald's for keeping you thin

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fly Lie

My favorite quote of the day came from aviation consultant Michael Boyd. After President Bush announced he would open up some east-coast military-only fly zones for use by commercial flights to ease some of the Christmas crush -- as he did at Thanksgiving -- Boyd pointed out what a useless, pandering move that is, because the congestion isn't in the air, it's at the airports:

It's meaningless, because over a holiday period, there are no more airplanes in the sky than any other day. You're opening up a couple of routes north and south. Well, last time I checked, the United States goes from Maine to California, and a couple of routes north and south don't have a major effect upon the air transportation system. It looks good, it sounds good, but it plays to that argument that we'll have many more planes in the sky, many more people flying, and a lot of congestion. It's just as congested as any other day. It's crowded today at Denver, it's crowded today at Kennedy, but the demographics are different over a holiday because there are more people traveling who have the baby in the stroller and people going through security that don't understand a bottle of Old Spice is a national threat.

Jon Macks

Today on my KMOX show, as "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" comedy writer Jon Macks was sitting in the offices of the Writers Guild, he provided an update on the strike. I asked him how he'd feel about Leno going back to work soon, even without the writers, and whether Jon will be able to write any of the upcoming awards shows. We also joked about the Mitchell Report on steroids in baseball, gifts for the celebrities on Jon's Christmas list, and more.

Listen.

Student Suspended for Photos of Teacher


Logan Glover was in his language arts class at Lafayette HS on November 20th when he took out his camera and shot a few pictures of teacher Jessica Hauser during some free time. When he got home that afternoon, he posted a few of them on his Facebook page (the montage above is from the Post-Dispatch).

The photos were not lewd, and he didn't add any captions, but they still created a problem -- a couple of weeks later -- when school officials confronted Logan about the pictures and he took them off the site. Still, the school suspended him, claiming he'd caused a disruption in the classroom by taking the photos surreptitiously, and another disruption when they became the subject of discussion among students in the school.

Logan didn't take these pictures with a cell phone. He used a regular camera, which isn't covered in quite the same way under school rules. What the school district needs to put in place is a policy that says students may not use any electronic devices in class -- cell phones, beepers, pagers, cameras -- except in an emergency. In particular, cameras of any kind are problematic because you'll always have students taking pictures of exams and sharing them with friends.

The Glover family didn't like that Logan was suspended and moved to another teacher's class. Today on my KMOX show, Mark Sableman, attorney for the Glover family, explained why they have filed suit against the school district on First Amendment grounds, and what they want as a remedy. I also spoke with Kim Cranston, spokeswoman for Rockwood schools, who explained district policy and Ms. Hauser's reaction.

Listen, then add your comments below. Most of my callers this afternoon think the school district was too harsh and the punishment didn't fit the crime.

Upset Picks, Week 15

Still trying to play catch up, I'm making two picks this weekend. Take SF +8 @ Cincy and Jacksonville +4 @ Pittsburgh. Season record is a miserable 5-10-1.

Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot

Mark Zapfe e-mails, "I was recently turned on to this video from the late Carl Sagan and I thought I'd pass this on to you. I think if more people really listened to this and took heed, the world could be a better place. Who knows?"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another Movie You Might Not Know

Just added to the Movies You Might Not Know list: "Interview," with Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller as a journalist and actress engaged in a one-on-one interview that starts off as a disaster and gets more complicated as it goes along. He considers himself far too serious to do a puff piece on a Paris Hilton-like starlet, and she's disgusted by his lack of professionalism and complete lack of interest in her.

Buscemi, who co-wrote and directed (based on the original Dutch movie), is his usual solid self. The revelation here is that Miller has so many different notes and hits them all in what could have been simply a caricature of a tabloid target, but turns out to be so much more.

"Interview" even has an element of "Sleuth," with the two characters playing games with each other to uncover secrets, lies, and their own agendas. Very clever, very engaging, and a very apt companion piece to another movie on the list, "Living In Oblivion" (1995) which made some strong points about celebrity, moviemaking, and stardom, also with Buscemi in the lead role.

Steroids? You're Kidding!

Quick thoughts on baseball's Mitchell Report...

Has Roger Clemens announced his re-retirement yet?

In most cities, fans were just happy to hear that none of their active superstar players were named in the report. That's how St. Louisans felt when Albert Pujols wasn't listed, contrary to the rumors going around this morning. The only active Cardinals mentioned by Mitchell are Ryan Franklin and Rick Ankiel, with nothing new about them that hadn't been reported already.

Not being included doesn't mean a player is or was clean -- it only means that Mitchell didn't get any evidence about them. Surely, there are steroid-using baseball players who never met the two trainers who serve as first-person sources in the report.

In fact, the report contains a remarkable amount of previously-known material. This is what you get for $50,000,000 and 20 months of investigation? Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams got more info with a lot less money, time, and authority.

The bottom line for baseball is whether the fans will still show up in record numbers. Over the last decade, they've loved seeing the ball go over the wall, even after all the steroid allegations and "widespread use." I don't think most people will care in the long run -- to the contrary, many fans are suffering from steroid story fatigue.

James e-mails to suggest that we could put this issue to rest by adding a clause to the disclaimer on tickets: "Notice: Some of the athletes you will see today may be chemically enchanced."

Does someone owe Jose Canseco a thank-you?

I'm tired of hearing people playing the Kid Card, claiming that the use of steroids by big leaguers is why young athletes are using them, and we have to protect them. It is long past time for parents to teach their sons and daughters that, with very few exceptions, professional athletes are not role models to emulate, anymore than professional singers, movie stars, or radio personalities.

Cheryl e-mails to ask, "If you knew steroids were illegal, how stupid do you have to be to write a check for them?" I guess none of these guys know the Jerry Springer story.

Glow In The Dark Cats

No more tripping over your cat in the middle of the night. A South Korean newspaper reports that scientists there were cloning some cats by manipulating their protein genes, when they discovered that the cloned cats glow in the dark under ultraviolet light...


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Jewish-Americans

PBS has a documentary series next month called "The Jewish-Americans." Today on my KMOX show, I talked with writer/director David Grubin about the show, which traces the history of Jews in America -- from the arrival of 23 Jews from Brazil in 1654 all the way up to the present day.

We discussed why the US has been so good to Jews as they assimilated and ugliness like Henry Ford's anti-semitism and the Supreme Court Justice who refused to have his photo taken next to Louis Brandeis (the first Jewish member of the court). I also asked Grubin about the role of Jewish-Americans in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and what happened to cause an eventual split between Jews and Blacks.

Listen.


"The Jewish-Americans" airs on PBS January 9, 16, and 23. You can pre-order the DVD version here. There's also a companion book, which you can order here.

More on Veterans Suicide

Todd Bowers was supposed to testify before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs this morning to talk about what can be done about the high suicide rate for soldiers and veterans. Unfortunately, the committee didn't have time for him, but I did on my KMOX show this afternoon.

Todd is the Director of Government Affairs for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who served two combat tours in Iraq. He explained the communications problems that keep many veterans from knowing of new services the VA offers, but even those don't go far enough in dealing with the mental health issues and stigma that soldiers face. The suicide rate for active-duty soldiers is now at its highest level in 26 years.

Listen, then read the testimony that Bowers had to submit in writing.

Big Mouth

Hey, buddy, you have a BIG mouth!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Apologize for Slavery?

Missouri State Representative TD El-Amin wants the legislature to issue a formal apology for Missouri's role in slavery.

He proposed this earlier this year and didn't get enough support from his fellow legislators -- although House Speaker Rod Jetton and four dozen others were co-signers of his bill -- but he plans to re-introduce it when the new session begins in January. El-Amin says it's not just about the apology, but to start a broader discussion of racism through the state's history up to today.

Listen, then read House Resolution 26.

Stairway to Liverpool

Since Led Zeppelin had their reunion show Monday night in London, there's been a lot of buzz about the band. Here's something from the archives, from the earliest days of Zep, when Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were obviously influenced by John Lennon and Paul McCartney while writing "Stairway to Heaven"...


That's actually The Beatnix, a Beatles tribute band, as seen on Australian TV show "The Money Or The Gun" in the early 90s.

Geoff's Christmas Lights

Geoff George of St. Louis has another computerized Christmas display at his house this year. You can drive by, watch and listen, and make a contribution to his food drive. Here's his "Dueling Banjos" display...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mike Allen, Politico.com

Mike Allen of Politico.com was on my KMOX show this afternoon to talk about developments in the presidential race this weekend including Oprah stumping for Obama, Mike Huckabee explaining his 1992 comments on AIDS, whether Mitt Romney's religion speech is paying off, how the GOP is using Hillary Clinton in commercials against other Dems, and more.

Listen.

Maureen Ryan on TV

Aaron Barnhart's on vacation, so Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune filled in for him today on my KMOX show to talk television.

She says the writers strike has brought the industry to a critical moment that may not only endanger our chances of seeing original episodes of our favorite shows through the spring (a depressing thought for Ryan, because there are only so many episodes of "Deal Or No Deal" the human body can stand), but in the long run may redefine the concept of the TV season.

She also speculates that if the major networks don't start seeing the value of showrunners and writers, they shouldn't be surprised to see the creative folks find other distribution options, from streaming on non-network-branded sites to airing more shows like "Mad Men," "Rescue Me," and "The Closer" on smaller networks like AMC, F/X, TNT, and others.

Listen, then read Ryan's TV blog.

David Harsanyi "Nanny State"


Today on KMOX, I talked with David Harsanyi about his book, "Nanny State," in which he asks "when did we lose our right to be lazy, unhealthy, and politically incorrect?"

With mandatory seat belt laws, the FCC over-regulating content, and bans on everything from smoking at home to dodgeball at school, Harsanyi wishes the government would do less. But he also says we're at fault allowing this culture of dependence to replace personal responsibility in America, at the hands of school boards, politicians and special interest groups.

With TNT's "A Christmas Story" marathon just two weeks away, we also discussed how the Consumer Product Safety Commission restricted sales of the very Red Ryder BB gun that Ralphie wants -- a government agency telling a whole nation "you'll shoot your eye out!"

Listen.


The full title of Harsanyi's book is "Nanny State: How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and Other Boneheaded Bureaucrats Are Turning America into a Nation of Children."

Here are his Denver Post columns.

Zero Gravity Cat

There's an old saying about a falling cat always landing on its feet. But what about when astronauts take it up in a KC-135 for some zero-gravity fun?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Jon Macks

Today on KMOX, I talked with "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" writer Jon Macks about the ongoing strike, whether there's any progress being made, a Wall Street Journal story about writer groupies showing up on the picket line, and how odd it is that NBC is airing Leno shows from more than a decade ago. Then I gave Jon a chance to joke about Hanukkah and global warming, his celebrity bathroom encounter, and a Joke Challenge about the CIA's videotape controversy.

Listen.

Drew Family Statement

Here's the statement e-mailed to me from James Briscoe, attorney for Lori Drew and her family, regarding the Megan Meier MySpace story...

This week, Prosecuting Attorney Jack Banas issued his report concerning the death of Megan Meier. His investigation included a review of all reports of law enforcement agencies involved with this case and interviews with several of the individuals involved. During this investigation, the Drew family has not commented to the media. Now that the investigation is concluded, we wish to issue this statement.

First and foremost, the Drew family mourns the death of Megan every day. They previously expressed their sympathies to the Meier family, but the Meiers have made it clear that they do not wish to speak to the Drews, and they have honored the Meier’s request.

Contrary to statements reported in various news media around the nation in recent weeks, Lori Drew did not create or direct anyone to create the Josh Evans MySpace account. Although she was aware of the account, Lori Drew never sent any messages to Megan or to anyone else using this MySpace account. The MySpace account was in place for approximately 29 days. It is undisputed that all messages sent were positive until the last 24 hours.

Lori Drew was not aware of any mean, nasty or negative comments made by anyone against Megan until after Megan took her own life. In fact, the first negative message was sent by a teenager from another residence, and several other negative comments were made by other teenagers at different locations. The negative comments that were sent by the teenage girl at the Drew’s residence occurred when Lori was not home.

Lori Drew has been a high-profile target of extreme criticism for things she did not do. This has caused considerable damage to the reputation of the Drew family, both in our community and across the nation. The avalanche of criticism forced Lori to discontinue the advertising business she has had in the St. Charles County area for the past nine years. Lori is saddened that businesses that advertised with her company have been harassed in ways that have impacted them both professionally and personally.

The Drew family is also sorry that their family, friends and neighbors have had to endure the stresses associated with the harassment directed toward the Drews.

There are many accusations that various members of the Drew family have created websites or are participating in internet blogs regarding this matter. The Drews have not and will not participate in any website or blog regarding this matter. Any internet message that purports to be a member of the Drew family is being managed by an imposter and undoubtedly is being done for the purpose of further damaging the Drew’s reputation.

After reading this statement on my KMOX show, I spoke with Briscoe about some of the still unanswered questions. Listen here, then add your comments below.


Several listeners point out that some of this seems to be at odds with what Lori Drew told a St. Charles Sheriff's Department officer on November 25, 2006 -- read that police report here.

The St. Charles prosecutor, Jack Banas, explained on my show Monday why he is not prosecuting anyone in this case.

Con Games

I love movies about con games, from "The Sting" to "Criminal" to "Confidence" to "Matchstick Men" to "House of Games" and on and on. They're even better if the filmmakers are pulling something on us, the viewers, at the same time. First you wonder how anyone could buy the scam, and in the end, you realize that you were in on it and got fooled, too.

From time to time, I hear about a real-life ripoff that's so outrageous, so obviously bogus, so absolutely impossible, I wonder how anyone fell for it. Brent and Stacey Finley pulled off just such a con.

Brent convinced several people in Louisiana that Stacey was a CIA agent, and with her position in the government, could arrange for the use of satellites to do a scan of your body from space to discover any medical problems you didn't know about. Naturally, they'd always find something, but they were ready for the next step, too. Victims were told they could be cured -- that Stacey would have secret agents administer medicine to them while they slept. Of course, all of this high-tech health care was expensive, but they'd take a check, or you could wire the funds into their account.

Remarkably, the Finleys convinced friends, family, and strangers that this scam was for real, and hauled in over $870,000 from their marks! How's that for gullibility?

In the end, Brent and Stacey were busted, and will spend several years behind bars after paying restitution -- but give them some credit for the cleverness of the con.

Kellie Pickler, Geography Genius

Just when you thought Miss South Carolina Caitlyn Upton was going to hold onto her crown as Stupidest American (Geography Division), along comes Kellie Pickler, the country-singing ex-American Idol contestant who has somehow lived two decades on this planet without learning that France is a country [thanks to Joanne for the link]...


While we're at it, here's that now-infamous Kellie Pickler prom dress picture.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Upset Pick, Week 14

Let's see if I can get out of this miserable slump this weekend. I'll start by taking Chicago + 3 at Washington. Season record 5-8-1.

Update at 10:36pm: Ugh. The Skins gain only 31 yards on the ground, but still pull off a 24-16 win. Talk about ugly. Season record now 5-9-1.

Looks like I'll have to go another round this weekend. For my second pick, I'm taking Pittsburgh +10.5 vs. New England, hoping the Steelers can keep it close.

Know Your Customers

NancyKay Shapiro noticed this clueless holiday display at a supermarket in New York...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Alex Roy, Speeding Across America


Speeding is certainly the most-broken law in this country. There are plenty of people who love putting the pedal to the metal and wish we had an American Autobahn with no speed limit. Many of them dream of being in a real-life Cannonball Run, racing across the country while eluding police.

Alex Roy has done it. In fact, if you were on I-44 in St. Louis on the morning of October 8, 2006, you might have seen him whiz by you at over 100mph. At that point, he was in the middle of an attempt to set a new record for driving across America from New York to Santa Monica. When he got to the finish line, he had done it -- in 31 hours, 4 minutes.

This afternoon on my KMOX show, Roy went into great detail about how he accomplished the feat, what equipment he had in his BMW M5, whether he ran into trouble with any cops, and how often he had to stop for gas. We also talked about his participation in road races like the Gumball Rally, and the original Cannonball Runs.

Listen.



Roy writes more about his exploits in "The Driver: My Dangerous Pursuit Of Speed And Truth In The Outlaw Racing World" and on his website.

Are Mortgage Bail Outs A Good Idea?

On KMOX today, I talked with Seth Jayson of The Motley Fool about the idea of a five-year freeze on interest rates for people with subprime and adjustable mortgages. The question is whether the government should bail out people who made bad personal finance decisions.

Jayson explained, in layman's terms, why it's not a good idea, who will foot the bill (got a mirror?), and what the economic impact of these bail outs will be. He also talked about the corporate side of this and the role of lenders in making these bad loans.

The vast majority of my callers this afternoon are opposed to the bail outs and rate freeze, with one of them saying, "Much of the blame for this crisis goes to those companies that acted in a predatory manner, and are now finding themselves at risk of losing their businesses. To that, I say good riddance!"

Listen, then add your comments below.


Read Jayson's piece at The Motley Fool, and a funny commentary on the topic by Roben Farzad in Business Week called "Dude, Where's My Bailout?"

Christmas in Fallujah

"Christmas in Fallujah" is a new song from Billy Joel, based on letters he received from US soldiers in Iraq. Because he wanted a younger voice, Billy doesn't sing it. This is 21-year-old Cass Dillon performing the song with Billy's band, in concert...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Catching Up On The News


Four items that caught my attention recently...

1) The New York DMV has told ex-cop Arno Herwerth he has to return his "getosama" vanity plates, because someone found them offensive. Who, and why? The phrase is not lewd, obscene, derogatory, or patently offensive to anyone but Osama Bin Laden. Has he issued an objection via Al Jazeera?

2) If the new allegations about Sen. Larry Craig are false, why isn't he suing the Idaho Statesman and the men who claim to have had gay sex with him?

3) Mike Jacobson e-mails:

It seems that about once an hour or so for the last few weeks I have been hearing the same attack ad from the state Republican party against Jay Nixon. We are about a year from the election and I have not heard that he is officially running for anything. Up to the primary you would expect to hear from the other Democrats running against him, and only after that would you expect ads from the Republican candidate or party. Color me puzzled.

You're not the only one, Mike. This is going to be an ugly, brutal battle between Governor Matt Blunt and Attorney General Jay Nixon in 2008, but why the GOP has jumped on Nixon so early is beyond me. Most people aren't even paying attention to the presidential race yet, and won't lift an eye in the direction of the gubernatorial race until next summer at the earliest.
What do the Republicans have to gain with the early Nixon-bashing? Perhaps they believe that the first one to go negative gets to claim the position -- like a passenger calling shotgun on a long trip -- and hold it until everyone notices. There is certainly no love lost between these two rivals, but this seems awfully premature to me.

4) Massachusetts legislator Jay Kaufman filed a bill last week that would ban spanking, even in your home. When an interviewer asked Kaufman if he spanked his own children, the lawmaker replied, "None of your damn business." So it's nobody's business if you use corporal punishment at home, but it's the government's business if other parents use it in theirs? I'm not a spanking advocate, and have never laid a hand on my daughter, but Kaufman's attitude has set a new standard for hypocrisy.

While we're on the subject, I'm tired of people complaining that "things have gotten so bad that you can't even spank your own kid anymore." At least once a month, someone brings this up, always out of context, claiming that someone gently patted their child on the butt a single time in a Wal-Mart and the cops swooped in and took the child away.

Not true, never happened. There is no state in the US that has banned spanking, and Kaufman's bill has no chance of becoming the first. There are, however, laws that protect children from abuse, which is a whole other category. A little corporal punishment is one thing, but beating a child is quite another.

Cyber Bullying Talent Show

By popular request, here's that Cyber Bullying PSA that I played this afternoon on my KMOX show, from the National Crime Prevention Council...

Scott Ritter on Iran and the NIE


Scott Ritter returned to my KMOX show this afternoon to talk about the National Intelligence Estimate that says Iran stopped developing a nuclear weapon 4 years ago.

Ritter, who was right on everything he told me about Iraq, has made these same points about Iran's nuclear capability for a couple of years on my show, and in his book, "Target Iran: The Truth About The White House's Plans For Regime Change," which has just come out in paperback.

Today, he rebutted President Bush's claim that the NIE doesn't change anything -- in fact, it lowers the chances of the US going to war with Iran to virtually nothing. As Ritter points out, that's not just because of this NIE report, but also because of a change in personnel inside the Bush administration.

We also discussed the role of international pressure and sanctions in achieving change in Iran and the need to continue monitoring what takes place there.

Listen.

Is That Ride Safe?

Think your kids are safe when they get on that ride at the traveling carnival or theme park? Think again, says Elizabeth Williamson of The Washington Post.

She was on my KMOX show this afternoon to explain that those rides are rarely inspected, and some of them have abysmal safety records, but no one does anything about them. In fact, there's so little oversight that no outside agency is even allowed to inspect anything at theme parks like DisneyWorld, so there's no way of knowing about accidents or problems.

Listen.


Williamson has more details in her full Washington Post piece.

Alex Frankel "Punching In"


Alex Frankel worked at the Apple Store, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, The Gap, and Starbucks, as research for his book, "Punching In."

Today on KMOX, we talked about his experiences, and the internal cultures of each of those companies -- from hiring people passionate about the product to calling employees "associates" to the odd questions you have to answer on their job applications.

Listen.

Poker Raid

In his latest video for Reason.tv, Drew Carey narrates the story of a VFW Hall in Dallas that was raided by the police because of a single complaint that gambling was going on there. It didn't matter that the poker game was a fundraiser...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Aaron Barnhart on TV

Today on KMOX, I talked with Aaron Barnhart about whether Jay Leno deserves the beating he's been taking over the writers strike, the season finale of "The Closer," what's next for the winner of "Dancing With The Stars," other reality shows in the pipeline, and more.

Listen.


You'll find Aaron in print in the Kansas City Star and online at his TV Barn website. He's on my KMOX show every Monday at 4:15pm CT.

No Charges in Megan Meier Case

St. Charles County prosecutor Jack Banas announced this morning that he's not filing criminal charges against anyone in the Megan Meier case. She's the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide last year after getting hoaxed on MySpace by the mother of a former friend (and, it turns out, others).

This afternoon on my KMOX show, Banas explained at length that there are conflicting statements about who did what, and questions about whether any of these actions rose to the level of a crime under Missouri law. He also revealed that an 18-year-old girl who assisted Lori Drew in designing the phony Josh Evans Myspace page and sending messages to Meier has been hospitalized under psychiatric care.

Listen.


I also spoke with Detective Mike Bazzell (of the Alton PD High Tech Crimes Unit and a member of the FBI Cyber Crime Task Force) about the frustrations he faces in investigating online harassment cases, and whether laws can be written to truly deter anyone from engaging in cyber-bullying.

Listen.

Jack Coughlin, "Kill Zone"

Jack Coughlin was back on my show this afternoon to talk about his sniper novel, "Kill Zone." Coughlin knows a lot more about the subject than most people, as he was the top-ranked Marine sniper in his 24-year military career. The plot involves a conspiracy, an ambush, mercenaries, and an insider's perspective on the workings of the US armed forces.

We talked about why "Kill Zone" takes some shots at private military contractors and what Coughlin thinks of employees of Blackwater and other companies. Since he wrote the book with former war correspondent Don Davis, I asked him about his relationship to the reporters who he spent time with during the drive to Baghdad in 2003. He also explained why he hasn't fired a gun since retiring from the Marine Corps.

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


Previously on Harris Online...

Smothers Brothers

Classic TV: In December of 1968, the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour featured appearances by the Doors (doing their single "Touch Me" and the flip side "Wild Child"), standup by George Carlin, and sketches by The Committee (an improv group that included Howard Hesseman, Peter Bonerz, Carl Gottlieb, and others). Here's the entire episode, as it re-aired on E!, complete with memories of the show from some of the people involved [thanks to Mark Walton for the link].

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Worth A Link, TV Edition

  • Remember all the stories about how the state of New Mexico was going to investigate what went on during the filming of "Kid Nation," allegedly due to formal complaints by some parents? The state has announced that it didn't get any complaints or requests for an investigation, so they're dropping the matter. Maybe they simply watched the show and realized that a kid being spattered by a little bit of cooking oil while frying potatoes wasn't that big a deal.
  • Several listeners have forwarded stories to me about Jay Leno supposedly firing the entire staff of "The Tonight Show." That's wrong. Leno doesn't own his show (unlike Letterman, whose Worldwide Pants owns his). It was NBC that fired those staffers, yet Leno has become the target of plenty of negative stories that don't put this into context. Mark Evanier, on the other hand, does a very good job of explaining what's going on.