If you like trivia, check out my other site, THE HARRIS CHALLENGE, and play every weekday!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Idol of Frankenstein Lives

In the interest of accountability, I'll admit I was wrong about Amanda Overmeyer going home tonight on "American Idol." The VFTW gang must have been speed-dialing like crazy to keep her hopes alive.

Now that Ryan Seacrest has announced that the show has gotten permission from Sony/ATV to use songs from the Lennon-McCartney catalog, I hope Amanda makes it into the Top 12, so we can see her and Danny Noriega butcher Beatles classics. I can root for the good later -- for the moment, I'm rooting for the bad, and they're it.

One prediction I'll stick by, though: unless David Archuleta succumbs to the wiley backstage charms of Miss Paula Abdul -- or Randy Jackson, on video -- he's a lock to win "Idol" this season. Last year, Melinda Doolittle (whatever happened to her?) seemed like a lock, but then the youth vote carried Jordin Sparks to victory. This year, Archuleta will get that youth vote, or at least the female youth vote, which is the one that matters in choosing the next "American Idol."

One last note. Roger Taub e-mails to ask, "Did I hear correctly last night? After one of the contestants sang 'Magic Man' by Heart, did Simon Cowell say he's never heard that song? How is that possible?" It's possible because Simon has lived his life in the pop music world, not in the rock and roll world. His ears are attuned to songs that have been a hit on Top 40 and Adult Contemporary radio stations in the last two decades, not on what were once called AOR stations, now known as simply rock (or classic rock) stations. Although Heart made it into the top ten with the song in 1976, the only way Simon would have known "Magic Man" was if Mariah Carey had covered it in 2006.

Human Rights Hypocrisy

At his press conference this morning, President Bush was asked what is lost by speaking to foreign leaders with whom we disagree.

He immediately replied,

"What is lost by embracing a tyrant who puts his people in prison because of their political beliefs? What is lost is it'll send the wrong message. It'll send a discouraging message to those who wonder if America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners. It will give great status to those who have suppressed human rights and human dignity."
It's nice to see our President expressing support for human rights, but he's uneven at best in his policies and attacks on countries that regularly violate human dignity. He correctly has harsh words for the Castro brothers in Cuba, but that's not the only communist regime that persecutes its own people.

China, one of the most oppressive nations on Earth, will host the Summer Olympics this year in Beijing. President Bush is not only allowing American athletes to compete, he'll also attend. The Games will be a major public relations coup for China, with American and other world media sure to downplay the political prisoners, the pollution, and the lack of free access to information (for example, the vast majority of Chinese citizens have never heard of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, because the media, internet providers, and publishers are forbidden to mention it). Even if that oppression is covered, it will be dwarfed by hundreds of hours of the usual NBC crap about the pageantry and beauty of the Olympics host city.

Olivier Knox of Agence-France Presse asked Bush about this:
"In China, a former factory worker who says that human rights are more important than the Olympics is being tried for subversion. What message does it send that you're going to the Olympics, and do you think athletes there should be able to publicly express their dissent?"
Bush replied,
"I made it very clear I'm going to the Olympics because it's a sporting event, and I'm looking forward to seeing the athletic competition. But that will not preclude me from meeting with the Chinese president and expressing my deep concerns about a variety of issues, just like I do every time I meet with the president." He said he'd talk about religious freedom, Darfur, Iran, and Burma, and added, "I'm not the least bit shy bringing up the concerns expressed by this factory worker, and I believe that I'll have an opportunity to do so with the president, and at the same time, enjoy a great sporting event. I'm a sports fan. I'm looking forward to the competition."
So, he'll talk about it behind closed doors, but won't make a big deal out of it publicly -- because, despite the ongoing human rights violations in China, Bush doesn't want to endanger the marketplace for American products that's opening there. If human rights are for sale in return for free trade and some televised track and field and gymnastics events -- which they clearly are, and have been under previous administrations as well -- why is it okay to deal with the despots in Beijing, but not Havana?

Bush concluded his answer with this comment, almost as a throw away: "Each Olympic society will make its own decision as to how to deal with the athletes."

Sorry, but that's not strong enough. Here's what he should have said: "Athletes from this nation and any other, as well as all people on this planet, should never feel restrained in speaking out against oppression and human rights violations, wherever they may occur."

Reporters covering the campaigns of John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton should press them on this issue. Will they take a hardline stance for freedom?

Let's also remember that some of those human rights travesties are allowed to happen every day in Saudi Arabia, which doesn't stop Bush from embracing and holding hands with his good friend King Abdullah...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Printer Problem

I need help with a computer problem and can't find the answer online, so I'm turning to you.

I have two HP printers connected to my home network, a LaserJet (connected to my desktop) and an OfficeJet (connected via the network router), and want the LaserJet to be the default printer. I know how to set that in XP, but everytime I start or re-boot the laptop and/or desktop, it reverts to the OfficeJet as the default. I have no problem printing to either of them when I manually choose the printer, but I shouldn't have to do so.

Neither Microsoft nor HP seems to have heard of this problem, so I'm hoping that someone in this vast readership will. Once I get a workable solution, I'll post it here for others who may be experiencing the same problem. Thanks for any help you can offer.

Update 2/27 5:07pm: I appreciate the responses. It seems that the workaround solution is a combination of ideas. It started with deleting the LaserJet from the printers list, reinstalling it with a new driver downloaded from HP, and only allowing the desktop to print to it (not sharing it with the network, so the laptop has to use the OfficeJet exclusively). After several re-boots, the LJ is sticking as the default printer. For now.

More Oscars

Now that the ratings are in for the Oscars -- the least-watched ever -- Ken Levine has some suggestions on how to make the show more popular.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oscar Notes

Random thoughts on the Oscarcast, which ended moments ago...

Overall, a nice job by Jon Stewart, with just the right tone of respect for the moments that deserve it, and snark for those that don't. Plus, a couple of funny pieces of schtick -- the pregnant actresses bit and the binoculars and periscopes montage sequence. Too bad most of the rest of the evening is such a bore, but that's not his fault.

Can't help but wonder if Mickey Rooney and his peers in the Academy understood Stewart's references to IMdB, the iPhone, and the Wii. BTW, the crew at IMdB was getting the winners posted within seconds of the announcements -- fastest I saw online.

Is Tilda Swinton the pastiest Oscar winner ever? Must be, since they never gave one to Molly Ringwald.

Is there a law that says Jack Nicholson must sit in the front row and be the butt of at least one joke by the emcee in the first half hour?

Until tonight, I was fairly sure the Rob Lowe/Snow White footage had been banned from ever being shown again.

Best comedic presentation: Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill battling over which one was Halle Berry and which was Dame Judi Dench. Not-so-good comedic presentation: Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway, soon to star in the sure-to-not-live-up-to-the-hype "Get Smart." Worst attempt at comedy: Jerry Seinfeld's bee character as presenter. The bee is still not funny, Jerry.

Is it possible that Renee Zellweger's face has become even more squished?

Best non-jaded winner: Marion Cotillard, who personified joy in her acceptance speech. She will now return to no one knowing who she is.

Most jaded-looking winners: Joel & Ethan Coen. Yeah, you gave us a few Oscars. Yawn.

Quick quiz: which presenter has gone the longest without making a decent movie, Jessica Alba or Nicole Kidman? And how about Jennifer Hudson winning an Oscar last year, but appearing in exactly zero movies since then?

How is it possible that, after 80 years of Academy Awards, there are some winners who haven't prepared anything to say? Particularly for the non-acting awards, this has got to be the biggest thing in your entire career, and you couldn't write down a few words to say besides thanking your agent, the studio, and your spouse's cousin Timmy?

For the first time in years, the Oscar for Best Song goes to a worthy song: "Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, from "Once." Quite a trip for Hansard, whose only other movie was "The Commitments," 17 years ago. "Once" was the second-best indie movie of the year, behind "Juno." It also won Best Use Of A Vacuum Cleaner at the Oreck Awards the other night.

How classy of Jon Stewart and the producers to bring Irglova back out after the commercial break to say her thanks, because she hadn't been allowed her moment at the microphone after winning.

Lots of talk about Cate Blanchett tonight. Want to see her in a movie you don't know, in which she's stunningly beautiful, funny, and a perfect match for both Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton? Rent "Bandits."

Sounded to me like Suzanne Pleshette got the biggest round of applause in the Death Roll, until Heath Ledger at the end.

Very clever to have some of the troops in Baghdad introduce the nominees for an Oscar category, but you couldn't give them something more important than Best Documentary Short Subject? Ironic that the winner, "Freeheld," is about a lesbian police detective's battle for the right to leave her police department pension benefits to her partner when she dies. Or as it's known in the military, another story you can't ask about and shouldn't tell.

Is Diablo Cody the first ex-stripper to win a writing Oscar? Not counting Quentin Tarantino, I mean.

I guess starring in "Can't Buy Me Love" wasn't enough to disqualify Patrick Dempsey from every appearing on an Oscarcast. Oh, he's in "Enchanted."

Daniel Day Lewis wins Best Actor, thus setting up "I drink your milkshake" jokes for every morning radio show, entertainment reporter, and late night TV host tomorrow.

Speaking of comedic setups, prepare to hear John McCain's name mentioned in at least two monologues Monday night, in reference to Best Picture winner "No Country For Old Men."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

More Movies You Might Not Know

I've had a little bit of free time to watch DVDs lately, and some of them are worth adding to the Movies You Might Not Know list...

"Breach" The story of the end of FBI agent Robert Hanssen's career, as the bureau works to bust him for being a traitor. Chris Cooper give an intensely low-key performance as Hanssen, with Ryan Phillippe as the rookie assigned to monitor his activities and Laura Linney (who is incapable of a bad performance) as the woman running the investigation.

"In The Shadow Of The Moon" I'm always fascinated by first-person stories from people who have done things you and I will never do. Here's one about a very select group -- the men who rode rockets to the moon, some of whom planted their footprints in the lunar soil -- reminiscing about their roles in the Apollo program and their individual missions. Aside from names you know (Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Jim Lovell), there's Alan Bean, Gene Cernan, John Young, Harrison Scmitt, and Alan Young. Must-see for anyone who grew up during the space race.

"Rescue Dawn" Christian Bale as a Navy pilot taken prisoner after being shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War. The conditions are horrific, but the camaraderie that develops with a fellow prisoner, played by Steve Zahn, and his determination to escape, keep the true story compelling throughout.

"Gone Baby Gone" Ben Affleck (!) directs brother Casey in the intriguing story of a private eye looking into the case of a missing baby in a tough Boston neighborhood. With Amy Ryan as the drug-addict mother, Amy Madigan as the grandmother, Ed Harris as a police detective, and Morgan Freeman as a police captain caught in the middle.

"Love and Sex" Sometimes I recommend movies that aren't great, but certainly watchable, just because I enjoy the work of the actors in them. This one stars Famke Janssen as a woman looking for love, with boyfriends played by Jon Favreau and Noah Emmerich.

"The Paper" Ron Howard's look at the inside workings of a newspaper's editors and managers as they cover a racially explosive story, with an aggressive lead performance by Michael Keaton, and support from Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Marisa Tomei, Randy Quaid, and a small supporting role by Jason Alexander.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Party of Values

Bay Buchanan was on one of the news nets to comment on the New York Times story on John McCain's female lobbyist friend, and offered this analysis: "This is not the Democratic Party, this is a party of values. We assume our candidates have been loyal to their family." As Howard Hoffman points out, the "party of values" includes members like Larry Craig, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Bernard Kerik, David Vitter, Mark Foley, and on and on.

On another subject, to McCain's credit, he has denounced Bush's practice of issuing signing statements for bills he signs into law but intends to ignore: McCain told reporters on his campaign bus, "My view is Congress passes it, you veto it or you enforce it. That's the way you do it and that's the way previous presidents have done it as well."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

World's Greatest Music Collection

This may be the most amazing thing I've ever seen on eBay.

The owner, Paul Mawhinney, calls it The World's Greatest Music Collection, and it would be hard to argue. Over the last 50 years, he has bought and collected over 3 million records and more than 300,000 CDs, in every genre. He estimates it would take 57 years to listen to every one of the more than six million songs. I don't know how much music they have in the Library of Congress, but this must be the largest privately-owned music collection in the world.

On his website, Mawhinney says,
The preservation of a society's music is every bit as vital as the preservation of its art and literature. Unfortunately two things have impeded our ability to preserve our precious musical heritage: Major record labels have destroyed the original master tapes of decades of American musical history. In countless cases, the original recordings no longer exist. Many have been digitized; transferred to compact disks. But all too many, just destroyed.

Digital preservation would be fine were it not for the fact that CDs have a life-span of just 15 to 20 years. In a few short years, the information on your CDs will just begin to disappear. Forever.

But it's more than merely preserving the songs. It's also about the art, the photography, and liner notes, and the rich, warm sound of the original analog recordings. You can look at a digitally reproduced image of the Mona Lisa, but it can't compare with the joy of experiencing the original. The music is no different.
Mawhinney keeps the collection in a 16,000-square-foot climate-controlled warehouse, so it's not going to fit in your basement. But if you have a lot of dough, he's taking bids now. He estimates the value of the collection at over $50,000,000, but has set a minimum bid of $3,000,000, with no reserve, which means the highest bid takes it.

Turntables not included.

[thanks to Fran Goedeker for the link]

Campaign Songs

A couple of weeks ago, I talked with Carl Wiser of Songfacts.com about the songs the various presidential campaigns have been using, some without permission of the songwriters, and some which didn't seem to fit the themes the candidates wanted.

Now, more musicians have objected to having their songs used at all, including Abba, which told John McCain to stop playing "Take A Chance on Me" at his rallies. Boston's Tom Scholz, who supports Barack Obama, doesn't like Mike Huckabee using "More Than A Feeling," complaining, "by using my song, and my band's name Boston, you have taken something of mine and used it to promote ideas to which I am opposed. In other words, I think I've been ripped off, dude!"

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another Movie You Might Not Know

Just added to the Movies You Might Not Know list...

"Tom Dowd and the Language of Music" is a documentary about one of the greatest record producers/engineers of all time.

If you bought records by any of the big names on the Atlantic label from the 50s through the 90s, you probably saw Tom Dowd's name in small print on the back. He worked with the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Cream, Otis Redding, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dizzy Gillespie, and many more.

In the movie, music legends like Eric Clapton and Gregg Allman and record executive Jerry Wexler talk about working with him. Dowd, who died in 2002, acts as tour guide through his remarkable life, including his years working on The Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb -- as a teenager! One of the highlights of the movie is seeing Dowd sitting behind a control board, playing with the original tracks of "Layla," re-discovering elements of the song he'd forgotten were in there.

"Tom Dowd and the Language of Music" is running at various times this month on IFC. If you miss it, get the DVD. It's must-see for anyone into the history of rock and R&B.

Here's the trailer...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Catching Up

Since I haven't blogged in a week, several things have piled up on my desk.

First and foremost, thanks for the huge response to my being laid off by KMOX. The hundreds of comments that you've added to this site are a mere fraction of the reaction I've received from listeners, guests, and people in the industry. I truly appreciate it. For one thing, you've kept me busy replying to each and every one of you. Be assured that when I figure out where and what I'll do next, I'll post the information here.

A few e-mailers have asked if CBS cutting me had anything to do with the negative comments I made on the air about Katie Couric's performance on Super Tuesday. The answer is no -- or, at least, no one in the company ever said a single word about it to me, so I strongly doubt it.

And here's something I couldn't say on KMOX, since I followed the guy on the air every day. There's a bumper on Rush Limbaugh's show in which Johnny Donovan refers to Rush as "the man who runs America." Now that McCain is going to become the Republican nominee over Limbaugh's vigorous objections, how's that "running America" thing working out?

Speaking of the election, Elaine e-mails to remind me that, while other blacks have run for the presidency, Barack Obama might become the first truly African-American to sit in the oval office, since his father was African and his mother was American.

Howard Mortman has a funny series of profiles of fictional characters who could be super-delegates, those professional politicians and elected leaders whose influence on the presidential election is this year's big unknown. Among Mortman's choices: Boss Hogg, Mayor Carmine DePasto, Mayor “Diamond Joe” Quimby, and Governor William J. Le Petomane.

Matt Szcesny did the Channel 4 story of two St. Louis middle schoolers who were suspended for protesting the school's abstinence-only curriculum by wearing shirts that said "Safe Sex or No Sex." Some bloggers have pointed out that while the shirts may have been "a distraction" in school (the stated reason for the suspensions), they're a lot less harmful than keeping vital contraceptive information from teenagers.

Here's a story that sounds straight out of the 19th century, but it happened last week in Kansas (which, considering the state went for Huckabee, seems to be stuck in that era's thinking). A parochial high school refused to let a woman referee a boys basketball game because having a female in a position of authority over males violated the school's religious beliefs. To his credit, the male referee assigned to the game refused to work if the woman couldn't.

The Insurance Information Institute has compiled a list of the best movies in which insurance played a role, including "Double Indemnity," "Memento," "The Fortune Cookie," and "The Thomas Crown Affair."

And finally, another entry in the book of Things I'll Never Learn. We had another power outage this morning after some severe weather last night, one of many we've lived through with no electricity for who-knows-how-many hours. Still, each time I walked into a different room, I instinctively reached for the light switch. Doh!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Amazing Meeting 6

The James Randi Educational Foundation's Amazing Meeting 6 is set for June 19-21 at the Flamingo in Las Vegas. TAM is always one of my favorite events of the year, and they've moved it to June (instead of January) this year so more students and educators can attend.

I'll be there again, along with James Randi, Adam Savage of the Mythbusters, Penn & Teller, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Wiseman, Michael Shermer, and Phil "Bad Astronomer" Plait. The keynote speaker will be Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium. And that's not even half of the lineup.

For full details on TAM 6, including registration for both the event and the hotel, click here.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Saudi Outrage

Here's the story I told on my show yesterday about an American businesswoman who was thrown in jail for sitting next to a man in a Starbucks.

The woman, a managing partner in a financial services firm, was with some men from her business, because power in their office had gone out during a meeting, and they had access to a wi-fi connection at Starbucks. She was dragged to a prison, where she was interrogated, strip-searched, and forced to sign phony confessions to her "crime."

Where could an outrage like this take place? Why, of course, it's Saudi Arabia, where the religious police are allowed to roam free and violate human rights in the name of their extremist agenda. Note that the zealots who didn't want this businesswoman sitting fully dressed next to a man had no compunction about forcing her to strip naked so they could search her in prison.

Saudi Arabia is the nation that gave birth to Osama bin Laden and many of his Al Qaeda followers, where wahabbist madrassahs still teach hatred beginning in childhood, where fanatacism is not only allowed, but prospers. This is the same nation where, last year, a gang rape victim was sentenced to 200 lashes and six years in jail for being in an unrelated man's car. The victim! After an international outcry, she was pardoned by King Abdullah -- but he maintained the sentence had been fair, thus encouraging and justifying the enforcers of sharia law.

This woman is an American citizen.

And what does the US Embassy do? Nothing. Not a damn thing. An embassy official says it's "an internal Saudi matter." Luckily, her husband was able to use his political contacts to find her and get her released, but there are plenty of other women -- both Saudi and foreign -- who are still locked up by these maniacs.

Yet, our Embassy won't raise a stink about this case, and our President walks hand-in-hand with the Saudi king, never saying a word about human rights or the extremism festering in the kingdom -- all because we need the black goo under their sand.

That's Saudi Arabia, our Partner In Peace.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

No We Can't

I've been looking over the official election returns from Super Tuesday, and think it's time we pause to congratulate some of the presidential candidates for their performances in the Missouri primary.

Let's hear it for Ralph Spelbring, Virgil Wiles, Daniel Gilbert, and Hugh Cort.

You may not have heard of these guys, but several hundred Missourians voted for them. Their vote totals were no threat to McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Obama, and Clinton -- combined, they accumulated less than one-tenth of one percent of the votes -- but they deserve credit for getting anyone to vote for them.

Let's look at Spelbring, who came in 9th among 9 Democrats. For some reason, 224 people cast their ballots for him. That's only 25 less than Chris Dodd got!

Who is Spelbring? I have no idea, but think about this. If you got your name on the ballot, and asked every single person you know -- friends, family members, co-workers -- to vote for you, could you get past the 200 vote mark? Probably not, but old Ralph did it. In fact, he got almost as many votes by himself as Gilbert, Cort, and Wiles combined.

Here's where it gets interesting. In order to get your name on the primary ballot in Missouri, you have to pay a fee of $1,000 and submit a petition with the signatures of at least 5,000 registered voters. So, at some point, Ralph Spelbring had thousands of people willing to help him get on the ballot -- but then only 224 of them voted for him! Not the most effective use of his thousand bucks, was it?

More intriguing were the results of the Libertarian primary, in which Wayne Root was the leading candidate with 372 votes, just over 18% of the total. However, Root didn't come in first. That honor went to "uncommitted," with 963 votes, almost half the Libertarian ballots cast.

Voting "uncommitted" is an odd concept. In this case, it means that nearly a thousand Missourians decided to get in their cars, drive to the polling place, wait in line until an election official found their name in the big book of registered voters, asked for a Libertarian ballot, then took it to the voting booth, where they chose "none of the above."

They could have accomplished the same thing by staying home! These must be the same people who participate in online surveys ("Do you like carrots? a) Yes b) No c) I Don't Know") and, after giving it a full five seconds of thought, pick choice C!

Actually, that's a little extreme. They don't choose A, B, or C -- because they're uncommitted.

Maybe they wouldn't commit to a candidate because they just couldn't find one they liked among the 27 possibilities on the Missouri ballot on Tuesday. To them, I can only ask that they consider throwing their support behind a man who could really use it.

With their help, and yours, next time we can get Ralph Spelbring into quadruple digits.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Poll Man

There's been a lot of discussion about how wrong the pollsters have been in this primary season. Is it possible they're only wrong along generational lines?

I'd bet that the older you are, the less likely you are to want to give up information about yourself and your voting preferences. You're more interested in privacy, concerned about identity theft, and have so many demands made on you every day from marketers, financial institutions, and insurance bureaucrats, that your default position to the world is "mind your own business."

At the other end of the spectrum, for younger voters, telling the world about you is part of who you are. You're used to posting Facebook and MySpace pages that reveal every little detail about yourself -- your favorite bands, the food you like, the celebrities you wish you could be with, even where you'll be later tonight in case anyone wants to hang out with you. Acquiring online friends is important. The more people who say they agree with your taste, the more popular you are, and the more people who know it. So, being completely honest with some pollster doesn't seem at all invasive, because privacy is a fluid concept.

At least that's the theory. The reality may be that younger voters are in fact treating pollster preference questions just like they do the online world, but it has nothing to do with the truth and everything to do with popularity and a desperate attempt to be liked.

Bottom line: regardless of age, pollsters can't believe what the public tells them, and the public can't believe what pollsters tell us -- unless you're willing to accept a margin of error of 100%.

Donna Brazile

Today, I talked with Democratic strategist Donna Brazile about the Super Tuesday results, how much Hillary Clinton's lack of money will affect her campaign, and whether John McCain's success in the blue states will translate to votes in the fall.

I also told Brazile how I was disgusted by George F. Will's comments last night on ABC -- while sitting right next to her -- when he said he was thankful for the "super delegates" (like her) who will offer some "adult supervision" of the nominating process. I've always considered Will to be a presumptious jerk, but here he was telling Americans that we're not good enough to choose our own presidential candidates, that we need party insiders and back-roomers to do it for us. Brazile didn't challenge Will on ABC, so I challenged her about it -- and she agreed, saying her vote was no important than yours or mine.

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

My Favorite Super Tuesday Story

In Virginia, the Board of Elections got over 700 complaint calls from people demanding to know why their polling places were closed. Must be some sort of election conspiracy, right? No. It's just that Virginia's primary wasn't part of Super Tuesday -- they get to vote next week.

Honorable mention: voters in Chicago complained to poll workers that the pens they were given for the optical scanning ballots were out of ink. They were told not to worry, that it was invisibile ink, and the scanner would still count it. Yeah, not so much.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Barack Obama

Today on my show, Senator Barack Obama surprised me by calling in for a few minutes to urge you to vote for him in the Super Tuesday primaries.

Since the race is unlikely to be decided after the results are in tonight, I asked him what he hopes to accomplish, and where he goes from here. He turned the discussion to the economy -- which he says the public asks him about a lot more than the war in Iraq -- and we discussed whether as President, he can really do anything about personal economic issues like home foreclosures and the price of gas.

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

Astronaut Sandra Magnus

Sandy Magnus grew up in Belleville, Illinois, and dreamed of going into space. She got her chance in 2002 when she spent almost 11 days on board the space shuttle, and now she's going back for an even longer trip. Later this year, Magnus will take a ride to the International Space Station, where she'll spend from two to four months orbiting the Earth.

Today on my show, we talked about how she's training for her extended stay in weightlessness, the experiments she'll conduct (and the ones she'll be a guinea pig for), and whether she'll get to take along any of her favorite foods. We also discussed the future of human exploration of space, the emergence of private space ventures like SpaceShipOne, and more.

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

Monday, February 04, 2008

Flu Diet

Wanna lose weight? Get on the flu diet. It worked for me!

I used to make fun of Nicole Richie and those other Hollywood starlets with their bulimia and various eating disorders, but no more. Over the ten days I was down -- but the food wasn't -- the pounds just melted away. Friends have commented on how much thinner I look, and they all want to know what magical diet I was on. When I tell them it's called "the flu," they give me a jealous look.

There are all sorts of new things to learn on the flu diet. For instance, you'll learn that broccoli-cheddar soup looks exactly the same going in as it does coming out. And you'll discover that, no matter how much you protest, someone will force you to eat dry toast washed down with water you drink through a bendy straw (the official bedside beverage of people with the flu).

You'll also learn that, while you weren't paying attention to daytime television because of that job you insist on going to every day, all of the networks have come to a mutual agreement by which every single commercial has food in it. This will become apparent to you quickly when you're home all day with nothing to do but watch TV (the raging fever and headache prevent you from doing much of anything else, except nodding off in thermostatic exhaustion).

Even the commercials that don't advertise a food product include characters eating or discussing their next meal:

"Say, Jim, that's a nice looking Toyota Tundra."

"Thanks, Bob. This big truck can haul anything, and it's perfect for my new landscaping business. What do you say we go to Steak and Shake for some chili and new banana yogurt shakes?"

The good news is, in the hardcore early days of the flu diet, you won't even be tempted by these messages. That's because you'll know that, even if you could have the food you see, it wouldn't stay in your system. That's the key to losing the pounds -- you know you can't enjoy it, so don't bother eating it!

The flu diet has built-in reminders, too. If you ever forget how much your gut enjoys rejecting anything you consume, your memory will be restored quickly when you find yourself cooling the side of your head against the outside of the toilet bowl after you've collapsed there in agony. That's a lesson you only have to learn once.

Once you've mastered these techniques of the flu diet for several days, you'll surprise yourself by looking in the mirror and thinking you're holding your stomach in -- but you're not! In fact, you're not holding anything in, or down!

Disclaimer: The flu diet is not for everyone. Consult your physician and ask for one of those very comfortable nasal swabs to ensure that you have the flu, preferably a strain for which the vaccine is no help at all. To make your flu experience even more complete, ask your doctor about adding respiratory problems, a hacking cough, plenty of mucus, and a desperate lack of sleep caused by an inability to find the cool side of the pillow under any circumstances.

Super Bowl Ads Quiz

Advertisers paid up to $3,000,000 for thirty seconds of airtime during the Super Bowl, but was it worth it? Only if you remember which product the commercial was for.

Here's my annual Super Bowl Ads Quiz -- see if you can name the sponsor based on a one-line summary (for the answers, highlight the white space to the right of each clue):

  • A man lights candles with his breath (Bud Light)
  • A man wakes up and finds car parts in his bed (Audi R8)
  • People keep falling asleep, including at the Grammys (Diet Pepsi Max)
  • Dude, that's some serious cheese (Bud Light)
  • Athletes work out in a futuristic urban environment (UnderArmour.com)
  • A squirrel goes for an acorn in the middle of the road (Bridgestone Tires)
  • A woman sings "message from your heart" (Doritos)
  • Danica Patrick begins to unzip (Go Daddy)
  • Carrier pigeons cause havoc (FedEx)
  • Fighting Glondor in a stone circle death match (Cars.com)
  • A stain on a man's shirt ruins his job interview (Tide To Go)
  • Hank doesn't make the team, but trains with his dog friend for next year (Budweiser)
  • A man and some ferocious sleeping badgers (Toyota Corolla)
  • Napoleon drives through France to meet his troops (Garmin)
  • An employee's heart pops out of her chest (CareerBuilder.com)
  • Lizards dance "Thriller" with Naomi Campbell (Sobe Life Water)
  • An animated man pushes a rock up a hill (GMC Yukon Hybrid)
  • Bill Frist and James Carville hang out together in DC (Coke)
  • Women love guys with a foreign accent (Bud Light)
  • Guys go crazy over a woman with a uni-brow and a mole (Planters Cashews)
  • Charles Barkley won't stop bugging Duane Wade (T-Mobile)
  • Justin Timberlake gets knocked around (Pepsi)
  • A man gets beat up while watching a mousetrap (Doritos)
  • Shaving cream guy is looking for Ted (Ideacast)
  • A guy leaves work early after a witch doctor shrinks his head (Cars.com)
  • Street racing on Big Wheels (Toyota Sequoia)
  • Pandas own Ling Ling's Bamboo Furniture Shack (SalesGenie.com)
  • Shaquille O'Neal as jockey (Vitamin Water)
  • A caveman invents the wheel, but his friends don't appreciate it (Bud Light)
  • A photo op with Carmen Electra (Ice Breakers Ice Cubes gum)
  • Alice Cooper and Richard Simmons are in the street (Bridgestone Tires)
  • A bug on a windowsill sings a duet with a man (CareerBuilder.com)
  • A baby talks to a webcam until he spits up (ETrade)
  • A man loves flying until he gets sucked into a jet engine (Bud Light)
  • Stewie and Underdog fight it out over Central Park (Coke)
  • A baby is creeped out by a clown making balloon animals (ETrade)
  • A dog makes a lot of noise as it drinks from a bowl (Gatorade)
  • A mechanic hooks up battery cables to his chest (Amp Energy Drink)
  • The field follows Derek Jeter wherever he goes (Gatorade G2)