Thursday, July 31, 2008

Worth A Link

  • Kip Esquire provides a pretty good breakdown of the pros and cons of the mortgage bailout bill
  • Dick Cavett remembers appearing on Johnny Carson's show while visiting a comedy festival in Carson's hometown
  • Mark Evanier once had Garfield The Cat on his answering machine message
  • Charles Babington offers examples of political gaffes by McCain and Obama, and wonders whether any of them matter to voters

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a gas can scam, a naked woman on a bus, and a bad block for parked cars.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

The Pool's Fogged Up

Fun with liquid nitrogen and a backyard pool...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Just Curious

Can anyone cite a single psychic, medium, or published horoscope that predicted yesterday's earthquake in Los Angeles? I didn't think so.

Happy 30th, Dave Ross


In the three decades I've been in the radio business, my resume has included quite a few call letters in different cities. In that same timespan, Dave Ross has been a mainstay at KIRO/Seattle, where he is celebrating his 30th anniversary on the air right now with special co-host Ron Reagan.

What an accomplishment -- not just the longevity, but the continuing success. I'll be humbled to fill in for Dave next week when he goes on vacation.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a guy who didn't like his neighbors trampling his garden, a speeder who left his pregnant girlfriend behind, and why you should check the pump before stealing gas.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Free Breast Implants

Yesterday on WLS/Chicago, I was joking about a website a listener named Jim had tipped me to, which lets men help pay for women's breast implants. The concept gets more than a little skeezy when you visit the site and discover that, in return, the men get to chat with the women, see photos and videos of them, and can even request they wear certain outfits. Yow.

Later in the day, another listener named Neil e-mailed to tell me that Stephen Colbert did a piece on it a few months ago...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Where Will You Plug In Your Car?

With GM's recent announcement that it has partnered with electric utilities to help bring plug-in electric vehicles to market, Joel Makower asks some important questions and sees some problems:

First of all, not everyone has a socket — a secure place to park their car and recharge it. Those living in apartment buildings, for example, lack this ability. Even where a plug exists, it may not have sufficient amperage to handle the load. (I'm a good example: I have a socket in my garage, but it's on the same circuit as my bedroom. If you plug in a power-hungry appliance in the garage, TiVo gets grumpy.) But that's the least of it. Building the plug-in infrastructure involves a mind-numbing array of technical challenges.
Read the whole thing here.

Worth A Link

When I talked with Lynn Sweet (DC bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times) on WLS this morning, I asked her to clear up the story about Barack Obama not going to visit wounded troops at Lundstahl, the US military base in Germany. Unfortunately, I don't have that audio for you. However, later in the day, Lynn added the info to her blog in an effort to clear up the confusion and counter the misinformation that's been spread based on one of her earlier stories.

Aaron's TV Press Tour Recap

Yesterday on WLS/Chicago, I had an extended discussion with TV critic Aaron Barnhart about some of the new fall shows that impressed him during the Press Tour, including "Gary Unmarried," "Worst Week," and the re-launch of "Pushing Daisies" and "Chuck." Then Aaron talked about his visit to the set of "Mad Men," and how the producer of that show is so precise about details in keeping his focus on early sixties America.

We also got off on a tangent about shows that are bypassing TV completely and going directly to the internet, like "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," which stars Neil Patrick Harris and was created by Joss Whedon (the man behind "Buffy" and the new "Dollhouse").

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

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Listen to today's podcast, then click here to subscribe to get them all via iTunes!

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Among today's stories is one from Sandy, Utah, where one car pulled up next to another and the driver leaned over and asked jokingly, "Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?" The reply was not what he expected. The other driver pulled out a loaded handgun and pointed it at him, saying, "Here's your Grey Poupon. Now roll your f***ing windows up!"

Apparently, the 22-year-old is too young to have seen the commercial...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a shotgun lawnmower start, a drunk with a bottle of Wite-Out, and a guy who licked a cop.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Your Tax Dollars In Action

You paid for a $40 million prison in Iraq that has no prisoners, and never will. It's part of the more than $4 BILLION that's been wasted on construction projects, thanks to misguided planning and short cuts, according to Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

Regardless of what you think about the war, this should piss you off, because the contractors are still getting paid -- by you -- even for projects that were never finished. Details here.

Worth A Link

  • Roger Ebert remembers the beginnings of the movie review show he did with Gene Siskel, then Richard Roeper, as it moves on without them in a new direction.
  • Stephen King's guide to movie snacks

I'm Back on WLS/Chicago Today


I'll be back on WLS/Chicago today 9 to 11am CT, filling in for Jerry Agar. TV critic Aaron Barnhart will join me for the second hour. You can listen live here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Judge Of The Day

In New Zealand, Judge Rob Murfitt told a couple they should not have named their daughter Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii. The government there has also rejected Fish & Chips, Sex Fruit, and Violence as names for kids.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a hailstorm in the toilet, a shoplifter who left something important behind, and thieves who should've filled the gas tank before committing a crime.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Duh A Deer

It's tough being a headline writer. Sometimes you have a story that's difficult to sum up in just a few words, so you have to be clever -- but not so obvious that you give away the whole story.

This week, the Rome (GA) News printed this photo, accompanied by the headline "6-legged Deer An Unusual Sight"...


And in other news, rain makes things wet.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dennis Meets Frank

My friend Dennis Phillips -- who will be chip leader when he plays at the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event -- will be on the 4pm hour of Frank O. Pinion's show this afternoon on The Big 550 KTRS/St. Louis. There might be another special guest with him.

Still Busting Myths


I have raved about Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters" for years, and am always happy to talk to its stars, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. They joined me this morning on WLS/Chicago to promote the two-hour special they've done to kick off Shark Week this Sunday night.

In the show, they'll bust a few myths regarding sharks, including one they built themselves, which Jamie controls while Adam is stuck in its jaws. Unfortunately, you won't see them blow one up, but we did talk about one of the most explosive episodes they did -- involving a water heater under pressure, which shot up through the roof of a house and continued several hundred feet into the air.

I also asked why they're not doing any more special effects work for movies and commercials, and the role of the fan base in contributing myths to test.

After Sunday's special, "Mythbusters" will return to its regular Wednesday night slot with 11 consecutive new episodes on August 6th, beginning with their busting of the ridiculous contention that we never sent a man to the moon (with help from my friend, astronomer Phil Plait).

Listen.

Ich Bin Obama


ABC's Jake Tapper is traveling with Barack Obama on his world tour and joined me this morning on WLS/Chicago to talk about today's speech in Berlin.

After teaching Jake how to be Kennedy-esque by saying "ich bin ein kugelschreiber," I asked why Obama is giving a speech to hundreds of thousands of people who can't vote for him, what message the campaign is trying to send back home to Americans, and whether his popularity in Europe could be a liability with some independents here. We also talked about Obama's visit to Israel and whether there's anything he (or other US politicians, for that matter) can do to solve the lingering problems there.

Listen, then read Jake's blog, Political Punch.

Dominique Dawes


This morning on WLS/Chicago, I spoke with Olympics hall-of-famer Dominique Dawes, one of only three female US gymnasts to compete in three different Olympics. She's off to China in a couple of weeks to cover the summer games for Yahoo Sports.

We talked about the pollution problem, the continuing controversy over the use of performance-enhancing drugs, the athletes she thinks we should keep an eye on in Beijing, and more. Listen.

Starting The Day on WLS


I'm back on The Big 89 WLS/Chicago today from 5 to 9am, with guests including ABC's George Stephanopolous, "Mythbusters" stars Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, and Olympics Hall of Famer Dominique Dawes.

You can listen live here.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a Wiccan ceremony gone wrong, an IT worker's revenge, and a man who super-glued himself to a world leader.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Wood Beetle

In Bosnia, Momir Bojic spent a year coating his VW Beetle in oak...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gold, Silver, and Bronchitis

The Wall Street Journal reports that US athletes may wear high-tech masks because of the horribly polluted air in Beijing when the Summer Olympics start in two weeks.

Considering China's involvement in the genocide in Darfur, their violence against Tibetans, their continuing human rights violations, and their hacking into Congressional computers -- plus the health problems the pollution will cause for athletes from all nations -- the IOC should never have chosen Beijing as the host city and given them what is sure to be a huge public relations coup.

Think NBC will show us any of those negative stories amid their hundreds of hours of Olympics coverage next month? Don't hold your breath.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include sleeping shoplifters, an easily-caught bank robber, and convict with a weight-loss scheme.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Drive-Thru Diner

All you want is a cup of coffee and some diner food when.....WHAM!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Twin Cities Again


I'm back on KSTP/Minneapolis doing the Noon-2pm (CT) show today. You can listen live here.

Dave Stewart


Today on WLS/Chicago, I talked with Dave Stewart, who you may know as Annie Lennox's partner in The Eurythmics. We discussed how they met and the songs he's done with Bono, Mick Jagger, Jon Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, Beyonce, and many more. I also asked Stewart if it's true that the Traveling Wilburys band (Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne) formed in his back yard.

Stewart has a new CD, "The Dave Stewart Songbook," a compilation of music from his career that he has re-recorded with his 30-piece Rock Fabulous Orchestra, which goes on tour in a couple of weeks.

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

The McCain/Times Flap


I had an interesting discussion on WLS/Chicago this morning with Joe Strupp of Editor & Publisher about the NY Times turning down an op-ed from John McCain one week after it published a similar piece by Barack Obama.

This is accruing to McCain's benefit. It was good that the Times printed his op-eds in the past, but at this point in the campaign, it's even better for McCain that they refused it. Of course, if this were reversed -- the Wall Street Journal refusing to print an Obama op-ed -- the politics would flip completely.

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

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a thump on a truck, cologne on a crotch, and a wife who didn't know her husband had divorced her.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

The Weeds Were Better

Robert Gailey thought it would be easy to get rid of the weeds in his garden if he used a hand-held gas-powered blowtorch -- until things got out of control and, within seconds, he had burned up the neighbor's neatly manicured lawn and evergreens...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ken Levine


Ken Levine is one of the most successful sitcom writers of all-time. He and partner David Isaacs have worked on such classics as "M*A*S*H," "Cheers," "The Simpsons," "Frasier," and many more -- not to mention his career as a baseball broadcaster.

Today on KSTP/Minneapolis, I spent an hour talking with Ken about his career, from the lows of working on Mary Tyler Moore's comeback vehicle in 1985 to getting Tom Hanks to star in a movie they wrote, from how they handled the transition from Shelley Long to Kirstie Alley on "Cheers" to why David Hyde Pierce is such a good indicator of what's funny.

Listen, then read Ken's blog.

Court Rules Against FCC


This morning on WLS/Chicago, I talked with TV critic Aaron Barnhart about the just-issued ruling from a federal court that threw out the FCC's $550,000 indecency fine of CBS for the Janet Jackson Nipplegate incident at the 2004 Super Bowl.

The court said the FCC acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" and the fine was inconsistent with its own policies of the previous three decades, when it acted only in regard to programming "pervasive as to amount to 'shock treatment' for the audience." In a nice shot at Jonathan Martin and the other commissioners, the judges said, "Like any agency, the FCC may change its policies without judicial second-guessing, but it cannot change a well-established course of action without supplying notice of and a reasoned explanation for its policy departure."

We also talked about Aaron's breaking news on Jay Leno and NBC, and more from the TV critics press tour.

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

I'm on KSTP/Minneapolis Today


I'm making my debut on KSTP/Minneapolis doing the Noon-2pm (CT) show today. Comedy writer slash baseball broadcaster Ken Levine ("M*A*S*H," "Cheers," and many more) will join me for the second hour. You can listen live here.

Another Week on WLS


I'm starting another week of hosting the morning show on The Big 89 WLS today from 5 to 9am. You can listen live here.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a guy who spent $1,000/week on beer, a cop with an unlucky first day on the job, and a skydiver who couldn't nail a two-point landing.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Pearl Jam Does The Who

The other night, VH-1 ran a special honoring The Who, with several bands covering their classics before Daltry and Townshend took the stage for a few of their own.

Pete has always mesmerized with his guitar work, whether it's the quiet notes of "Behind Blue Eyes" or the windmill attack of "Baba O'Reilly" and others. Unfortunately, age has taken its toll on Roger's voice, as he's lost the high end as his rasp has moved to a lower register. Still, it gave younger viewers -- including my daughter -- a lesson in what made The Who one of the seminal rock bands.

The best performance of the night was by Pearl Jam, which did two songs from "Quadrophenia" -- "The Real Me" and this faithful rendition of "Love Reign O'Er Me." Eddie Vedder's growl was matched by the lavish arrangement, with a dozen violin players perfectly meshing with the raw guitar work of Gossard and McReady.

My only complaint about this video is the way it was directed, as if there must always be something moving on the screen, rather than simply showing us extended views of the performers. There are too many cuts, the shots are too short, and those annoying spotlights that burn into the lens are a major distraction (they're a pain on the eyes when you're watching live at the venue, too!).

Fortunately, the performance is spectacular...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Economic Cavity

You don't have to be an economist to know when things have gone south in your town.

When we lived in Alexandria, Virginia, a decade ago, we noticed signs of a changing neighborhood economy when a "Checks Cashed" storefront opened. A few months later, a pawn shop moved into a nearby strip mall.

These businesses don't pop up in a well-off community when people have money. They move in when families are having trouble making mortgage payments, when white-collar jobs are disappearing, when the locals find themselves living paycheck to paycheck. It was uncomfortable to see the community roll towards the bottom of an economic cycle.

Today in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, there are three different full page ads that give me that same queasy feeling. They may not call themselves pawn shops, but the impression is the same.

The first asks you to "bring in those valuables you no longer want or need." It implores you to sell old paintings, watches, diamonds, and antiques. The second ad is for a business that wants your jewelry, collectibles, silverware, and coins. The third is devoted to scrap gold (which has hit record highs lately), offering to buy your gold earrings, watches, cufflinks, necklaces, and -- wait for it -- your dental gold.

That's the definition of desperate: selling your fillings to put food on the table.

True, people have long been posting items like these on eBay, and this is not to derogate these businesses, which have all been around for a long time. Years ago, I even went to one of them to get an appraisal on some old coins my grandfather left me. But when they can afford to take out full-page ads in the newspaper, it says something bad about the financial condition of a region.

Ironically, with the continuing downturn in the newspaper business, many of the customers who may be hocking their lives may be former employees of the very paper those ads appear in.

Quick Question

Regarding the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, can anyone explain to me the distinction between a "timeline," a "timetable," and a "time horizon"?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Worth A Link

Ken Levine on celebrities who give their kids ridiculous names like Sunday, Apple, Pilot Inspektor, and Reign Beau.

I'm on WBT/Charlotte Tonight


I return to WBT/Charlotte this evening to fill in for John Hancock from 5-8pm CT. You can listen live here.

Lawsuit of the Day

After Elizabeth Mateo had back surgery, she discovered that the doctor had left her a little something to cheer her up.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a suspect the cops wouldn't pick up, a woman who really didn't want to do jury duty, and a surprise during a robbery at a pizza place.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

S&M Barbie

You can't make this stuff up. Because there aren't enough dolls that teach young girls how to be skanks...


Mattel calls her Black Canary Barbie, claiming she's based on a comic book superhero, but she looks more like S&M Barbie, with her leather jacket, high boots, black gloves, and fishnet stockings.

Dominatrix-Loving Ken sold separately.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Afghanistan Bananistan

Both presidential candidates and Secretary of Defense Bob Gates have vowed to put more US troops in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, which we didn't finish off at the end of 2001 because we turned our heads towards Iraq. With more bad news coming from that region in the last couple of weeks, I spent some time today on WLS/Chicago talking with Anna Mulrine, senior editor at US News, who is just back from seeing for herself what's going on in Afghanistan. Listen.

Belly Flop

Try this one next time you're at the pool...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mitchell and Murray


My favorite stories are told first-person by people who explain the process behind what they do. That's why I'm enjoying Elvis Mitchell's new TCM show, "Under The Influence."

Unlike other interview shows, this one isn't focused on the latest project the interviewee is promoting, nor does it go through their entire career a la James Lipton. These conversations are about the movies and actors that the guest enjoyed and learned from, and their observations about how the people in those movies did what they did so well.

Mitchell got the series off to a good start last week with one of Sydney Pollack's last interviews, and continued it on Monday night with Bill Murray. There's real insight into Murray as both a movie fan and a comedic actor.

They talked about William Holden in "Stalag 17," the way Cary Grant helped his co-stars' performances even while off camera, the way Murray's physicality on screen mirrored that of Groucho Marx, and why Murray wishes he'd said yes when Clint Eastwood offered him a role 20 years ago. He explains how much he admired Margaret Sullavan's work opposite Henry Fonda in "The Moon's Our Home," and how funny women have always turned him on (from Elaine May to Gilda Radner, but not Lucille Ball).

He also tells a great story about how he got his supporting role in "Tootsie," and what it was like on the set with Pollack and Dustin Hoffman constantly at odds.

The Bill Murray episode will rerun Saturday at 11am CT on TCM, and then there are new episodes for the next few Mondays at 7pm CT.

The Science Of Fear

This morning on WLS/Chicago, I talked with Daniel Gardner about his new book, "The Science of Fear: Why We Fear The Things We Shouldn't -- And Put Ourselves In Greater Danger."

From tomatoes with salmonella to crime in our cities, avian flu to airline crashes, there's a lack of perspective on what matters and what we really should worry about. The media and various government agencies share responsibility for exploiting those fears, along with Americans who know nothing about statistics and how they can be exaggerated.

Listen, then get the book.

Talk To Me On WLS


Another morning in the Windy City -- I'm on The Big 89 WLS today from 5 to 9am. You can listen live here.

One of the things we'll talk about is this billboard put up by a GOP supporter in Florida. Yes, that's the image of the World Trade Center burning on 9/11/01. Both political parties in the state have denounced this, but the guy who paid for it won't take it down despite a partisan public outcry.

Some of the Democrat critics of the billboard say it's using the Twin Towers image to promote a political agenda, and that's wrong, while Republicans love it because of the message. Of course, if the board had the same image but said "Please don't vote for a Republican," the reaction would be the opposite.

As for the billboard owner, he says it's a First Amendment issue, but he is incorrect. If the government had told him he couldn't put this billboard up, then we'd have a free speech problem, but the owner may refuse to post anyone's message, and he has chosen to allow this one. That's his right.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include too many people mooning a train, a bad giveaway at the lake, and a manhole problem in Michigan.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fact Checking The Campaigns

Today on WLS/Chicago, I talked with Brooks Jackson, director of FactCheck.org, the group that listens to what politicians say, and then determines whether they're telling the truth, bending the truth, exaggerating facts, or simply lying.

We talked about some of the egregious claims John McCain and Barack Obama have promulgated in their speeches and campaign ads, and whether they're living up to their promise of a different kind of presidential race this year but seem willing to say anything to get your vote. We also discussed whether politicians in general believe what they say, and whether they distort more information about themselves or their opponents.

Jackson and his FactCheck.org crew provide a terrific public service, a job far too many media outlets fail to even undertake, let alone execute so well.

Listen.

Dennis Leads Final Nine


As of minutes ago, the World Series Of Poker Main Event Final Table is set, and Dennis Phillips will have one of the nine seats. Not only that, he'll start as the chip leader! He has beaten 6,836 people, and has only 8 more before he wins the $9.1 million top prize. But first, he'll have to wait four months before play resumes on November 9th (time to sign up some sponsors!).

I'm on WLS/Chicago Today


I'm doing the morning show (5-9am CT) on WLS/Chicago this week. You can listen live here.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a bee vs. a helicopter, a toilet seat attack, and a lesson in why you shouldn't steal from people you know.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Miss US...Whoops!

Welcome to beauty pageant school, ladies. Today, we'll learn how to make an entrance without falling down. As you'll recall, Miss USA slipped and fell while being introduced at the 2007 Miss Universe pageant. We must do everything we can to make sure it doesn't happen to a representative from the same nation two years in a row!

Cut to Sunday night on NBC...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Aaron Barnhart at TV Press Tour

Today on WHAS/Louisville, I talked with TV critic Aaron Barnhart about the death of Tony Snow and how Fox's coverage of it compared to the attention NBC paid to Tim Russert. We also discussed what a CNN exec had to say about the impact of an "SNL" skit on their campaign coverage and -- with Aaron at the TCA Press Tour in Hollywood -- the new series HBO is promoting, the slew of docu-series coming soon, and what went wrong with his Elvis Costello interview.

Note: While this audio is certainly listenable, I apologize for a couple of drop-outs and other quality problems.

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

First of 27


I told you to keep your eye on him. Out of 6,844 people who entered the Main Event at the World Series of Poker, they're now down to 27 -- and my friend Dennis Phillips is the chip leader. The tournament resumes at 2pm CT today, when they'll play down to the final 9, who will then return to Vegas in November for the chance to win the $9.1 million first prize. Wow.

On WHAS/Louisville Again


I'll be on WHAS/Louisville once again today from 8 to 10:45am CT, filling in for Francene. You can listen live here.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include an honor ceremony with no honorees, a little magic marker deception, and a guy who tried to sell his vote.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Art Benjamin, Mathemagician

Art Benjamin is a math professor with the remarkable ability to do complex problems in his head. I met him at James Randi's Amazing Meeting last month, where he gave us a demonstration of his abilities and explained how, unlike the way most American students are taught to do math, he does the calculations from left to right.

For instance, when add 58 and 37, you start with the ones column and 8+7=15. You write down the 5, and carry the 1. Then you do the tens column, 5+3=8, plus the 1 you carried, which makes it 9. That gives you the answer of 95.

In Benjamin's method, you do it exactly the opposite, and you keep the running total in your head. You start with 50 + 30 (not 5 plus 3) equals 80, then you add 8 for 88, then you add 7 for 95. You don't have to write anything down, don't have to carry anything, and get to the result much quicker -- and it's especially helpful when adding a longer list of numbers.

The only other person I've seen promoting this method of arithmetic is Scott "Human Calculator" Flansburg, who I first met about 20 years ago when he was a guest on my show. As he described it, I realized that this is the way I've been doing math since I was a kid, which always led to problems with teachers who wanted me to show my work -- but I couldn't because all the work was in my head! As my daughter has grown up, I have taught her this left-to-right method, which she grasped easily, and she has had problems with teachers who insist she do it the other way around, too.

I asked Benjamin why. He explained that we're dealing with generations of math teachers who learned there's only one right way to determine an answer, and they can't accept any other route to the solution. Changing that would mean a wholesale revision of the way math is taught in America, but it's the adults who have to change. Children, he says, who are taught to read from left to right will naturally do math the same way unless you break them of the habit. This may explain why so many people say they're "bad at math." They're not -- they just have trouble doing it in the unnatural way we've been taught. Moreover, math should be about finding your own method to the correct answer, not simply learning how to do it by rote.

I don't have video of Benjamin at TAM6, but here he is at the TED Conference doing his Mathemagics demonstration, challenging audience members with calculators to do three digit squares, and then moving on to some really hard calculations. He also explains how he changes numbers to sounds and words as a mnemonic device...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Poker Natural

There's a wonderful moment in the movie "The Natural," when Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) strikes out baseball legend The Whammer (Joe Don Baker) on three straight pitches. It doesn't happen in a game, but by some railroad tracks next to a carnival.

At the moment Hobbs strikes out the big guy, director Barry Levinson cuts to a quick shot of Barbara Hershey's character, who has her eyes on The Whammer, attracted to him for his stardom and with mischief on her mind. After The Whammer whiffs on strike three, we see Hershey turn her head away from The Whammer and fix her gaze on Hobbs. The shot is only two seconds long, but it's this turn of events that later leads to her going with Hobbs to his hotel room, where she fires the shot that propels the rest of the plot.


There was a similar moment during the final hand of Day 5 of the World Series of Poker tonight, involving my poker pal Dennis Phillips and Full Tilt Poker pro Mark Vos. Here's how PokerNews.com described it...

Dennis Phillips raised to 65,000 from middle position and Mark Vos reraised to 180,000 on the button. Phillips then made it 400,000 to go and Vos came over the top all in for 1.5 million. Phillips called and showed AA to Vos' AK. He had Mark covered by around 300,000 so this hand was for Vos' tournament life, and when the board ran out Q-9-3-10-2, Vos was eliminated just as Day 5 came to an end. When Day 6 begins tomorrow, Dennis Phillips will be sitting with a 3.4 million stack.

We were all buzzing about this in the Harrah's St. Louis poker room tonight, with one of the floor supervisors checking his progress online and then reporting it to us. We're not even there, but the excitement at our table was palpable.

Dennis has been quietly playing under the radar, making good decisions, playing very well, never going on tilt, and until now being pretty much ignored by the poker media. That has surely changed, as he's now one of 79 players left, and only 5 others have larger chip stacks than he does.

Because of Vos' renown in the poker world, I'm sure the ESPN cameras were there for that all-in moment. And when it was over, those cameras no doubt turned away from Vos and got a good shot of Dennis (we won't see this on TV for several months, but you get the visual metaphor nonetheless).

When I reached him on his cell phone a half-hour later, Dennis told me he was glad that was the last hand of the night, because his adrenaline was pumping so hard for the next 10 minutes that he couldn't think straight. He finally calmed down enough to go have a beer, and then was off to bed to get a good night's sleep before embarking on Day 6.

Let's hope he doesn't run into Barbara Hershey.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Worth A Link

When Obama implied this week that Americans should learn other languages, conservatives pounced on him, reviving the jingoistic "English Only!" chant. But that won't stop McCain and other Republicans from running campaign ads in Spanish in southern California, Texas, and other places with a heavy density of Hispanics. Funny, no Republican ever attacked the president's brother, Jeb Bush, for speaking Spanish at many events while he was governor of Florida.

It's a perfect example of a non-issue being blown up and over-exploited. That was something we weren't supposed to get from McCain and Obama, both of whom professed to be "different" in how they'd campaign. They said we'd get an election cycle in which they'd talk about the real issues and not get involved in petty crap.

Turns out, not so much, as Jim Rutenberg points out in today's New York Times, and both Obama and McCain are guilty -- not only are the usual non-campaign groups on the offensive, but the candidates themselves are getting better about quick responses to gaffes, slips, and out-of-context remarks by the other side.

Dennis Stays Alive


Congratulations to my friend Dennis Phillips, who has made it through Day 4 of the Main Event at the World Series of Poker. From a starting roster of 6,844 players a week ago, they are down to 189, and he's hanging in there. Considering that at one point Dennis took a hit and dropped from 200,000 chips to only 22,000, he has rebounded nicely to just over 800,000 -- nowhere near the chip leader, but doing fine, right in the middle of the pack.

Dennis is well known in St. Louis as one of the best tournament players in town, who won his seat in the $10,000 main event via a qualifying tourney at Harrah's. While it'd be great to win the $9.1 million top prize, he's earned a huge return on the few hundred dollars he invested even if he's the next player eliminated.

Play resumes at 2pm CT on Saturday, and you can read all about it on PokerNews.com, which has reporters roaming the Amazon Room at The Rio for live reports on what's happening at many of the tables (particularly hands involving poker pros you may have seen on TV, including Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow, Allen Cunningham, Gus Hansen, and others).

Interestingly, PokerNews.com hasn't reported on a single hand Dennis has been involved in, probably because his table image is such that he's getting a lot of respect from the other players, who avoid getting into big pots with him. But if he can double up in the next round, and move up from there, he might even attract some attention from the ubiquitous ESPN cameras at the event.

By the way, ESPN will begin airing its WSOP coverage on June 22, with two hours every Tuesday night. The first six weeks will cover other events at the WSOP like the Pot Limit Omaha Championship and the $50,000 Horse Championship. Main Event coverage will begin September 2 and run through the final table on November 11.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Baby Talk

I couldn't care less about Jamie Lynn Spears and her baby, but I am bothered by the magazine that paid her a million bucks to put them on the cover and play up her "perfect pregnancy and perfect delivery."

This girl is 17 years old. She shouldn't be a mom at that age, and her motherhood is not something that should be portrayed by anyone as a positive. We don't need any of the girls who watched her on "Zoey 101" following her lead because they think it's cute and wonderful. What we need are more messages like NBC's "The Baby Borrowers," which shows that, while making babies is fun, parenting is tough, but it's even tougher when you're not through being a kid yet.

In the Spears' case, considering the family, reproduction should have been ruled out altogether -- just look at the job now-grandma Lynne did in raising Jamie Lynn and sister Britney. What a fine set of role models the three of them make.

Nuts on TV

The quickie controversy over Jesse Jackson's comments regarding Barack Obama can only accrue to Obama's benefit. The more he's seen as not being Jackson-like, the better for his image with most Americans. There's a reason they don't make joint campaign appearances.

It's clear that Jackson has become irrelevant. He's full of jealousy about Obama's success, and his "private" comments were more representative of how he feels than anything he says publicly. His statement of regret, in which he claimed his support for Obama's campaign is "wide, deep, and unequivocal" is simply a lie. If it were true, he would never have made the emasculation comment (and gesture) during that Fox News taping. Politicians always couch their public proclamations in a veneer of correctness, but betray their honest feelings in off-the-cuff private remarks that aren't intended for broader distribution.

As for Fox News, they held the story for more than three days and then played it up on O'Reilly's show. Criticize them if you want, but it's not like they withheld important breaking news. In fact, defining this story as "news" at all is a stretch. It is common practice among all media organizations to hang onto stories until they can exploit them (ever see "60 Minutes"?). The only problem is their claim that there is more to what Jackson said, but their refusal to show or share it. If it's as explosive as FNC is implying, they should let it out.

Jackson forgot a cardinal rule of being interviewed. From the time they clip that lavalier microphone on you to the time they remove it from your lapel, you must assume that someone is listening to (and/or recording) everything you say, whether you're on the air or not. Perhaps Jackson can attend a media training seminar on this topic.

They probably offer one in Hymietown.

Lesbian Fries With That?

A right-wing extremist group is trying to get people to boycott McDonald's because the burger chain was one of the sponsors of last year's gay pride parade in San Francisco.

The group claims it's not upset about McDonald's serving, hiring, or employing gays, but because "the company is refusing to remain neutral in the culture wars." The irony is that this group -- which lives for publicity, so I won't name them -- doesn't want McDonald's to be neutral at all. They want the company to proactively support the group's agenda, and if they don't.....well, we'll just see if Big Mac sales plummet in the coming months.

On the other hand, if they're so concerned about the "homosexual agenda," why aren't they making a stink about Burger King's Whopper?

Back on WHAS/Louisville Today


I'll be on WHAS/Louisville again today 8 to 10:45am CT, while Francene continues her vacation. You can listen live here.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a friend who wouldn't shut up, a guy suing his church, and a man who discovered he had less money after visiting a strip club.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Animusic Starship Groove

Jon Michelson e-mails, "In February, your POTD had Animusic’s Pipe Dream. It was great. They’ve added some animated robot musicians in their latest. I really like Starship Groove, but then again, I love percussion. This kind of reminds me of an animated Blue Man Group –- as if they weren’t themselves pretty animated."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'm on WHAS/Louisville Today


I'll be on WHAS/Louisville again today 8 to 10:45am CT, filling in for Francene. You can listen live here.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include an Applebee's check that caused a heart attack, a dissatisfied drug consumer, and the wrong way to kill mice.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Worldwide Dancing Deadbeat

Here's Matt Harding, a self-described 31-year-old deadbeat who spent 14 months traveling to 42 countries and, er, dancing. The result is a video full of the infectious fun of physical expression...


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

I'm on WHAS/Louisville Today


I'll be on WHAS/Louisville today from 8 to 10:45am CT, filling in for Francene. You can listen live here.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a woman with a surprise in her bra, a unwanted living room dancer, and a gas tank driller.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Human Mirror

Improv Everywhere -- the group that sent dozens of people into Best Buy dressed just like store employees, and 111 shirtless men into Abercrombie & Fitch, and a bunch of redheads to protest at Wendy's -- strikes again with an event called Human Mirror.

This time, they had 15 sets of twins sit opposite each other on the New York City subway, dressed and acting identically. The effect when looking down the subway car is that of seeing a human mirror, and the other passengers seemed both befuddled and amused...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Gonzalez Maneuver

KC Chiefs pro bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez saved a man's life last week, but the story raises a disturbing question.

Gonzalez was having dinner with his family at Capone's restaurant in Huntington Beach, California, when a woman behind him started screaming. Her boyfriend, Ken Hunter, had a piece of meat stuck in his throat and couldn't breathe. No one else was doing anything to help, so Gonzalez got up and applied the Heimlich maneuver to Hunter. In a few seconds, the piece of meat popped out and Hunter could breathe again.

Now, the disturbing part: Diana Martin, a Capone's employee, said no one else seemed to know what to do. How is that possible? Of the entire wait staff, no one knew how to do the Heimlich? That's just wrong.

Every restaurant owner who reads this should immediately plan to train their employees in how to do the maneuver, just in case. I'm not talking about the guy washing dishes in the back of the kitchen, or the woman running the fries machine at Wendy's. I mean any staff that works the dining area, where you might encounter a choking customer. Waiters, waitresses, managers, the maitre d', hostesses, even the kid who refills the water glasses -- they should all be taught how to come to the aid of someone with a hunk of steak caught in their throat.

By the way, Gonzalez says he never had any formal instruction in the Heimlich maneuver. He'd just seen it done, so he did it. Is it too much to ask that the people who work in the restaurant be ready, just in case there isn't a life-saving nine-time NFL Pro Bowler around?

Mr. Extra Long Weekend

While I was on KMBZ/Kansas City today, their website's poll question was: "If your company offered you a four day work week, but you had to work 10 hours a day, would you take it?"

The question is based on the governor of Utah authorizing a yearlong experiment aimed at reducing the state's energy costs and gas expenses for employees, by having them go to the 4 days/10 hours plan, beginning next month. It doesn't affect cops, prison guards, or others who obviously have to be on the job every day, but about 17,000 state office workers will now get a lot of three day weekends.

Not surprisingly, nine out of ten respondents to the KMBZ poll said yes, they'd take that schedule. What isn't said is that a lot of Americans are already putting in ten-hour days on the job, five days a week, and taking work home or staying in touch with their business via e-mail and cell phones even when they're not at the office.

I'm reminded of a friend who put in more than 20 years with his company and earned 5 weeks of vacation per year. Instead of taking them as full weeks, he chose to break them up into 25 individual days. That allowed him to arrange an amazing schedule -- for ten weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day, he took off every Monday and Friday. That gave him a three day work week and a four day weekend, all summer long. And he still had another week of vacation to use in the winter.

Bud Light should use him as one of their Real Men of Genius: "Mr. Extra Long Weekend."

I'm on KMBZ/Kansas City Today


I'll be back on NewsRadio 980 KMBZ/Kansas City today from 9 to 11am CT, filling in for Darla Jaye. You can listen live here.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a father-and-son Taser team, a mistaken FedEx drug delivery, and a couple that chose the wrong place to skinny dip.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Spoon Bending World Record


Dr. Richard "Quirkology" Wiseman returned for his third appearance at James Randi's Amazing Meeting last month, and did a little audience participation.

After talking about his huge YouTube hit, The Color Changing Card Trick (and showing us outtakes of the 54 attempts before they got it right), he got into the science of spoon bending. He even brought up Teller to talk about how the trick works and share a famous instance of when it backfired (a story far too long to go into here).

For his finale, Wiseman announced that he was going to use the TAM attendees to set a new record for simultaneous spoon-bending, and capture it all on video. Don't bother looking for me and my wife, as we're about 15 rows back and out of camera view. But you can see James Randi and Phil "Bad Astronomer" Plait on the left side of the photo above, and that's Mythbuster Adam Savage three from the right in the front row, leading the cheering crowd in setting a new spoon-bending world record.

Like all good tricks, spoon-bending requires preparation, so Wiseman made a deal with a British firm to pre-stress more than 800 spoons for us to use in the demonstration. Then he led us through a rehearsal, with our script projected onto two huge screens at the front of the hall (reminding us not to touch the spoons until the appropriate time, or they'd break before the cameras were rolling).

Here's the result. Next time someone claims they're bending a spoon with the power of their minds or other paranormal nonsense, show'em this...

Monday, July 07, 2008

Stormy TV, Generation Kill, and Celeb-Reality


Today on KMBZ/Kansas City, I talked with TV critic Aaron Barnhart about his frustration with televison meteorologists' coverage of severe weather, and why stations do it.

We also discussed HBO's "Generation Kill," yet another schlocky (is there any other kind?) VH1 celeb-reality show, two talk shows hosted by guys named Elvis, and what Aaron expects to see the networks promoting at this week's press tour and what they've announced for their fall schedules.

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

I'm on KMBZ/Kansas City Today


I'll be on NewsRadio 980 KMBZ/Kansas City today and tomorrow from 9 to 11am CT, filling in for Darla Jaye. KC Star TV critic Aaron Barnhart will join me for the 10am hour. You can listen live here.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a man covered in barbecue sauce, a stench that didn't come from a meth lab, and a joy-riding boy in a police car.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Ricky Jay

Aside from his varied movie roles (including six movies by his close friend David Mamet), Ricky Jay is one of the best card manipulators in the world. Here he is 20 years ago, having some fun at Arsenio Hall's expense...

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Will Ferrell Movie You Might Not Know

Newly added to my Movies You Might Not Know list:  Stranger Than Fiction.  It's the story of Harold Crick, an IRS auditor played by Will Ferrell, who wakes up one morning to hear the voice of a woman narrating his mundane life.  It turns out that the woman (Emma Thompson) is a real-life author writing a book in which Harold is a fictional character.  Crick goes to a university professor (Dustin Hoffman) for help and somehow gets involved with a quirky bakery owner (Maggie Gyllenhall), all the while living his life as the author describes it -- until she makes an editorial decision he can't live with.  Don't expect Ferrell to be the same goofball he plays in "Semi-Pro," "Anchorman," and "Talledega Nights."  This is a solid dramatic (though funny and touching) performance, similar to the break-out role Jim Carrey played in "The Truman Show."  Look for Queen Latifah and Linda Hunt in small supporting roles.  Stranger Than Fiction didn't do nearly as much box office business as it deserved, so I hope it finds an audience on DVD.

Friday, July 04, 2008

I'm on WBT/Charlotte Today


I'll be back on NewsTalk 1110 WBT/Charlotte this morning from 8 to 11am CT, filling in for Keith Larson. You can listen live here.

Have A Muppets Fourth

Thanks to Jeff Olsen for contributing this Muppets salute to America's Birthday...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Waterboarding Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens once claimed that waterboarding isn't torture. Then he was challenged to try it himself, and came to a completely different conclusion. There's video of the demonstration he endured at the hands of some military professionals, and Hitchens writes about the experience in a Vanity Fair piece entitled "Believe Me, It's Torture." Here's an excerpt:

You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered. This was very rapidly brought home to me when, on top of the hood, which still admitted a few flashes of random and worrying strobe light to my vision, three layers of enveloping towel were added. In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited for a while until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose. Determined to resist if only for the honor of my navy ancestors who had so often been in peril on the sea, I held my breath for a while and then had to exhale and -- as you might expect -- inhale in turn. The inhalation brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, and flooded more with sheer panic than with mere water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal and felt the unbelievable relief of being pulled upright and having the soaking and stifling layers pulled off me. I find I don’t want to tell you how little time I lasted.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a man in women's shorts, a man with his pants undone, and a man with a very full Volvo.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Vote For Independency

I have praised the movie "1776" many times here, urging schools all over the country to show it to their students as a wonderful history lesson about the birth of our nation. I even wrote a column several years ago about a school district in a DC suburb that stupidly banned the movie. With the recent HBO series on John Adams, perhaps there's enough renewed interest in the founding fathers of the USA. The 1972 film was a faithful adaptation of a show that debuted on Broadway in 1969 and ran for three years. I was lucky enough to see that original production with William Daniels as John Adams, Ken Howard as Thomas Jefferson, and Howard DaSilva as Benjamin Franklin (all three reprised their roles in the movie). Since my daughter grew old enough to understand it, watching the movie on July 4th has become a Harris Family tradition. I went back to see the revival in 1997, with Brent Spiner as Adams and Pat Hingle as Franklin, and was surprised to find myself as moved as I was the first time. That production was nominated for a Tony, and earned the show a slot on the Tonys telecast. Here's the rousing opening number, with Richard Poe as Adams (after Spiner left the show)...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Byrds Beginnings

Roger McGuinn blogs about the founding of his rock and roll hall of game group The Byrds -- from writing his first songs with Gene Clark to the happy surprise of harmonizing with David Crosby to hiring Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke on a whim to fill out the band.  In those days, Roger was still known as Jim McGuinn, and was helping to bridge the gap between folk music and the early days of rock.

Roger appeared on my show in December, 2005, to talk about his Folk Den project -- listen here.

Rescue Me From The FCC

In today's podcast, TV critic Aaron Barnhart and I started talking about the minisodes of "Rescue Me" that are airing this summer on FX and Crackle. That led to a broad discussion of language and content on television, particularly in the wake of George Carlin's death, but also regarding the notion of "broadcast networks" vs. "cable networks" at a time when a generation of Americans (my daughter included) is growing up not knowing there's a difference. When the distribution method is irrelevant, and it's all about the content, who needs the FCC anymore? Did we ever?

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

This podcast is made possible by Digital Blue, the only company to call to install Dish Network in your home.
Get six months free when Dish Network does the installation!!!
Mention Paul Harris to be eligible for a free year of Cinemax!
Call Digital Blue right now at 314-664-0500.