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

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Glowing & Zipping In Jamaica

More notes from our recent vacation in Jamaica...

I always liked Bob Marley's original version of "I Shot The Sheriff" until I heard it a hundred times in four days. I suppose the idea is to make American vacationers comfortable with reggae music by giving them songs they might recognize everywhere you go, like "Sheriff" and "One Love" and "Jammin'." But over and over again, it was too much. And I almost threw up when I heard a reggae version of that soft-rock '80s hit by Christopher Cross, "Sailing." Please!

We went on two terrific excursions that made us feel like we were on "The Amazing Race." Each of them required enduring hour-and-a-half-long bus rides each way from Negril on narrow one-lane roads through small towns, poverty-stricken rural communities, and past 183 goats (by my daughter's count).

Our first excursion was to the Luminous Lagoon, at the junction of a fresh-water river and the salt-water sea, where a species of bio-phosphorescent micro-organisms lives. What makes them worth seeing is that when you disturb the water, they light up and give off a glow. You can't see it during the day, but if you go just after twilight, you'll notice it in the wake of the boat.

You're allowed to swim in this lagoon, which my daughter and I did. The boat captain had warned us that the bottom was made of the silt carried down-river after rainstorms, and was thus very soft. He wasn't kidding. As soon as I put my feet down, they sank a couple of feet into the goo -- it was like stepping into two-foot-deep chocolate pudding.

But we were there for the glow, and since we were the only two off the boat, it was on us to give everyone a show. I started by doing a cannonball off the stern, and I could tell by the oohs and aahs from the other passengers that I had shocked the hell out of the micro-ecosystem. When my daughter jumped in, the lagoon around her immediately gave off this eerie blue aura, which followed us as we treaded water, did the back stroke, and generally just moved around.

My wife was back on the boat, trying to preserve the moment on camera. Unfortunately, the glow wasn't bright enough for the lens to capture in total darkness, and using the flash negated it altogether. I anticipated this might be a problem, as I had checked YouTube before the trip and hadn't found any really good video of the effect.

That made the moment all the more special. If you go, put the Luminous Lagoon on your itinerary. And ask the captain, as a bonus, to show you the trees where the white egrets sleep.

Our other excursion was to Jamaica Ziplines, which meant driving on the worst mountain road I've ever been on. It barely qualified as paved, with more potholes than road. Fortunately, the experience at the other end was worth it.

A guy named Brad has built a series of cables high up in the jungle, and developed the equipment to allow you to zip along those cables from one point to another while suspended a couple hundred feet off the ground at speeds up to 40mph.

The first line is 250' long, then you're up to 750', 800', and 900', before finishing on Big Timba, an exhilarating 1600' ride. His staff is there along the way to ensure your safety and, halfway through, to serve you pieces of fresh sugar cane and pineapple.

And when you're on the cable between points 2 and 3, look down to see if you can spot the St. Louis Rams hat that flew off my head just as the photo above was taken. My gift to the Jamaican jungle.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dilemma On The Beach

Call it the husband's dilemma.

There I am on the beach with my wife and daughter in Jamaica, enjoying our vacation in the sunshine. We're surrounded by dozens of others, all doing the same, and the occasional beach hustlers who want to rent you a jetski for a half-hour ride, sell you cigars, or braid your hair (and they'll do anyone -- I saw a sunburned white guy with his braided hair partially covered by a knit cap, which made him look like Joe-Bob Marley).

Some of the women have opted not to wear their bikini tops. I'm not talking about when they're lying on their stomach on a lounge chair trying to get a strapless back tan. I'm talking about full frontal toplessness. Most of these women, judging by their accents, are European, so they're used to it. Far too many of them shouldn't be. Sometimes immodesty is a bad thing, and covering up would do us all a favor.

However, on this morning, two young women nearby were both topless and very attractive. And thus, my dilemma.

It began when they got up from their lounge chairs and started rubbing suntan lotion all over each other, slowly. It continued as they proceeded into the shallow water to frolick and splash around for awhile. What's a happily married man to do when presented with this live fantasy view?

a) ignore them and go back to reading my book
b) glance at them whenever my wife's not glancing at me
c) stare and don't care

Okay, let's be honest; option A is not really a choice. It's going to be between B and C or, more likely, a combination of the two. As for my wife, she noticed, but didn't mind. And when I asked my teenage daughter what she thought, she told me she'd seen it last year when her youth group was in Europe and it didn't bother her at all. On the other hand, she was grossed out by the fat guys on the beach wearing a Speedo.

The truth is, most of us aren't the subject of gawking at the beach. I had thought about this at the airport before we even left St. Louis, checking out the other passengers to see if any of them might be worth seeing mostly unclothed. Sadly, few of them qualified. Then I realized that's what they were probably thinking when they looked over at me.

At least I don't wear a Speedo. Then it would be option D -- avert your gaze until you can find another spot on the beach.

Space Night

Astronaut Sandra Magnus blogs about the Earth at night as she sees it from the International Space Station -- a vivid description of thunderstorms, city lights, and twinkling stars above. And she only gets that view every 45 minutes!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Your Tax Dollars In Action

In the biggest waste of legislative time since the baseball steroid hearings, the US Senate may look into the way the BCS determines the number one college football team in the country.

The Senator pushing for hearings is Utah's Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. Why does he care? Because the University of Utah went undefeated last season but wasn't considered for the national championship.

Boo freaking hoo. It's one thing to criticize the BCS (as even Obama has), but it's another thing to politicize it and expend valuable time on it in any official capacity. Someone needs to take Hatch -- and any other politician who supports this nonsense -- aside and remind them that this is not the role of government, and if you advocate for hearings on matters such as this you can no longer go around claiming you want less government.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Final Table #9: Pat Walsh & Bernard Lee

Thanks for your feedback on the podcasts of my poker show, The Final Table. Based on your response, we're no longer going to offer the show in segments, but rather post the entire podcast in one piece. I hope that makes it more enjoyable for you.

To start this week's show, Dennis Phillips told a story from his recent trip to Uruguay to play in another Latin American Poker Tour Event. It involves a young, very aggressive internet player who was short-stacked and made a move -- three moves, in fact -- to solve the problem. He calls it the Brazilian Triple Twist, and it might be something you want to add to your tournament arsenal.

Then, Dennis and I talked with Pat Walsh, the St. Louisan who made the final table of the LA Poker Classic, which will air as part of the WPT tour later this spring. Pat has gained a national reputation as a high-stakes pot-limit Omaha player, but he's also very good at no-limit hold'em, as he proved by finishing fifth at Commerce and taking a check for over $310,000. He explained to us what that experience was like, and the strategies behind the hands he played.

Next, Bernard Lee joined us. He gained fame by finishing 13th in the 2005 WSOP Main Event and then three back-to-back-to-back WPT titles at Foxwoods, and has parlayed that into a career as a multimedia poker guy, with his own radio show in Boston (and on Rounders Radio), a column in the Boston Herald, a couple of books, plus seminars and other teaching. He shared his advice on what he tells people who want to become fulltime poker professionals, but don't know the downside of that commitment. We also discussed an e-mail from a listener who won a seat in this year's Main Event, but isn't sure he should go play.

Finally, it was time for The Poker Coach, Joe McGowan, who will be playing in the Dream Team Poker event this weekend at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas with us. Joe delved into the concept of never showing your cards at the table unless you absolutely have to, to avoid giving the other players any information -- and the exception to that rule -- plus the etiquette of asking to see someone else's cards, even if you weren't involved in the hand.

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

They've Got Plane Money

ABC's Brian Ross reports that JPMorgan Chase, which got $25 billion in TARP funds, is going to spend $138 million on two new luxury corporate jets and a fancy new hangar to store them in. A company spokesman claims they're not using TARP money to buy the planes, but that's disingenuous.

Let's put this in terms you and I can relate to.

Suppose your roof is severely damaged in a hailstorm. You contact your insurance company, they send out an appraiser, he figures out how much it'll take to repair or replace your roof, and the company sends you a check.

Now, that money is yours, and you can use it to fix the roof or not. Let's say you decide to buy a car instead. The insurance company doesn't care -- your policy didn't mandate that you use the money for home repair -- as long as you don't go back to them later complaining about this problem you have with your roof.

However, suppose you didn't go to the insurance company but went to your neighbors instead. You have your hand out as you beg them to help you fix your roof. They've known you a long time, and several of them agree to give you the money (not a loan, but a gift). But again, you don't fix the roof, you buy the car. Don't the neighbors have the right to be pretty pissed off at you?

It reminds me of an old joke.

A guy's walking down the strip in Las Vegas when another man approaches him, asking for money because his wife is in the hospital and really needs an operation. The first man thinks for a second and then asks, "I'd like to help you out, but how do I know you won't take my money, go into the casino, and blow it all at the roulette table?" The second man answers, "Oh, you don't have to worry about that. I've got gambling money."

Financial Fallout

Today on WBT/Charlotte, I talked with Craig Gordon (White House editor for Politico.com) about who is scoring points in the debate over the financial rescue package and the AIG bonuses debacle, whether Congress is getting the message about how angry taxpayers are over the lack of oversight, and whether NY attorney general Andrew Cuomo has stolen their thunder by getting 15 top execs at AIG to return those bonuses.

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

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Domestic And Foreign

I don't know anything about the World Baseball Classic, don't care which players are on which team, or who won or lost. But as I was flicking around the channels the other night, I came upon a World Baseball Classic game between the USA and Puerto Rico. Before I had a chance to continue on to the next channel, my wife asked: "USA vs. Puerto Rico? How is that possible? Isn't Puerto Rico part of the United States??"

Good question. If you can fly there and back without a passport, if the Stars & Stripes flies over their buildings, if the rumble in "West Side Story" is on both the Jets' and the Sharks' home turf, then how can the US vs. Puerto Rico be considered anything but an intra-squad scrimmage?

Come to think of it, the District of Columbia isn't a state, either. Perhaps the Washington Nationals should have been allowed to play in the WBC.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another Movie You Might Not Know

I'm adding "Cadillac Records" to my Movies You Might Not Know list. The movie came out last year, but wasn't around long in theaters, so I didn't see it until it was on DVD.

"Cadillac Records" was the nickname of Chess, the label started by Leonard Chess (Adrian Brody) in Chicago to feature some of the blues musicians that played in his nightclub. When their records sold and he made money, Chess gave the artists a new Cadillac. First and foremost among those was Muddy Waters, played by the always strong Jeffrey Wright.

Unfortunately, we don't learn enough about Chess' penchant for ripping off the talent that made him rich, until the end credits show how some of them won lawsuits against him -- and against some of the white acts (Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin) that blatantly stole from these rock pioneers.

"Cadillac Records" fills in more of the story from an era when black musicians were forced to perform for segregated audiences and rarely crossed over to white radio. It's another part of the history of contemporary music that hasn't been told on screen before.

The cast includes Mos Def as Chuck Berry in all his slickness, Cedric The Entertainer as narrator Willie Dixon, a cameo by Eric Bogosian as Alan Freed, and another vibrant performance by Beyonce as the troubled Etta James. In the movie, she hits a home run with her cover of James' "At Last," which she also performed for the Obamas at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball in January...

Got a suggestion for the Movies You Might Not Know list? E-mail it to me or add it to the comments below.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Final Table #8: Hevad Khan

This week on The Final Table, Dennis Phillips and I talked about what it was like the first time we played in the Amazon Room (the huge venue at The Rio in Las Vegas, home to the World Series Of Poker) and were overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and stars.

Then we were joined by Hevad "Rain" Khan, who played in Dennis' Chip Leader Challenge last November two days before the final table of the WSOP Main Event, and was at the final table himself the year before, finishing sixth. In his quest for a bracelet, he told us that he plans to play pretty much every event he can this year, except HORSE, so he'll have a very busy June. We talked to Hevad about the NBC Heads-Up Championship, which he participated in a couple of weeks ago and you'll see on the air in April (by the way, congratulations to our previous guest, Vanessa Rousso, who finished second to Huck Seed in the event). You may have also seen the YouTube video of Hevad playing more than two dozen sit-and-go's at once on PokerStars -- he says he's done it with as many as 43 -- so we asked him what kind of strategy he could possibly use when he's doing that much multi-tabling.

In the Poker Coach segment, Joe McGowan talked about one of his pet peeves -- involving asking an opponent how many chips he has left, but instead another player who is not even in the hand jumps in and gives you the answer. As Joe points out, you weren't just looking for what he has, but for information on how he responds; information which can help you make a decision on what to do.

Then Joe offered more valuable tells to watch for -- specifially the unconscious ones, like which card they're looking at when they bet the flop, what they're doing with their feet and legs, and more. The more of these you're aware of, the better your game will be.

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

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Death Of The Newspaper

As a news consumer, the imminent death of a big city newspaper makes me sad. There has always been something comforting to me about sitting down to breakfast and reading the morning paper, wherever I am. When I travel, to big cities or small towns, I'll pick up the local daily to see what's going on. It's more than being a news junkie -- there's satisfaction in the tactile sensation of holding that assemblage of information in my hands while scanning for items that catch the eye.

A good newspaper can surprise you more often with little tidbits or big stories, well told, and their news operations usually dwarf everyone else in town, even with recent reductions brought on by the economic downturn. They have the people power to cover stories ignored by local TV (because there's no compelling visual), and offer an unmatched breadth of coverage, from the big stories to business news to community events to local squabbles and on and on. The paper is often the only check on authority and abuse of power locally, too.

Broadcast outlets rely on the newspaper to steer them towards the stories they'll cover that day, even though the fact that it's in print means it's at least a day old already. Every radio host in America, regardless of format, checks the paper (or its website) to see what's worth talking about. A good newspaper story can drive talk radio discussion from morning till night, and then some. Local morning TV shows that don't want to rehash their own late newscast from last night will instead re-use content from that day's paper, almost always without credit. Rarely does another media outlet get an entire town buzzing like that.

That doesn't mean I don't use the internet to gather information. I do. As a freelance host for stations around the country, I rely on the online offerings from big newspapers. If I'm going to be on WHAS/Louisville, I can find out what's going on in town by sifting through the stories on Courier-Journal.com. For WLS/Chicago, I'll read the Tribune and Sun-Times sites, plus those of some suburban papers. Both of these radio stations have their own web presence and news content, but none as dense as the big daily newspapers.

Contrary to popular belief, more people are reading newspapers than ever before -- they're just doing it online. Unfortunately, publishers have not been able to turn that vast virtual readership into advertising revenue sufficient to cover the expenses of such a large operation. Some of them are considering scaling back to online-only versions, but they will be mere shadows of the vast news-gatherers of the past and present.

The mistake was offering all that content for free in the first place. That's an ongoing problem in the internet age, when online users have come to expect so much for so little. Some newspaper critics contend that the internet offers access to plenty of other news, and that the blogosphere and "citizen journalists" will fill the abyss left by the death of a newspaper. But they don't understand how much online content relies on newspapers.

When polls show that Americans (particularly those under 30) rely on the internet for news, they fail to list the outlets that provide that information. Even online news aggregators, like Drudge, rely on print publications for most of their links. The rest of the blogosphere follows, with the vast majority of online news chatter in this country starting with something reported or written for a newspaper.

In Seattle, the Post-Intelligencer has been publishing a daily newspaper since the Civil War. Two months ago, its owner, the Hearst Corporation, gave the paper 60 days to find a buyer or the paper would be shut down. How ironic that a company started by William Randolph Hearst, who used newspapers as his soapbox to influence a generation of readers and bludgeon his political opponents, can't make a go of it in print anymore. Tuesday was day number sixty, and no one's stepped forward with a check to buy the P-I. As of today, the paper is still in print, but it may be gone by next week. That would leave Seattle as a one-paper town, and the rival Seattle Times is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy itself.

That's why I invited Mark Fitzgerald, editor-at-large at Editor & Publisher, the newspaper industry watchdog, to join me on KIRO-FM to discuss the imminent death of the P-I and other big city dailies.

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Final Table #7: Victor Ramdin

This week on our poker radio show, The Final Table, Dennis Phillips and I talked with Victor Ramdin, who has made quite a name for himself in the last few years. Not only has he won over $2.5 million in live tournaments, but he has donated huge amounts to charity, including the work he does for people in need of medical care in his home nation, Guyana.

We talked to Victor about his philanthropic work, how he first became interested in poker, how he was mentored by Phil Ivey, and his plans for this year's World Series Of Poker. We also discussed his reputation for aggressive and unpredictable play -- and how he changes strategies when he runs into another player like himself.

In his Poker Coach segment, Joe McGowan started a new series on tells you should watch for in your opponents -- particularly conscious ones like the way he tells you how many chips he has left -- and what it means when you're heads-up and the other player acts friendly and checks it to you. This is extremely valuable advice, and we'll have Joe do more of it on next week's show, too.

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

The Politics of Science

Last September, I wrote a column entitled "12 Things The Next President Must Say." This was one of them:

I will trust scientists. Since I am not a scientist and have no training in the field, when the scientific community reaches a peer-reviewed consensus, I will accept it. I will not allow anti-scientific dogma and pseudo-science to be funded or supported in any way by my administration.
I'm happy to say that President Obama has not only said essentially that, but has followed through on the promise of a pro-science administration. He proved it Monday by signing an executive order overturning President Bush's ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

In doing so, he put science ahead of ideology, said he would restore scientific integrity to White House decision-making, and vowed that his science advisers would be hired based on their credentials, not on their politics. Hopefully, this means we won't see a repeat of the Bush policy that allowed low-level politically-appointed public affairs bureaucrats to tell top NASA climatologists what they can and can't say about climate change.

Yesterday on KIRO/Seattle, I talked this over with Dr. Art Caplan, Director of the Center for Bioethics. We discussed the impact of the change not just on stem cell research, but also on other failed policies like abstinence-only sex education.

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

Of course, the presidential order doesn't mean that politics and science no longer clash. TPM's Elana Schor reports that several GOP senators have put an anonymous hold on at least two of Obama's science adviser designees -- and she's trying to figure out who the culprits are:
We're on the hunt for the mystery senator (or senators) holding up approval of John Holdren and Jane Lubchenco, President Obama's nominees to become chief White House science adviser and head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

To bring folks up to speed, it appeared initially that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) was the sole lawmaker standing in the nominees' way, thanks to an unrelated dispute with Democratic leaders over the Cuban trade embargo. But that obstacle is no longer operative, leaving the situation murky as Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) references multiple holds on the nominees.

Yesterday we ruled out two GOP suspects, Sens. David Vitter (LA) and Mel Martinez (FL). Today we can strike two more likely suspects from the list: Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and John Barrasso (R-WY) both strongly oppose Holdren's pro-regulation stance on climate change, but both told me they're not behind the holds.

Inhofe couldn't confirm that the holds weren't coming from his environment committee, but he said flat out: "It's not me, though."

Stem Cell Future

What does President Obama's reversal of the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research mean to the scientists doing that research? Yesterday on KIRO/Seattle, I spoke with Dr. Chuck Murry, Professor of Pathology and Co-Director of the University of Washington's Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine.

He explained how this will allow him to continue his work on harnessing the potential of adult and embryonic stem cells to regenerate cardiac muscle, what the timeline might be for seeing results from new stem cell science, and where researchers go to get those embryos in the first place.

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

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Morning Mulch

How to guarantee I won't be your customer: ring my doorbell at 7:45am.

It happened this morning. I answered the door, and there's a guy saying, "I'm in the neighborhood dropping off some fresh mulch and I can see that you need some." That's it? That's your pitch? And you think this is a good time of day to do business? Even if I already was your customer, I don't want you dropping off anything that early.

Perhaps this works as a volume concept -- he rings as many doorbells as he can until he finally gets one or two people who are awake enough to buy his mulch. Or maybe there's someone who's about to leave for work, thinking their day would be markedly better if only a door-to-door mulch salesman would drop by.

Not here. I turned him down, then watched him walk down the street, where he no doubt woke up my neighbors. It's now a few hours later and I don't see any fresh mulch in anyone's yard, so they must not have appreciated the early sales call, either.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Final Table #6: Chris Moneymaker

On this week's edition of The Final Table radio show, Dennis Phillips and I talked with Chris Moneymaker, whose name became synonymous with the poker boom when he won the 2003 World Series Of Poker Main Event.

Chris filled us in on what he's been up to, why he doesn't play as many tournaments as he used to, and what his plans are for the 2009 WSOP. We also asked him about changes he's seen in the game as more young, aggressive online players come along -- and the best strategy for playing against them.

Also on the show:

  • Dennis and I discussed how Tom Dwan and Peter Eastgate fit in with the veterans on Sunday's season premiere of "High Stakes Poker";
  • The Poker Coach, Joe McGowan, answered an e-mail from a listener whose first cash game experience didn't go very well, provided tips on how to choose the live game that's right for you, and explained why too many players lose money in lower-limit games because of the rake the house takes;
  • Kat Kowal provided details on the Dream Team Poker event coming up at the end of March at Caesar's Palace (which Dennis, Joe, and I will play in);
  • The Poker Lawyer, Josh Schindler, revealed what the law says about home poker games in Missouri and Illinois.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

[Note: if it sounds like this show was done over the telephone, that's because it was -- we had technical difficulties with the broadcast feed, but felt the content was strong enough to continue anyway. We're confident that the problem won't recur in future weeks, and appreciate your understanding.]

Free Roll!

Here's your chance to play poker with Dennis Phillips and me!

We're going to do a freeroll on PokerStars for everyone who reads this blog or listens to our radio show (The Lumiere Place Final Table) [Note: PokerStars is limiting entrants to players with a Missouri or Illinois address -- for those of you elsewhere, we hope to do a freeroll for you very soon].

You're invited to join us tonight at 7pm CT on PokerStars. It won't cost you a cent, and you could win cash prizes ($1,000 for 1st), a weekend at Lumiere Place, a chip set from Amini's, or other prizes (for everyone who makes the final table).

Now's the time to download the PokerStars software, set up an account with your own user name and password, and be ready to register. Once you're on PokerStars, click on Tourney, then Regional, and scroll down to the Dennis Phillips Freeroll. Here's your tournament registration password: Cardinals.

I look forward to playing against you. And don't forget to listen to The Lumiere Place Final Table every Tuesday at 6pm CT on KFNS/St. Louis (or via my podcasts).

Monday, March 02, 2009

Lavatory Leasing

I love the word "lavatory," the least-used bathroom euphemism (with the exception of "comfort station"). In modern life, "lavatory" is used in exactly two places: on an airplane, and in an elementary school. If the Irish cheapo airline RyanAir has its way, that may be reduced to one, as it considers charging fliers to use the lavatory while in flight.

Personally, I already try to avoid the airplane bathroom, because it is not built for tall, large men like me. The curvature of the plane makes standing up difficult, the seat is only slightly larger than the one my daughter used when we potty-trained her as a three-year-old, and then there's that little light that says "return to your seat." I think it's there as a flight crew joke, since it inevitably comes on just as you're starting your business and can't go anywhere. It also implies that you're loitering in the lavatory, as if you want to spend any more time in that cramped space than absolutely necessary.

I can't imagine how anyone has ever used an airplane bathroom to join the Mile High Club -- how did two people even fit in there, let alone do anything physical? If there's a less erotic place, I don't know it. Where did they lose their virginity, the town dump?

The good news for RyanAir flight attendants -- who already suffer, with their seats right next to the lavatory and its accompanying aroma -- is that they won't have to conduct beverage service any more, since passengers will do everything they can to avoid having to take a leak. On the other hand, the attendants might have to start wearing those coin-dispensing machines to assist passengers who can't resist nature's call.

Flying across Ireland can't be that long a trip, so simply holding it for a couple of hours won't be that much of a hardship, but there will certainly be a line at the bathrooms at the terminal, both for passengers about to board, and those who have just landed.

RyanAir's new slogan will become the same one your mother always intoned before you left the house: "Go before you go." Or it'll cost you.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Paul Harvey ... Good Night

For about ten years now, my friend Frank O. Pinion has had a running joke on his KTRS show in which he confuses me with Paul Harvey, whose news commentary is also heard on that station. I suppose the joke is over now that Harvey has died after nine decades on this planet and seven decades on the air.

There are plenty of places to find out about his accomplishments, awards, and affiliates, so I won't reproduce them here. I never counted myself as a Harvey fan -- he was way too conservative and religious for my taste -- but I respected the man's work nonetheless, and his loss will be felt at many levels of the radio business.

Paul Harvey was heard by more people than just about anyone else on American radio. His six-day-a-week commentaries and "the rest of the story" were mainstays of the news and talk formats. It is a huge loss for ABC (where Harvey was singularly responsible for 10% of ABC Radio's annual income) and the clients for whom his live commercial endorsements were among the best ever. Some of those companies became successes and household names entirely because of Harvey featuring them on Page Two.

After his wife Angel died and Paul got sick last year, ABC Radio tried various substitutes -- Fred Thompson did it for awhile before leaving for his ill-fated presidential campaign, veteran radio guys like Gil Gross, Doug Limerick, and Ron Chapman did extended tours as fill-ins -- but none of them had that unique delivery and style that was Paul Harvey. Even his son, Paul Harvey Jr., who wrote much of his father's material for years, did a stint behind the microphone, but sounded like nothing more than a pale imitation of dad.

Now ABC is faced with finding someone to take on the position permanently, but they're likely to run into a lot of resistance from programmers who had kept Harvey on the air only because of who he was and the history behind his name. Some Harvey affiliates had already dropped his features when he wasn't there regularly, and other syndicators will surely race to offer other commentators, yet it's likely that most stations will drop the entire concept and simply fill the void with more of their regular programming.

For them, there will be no Rest Of The Story.

Good Times?

In the March issue of Esquire, editor-in-chief David Granger writes about the dark mood our nation (and much of the world) is in. Then he puts forth a contrarian view:

If you have the courage to buck the prevailing mood (and are among the 93% of who still have a job), these are actually damn good times. Not just because every morning paper's jammed full of amazing stories, but because life has actually gotten easier.

Gas is under two bucks. There's never been a better time to buy a new car (half off! 0 percent!) or a new house (depressed prices + 5% over thirty years = unprecedented opportunity). Tables are available in the vast majority of excellent restaurants, to eat reduced-price menus. TV has never been better ("30 Rock," "Fringe," "Friday Night Lights," plus everything on the winter season of cable). The new TiVo box offers miraculous access to, essentially, the entire history of filmed entertainment on the best generation of flat-screens ever, which retailers are giving away. Airports are way less crowded, there are empty seats on flights, and those flights land on time more often. There's momentum afoot in the land to address the problems (infrastructure, education, health care, energy) we've ignored for the last eight years. All in all, it's easier to live a more enjoyable life right now than at any time in recent memory...if we can just convince ourselves to go ahead and do so.

If you have a job. And it's secure. And you haven't lost your house. And were already okay before the recession. And can afford to buy anything advertised in Esquire.