Friday, January 30, 2009

George Harrison, Pirate

In the mid-1970s, after Monty Python's TV series had left the year, but before they moved into movies like "Holy Grail," Eric Idle did another comedy series for the BBC called "Rutland Weekend Television."

It was from that series that "The Rutles" sprang, eventually becoming the subject of the first rock mockumentary, a TV movie for NBC called "All You Need Is Cash," which aired in the SNL time slot in 1978. It was a pitch-perfect parody of the Beatles, with music by Neil Innes that sounded just like the Fab Four (or in the case of the Rutles, the Pre-Fab Four, a legend that would last a lunchtime). Idol co-directed the movie with Gary Weis, wrote the script, and played the Paul McCartney character, Dirk McQuickly. Innes played the John Lennon character, Ron Nasty, and there were also cameos by Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, Ron Wood, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner -- and George Harrison.

That wasn't the first time Harrison and Idle had worked together, and it wouldn't be the last. Harrison would later provide financing for the Python films, but before all of that, in 1975, he appeared on "Rutland Weekend Television" as a guest. The premise was that he'd sing either a Beatles song or one of his solo hits, but Harrison had something else in mind -- he wanted to be a pirate...


[thanks to Michael Cowen for the link]

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Final Table #1: The Famous AK vs. AQ

On Tuesday's debut of our new radio show, The Final Table, Dennis Phillips and I discussed at length the infamous AK vs. AQ hand that he lost to Ivan Demidov at the World Series of Poker Main Event finale in November -- even his poker coach, Joe McGowan chimed in about it. We also went over the newly-announced schedule for this year's WSOP, talked about Dennis' recent adventures playing tournaments in Chile and the Bahamas, and chatted with poker lawyer Josh Schindler.

You can listen live in the embedded player below, or download the podcast here. To subscribe to all of my podcasts via iTunes, click here.


Next week (2/3/09), our special guest will be one of the top poker pros in the world, Barry Greenstein.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mitzi & Charlie's Big Break

In February, 1964, the husband-and-wife comedy team of Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall were starting to get their careers off the ground when their manager booked them on a TV show that could change their lives -- "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Brill and McCall were thrilled, especially when they heard that they'd be appearing with one of their comedy heroes, impressionist Frank Gorshin. What they didn't know was that, on that Sunday night, they would be seen by more TV viewers than any other comedy team in history, because of the band that was featured on Sullivan's show that night: The Beatles.

If they did well, it could have catapulted Brill and McCall to superstardom, assuming that anyone noticed anyone else on Sullivan's roster that evening. Unfortunately, they weren't a smash hit. In fact, they were sure they bombed and their careers were over. But they continued to work for many years in nightclubs, Las Vegas, and on TV, appearing on "The Tonight Show" four times and becoming game show regulars, too.

David Segal wrote up the saga of Brill and McCall's big break for a Washington Post piece five years ago. He also did it for Ira Glass' public radio show, "This American Life," which re-ran recently. That's how I heard it, and you can listen to it here.

I find amazing is that, at 26 years old, Brill and McCall had no idea who The Beatles were. They were just a little older than the Fab Four's fan base, and were more part of the previous generation's idea of entertainment. Though they modeled their act on Nichols and May, even that seemed old by 1964. A generational line of demarcation was about to be drawn, and they were on the wrong side of it. That explains why they were so baffled when Sullivan told them they had to change their act at the last minute because the audience that night would be full of teenage girls.

My favorite line is when Segal lists the other acts on the show that night -- a magician Fred Kaps doing card tricks, singer Tessie O'Shea, and even a pre-Monkees Davy Jones doing a number from the Broadway show "Oliver" -- and refers to them as the kind of acts "about to be pushed aside by rock and roll." That's exactly right.

Best Job In The World


They say it's the "best job in the world," and if you're stuck with miserable winter weather now, it certainly sounds like it.

Imagine living on an island off the Australian coast for six months, and getting paid for it! The salary is $105,000, but you will have to work -- scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking, visiting a couple dozen island resorts near the Great Barrier Reef -- and you'll get a three-bedroom luxury home and transportation thrown in, too. You have about three weeks left to apply, and you don't have to have any special skills or experience to become the Island Caretaker.

In return for tipping you to this, I expect at least a postcard.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

WSOP 2009

As we announced tonight on the new poker radio show The Lumiere Place Final Table on KFNS, the World Series Of Poker 2009 schedule has been announced, and there are some major changes.

There will be no re-buy events this year, but there will be seven $10,000 championship events (for different games, like Hold'Em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, etc.) -- and for the 40th anniversary of the WSOP, they have added a new $40,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em event, which will come with a special one-of-a-kind bracelet.

One thing that won't change is the 4-month delay before the Final Table of the Main Event. Here's what my friend Dennis Phillips, who was part of the first-ever November Nine, says about keeping the hiatus intact: "I can tell you that four months is a really long time, and I was hoping they'd cut it down this year. I was ready to play about two months into the break, but I can't complain, since I was able to use that time to my benefit in so many ways."

In all, the WSOP 2009 will have 57 events, including 39 with buy-ins under $2,500 and seven no-limit hold'em events with a $1,500 buy-in. And on opening weekend, there will be a new $1,000 buy-in NLH tournament that they think might draw five or six thousand players, breaking the previous record for an opening event (3,929 in 2008).

Get more details here.

Exclusive

MSNBC just ran a promo for Rachel Maddow's interview tonight with Rod Blagojevich, and the graphic called it an "exclusive!"

Talk about a word that has lost all meaning. I guess no one at the network noticed Blago on Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Early Show, The View, and Larry King Live in the last two days. I think I even saw him playing Plinko with Drew Carey.

Or maybe by "exclusive" they mean "the only interview with an impeached Illinois governor that's on MSNBC at that time."

Update: That's exactly what they mean. When I typed this entry, I didn't have the sound up and was going solely on the visuals. What I didn't know was that Maddow had tongue planted firmly in cheek as she announced the "exclusive" on last night's show...

New Show Debuts Today

At 6pm today, I'm debuting a new poker radio show with Dennis Phillips, the St. Louisan who came in third at the 2008 World Series Of Poker Main Event (you may have seen him on ESPN, which reruns it constantly). The show is called The Final Table and will air Tuesdays 6-7pm CT on KFNS (590 The Fan) here in St. Louis and on KFNS.com everywhere.

For the first show, we'll go into detail about Dennis' experience at the WSOP, plus his recent tournament adventures in Chile and the Bahamas. We'll also have a strategy segment with poker coach Joe McGowan, discuss poker and the law with attorney Josh Schindler, and have weekly visits with some of the best-known poker pros.

WHAS/Louisville This Morning


Amidst the winter storm that's rolling through, I'll be on WHAS/Louisville this morning from 8 to 11am . You can listen live here.

Presidential Panorama

Photographer David Bergman took 220 high-resolution photos from his vantage point on the north press platform at President Barack Obama's inauguration. Then he combined them into one remarkable panoramic picture that you can pan and zoom for a unique perspective on that historic moment.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Good Morning, Louisville


I'll fill in on WHAS/Louisville this morning from 8 to 11am . You can listen live here.

His & Hers Closets

The clever commercials keep coming. This one caught my wife's eye...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

No Time To Think


Yesterday on KTRS/St. Louis, I talked with Pulitzer prize-winning TV critic Howard Rosenberg about his new book, "No Time To Think: The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-Hour News Cycle."

We touched on many of my pet peeves about TV news, some of which go back to the days when my wife worked in the business. We used to laugh when reporters did live shots from locations where the event had happened hours before and no one was left except for the TV crews ("we're live from the courthouse tonight, even though this decision was announced 12 hours ago"). I remember Kim Hume (Brit's wife) telling me a story from her time as a producer in the early days of ABC's "Primetime Live," in which they did a story about an old tree in Texas and, because the show had a mandate to do everything "live," they spent thousands of dollars lighting the tree so it could be seen when the show aired -- at night. God forbid they just use video of the tree from earlier that day, or week.

Another peeve: TV anchors who so hate silence that they have to fill every moment of live coverage by telling us what we're about to see (e.g., seconds before Joe Biden was sworn in on Tuesday, Katie Couric felt she had to tell us that Joe Biden was about to be sworn in).

Rosenberg told a fascinating story from his book about a conversation he had with Ted Sorenson, who was an advisor to JFK, about how the Cuban Missile Crisis might have played out differently (and disastrously) in the midst of a modern media frenzy. We also talked about citizen journalists, whether opinions have replaced facts as the basis for news coverage, and his thoughts on the future of newspapers (he spent 25 years as TV critic for the LA Times).

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

WLS Saturday


I'm on WLS/Chicago this morning from 6 to 8am CT. You can listen live here.

Among my guests will be a researcher who says there's no evidence of a link between violent video games and school shootings. And I'll talk about the steroid allegations by Mark McGwire's brother, the latest outbursts by Governor Blagojevich, and more. BTW, Blago was in the WLS studio yesterday morning with Don Wade & Roma for over 40 minutes, talking about his impeachment -- the audio is here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Senator Smith

Several years ago, I saw a documentary called "Can Mr. Smith Even Get To Washington Any More?", about the attempt by a professor named Jeff Smith to win the congressional seat vacated by Dick Gephardt. Although he finished second in the Democratic primary, Smith impressed me with his boldness, his grassroots organization, and his sense of humor.

Although he lost that election, Smith didn't fade away. In 2007, he was elected to the Missouri State Senate, where he now represents a large part of the city of St. Louis. We ran into each other a couple of months ago when I was in Las Vegas for a poker tournament and he was there for a meeting of progressive politicians. After we talked for awhile, I told him I'd like to have him on the air early this year, and today we made that happen when he joined me for an hour on KTRS/St. Louis.

We talked about some of his legislative agenda, the work he's done in the community, the charter school he co-founded (Confluence Academy) and its place in the city's educational system, and his annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament (and how a guy who's 5'5" led his team to the quarterfinals last year). I also asked Smith whether he'll run for Kit Bond's senate seat next year.

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

Friday Morning on KTRS


I'll be back on The Big 550 KTRS/St. Louis this morning from 9am to Noon.

Among my guests will be Missouri State Senator Jeff Smith, who was the subject of the documentary "Can Mr. Smith Get To Washington Anymore?" a couple of years ago. I'll also talk with Pulitzer prize-winning TV critic Howard Rosenberg about his new book, "No Time To Think: The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-Hour News Cycle."

You can listen live here.

Concorde Conception

After yesterday's Fiat commercial POTD, Alan Portman suggested this one for Chrysler...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meaningless Numbers

Several media outlets reported today that, according to Nielsen, the number of Americans who watched Obama's inauguration on Tuesday (37.8 million) was not as large as the audience for Reagan's inauguration in 1981 (41.8 million viewers, the "largest ever"). This was played up on some conservative websites as proof that the 44th president isn't as popular as the 40th was.

As always, no one provided perspective, and no one pointed out that this statistic is meaningless. It's like arguing that Obama is the most popular president ever because he got more votes than anyone in history. That's a simple matter of math. As the nation's population keeps growing, each newly-elected president will break the most-votes record. It's not like Barry Bonds passing Hank Aaron.

The Nielsen figures reveal nothing about which president's inaugural was the most-watched, because they don't include the huge numbers of people who viewed it online.

My wife was one of those. There's no TV in her office, so she and her cubicle-mates used their desktop monitors to find an online video stream of the inauguration. They couldn't get through on CNN.com (whose servers were so full they couldn't take any more viewers), but found another site easily and watched it that way. There were millions of people who accessed the video online, yet they are not included in any accurate metric that I've seen (there are estimates from some of the top news sites, but even they don't include all the various outlets where you could watch the ceremony live).

In an age where the public has so many information options, let's not jump to the wrong conclusions. If anything, the Nielsen numbers say something completely different -- that television viewership is down, even for major live events like Obama's inaugural.

KTRS Thursday


I'll be back on The Big 550 KTRS/St. Louis this morning from 9am to Noon, and you can listen live here.

Veterans Affairs

Does the change in the White House mean that our veterans will become a higher priority?

Yesterday on KTRS/St. Louis, I talked with Tom Tarantino of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America about the changes he expects under the Obama administration, whether Gen. Shinseki is a good choice for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and how both the economy and health issues continue to affect our men and women in uniform. I also asked him about the controversy over denying purple hearts to the large number of soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

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

Cleaning Dad's Car After A Date

With Chrysler announcing yet another deal with a foreign automaker, here's a funny little commercial for their new partner, Fiat. It's for everyone who ever borrowed dad's car for a date...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Back on KTRS Today


This morning from 9am to Noon, I'll be back on The Big 550 KTRS/St. Louis. You can listen live here.

Inflatable Bag Art

A gush of air from subway trains rushing below is all Joshua Allen Harris (no relation) needs to animate his inflatable bag art...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Blooper Oath


As Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, John Roberts had just one thing to do today -- administer the oath of office to President Barack Obama -- and he blew it, mixing up some of the words.

The oath contains exactly 35 words, which Roberts should have been able to memorize. A friend suggested to me this afternoon that he was nervous, but that's no excuse. This is the top guy in the US judicial system, the most important jurist in the land, not some 17 year old high schooler singing the opening song from "Oklahoma" in the school play (and getting it wrong: "Oh, what a morningful beauty...").

The irony is that Obama's oath, delivered correctly, would have become one of the most valuable pieces of audio in presidential history, replayed hundreds of times today and millions of times in the years to come. Instead, it's a blooper.

Needle Art

This guy says he can't read or write, but somehow does art so small it fits on the head of a pin -- or in the eye of a needle...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Goodbye, Dubya

On George W. Bush's last day as president, let's look back at some of his best public moments, courtesy of David Letterman...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What's First For Obama

With the inauguration of Barack Obama just a couple of days away, I invited David Mark (senior editor of Politico) onto my WLS/Chicago show to talk about what we should expect in the first few days of the new administration.

We discussed the policy priorities Obama will undertake once in office, why his transition team wasn't more thorough in its vetting of Bill Richardson and Timothy Geithner, whether the Democrats in Congress will have hearings on actions taken during the Bush years, and how DC will handle the massive gridlock of inauguration day on Tuesday.

Like me, Mark was surprised to hear Obama's team talk about doing away with the restriction on gays in the military. It's not that I agree with the policy -- it should never have become law in the first place -- but the Clinton team made the issue one of their first priorities, and then stumbled badly when they ran into strong resistance. Granted, attitudes are different now than 16 years ago, but there are more important things that Americans want their new President to do, like work on fixing the economy, and then work even more on fixing the economy.

I also think it's folly for Obama to say that "peace in the middle east" is one of his early priorities. That's a pronouncement every President has made for decades, but they might as well have said they were going to bang their head against the wall and gotten the same result -- a long-lasting headache. There is simply no chance of peace in the middle east anytime soon, no reasonable way to change the attitudes brought on by centuries of ethnic, religious, and sectarian hatred. We're talking about a part of the world where people still strap bombs to their bodies, walk into crowded restaurants, and blow themselves up, killing dozens of innocent bystanders in the process. Any US president who thinks he's going to heal the rifts that have defined the middle east for generations is fooling himself.

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

One and a Half Senators

Tom McNamee, editorial editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, says that with Roland Burris seated in the US Senate, the state of Illinois is now represented by a senator and a half.

Today on my WLS/Chicago show, McNamee explained that because of the Blago taint, no senator is going to want to co-sponsor a bill with Burris, and that each bit of continuing news about the governor's impeachment trial and then his criminal trial will remind Washington of how Burris got the job.

We also discussed whether the Democrats are now worried about holding onto that Senate seat with the 2010 primary only 13 months away, and whether Illinois' senior senator Dick Durbin and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will even work with Burris. We also talked about the Roger Simon article (which McNamee printed in the Sun-Times) regarding race and gender in the matter of Roland Burris and Caroline Kennedy.

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

Saturday Morning in Chicago


I'm on WLS/Chicago this morning from 6 to 8am CT. Among my guests:
  • David Mark, Senior Editor for Politico, to talk about the transition and what to expect from the Obama administration
  • Tom McNamee, Editorial Editor of the Chicago Sun Times, on whether Roland Burris can be an effective Senator
  • Kristina Durante, a University of Texas Psychologist, who says she's found a hormone that makes women more likely to commit adultery
You can listen live here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bubba and Burrito

How long does it take Bubba The Dog to eat a Taco Bell bean burrito? About one second...


[thanks to Robert Guento for the link]

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More In Car Audio

Welcome to readers of Al Peterson's NTS Media Online who are looking for my "In Car Audio" column, about how terrestrial broadcasters have to prepare for the continuing expansion of wimax and its impact on the way listeners will consume audio.

In response, WDNA-FM/Miami Operations Manager Joe Cassara writes,

Paul,

I've been dreaming about wireless internet radio since the days of the Apple Newton. I'm confident RoIP (radio over IP) will replace traditional radio broadcasting over RF. The only question is when.

Consider:

- The Society of Broadcast Engineers continues to face the dilemma of no young talent entering RF engineering. How many folks can build a directional AM station from scratch today in the US? A handful? FM engineers are fading away, too. Where's the young talent going? IT/Network Administration. Who will run the tower sites of tomorrow?

- Thanks to the iPhone and the "me, too" crowd of devices, use of cellular-provided broadband is exploding and will remain a way of life. All you can eat data for $30. And that fee will shrink.

- We're on the cusp of free (or cheap as free) nation-wide WI-FI.

- Young people are not listening to FM. An entire generation of consumers will come of age in a world where radio is not a major media outlet.

- Yes, streaming can be quite an expenditure. But without having to pay for tower space, transmitter space, the electric bill from running an xKw transmitter 24/7, and the personnel/equipment associated with RF, I can channel those funds into wholesale 64/128+kbps stream aggregation.

- HD Radio, our knight in shining armor, is caught with no car to drive himself to the party -- and no one wants to give him a ride.

- RoIP can provide us, as program directors, with instant feedback from listeners. Did that segment on tax reform tickle them? Do they like that new cut from Nine Inch Nails we just played? Even the portable people meter can't provide that level of feedback.

- Click to buy. Boom. Every cut they hear on our streams can be purchased instantly. What a way to prove to record companies that radio, and public radio at that, still matters in the music purchasing dynamic!

- Who needs to listen to the morning show in the morning or Jazz After Hours after hours when it can be delivered to you digitally and stored for later playback?

The BEST move to make radio matter again? Get Radio out of Radio Frequency.

Bush Breaks Record

With five days left to go in his presidency, George W. Bush is about to break a record that has stood since 1840. Since then, every president elected in a year ending in a zero has died, been killed, or been shot while in office.

These sort of records mean nothing, particularly when they use random past events to predict the future, or refer to it as "a curse." But perhaps we need to update history to say that, as of next week, every president elected in a year ending in a zero has died, been killed, been shot, or had a shoe thrown at them during a press conference while in office.

Hairless Larry

KMOV-TV's longtime anchorman, Larry Conners, returned from vacation Tuesday night without his toupee for the first time ever (video here). He blogged about it here, and his wife Janet added her thoughts here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Judging Idol Judges


When "American Idol" announced it would have a new judge this season -- songwriter Kara DioGuardi -- a lot of people assumed it meant that Paula Abdul was close to being fired.

True, Abdul has had her bizarre moments over the previous seven seasons both on and off the show, and can be counted on to say something sappy and silly each week (and could she wear more clunky jewelry?), but she's not the least-necessary person on "Idol." That title belongs to Randy Jackson, who has somehow escaped the critics' wrath.

I don't care that he was the bass player in Journey for a few years, or that he's worked with Mariah Carey and other stars. As a TV personality and talent show judge, he's a cliche-ridden blob of nothing who hasn't said anything original in this century. His constant invoking of "dawg" and "pitchy" are long past worn out , and he has offered nothing new to replace them.

Case in point: on Tuesday, as the new season kicked off, the first singer was the typical "Idol" contestant train wreck -- very little talent, no real voice, just part of the freak show that makes up the first few shows of every "Idol" season. When Randy was called upon for his opinion, here's what he said (verbatim!):
"I mean, I wasn't like, you know, I don't know if it was really, okay, whatever. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh, uh, it was wild, dude, it was definitely wild."
Wow, that's pretty insightful.

Meanwhile, new judge DioGuardi wasted no time offering her opinions, telling bad singers they stunk, being honest with people who weren't quite ready for the show, and encouraging those who can actually sing and will advance to the next round. She's no Simon Cowell, whose ear for musical talent and eye for making good television make him the prototypical judge, but DioGuardi is a worthwhile addition to the show and a good counterpart to both Cowell and Abdul.

Where does that leave Jackson? Uh, dude, you know, whatever.


One last question: was Bikini Girl the first contestant in "Idol" history to come in with a purely visual appeal and leave with a golden ticket? There have been many through the years who tried wacky costumes or whack-job outfits, but none of them ever got the pass to Hollywood. Or am I forgetting someone?

Burris vs. Kennedy

In a piece Roger Simon wrote for Politico entitled "In Politics, Does Race Trump Gender?", he asks, "How come Roland Burris has had such an easy time getting to the U.S. Senate while Caroline Kennedy has had such a hard time?"

The answer is easy: he was appointed by the governor of his state, and she hasn't been.

That's all. There's no racial angle here, despite the efforts of Rep. Bobby Rush, whose playing of the race card in the Burris matter was nothing short of disgusting. And it's not even a matter of whether Burris and/or Kennedy is qualified for the job. The simple fact is that Burris was willing to accept a tainted appointment and, without a valid legal reason to exempt him from the Senate, he was seated.

As for Kennedy, it's still possible she'll get the job, but she hasn't helped herself with any of her public or media appearances in the last few days. However, if Gov. Patterson appoints her, she'll be seated as a freshman Senator just like Burris. And they'll both join a long list of people who didn't deserve to be part of that legislative body, regardless of race and gender.

Ricardo Montalban


Mark Evanier has a great story about working with Ricardo Montalban, who just died at age 88 (with no mention of Khan, rich corinthian leather, or Leslie Nielsen).

I'll say this: the man defined "suave."

I Mean, You Know

James Randi on problems with miscommunication...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Veggie Teen

Every once in awhile, it's nice to be reassured that we're not alone in the things we deal with as parents of teenagers. That's how I felt while reading a new study that says 1 in 200 American kids is now vegetarian because, like my daughter, they're appalled at the thought of killing a living being to eat it.

I wish I'd thought of this when my mother forced my brother and me to eat liver.

We got the vegetarian announcement from my daughter a couple of years ago. This meant no more dinner table arguments about eating pieces of chicken or steak or turkey that she didn't like anyway. Unfortunately, she didn't substitute a slew of vegetarian options -- her range of food choices didn't expand to include more fruits, vegetables, and grains. She just told us that she wasn't going to eat food like hot dogs anymore. That reduced the number of different food items in her daily diet to approximately 9.

Now she complains that she's always eating the same things and wants more variety in her meals. I suppose this means she wants a choice of either homestyle or buttermilk frozen waffles for breakfast. The good news is she hasn't gone vegan on us, as that would mean giving up chocolate milk and things made with eggs like pancakes, french toast, and, well, scrambled eggs.

Don't get me wrong. My daughter is a beautiful, normal, healthy teenager with no weight problem, doesn't stuff her face with french fries and candy, and may be single-handedly responsible for keeping the apple industry in business. She seems resigned to the fact that my wife and I aren't going to change our carnivorous eating habits, and she occasionally manages to suppress the look of extreme disgust when we're making meat sauce for our pasta dinner. So it's not like I'm living with a PETA activist under my roof. But god forbid that my slice of pepperoni pizza touches her cheese slice, or that I put my arm around her while wearing leather gloves.

It could be worse. She could have insisted that we serve tofurkey at Thanksgiving.

Worth A Link

  • Joe Adalian says ABC should bring "Millionaire" (and Regis) back to primetime for its 10th anniversary this summer
  • Graham Parker spent 26 years solving a Rubik's Cube
  • Dick Cavett on the art of the insult

Most Loathsome People In America

The Buffalo Beast has compiled a list of the 50 Most Loathsome People in America. No one escapes, from Brett Favre to Michelle Backman to Barack Obama to OJ Simpson to Caroline Kennedy to Lindsay Lohan's mother to Jeremiah Wright to Ben Stein to Elliot Spitzer to Michelle Malkin to Rod Blagojevich to Joe The Plumber to the FreeCreditReport.com Guy and on and on.

Oh yeah, YOU are on the list, too:

You think it’s your patriotic duty to spend money you don’t have on crap you don’t need. You think Hillary lost because of sexism, when it’s actually because she’s just a bad liar. You think Iraq is better off now than before we invaded, and don’t understand why they’re so ungrateful. You think Tim Russert was a great journalist. You’re hopping mad about an auto industry bailout that cost a squirt of piss compared to a Wall Street heist of galactic dimensions, due to a housing crash you somehow have blamed on minorities. It took you six years to figure out what a tool Bush is, but you think Obama will make it all better. You deem it hunky dory that we conduct national policy debates via 8-second clips from “The View.” You think God zapped humans into existence a few thousand years ago, although your appendix and wisdom teeth disagree. You like watching vicious assholes insult each other on TV. You support gun rights, because firing one gives you a chubby. You cuddle falsehoods and resent enlightenment. You think the fact that 43% of whites could stomach voting for an incredibly charismatic and eloquent light-skinned black guy who was raised by white people means racism is over. You think progressive taxation is socialism. 1 in 100 of you are in jail, and you think it should be more. You are shallow, inconsiderate, afraid, brand-conscious, sedentary, and totally self-obsessed. You are American.
See the whole list here.

Oldest Baseball Card


That's a photo of a baseball card from 1869, thought to be the first one ever made, featuring the first-ever professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings. Read the story of the team and the woman who found the card in a box of "old stuff" here. [thanks to Jeff Olsen for the link]

Monday, January 12, 2009

Worth A Link


  • Mark Halperin says Topps is coming out with a series of Barack Obama trading cards
  • Neil Irwin and Dan Eggen on the Bush administration overseeing the weakest American economy in decades
  • Jacob Weisberg has compiled more than 500 Bushisms over the last decade, and now that we're at the end, he's made a list of the Top 25 -- including my personal fave: "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"

Death By Black Hole

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the brilliant astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium, provides a very entertaining description of what will happen when you're sucked into a black hole...



Here's the rest of the interview. Click here to buy Tyson's book, "Death By Black Hole."

For more cool astronomy stories, listen to my interview with Dr. Phil Plait, author of "Death From The Skies."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

First, Get A Million Dollars


I've known Tom and Dave Gardner, the brothers behind The Motley Fool, for over 15 years, and had them on my show many times. Yesterday on WLS/Chicago, Dave was back to talk about their new book, "Million Dollar Portfolio: How To Build And Grow A Panic-Proof Investment Portfolio."

We talked about whether, with so many people suffering huge losses in the stock market, now is a good time to sell and take some losses, or continue to invest and hope for a turnaround. He explained why the book lays out several different investing philosophies, rather than the single strategy the Gardners have espoused for so long, and what investors can do to avoid problems like this in the future.

With the Gardners' own money on the line in the real million-dollar portfolio Tom manages, and with every move visible to their readers at Fool.com, we talked about how their stock picks have stacked up against the benchmark S&P 500 during this disastrous last year, and how it has affected their strategy going forward.

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

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Don't Have A Seat, Senator

As the Blago and Burris story continues to make news, I talked it over on WLS/Chicago this morning with Jim Oliphant, national correspondent for the Chicago Tribune.

Since Jim is based in Washington, we talked about that odd bit of political theater earlier this week when Roland Burris was refused entry to the US Senate and then walked several blocks in the rain (to the tune of "MacArthur Park"?) to make a brief statement to the press.  I also asked whether Friday's ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court means Burris will eventually be seated on Capitol Hill, or whether the Senate Democratic leadership will try to postpone the question until after the Illinois Senate goes forward with the trial of now-impeached Governor Rod Blagojevich.

We also discussed the likelihood of the Rules Committee undertaking a complete investigation of the connections between Blago and Burris, particularly those outlined this week by Carol Felsenthal in the Huffington Post, involving Patti Blagojevich getting an $80,000 job she wasn't qualified for thanks to Burris' lobbying partner, the $300,000 in state contracts given to Burris' consulting firm over the last four years, and more.

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

WLS Saturday


I'm on WLS/Chicago this morning from 6 to 8am CT.

Among my guests will be Jim Oliphant, national correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, talking about Blago and Burris. And the Motley Fool's David Gardner will join me to talk about what to do with your investments in this economic climate -- and their new book, "Million Dollar Portfolio."

You can listen live here.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Death By Irrationality

Phil Plait finds a link behind a new A&E series called "Paranormal Cops" and the murder of a woman in Papua New Guinea because she was accused of being a witch:

They are both shameful (on different levels, but still), and both are driven by ignorance. Ignorance of science, ignorance of logic, ignorance of reality.

There is no credible evidence for the existence of ghosts. None. Zip. Just first-hand testimony, notoriously inaccurate and untrustworthy, and fuzzy pictures either obviously hoaxed or obviously pareidolia. Our all-too-human fear of the dark, bred into us by ten thousand generations of being prey, takes over our rational mind.

The same with witchcraft; it’s our all-too-human ability of linking events together that may not be causally connected. You find a penny, and then you get a raise. Your brain says, finding a penny is good luck! Your neighbor sneezes violently, and your crops fail. Your neighbor is a witch.

Both of these feelings are natural. Both are understandable, and both are powerful motivators. And they’re both wrong.
Read Phil's entire post here.

Steve's Ski Editorial

My friend Steve Morris is back with a new series of commercials running in southern California for Big Bear, the ski resort. In some, he's paired with April Winchell as Your Weather Team, but in this one, Steve works solo at the news desk...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ukelele Shaft

They say that man Shaft is a ukelele-playing mother-watch-your-mouth. Here's the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain performing at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2007...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Fred Gets It


Yesterday, I wrote about how in-car streaming audio will be a game-changer for consumers and for radio stations that embrace the technology.  Today, I'm happy to write about someone else who understands its impact on the future of the industry.

Fred Jacobs is one of the radio consultants I have long admired.  Ever since we worked together at WCXR/Washington a couple of decades ago, Fred has impressed me with his vision of pushing the medium to do more.  

That's why I'm not surprised to see that he gets the appeal of streaming audio, and is helping stations exploit the new distribution paradigm by developing an application that puts his client stations on iPhones all over the country.  Putting those stations on the iPhone desktop gives listeners the one-touch access they need and want -- the key to winning when the competitive field has expanded so much.  Fred has also written some basic rules stations should follow to make streaming audio easier and better for consumers.

Not So Sweet Caroline

According to a new USA Today/Gallup survey of 1,000 Americans, 45% want New  York Governor Paterson to name Caroline Kennedy as the state's new senator, replacing Hillary Clinton, while 36% want him to pick someone else.  

Quick, name "someone else."

Does that mean they think Kennedy is qualified?  Not at all.  When given the choice between a name they recognize and no name at all, people tend to choose the former.

Most of those who told the pollsters they want her appointed to the Senate probably have no idea what Kennedy brings to the table other than her family's genes -- and she seems to have gotten shorted on the charisma chromosome.  I haven't seen anyone seeking office with less camera appeal since Mike Gravel.

Did you see her on the Kennedy Center Honors a couple of weeks ago?  It shouldn't take much to look like you're happy to be representing your family in a building named after your father, but again this year, she appeared almost bored.  When she was done with her introduction, I thought they might give her an award for lifetime achievement in bland public speaking.

Granted that being outgoing and having a big personality aren't the only qualifications for becoming a senator, but they're a good start.  Kennedy looks uncomfortable, can't answer simple direct questions from reporters, and can't explain why she's the best choice for the job other than "politics is something we do in my family." 

In Caroline's case, not so much.  I'm sure "someone else" can do better.

MacBook Wheel

More details on the new Apple product announced yesterday at this year's MacWorld exhibition -- the MacBook Wheel, a laptop with no keyboard. And you're only a hundred clicks away from what you need...


Tip: after you watch this story, go back and start it again, but this time read the news ticker at the bottom of the screen.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

But Can He Hypnotize The Ball?

Dr. Richard Wiseman (the man behind Quirkology and the Color-Changing Card Trick) has started a blog, which gives him the opportunity to explain the Amazing Bouncing Ball and how to hypnotize animals.

In Car Audio

Now that Blaupunkt and miRoamer have announced a partnership to develop in-car radios with internet audio access, Jennifer Lane agrees with me that this could hasten the death of satellite radio -- or at least the need for Sirius XM to pay for those expensive satellites orbiting the earth and subscribers to pay for those special receivers. Look for the company to announce a move towards becoming an content provider that distributes its product online rather than from space before the end of 2009.

As wimax becomes more available, making it easy for consumers to access online audio will be imperative for terrestrial radio stations, too. That means the end of branded and embedded audio players on station websites or forcing listeners to register to hear the audio stream -- and more streams in the accessible-to-everyone mp3 format.

You won't want to make your listeners click through several screens on the station website, either. Instead, there should be easy-to-announce URLs like audio.kiss109.com or listen.newstalk93.com. The key will be getting to the audio in one click, like a preset on old-school radios, or the bookmarks on your web browser.

We should also quickly see more companies recognizing the success of the radio apps for the iPhone (AOL/CBS Radio, Clear Channel's iHeartRadio, and Pandora) and begin making deals with designers to make sure that their stations are readily accessible, too. Broadcasters who haven't grasped the appeal of pushing their product to iPhone users are already falling behind. And now that Apple has teamed with Wal-Mart, there will be even more iPhones in the marketplace, expanding the number of people who can access that audio -- if you don't make them jump through hoops to hear you.

Choices for consumers will only increase, forcing content providers to make ease of use a priority in the distribution of their product. Those who fail to do so will be left behind and unlikely to survive.

Cartoon Karaoke

Combine karaoke lip-synching with some clever two-dimensional cartoon costumes, and you have Ennio Marchetto...

Monday, January 05, 2009

The View From 1909

Predictions for 2009, from a French "mystic" a hundred years ago, as printed in the NY Times on September 17, 1909. Among them: flying bicycles, more muscular women, and no one staying downtown at night.

Blago and Burris

As the Blago-and-Burris story continues to unwind in Springfield, I invited Bernie Schoenburg (political reporter and columnist for the State Journal-Register) to my WLS/Chicago show to discuss whether the governor will be impeached this week, whether Burris will be seated in the US Senate, and who Lt. Governor Pat Quinn might appoint if he's given the opportunity.

We also talked about the usual group of activists, who have threatened repercussions for Democrats like Dick Durbin who reject Burris. I seriously doubt their influence, which seems to extend only as far as attracting reporters to a press conference. They're not going to bring anyone down, and have been strangely silent about one politician who has expressed his opinion that the Burris appointment is illegitimate -- Barack Obama.

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

Aging Presidents

The Boston Globe has an interesting multimedia piece on how it seems presidents age at an accelerate piece (text here, slideshow here)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Worth A Link

  • Radley Balko says "the last 12 months may prove not to be the most fondly recalled in recent American history, but things aren't all that bad"
  • John Branch on how the NFL sticks with its low-tech chain gang to determine first downs
  • Peter Coy has compiled the worst business and stock market predictions of 2008, including this one from late 2007:  ""In today's regulatory environment, it's virtually impossible to violate rules."  The speaker? Bernard Madoff.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Mo Ryan on Television

Friday on WLS/Chicago, I talked television with Maureen Ryan, TV critic for the Chicago Tribune. We looked back at some of the highlights of 2008 and then forward to upcoming shows she's excited about, like the two-hour season premiere of "Lost" (for which she gives away no spoilers) and the new season of "Battlestar Galactica."

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


Read Mo's blog, The Watcher.

Blago Sofa

An ad from a Chicago furniture store, as seen in the Chicago Tribune...

Friday, January 02, 2009

Sir Sweaty


Here's the very sweaty mug shot of Charles Barkley I was just talking about on WLS/Chicago. He was busted for DUI and driving through a stop sign -- because he was "in a hurry for sex." The Smoking Gun has the R-rated details, but no pix of the woman allegedly involved yet. Maybe he is qualified to be a governor after all.

Busy Start To The New Year


I'll start the new year with four hours on WLS/Chicago from 7am to 11am CT. You can listen live here.

Then I'll be on KTRS/St. Louis for Frank O. Pinion from 3 to 6pm CT (including a year-in-review Harris Challenge at 5:15pm). You can listen live here.

Charlie Chaplin's Oscar Night

In 1972, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences gave Charlie Chaplin an honorary award to recognize his lifetime of achievements as actor, writer, producer, composer, and director. At that point, he had been living in exile in Switzerland for 20 years to escape the persecution (though not prosecution) of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover over Chaplin's political views.

On that year's telecast, Chaplin received the longest standing ovation in Oscars history, clocked at over five minutes. Much of that has been edited from this clip, although you'll see how overwhelmed Chaplin was at Hollywood's reaction to seeing and re-embracing him. Mark Evanier tells me that the man doing the introduction is Daniel Taradash, who was then the President of the Academy...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Nonsense

Valerie Peterson and Emmanuel Pierre have compiled a list of different rituals people celebrate to bring in the New Year. They all have to do with the concept of luck which, as mathematician Chip Denman once observed, is "probability taken personally."

For example, they cite:

  • South Americans who would like to travel in the coming 12 months walk around their house with a suitcase
  • In parts of Switzerland, people allow a drop of cream to hit the floor, to ensure overflowing abundance in the coming year
  • Many Filipinos wear new clothes with deep pockets, which they fill with coins and fresh bills and shake noisily to attract prosperity
  • Venezuelans give each other yellow underwear to wear into the new year for good luck

Pardon my skepticism, but this is nonsense, pure and simple. People buy into it because the world is far too full of irrational beliefs like these. It is incumbent upon media outlets -- like the New York Times, which printed the list complete with illustrations -- to make that clear.

We don't affect our future by wishing, hoping, and parading around like brainless losers. We do it by our positive actions, hard work, and by using reason to overcome obstacles and embrace opportunities.

Let that reminder become a New Year's tradition, and celebrate that with a slideshow.

Nat Hentoff


The Village Voice, facing budget problems like so many other media outlets, has laid off Nat Hentoff after 50 years.

Long acknowledged to be one of the country's best writers about jazz music, Hentoff also wrote a long-running and highly-respected column on civil liberties. He has often been among the most vocal and staunch defenders of our constitutional rights, never more so than in recent years, as he continued to tap out columns into his 80s.

I had a lengthy discussion with Hentoff about the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 abuses in March, 2004, when he published, "The War On The Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance." With Hentoff's voice squelched in at least one media outlet, I have dug that interview out of my archives for you.

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


By the way, his daughter, Jessica Hentoff, runs the Everyday Circus here in St. Louis. It's a wonderful training ground for kids of all ages. They bring crowds to their feet regularly at The City Museum, and have traveled internationally to perform as well.

Sign Of The Times


While Highway 40 here in St. Louis is undergoing a two-year long makeover, MODOT has signs up that count down the months and days until construction is scheduled to be completed. I give them credit for getting the work between I-270 and I-170 done two weeks before the deadline for that first half of the project, and hope they can do the same for the second stretch between I-170 and Kingshighway, which is supposed to reopen on December 31, 2009.

However, the roadside signs have a slight glitch. On Tuesday, they read "12 Months, 1 Day" until the end of construction. But on Wednesday, the internal calculator must have blown a chip because, according to the same sign, there were now "99 Months, 31 Days" to go.

Sounds like MODOT is using the same technology as the Microsoft Zune.

Speaking of numbers problems, you'll notice that the logo above (from MODOT) refers to The New I-64. Technically, the road is Interstate 64, and all the signs call it that. But St. Louisans have known it as Highway 40 for so long that they'll continue to refer to it that way regardless of what the signs say.

Worth A Link

  • Ric Edelman says today's stock prices represent the greatest buying opportunity of a lifetime
  • Mark Cuban on why pro sports teams need newspapers
  • James Hibberd on the damage NBC has done to its brand
  • Howard Kurtz on the coolest woman in TV news, Mika Brzezinski

Happy New Year

Is there anything more inane than interviews with people waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square? They're freezing, they've been standing in the same place for 12 hours with no bathroom access, and they're so desperate to be on TV they're willing to talk to Kellie Pickler.

It could be worse. They could be home watching The Man With No Charisma, Carson Daly, who doctors say may come out of his coma any month now. I've met funeral directors with more personality.

And here in St. Louis, we still have to put up with the local TV stations (Fox 2 and ABC 30) delaying coverage of the Times Square ball drop so it coincides with midnight central time. Meanwhile, we could change channels at 11pm to see that same event occur live on NBC, CNN, etc. It's remarkable that we're nearly a decade into the 21st century and there's still nothing to televise live from our own time zone as the new year rolls in.