Thursday, September 30, 2010

Show Me The Con

A veteran TV programmer, who blogs under the name Masked Scheduler, has this to say about why Fox's "Lone Star" was yanked off the air after two weeks of seriously disappointing ratings, despite tons of network promotion:

We have just suffered through an horrific economic crisis brought on by excess and illusions, we saw the devastating environmental impact of an oil spill and the resulting lack of response and indifference on the part of a large corporation as well as the government. The last thing that every day Americans want to see right now is a good looking con man who is f**king over two innocent young women who have done nothing wrong other than to love him. A con man who eventually will leave these two women and their families in ruins.

This is where it has to go....anything else is bullshit and, had we kept it on, would have led to some major eye rolling by the very people bemoaning its demise. You can't redeem this guy and everyone around him has to suffer....just ask Rita, Carmela or Betty. Dexter, Don and Tony were family men and that informed their actions...but they never looked for redemption.

If we want to do a cable show than do a f**king cable show but anticipate cable ratings. Sorry critics, LONE STAR was never going to be a hit. We took the gamble and we moved on. So it goes. There's a big country between the coasts. There was no way that enough viewers were going to condone bigamy even if the lead is the offspring of what would happen if George Clooney married George Clooney and they had a kid. The audience was not conned.
I watched both episodes of "Lone Star" and was trying to give it a chance, but the bigamy and innocent wives weren't what bothered me. It was that they didn't explain the big con -- the one with Jon Voight's oil company, the wind farm, and whatever the hell David Keith was always yelling about.

If you're doing a movie or TV show about con men, we have to know what they're trying to pull. In "Ocean's Eleven," they're gonna rob a casino. In "The Sting," they're gonna fool a mob boss with a rigged horse racing bet. In "Confidence," they're gonna take millions from an evil bank boss and get back at Dustin Hoffman's mob guy at the same time. In "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," they're trying to screw (in more ways than one) a beautiful young heiress. In "Criminal," they're gonna sell a phony bank note to a rich collector.

Show me the con. Give me details and show the con man in action, ripping someone or something off. Even if you're working your way up to a big con, show me some small cons along the way -- and make me feel like the victims deserved it (see "Leverage" or "Hustle"). Then you can show me who he's sleeping with, how messed up his relationship with his father is, and why he likes hard-boiled eggs so much.

Without that plot exposition, you're just ripping off the viewer, who doesn't like to be conned.

Tony Curtis


Most of the obits this morning for Tony Curtis mentioned "Some Like It Hot" and his daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis. But I first noticed him as a kid when I saw his 1953 movie, "Houdini," on TV one day after school in the late 1960s.

I had just read a book about Houdini and was fascinated by him, so seeing him portrayed in a movie (albeit an old one by that time) was pretty cool. The film was overly dramatic in parts and took some liberties, but did a fairly good job of showing Houdini's abilities as a great escape artist and magician, as well as the time he devoted to debunking psychics and other frauds after his mother's death. The latter made me both a fan of and a skeptic of all things paranormal, even years before I met James Randi.

In reading up on Curtis this morning, I noticed an interesting coincidence. He joined the US Navy and worked aboard the submarine USS Proteus during World War II because he'd been inspired after seeing Cary Grant in "Destination Tokyo." Several years later, in 1959, Curtis went on to imitate Grant in "Some Like It Hot" and co-star with him in "Operation Petticoat," a movie set aboard, yes, a submarine.

Curtis had a helluva run, making dozens of mediocre movies but truly making his lasting impression in the decade starting in 1957, when he co-starred with Burt Lancaster in "Sweet Smell of Success," Sidney Poitier in "The Defiant Ones," Kirk Douglas in "Spartacus," Natalie Wood in "The Great Race," and as Albert DeSalvo in "The Boston Strangler."

His autobiography, "American Prince," is full of tales of that life, from his struggles with the Hollywood studio system to his many female conquests. Unfortunately, from there on, it was downhill to dreck like "Bad News Bears Go To Japan" (the third, which killed the series, mercifully) and "Lobster Man From Mars."

But there was no denying that for a long time, Tony Curtis was as big a star as Hollywood ever had, and that was no illusion.

Aaron Barnhart on TV

Aaron Barnhart joined me this morning on KTRS/St. Louis to talk about some of the highs and lows of the new TV season.  Among the points we touched on in a fast-paced ten minutes:

  • why "Lone Star" bit the dust after just two episodes;
  • how "Mike and Molly" should be funnier and not just full of fat jokes;
  • why Jimmy Johnson should never have been on "Survivor";
  • how FX has done it again with "Terriers";
  • which show is the first certified new hit of the fall.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!


[apologies for the clicking sound at Aaron's end of the phone]

Kids with Autism


Two weeks ago, I spoke to the St. Louis Skeptical Society at one of their monthly Skeptics In The Pub get-togethers. The topic was Skepticism In The Media (Or The Lack Thereof), and one of the items I touched on was the access given by Oprah Winfrey and others to anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy, who has an autistic child and has been spreading the lie that vaccines cause autism (which I've written about here many times).

After my speech, I was approached by Dr. Christina Stephens, a researcher and clinician at Washington University School of Medicine, who has done lots of work with autistic children. She shocked me by revealing that it looks like McCarthy's child isn't autistic after all, and then told me lots of interesting things about autism that I didn't know (which is pretty much everything, since my entire exposure to anyone autistic was limited to seeing "Rain Man").

I was so fascinated by what Christina told me that I invited her to join me this morning on KTRS/St. Louis for an extended discussion of the topic, from how "refrigerator mothers" were once blamed for their child's autism to why diagnoses of autism have risen in the last decade to how therapy for these kids works, and more, including phone calls from some listeners with autistic children.

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

Southwest Status

I was in the Ft. Lauderdale airport waiting for my 1pm Southwest flight home, which had been delayed by air traffic control problems. I knew the situation because I'd gotten an automated phone call from Southwest a couple of hours earlier alerting me to the change in flight status. Since I had checked out of my hotel at 11am, I got to the airport gate by noon and just sat there reading a book while waiting.

The gate agent wasn't sure exactly when we'd leave because there was a flight to Raleigh-Durham scheduled out of our gate first, but he figured it would be about an hour and did a good job of keeping us posted over the PA.

Thirty minutes or so later, my iPhone rang. It was another automated message from Southwest explaining that my flight status had changed again and was now back to its original 1:00pm departure time. As I listened, the guy next to me pulled out his phone and started reading a text message. So did the woman next to him and the guy next to her. I realized that they were being alerted by Southwest, too. While I stayed seated, all three of them stood up simultaneously and walked over to the gate agent to confirm the information. He looked surprised, since apparently he hadn't gotten the word yet. In less than a minute, his monitor updated the flight details and he announced to everyone that they had changed planes so that our St. Louis flight could leave first, and the Raleigh-Durham flight would go after that.

I was impressed, not only by the airline changing planes to accommodate its passengers so well, but by how quickly we'd been updated -- even before their own employees! Fifteen minutes later, I was in an emergency row seat (love that legroom!) headed home.

That's good customer service, one of the reasons I like this airline.

KTRS Thursday


I'm back on the air today and tomorrow doing the KTRS/St. Louis morning show from 6am to 10am CT. You can listen live here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Scale Of The Universe

For today's Picture Of The Day, go see this site, which offers a remarkable scale of the size of everything humans have knowledge of, from the smallest known objects to well, the entire observable universe. [thanks to Jon Michelson for the link]

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Final Table #87: Jen Harman & Johnny Chan


Today on my Final Table poker radio show, with both Dennis Phillips and I traveling, we reran two of our most popular interviews of the year, both featuring people who play in the highest-stakes cash game in Bobby's Room at the Bellagio.

First up was Jennifer Harman, who was inducted into the Women In Poker Hall Of Fame earlier this month. Then you'll hear Johnny Chan, owner of ten WSOP bracelets, who was still one of the chip leaders in this year's Main Event at the time of our conversation.

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

Next week on The Final Table, I'll have stories of playing in the new cash games in three card rooms in Florida, and Dennis will recap his adventures at the LAPT in Argentina and the EPT in London.

Follow us on Twitter: Dennis is here, Paul is here.

Name Those Movies

The British newspapers The Guardian and The Observer are doing a contest in which you have to name 26 movie titles in 85 seconds based on this animated montage...


Winner gets all of them on DVD. Enter here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No Hands News

Jim Gaffigan posted this on Twitter a few minutes ago: "I'm tired of cable news. It's like watching 4 year olds play soccer."

He's absolutely right. When my daughter played at that age, we'd go to her games and watch all the girls run as a pack wherever the ball went. No one held their positions, or tried to get open for a pass, or played anywhere else on the field. They just went after the ball.

That's how the cable news outlets run all day long. Look over there, a boy might be in that balloon! Wait, over here, Muslims want to build a mosque! Quick, bring the cameras, a crazy guy wants to burn a book!

And on and on and on.

Do any of them ever notice that no one's scoring any goals? It didn't matter for the kids, because they were outside having fun and getting exercise. But shouldn't a news outlet have higher ambitions?

No time to think about that. They found video of a Senate candidate who said she dabbled in witchcraft over a decade ago, and the scrum is on the move again.

Drama Queen

Two videos for you today. The first is a spot advertising the Young Director's Award competition, the second is one of the award winners by second-generation filmmaker Jessica Sanders...



[thanks to Stuart Snyder for the contribution]

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Final Table #86: Ed Miller



This week on the Final Table radio show, I was in the Harrah's St. Louis Poker Room while Dennis Phillips checked in from Argentina, where he's just arrived for the finale of the Latin America Poker Tour.

Our guest was Ed Miller, a columnist for Card Player who has done 4 poker DVDs and written 5 poker books, including his latest, "Small Stakes No-Limit Hold'em." That's a subject we don't talk about often enough, so Ed offered some tips for players in $1-2 and $2-5 cash games, including what they often do wrong, what they do right, and why players used to bigger games fall into easy traps when playing these smaller games.

We also reviewed an interesting hand Dennis played on PokerStars in a WCOOP tournament, discussed Kathy Liebert's tweets about why she doesn't get more attention from sponsors and ESPN, and recapped some results from the World Series Of Poker Europe.

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

Follow us on Twitter: Dennis is here, Paul is here.

Human Pac-Man

A nice piece of stop-motion animation by Guillaume Raymond involving an empty theater that becomes the Pac-Man board, with people as pixels in the game (and the lowest-tech soundtrack possible)...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Star Wars Five-O

It's amazing what you can do with a movie or TV show when you cut the footage into an intro with the "Hawaii Five-O" music under it. Book'em, Hanno!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Night TV Thoughts

  • I enjoyed the first episode of "Mike & Molly" but wonder how long it will run before one of the stars ruins the show by shedding 100 lbs. and doing a very special episode of "Biggest Loser"?
  • On the new "Hawaii Five-O," Steve McGarrett keeps asking Dan Williams where the nickname "Danno" came from.  Is it really that hard to figure out?  It's not like he said, "My name's Seymour, but my friends call me Danno."  Hmm, your license says your first name is Steven, but you call yourself Steve -- why?
  • A half-hour into NBC's "The Event," I was already sick of the flashback flash-forward nature of the pilot and decided I don't need another show-with-no-answers like "Lost."
  • Watching Bill Clinton on Letterman talking about his fourth annual Clinton Global Initiative meetings, I tried to remember anything so positive for society that a former GOP president accomplished after leaving office in my lifetime.  Jimmy Carter, a democrat, certainly has done a lot, but where were the continuing public projects of Ford, Reagan, and the Bushes?

Fight Club

My friend Danny got into a fight the other day.

A drunk had been ragging on some other people repeatedly, being a genuine jerk, and when he finally used a derogatory word towards Danny, they ended up taking it outside. I wasn't there, but saw cell-phone video shot by a mutual friend. It was less a fight than a shove-fest that only lasted a couple of minutes, and no one was seriously hurt, thankfully.

This was very unlike Danny, who is usually a pretty cool character, but the next time we saw him, that didn't stop all of us from razzing him, joking about promoting his next fight, wondering whether he was done with drunks and moving onto meth addicts, etc.

Listening to all of it, I remembered a phone call I got on the air a couple of years ago. I don't know how the subject came up, but I mentioned that I hadn't been in a fist fight since I was eight years old -- and at the time, it was less a fight than me being beat up again by the neighborhood bully.

A few minutes later, a listener called up and challenged me, saying he didn't believe me, that it was impossible that I'd gone this long without being in a brawl. I could tell from his tone that he was the kind of guy who would easily get dragged into a fight, but I'm just not that kind of guy.

I'm more of a 100% poultry kind of guy. As an adult, I've never wanted to hit someone. More importantly, I've never wanted to be hit by someone.

I'm not going to fight you just because you bumped into me accidentally, or cut in line ahead of me, or called me a name. After 30+ years in the radio business, there's absolutely nothing you can say about me that I haven't heard at least once.

Moreover, unlike my phone-friend, I don't frequent places where incidents like this are likely to happen. I stopped drinking 17 years ago, so I'm rarely in a bar. In fact, I'm unlikely to patronize any place where anyone gets particularly rowdy.

Don't get me wrong. I'll defend my wife and daughter against any physical threats, and I'll happily engage in any kind of verbal sparring you like, but once temperatures start to rise and there's a risk things could turn physical, I'm done. You win. Congratulations. I'll be leaving now. Fight cancelled.

For me, rule number one of fight club is no fighting.

Roger & Rafa Losing It

I have done recording sessions that dissolved into a fit of giggles, so I can relate to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal losing it repeatedly while trying to do a promotional announcement for a charity exhibition they're planning...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jeter, Weber, and Sports Honesty

Here's an interesting perspective by Bruce Weber on the Derek Jeter incident the other night, where he feigned being hit by a pitch that actually struck the knob of his bat. Weber says it's not the players who are supposed to keep game honest, it's the umpires:

I’d argue that a prime function of officials is to relieve players of the burden of honor. After all, on a bang-bang play at first base, when the runner is called safe but knows in his heart he was out, he does not feel compelled to correct the umpire’s misimpression.

Officials, not athletes, are the ones who make sure that the game is fair. One thing that means is that opponents have equal opportunity to influence them. This is why it is not only acceptable but entirely accepted that soccer players will careen to the ground after a slight jostle, hoping to induce a yellow card; that offensive and defensive linemen will point at each other after a whistle on the line of scrimmage, each accusing the other of moving first; that catchers habitually tug an outside pitch toward the plate in an effort to convince the ump that a ball is a strike, the baseball version of "Who are you going to believe? Me or your own lying eyes?"
Weber's entire piece is here. His book is "As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels In The Land Of Umpires." I had a conversation with him when the book was published in May, 2009, which you can listen to here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nicolas Cage As Everyone

A website devoted to Nicolas Cage, "the most unique and versatile actor of his generation" (despite the fact that no one can be the "most unique") turns Cage into everyone else, including Sean Connery, Mickey Mantle, Farrah Fawcett, and John & Yoko...


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Skeptics In The Pub


Friday night, I'll be speaking to the St. Louis Skeptics at their monthly get-together called Skeptics In The Pub. In this instance, the pub is Jack Patrick's, at the corner of 10th and Olive. Things will get started around 7pm, and I'll be talking about Skepticism In The Media (Or The Lack Thereof). If you're going to be in the area and are so inclined, please stop by. Here's more info.

Final Table #85: Matt Savage & Jonathan Duhamel


This week on the Final Table radio show, Dennis Phillips and I were in the Harrah's St. Louis Poker Room with two guests joining us via phone.

First, we brought on Matt Savage to comment on last week's topic about whether the structure of deep stack poker tournaments is really giving players the best value, or whether it's excessive to offer so many chips and such long rounds that it takes 2 days to finish even a smaller buy-in ($200-$600) event. Matt knows a lot about the topic because he's tournament director for Commerce Casino, Bay 101, and Hard Rock Las Vegas, and was one of the founders of the Tournament Directors Association. Since he used to be TD of the World Series Of Poker, we asked his opinion of the controversial Prahlad Friedman countdown hand we discussed on last week's show. We also talked about changes he's made as executive director of the World Poker Tour, which has begun its 9th season and will begin airing of FSN in a few months.

Our other guest was another member of this year's November Nine, Jonathan Duhamel, who will be the chip leader when the WSOP Main Event resumes in two months. This is the position Dennis was in 2 years ago, so they compared notes on strategy, and Jonathan revealed how he exploited the bubble when there were only 10 players left.

Dennis added some stories about playing in the only legal poker room in Massachusetts this weekend, we updated the chances of online poker regulation legislation being passed now that Congress is back in session, and we marveled at how PokerStars (which celebrated its 9th birthday this weekend) will soon deal its 50 billionth hand.

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

Follow us on Twitter: Dennis is here, Paul is here.

Save Betty White

A public service announcement from Grandchildren For The Ethical Treatment Of Betty White...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Worth A Link

Barney Frank vs. Jay Leno

Last week, on my Final Table poker show, I played a minute or so of Congressman Barney Frank on "The Tonight Show" discussing regulating and taxing online gambling as a way to raise revenue. Several listeners wanted to hear and know more about the issue, so here we go.

Frank introduces the subject:

"We now make it illegal for adults to gamble on the internet. If you have some guy that wants to play poker on the internet, we say it's illegal. Why that's anybody's idea of the government's business is beyond me. We could make billions of dollars a year by making it legal and taxing it."
Frank is technically incorrect about it being illegal to play poker online. There's no law prohibiting that right now. There is a law (the UIGEA, which was sneakily tacked onto a homeland security bill in the middle of the night in 2006, unread by most of the congressmen who voted on it) which regulates the ability of banks to transfer money to and from the gambling sites which are set up in other countries (Isle Of Man, Costa Rica, etc.), but it does not say that anyone will be prosecuted for playing on those sites if they find a way to get money into their accounts. Millions of Americans have found a way and are playing poker online right now. By the way, I'm not one of them. I prefer to play face-to-face in a brick-and-mortar casino. My online poker experience has been minimal. Want to know how ineffective UIGEA has been? The biggest site, PokerStars, will soon deal its fifty billionth hand, and most of its players live in this country.

Back to the clip. In response, Leno made a ridiculous argument against the proposal:
"I kinda disagree with that. See, to me, Vegas works because you have to cross the desert to get there. You have to make an effort. You go to the desert, you lose your money, and you come home. You can't go to the desert again unless you get more money. If you're sitting at home, and you're up late at night, and you got your little credit card, next thing you know.... It's like a mini-bar. You're not gonna eat potato chips unless they're in the mini-bar."
Frank immediately rebutted him, saying exactly what I was thinking as I watched this the first time:
"First of all, there are casinos all over the place. You don't have to cross the desert to get to Mississippi, New Jersey, etc.... Secondly, [in the legislation] we do not allow you to do it with a credit card. Only with a debit card or a pre-paid card."
What Leno, who pretends to be the common man, proved here is that he not only doesn't know what he's talking about, but that he lives a life of isolation from the real world. To get to the Harrah's casino where I do the Final Table radio show each week, I drive 15 minutes past cornfields, not through a desert. The other place I regularly play is a half-hour drive away in downtown St. Louis, with no desert nearby. Meanwhile, Jay's entire exposure to gambling involves flying to Las Vegas on his private jet after taping his TV show, doing his act at the Mirage, and then flying home. He rarely sees anything else, including the hotel rooms, which don't even have mini-bars in Las Vegas!

The online poker sites (PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, etc.) have been lobbying Congress heavily via the Poker Players Alliance. What's the last time you heard of an industry asking government to get involved in their business and tax their proceeds? Last month, the House Financial Service Committee, which Frank chairs, passed HR 2267 by a 41-22 margin.

The PPA is making a major push to get the rest of Congress to support the bill, which could happen in the next month. If you're a poker player -- and there are more than 55,000,000 of us in this country alone -- take a moment to join the PPA, which fights for the rights of everyone who plays the game (online, in brick and mortar casinos, and in home games, too).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Worth A Link

Update 2:02pm: Reader Mike Phillips noticed that, in the New York magazine Jon Stewart profile I linked to above, Glenn Beck was asked what he thinks of being regularly satirized by Stewart. Beck told the author of the piece, "If I were in his position, I'd be doing a lot of the same things." Phillips points out that "Beck is in that position, with his own show and the ability to do whatever he wants. What Beck probably means is he wishes he was as clever and funny as Stewart instead of being a humorless blowhard."

How Could He Lose?

Meet the newest fringe character political wannabe, following in the footsteps of Alvin Greene and Basil Marceaux.

This is Phil Davison, who desperately wanted to be the GOP nominee for treasurer of Stark County, Ohio, but couldn't convince the party to give him a chance. It probably didn't help when he got up to the podium to explain why he deserved their vote and proceeded to scream and scare the crap out of them for several minutes.

As you watch this, note how quiet the 100 people in the room are during his rant, and try to imagine what it must be like to have served on the city council with him for the last 13 years...

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Permanent War


Andrew Bacevich, a retired US Army Colonel whose son also served and died in Iraq, knows a lot about US military policy -- and thinks it's time for a change. He joined me on KTRS/St. Louis to talk about his book, "Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War."

Bacevich challenges the strategy that hasn't changed much in five decades, regardless of who is commander-in-chief, which continues under President Obama just as it did under President Bush. We discussed how prescient Dwight Eisenhower's warning about a "military industrial complex" was, and why the US having a permanent armed presence around the world has become both unaffordable and increasingly dangerous.

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

Melon Face

The new season of "The Amazing Race" debuts in a couple of weeks, but here's a sneak preview of one detour that didn't go well for one team -- unless you consider being hit in the face with a watermelon a good thing...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Final Table #84: The Big Game's Joe Stapleton


This week on the Final Table radio show, I was in the Harrah's St. Louis Poker Room while Dennis Phillips checked in from Las Vegas for a very full show.

With the World Championship Of Online Poker underway, we discussed whether online tournaments are getting harder to beat, as live tournaments are. We also talked about whether a recent trend in the structure of live tournaments -- offering a lot of chips and a lot of play early on and extending smaller buy-in events to play out over two days -- is really good for the players.

Then we dug into a controversial hand from last week's ESPN broadcast of the World Series Of Poker Main Event involving poker pro Prahlad Friedman and amateur Ted Bort. In the hand, Bort called the clock on Friedman, who waited until the floorman counted down to 1 before saying "call." But the floorman said it didn't matter because Friedman's hand was dead as soon as he said "one." Other players protested and WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel has made some comments about the ruling that we found interesting. As you listen to the show, you'll hear the audio of the hand, and can make up your own mind.

Next, we were joined by Joe Stapleton, co-host of the "Two Jacks In The Hole" podcast and analyst on "The Big Game," the newest televised high-stakes cash game. Dennis and I have talked a lot about how much we like this show, so it was good to have Joe offer some insight into where his analysis comes from, why the format of "The Big Game" works so well, and when we can expect to see a fresh series of shows. Joe also joined in on our discussion of the 10 nominees for the Poker Hall of Fame and a clip of Barney Frank vs. Jay Leno over licensing and regulating online gambling.

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

Follow us on Twitter: Dennis is here, Paul is here, Joe is here.

Wheelchair Double Backflip

Last week, I wrote about a school district in West Virginia that removed all the swings from its playgrounds because of a fear of lawsuits. Meanwhile, at the other extreme, here's Aaron Fotheringham, whose spina bifida keeps him confined to a wheelchair. On second thought, "confined" may be the wrong word to use for him...

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

DVR Alert!


If you haven't watched "Friday Night Lights" over the last 4 seasons on NBC (and the ratings say you probably haven't), you've missed one of the best TV dramas of the modern era. The good news is that ABC Family has picked up the series, and will air it every weekday at 5pm CT starting this afternoon.

Based on the Peter Berg movie of the same name (he's on board as executive producer of the small-screen version), the show follows the goings-on in Dillon, a small Texas town typically obsessed with high school football. But this is NOT a football show -- you don't get much more than a few minutes of game action in each episode.

Few fictional TV shows have been as realistic about the problems of high schoolers and their parents as "Friday Night Lights." The heart of the show is a wonderful cast of actors, anchored by Kyle Chandler (coach of the Dillon Panthers) and Connie Britton (guidance counselor at Dillon High School), who give remarkable performances week in and week out. They are ably supported by those who play the students and adults that the plots revolve around, with terrific scripts by Jason Katims and his writing staff.

If you've missed this series before, don't make the same mistake. Set your DVR to capture each episode as they air in order beginning today.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Beatle Jews

The funniest thread on Twitter is people coming up with Beatles song titles with a Jewish twist (call them The Fab Fourskin). I don't know who started it, but Harry Shearer, Michael Ian Black, Josh Malina, and Michael McKean have all contributed so far. Among the best:

Here Comes the Son, Who Never Calls
A Dayanoo in the Life
Six Days A Week
I Saw Her Standing There, Is That So Wrong?
I Feel Fine. I Mean My Back Is Killing Me But No, I Feel Fine
Norwegian Woody Allen
Sexy Seder
(I Get Chai) With a Little Help From My Semitic Friends
All Things must Passover
Happiness is a Warm Latke
You say L'Chaim, and I say Shalom
Schlep That Weight
You're Gonna Lose that Goy
Let My People Be
Rabbi Raccoon
I'm Happy Just to Hora With You
Lucy in the Sky with Neil Diamond
Lovely Rita Miederman
Oy-Bla-Di Oy-Bla-Da

See more here.

KTRS Monday


I'm starting my Labor Day on the KTRS/St. Louis morning show from 6am to 10am CT today. You can listen live here.

Close The Door & Dance

Although this montage of movie dancing scenes was chosen from a very small sample size (ever heard of Bob Fosse, for instance?), it's still fun...


[thanks to Jose Hernandez for the link]

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Remembering Robert Schimmel

Comedian Robert Schimmel died last night from injuries suffered in a car accident.

Of all the comedians who have appeared on my radio shows through the years, no one turned tragedy into comedy like Bob. From his earliest days in the business, when he moved from New York to Los Angeles to take advantage of an offer to be a regular in a comedy club there, only to discover that the club had burned down, Bob lived a life you wouldn't wish on anyone.

His son Derek died of cancer. Bob had a heart attack in 1998. Two years later, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He left his wife for another woman, then moved back in with his wife (with whom he had four kids) before leaving her again to marry the other woman (with whom he had another kid), who he later divorced. Earlier this year, Bob contracted cirrhosis and Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion.

The remarkable thing about Bob was that he turned all of this into comedy -- and when I say "all of it," I mean he didn't leave anything out. I wasn't close with him off the air, but he sat in my guest chair many times over the years and never failed to make me laugh at the darkest humor I've ever heard. I loved having him on the air because he was able to weave prepared material from his act seamlessly into our conversations, which were never rehearsed or prepped in any way. Every hour was spontaneous and unique.

In his honor, I've dug two of those appearances out of my archives. The first is from February 3, 2000, when Bob joked about his heart attack and the accompanying sex pamphlet he was given by the American Cancer Society. Listen.


The other is from September 13, 2002, when he was on about an hour before another guest, "Hollywood Squares" host Peter Marshall, which prompted Bob to tell a story about his trouble-making appearance on that TV game show. He also discussed a stunning request he got from his daughter, and the encounter between his mother and a porn star. Listen.

Wait For It

Far too much of what's done in Washington is based on short-term thinking. With congressional elections every two years, patience is not a virtue if you want to be re-elected. If a law was passed yesterday, and the problem it was designed to fix isn't fixed today, those opposed to the law run around saying, "See, we told you it wouldn't work."

That's why you hear so much carping about the stimulus. It became law 18 months ago, which is an eternity on Capitol Hill, and has already been deemed a failure by those on the right, who are used to stimulation leading to immediate gratification. But Time magazine's Michael Grunwald says the American Recovery And Reinvestment Act of 2009 is changing America for the better -- and the greener.

As we discussed on KTRS/St. Louis, Grunwald points out while everyone is focused on whether the stimulus is creating (or will create) jobs, not enough attention is being paid to how the bill changes the nation's energy policy by finally getting us to invest in long-term solutions and alternatives.

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Here's Grunwald's piece in Time.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Stripper or Spy?

Here's a quick time-waster for the office before you leave for the holiday weekend, from The Smoking Gun. See if you can guess whether she's a stripper or a spy.

KTRS Friday


I'm finishing my week on the KTRS/St. Louis morning show from 6am to 10am CT today. Among my guests:
You can listen live here.

Cringeworthy TV

No more calls, we have a winner for the worst TV appearance by a politician this year!

Here's Jan Brewer, the Republican Governor of Arizona who is running for re-election, making her opening statement during a debate on Wednesday night -- the only televised debate before the November election, which is probably a good thing for Brewer. I haven't seen someone blow it on TV this badly since Albert Brooks in "Broadcast News."


Maybe she should have practiced a time or two before heading to the TV studio. Or written some Palin-like notes on her hands. Or called in sick.

Afterwards, her main opponent, Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard, jumped on Brewer for claiming that she balanced the budget while, in reality, Arizona has a deficit of about $700 million.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

No Swinging At School

Imagine if every kid who took a towel from the linen closet, wrote a big "S" on it, tied it around his neck, and then got hurt while pretending to be Superman turned around and sued someone. Now stop imagining, and meet the reality of litigious America in the 21st century.

Yet another school district has bowed to legal pressure by banning swings from its school playgrounds. In a classic case of one-person-ruined-it-for-everyone, Cabell County, West Virginia, has removed swing sets from 19 elementary schools over fear of a lawsuit. Or rather, more litigation.

The suit that led to their over-reaction was filed by the parents of one boy after their son broke his arm after jumping off a swing "like Superman." That's not the school's fault. In fact, it's no one's fault. It's just another boy acting in the all-American tradition of pretending to play superhero and discovering that gravity isn't just a good idea, it's the law.

Sure, the kid got hurt, but what kid hasn't gotten hurt at some point? I'll bet their son was proud to have that cast on his arm, to show it off to his classmates and have them sign it, despite the itching underneath.

The Cabell County school district settled the case for $20,000 -- then followed the advice of their lawyer and ordered all the swing sets dismantled.

I'm glad my parents didn't get a lawyer when my then-six-year-old brother Seth lent his bicycle to a friend who then proceeded to run him over (accidentally), knocking him to the ground and breaking both bones in his left forearm. Seth, who was born a lefty, had the cast on so long that he had to learn to write with his right arm, which explains why his penmanship is still so bad people can't believe he's not a doctor.

If that happened in our modern litigious times, none of the kids in our garden apartment complex would be allowed to ride bicycles again -- ever. Which, in our day, would also have meant the downfall of the entire baseball card business, for without spokes going round and round, who needed a Tom Tresh rookie card?

McEnroe on Tennis


After a weird night at the US Open in which one player dropped to the court and had to be taken off on a stretcher and Andy Roddick verbally attacked a lineswoman, I invited ESPN's Patrick McEnroe to talk it all over with me on KTRS/St. Louis (and we got in a plug or two for his new autobiography, "Hardcourt Confidential," too).

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KTRS Thursday


I'm back on the KTRS/St. Louis morning show from 6am to 10am CT today. You can listen live here.

Black Tie Beach

You're at the beach and notice a couple in a ball gown and tuxedo. Then another. Then another. Is it a wedding reception in the sand? No, it's more spontaneous fun with Improv Everywhere...

For our latest mission we had several hundred agents spend a day at Coney Island / Brighton Beach wearing black tie attire. We covered a mile-long stretch of beach with a diverse group of people of all ages (from babies to sixty-somethings) laying out, playing games, and swimming in the ocean, all in formal wear. Agents were instructed to find cheap tuxedos and ball gowns at thrift stores for the occasion.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

That's Oil, Folks


As you fill your gas tank, you probably don't think much about the oil industry -- where it came from, where your money goes, who it supports, and what it means in the global economy -- because all you care about is having enough fuel to get to work, get home, take the kids where they need to be, etc. There's nothing wrong with that, especially since you can't do much about the petro-world.

But listen to what Peter Maass has to say about it. Today on KTRS/St. Louis, we talked about his book, "Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil," which has just been released in paperback. I was surprised to find out that, of the huge amount of money that flows into oil-rich nations, very little of it reaches the people who live there. Even in Saudi Arabia, where the royal family is swimming in the black goo, unemployment is at 30% because the oil industry doesn't create a lot of jobs for locals. Far too often, US foreign policy props up dictators and other rulers in these nations with virtually no regard for their human rights violations -- a problem exacerbated by the role of China, a nation not exactly on Amnesty International's friends list, where the growing economy will demand more and more oil.

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You And Your Johnson

Several listeners asked about this early-1980s commercial for Johnson outboard motors, which one of the members of Frank O. Pinion's afternoon KTRS show brought in last Friday while I was filling in. Try to keep a straight face and imagine a spot like this getting on the air today...

KTRS Wednesday


I'm back on the KTRS/St. Louis morning show from 6am to 10am CT today, with reaction to Obama's speech, Cardinals broadcaster John Rooney on the team's loss to Houston last night, and Peter Maas on his book "Crude World." You can listen live here.