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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Final Table #135: Brian Rast, Matt Affleck, Chad Holloway

Today on The Final Table, we talked with Brian Rast, who won two bracelets at the World Series of Poker this summer for a $1,500 buy-in Pot Limit Hold'em event and the $50,000 buy-in Poker Players Championship. He explained how he managed to beat Phil Hellmuth heads-up in the latter event despite having a 7-1 chip deficit, and analyzed a couple of hands that they played. We also discussed how his life has changed since meeting his fiancee in Brazil and what it's like to play high-stakes poker in Macau.

In our poker coach segment, Matt Affleck of StackEmCoaching.com explained how you can handle a downswing, which every poker player goes through at some point. We also talked with Chad Holloway of Poker News who was outraged at the way a hand between Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth was allowed to play out on "Poker After Dark."

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Modern Day Batman

With a winged suit, Jeb Corliss swoops through the air -- at one point coming remarkably close to the ground -- with multiple cameras capturing his flight...

In Case You Missed These

From my Twitter feed...

  • Clinton had one, Carter had one, Dubya was one. Now Barack Obama has his own embarrassing relative who drinks too much.
  • Eliot Spitzer says the decline of American men's tennis can explain global economics.
  • When you're on a jury, the judge tends to frown on you friending the defendant on Facebook.
  • Hurricane Gouging: a NYC hotel that normally charged $250/night jacked the price up to $999 when Irene came to town. 
  • Lawsuit of the Day: they sued mom because they didn't like the birthday card she sent without money inside.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hungry For A Story

Last week, ABC did a series called "Hunger At Home" on all of its news program. One of the pieces was about a pastor in Arkansas who helps his small town by running a program that distributes 22,000 pounds of food to 750 desperate people each month on a budget of only $700.

ABC heard about the story because of a guy named Ken Kupchick, who had taken it upon himself to alert the media about Pastor Bob's efforts. He got some local attention, and then got a call from ABC News in New York, which sent a producer and reporter to be there when the food bank did its monthly food giveaway.

They shot several hours of material, but ended up with a piece that lasted three minutes on "World News Tonight." Ken took to his blog to explain everything that happened behind-the-scenes in getting the story on TV, and it's a nice insight into how the news process works -- when it's about you or someone you know, you can't understand why it isn't given more attention, but in the context of a 30-minute broadcast, there just isn't enough time for it all.

Ken's blog comes in part one, part two, and part three. Here's the piece that aired on ABC.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Most smartphones have automatic spell-checking software that corrects, suggests, and substitutes as you type -- but if you're not careful, it can change your text message to something you didn't mean to say.

I received a text from a friend that said, "please send me the esophagus guy's email." I replied that I had no idea what he was talking about, since I haven't had anybody check my throat or digestive system in a long time. He texted back that he was trying to get in touch with someone from the World Series Of Poker, which is why he had originally typed "please send me the WSOP guy's email" only to have the software botch the message.

Regis Still Rocks

Happy birthday to an American broadcasting legend, Regis Philbin, who turned 80 today. I've written many times about my admiration for what Regis does every day on his show, his game show hosting skills, and his appearances on other people's shows, too, but I don't think I've ever shared this story.

I had the pleasure of having Regis as a guest several times during my run on the radio in Washington, DC, in the 1980s and 1990s, and he was always willing to play along with anything I threw at him. Sometimes, we had extended conversations, and sometimes he'd make a quick cameo appearance -- like the time he helped out with The Harris Challenge, the trivia segment that was a mainstay of my show.

After a listener had scored enough points to win, I asked my sidekick, Dave, to tell him what he'd won. Dave said, "Paul, I don't have that prize information." I asked what happened to it. Dave replied, "I think I gave it to Regis." So I punched the guest line on the studio phone and ask, "Regis, can you tell us what he's won?" Regis, who'd been standing by silently, jumped right in and ran with it, telling our listener about his prize -- and then staying on the line to joke around with us for a few minutes before rushing off to his studio to do his own live show.

Then there was this conversation we had when I was hosting an afternoon radio show in DC. It's ironic that, at the time, he said he didn't like sitting in the guest chair with David Letterman, because in the last decade he's become a money-in-the-bank guest on "The Late Show," creating some magical shows like this one. But here he is with me in 1997...

Harris: Regis Philbin was on with me many times when I had a morning show. Every few months he'd pop on and I'd help him promote stuff that he was doing on "Live With Regis and Kathie Lee." Then, for some reason, Regis wasn't on with me anymore. I think a publicist stepped in and got in between us, and he wasn't on anymore. Now here I am in the afternoons and I start getting e-mail from a guy by the name of Dan Philbin. I get this mail regularly, as Dan and I write back and forth. Many listeners write in to me and I write back to them all the time. In one of my notes back to him, I said, "Philbin? By any chance, are you related to Regis Philbin?" He said, "Well, yeah, he's my dad, but I don't want to make a big deal out of that." I said, "I don't want to make a big deal out of it either, but we love your dad and we loved having him come on the show and it would be great if that could happen again." Now, BOOM! Here is Regis Philbin! Hi, Reege!

Philbin: Hi Paul, how are you doing?

Harris: It's great to have you back.

Philbin: Thanks, it's nice to talk with you again. I don't know what happened. You say a publicist got between us. I really don't have a publicist. I really don't know what happened.

Harris: Somebody in the office, I think the person we were speaking to left the organization and some new person came in and she said, "Oh, no, I have to protect Regis against all radio guys." Because you know how radio guys can be, Reege.

Philbin: Well, here we are, united again.

Harris: I'm happy to see that. I have to ask you about something I saw in the news today. That is that the Miss America pageant this year is going to be adding bikinis, but subtracting Regis.

Philbin: Yeah, darn it, just when they get bikinis, I have to leave.

Harris: What happened?

Philbin: I'll tell you what happened. I did it for, I think, four or five years with Kathie Lee, and then I did it alone last year. But we've had a change in the network. ABC is carrying the show this year, not NBC, and they wanted to go with a younger, hipper, funnier, better looking version of Regis, so they wound up with this husband and wife team from All My Children. I just interviewed the lady a couple of weeks ago. A very, very nice and good looking gal, Eva Larue Callohan, her husband's name is John Callohan, and they got picked to do the Miss America pageant.

Harris: Reege, let me tell you something. No one's tuning in for Eva and John. We were all tuning in to watch you and the ladies.

Philbin: Gosh, you know, you'd be surprised that those soap opera stars have a big following. I did it, I was there, it was a lot of fun, and frankly it was all a lot of work, and I've moved on to bigger and better things.

Harris: Yeah, but you'll be watching for the bikinis, won't you?

Philbin: Absolutely! I want to see what that's all about.

Harris: What do you think of that move?

Philbin: You know, they had to do something. The Miss Universe pageant...

Harris: They're wearing thongs on that thing.

Philbin: Exactly. There you go. So at least they're down to bikinis. It's going to be interesting to see what actually happens and how many of them go for the bikinis and how skimpy they are. It's going to be interesting. If they remove any more clothing, it becomes a pay-per-view event.

Harris: How is life with you? You've always got dinners and openings and screenings. What are you doing tonight?

Philbin: That crazy Letterman, he wanted me to be on his show tonight, and then this morning, or rather earlier this afternoon, they postponed the sketch for another night. He kind of tied up my night and that's why I'm talking to you so early.

Harris: What was the sketch going to be? Can you tell us?

Philbin: It was going to take place in a restaurant and I was going to be a waiter. They haven't scratched it all together. He changes things at the last minute, and it'll come back up maybe in a couple of days or maybe next week.

Harris: You love doing that and it's obvious that he loves having you on the show.

Philbin: It's great fun, and he's got that band driving there and there's great electricity in the audience and everybody's up. It's fun to see him, only if it is for a minute or two. I don't like to be interviewed by David, but I don't mind going on his show and participating in whatever stunt he has available.

Harris: Why don't you like to be interviewed by him?

Philbin: I think it's a tough seat. Did you see Pauly Shore last night?

Harris: No, I didn't.

Philbin: Pauly died a horrible death.

Harris: Yeah, but Pauly is a moron!

Philbin: I know that Pauly has his own problems, but put the two of those together, and I'm telling you, it was like a snake pit.

Harris: I know that you've also had some tough times on your own show with the whole Kathie Lee and Frank thing, and I don't want to press you too hard on that, but I do have to ask. Were there mornings where you said to yourself, after looking in the paper, "Oh, God, I'm not going in there today?"

Philbin: It was tough. The flack was really flying and the television tabloid shows were coming around. It wasn't easy to get through that, and there were some mornings where I just hated it, but you just have to go on the air with it.

Harris: You two don't talk before the show, but there must have been some mornings where she said, "Look, let's not even talk about my life right now."

Philbin: Listen, we know each other so well now -- I think it's been twelve years since we've been together -- that I know what to bring up and she does too, and what not to bring up. Naturally, we weren't going to talk about that situation on our show.

Harris: I'm a big fan of yours and when I think of the word broadcaster, there are few people who hit that definition better than you.

Philbin: I appreciate that. I've been doing it a long time, and sometimes I think that I'm a little too casual about this because, frankly, we're on the air and sometimes I even forget we're on the air. I just start talking to her and to the camera, and I've got to be more attentive, I guess.

Harris: No, don't change a thing.

Philbin: I've always thought that that was a special place and I wanted to keep it that way, which is why we really don't talk at all before the show starts.

Harris: I saw the show this morning, and I saw you sitting in the audience, introducing some rock band that it was obvious neither of you had ever heard of nor cared about, and I'm thinking to myself, "Instead of this, give me five more minutes of Regis telling a story about the Italian restaurant he went to last night and the bathroom in the back without toilet paper!" That's what we want from you, Reege!

Philbin: I know what you mean. But you know that we do sometimes go 25 minutes, and that's more than half the show, counting the commercials. And Gelman has got his two or three guests that he's got to get on, so he's having a fit. Twenty-five minutes is really enough of us and then we've got to start moving on to other things. But you're right, I'd never heard of that band before.

Harris: Reege, thanks very much for coming back on with me.

Philbin: All right, Paul, I appreciate it.

Harris: Is there a chance we'll ever do this again?

Philbin: Absolutely!

Harris: Oh, good, because we've got to keep Dan happy.

Caught In A Trap

My father dreamed of writing a best-selling mystery novel. After he retired from teaching high school, he authored 10 non-fiction books, but secretly wished he could sit down and develop a crime thriller. His problem was that his mind didn't work like that. While he was a great consumer of movies of that (and every) genre, he knew that he couldn't create the intricacies necessary to the kind of multi-level plots that Ira Levin and Agatha Christie and Sue Grafton and Ridley Pearson and other crime writers mastered.

He was also jealous of my wife, who devours mystery books and usually has them figured out long before their denouement. She figured out Scott Turow's "Presumed Innocent" in chapter four. To this day, when she and I watch a crime thriller together, whether it's a movie or a TV show, she's almost always the first to know not only who done it, but how. Occasionally I'll take a guess and be right, but her batting average is much higher. Sometimes I wonder what she is plotting when I'm not looking.

I thought of that last night as I showed my daughter the movie "Deathtrap." I saw a stage version circa 1980 with George Grizzard in the lead role, and was totally taken by the way playwright Ira Levin wove the plot of a clever murder thriller around characters who are trying to devise the plot of a clever murder thriller for a Broadway show.

There are several moments in the play with true shocks and twists, and I won't spoil all of them for anyone who hasn't seen it, but one of them did not involve any thrills or chills or acts of violence. Instead, it involved the two lead men kissing on the lips. Such public displays of gay affection were rarely seen 30+ years ago, so it was surprising, but it worked as a big reveal about the characters and their motives, and helped the audience become even more invested in the plot.

When the movie version came out, there was a different response.

The two leads were Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve, in only his second role after the huge worldwide success of "Superman" had made him an instant mega-movie star. His first was "Somewhere In Time," a romantic period piece with Jane Seymour that did pretty well, but "Deathtrap" came as a real surprise to a lot of people because of that kiss. The brains of some audience members short-circuited as if they'd just learned Superman was gay. Although this was an entirely different character, they couldn't accept it, even though Reeve was fine in the role and managed to match Caine's intensity and Dyan Cannon's loony anxiety. Sidney Lumet's direction added even more tension to Levin's plot and opened up the play a bit, but the box office suffered because of the casting of Reeve.

It's a shame, because it all seems so tame now. My daughter, a child of a different generation, didn't even flinch at the kiss, but was caught up in the suspense and on the edge of her seat whenever the music swelled with the anticipation of someone about to do something dastardly. Unlike my wife, she didn't see any of the twists coming, but that didn't stop her from falling back on the couch with a smile of satisfaction as the credits rolled.

Like her grandfather, she may never write a best-selling mystery, but she sure knows how to enjoy one.

In Case You Missed These

From my Twitter feed...

  • In the news this week: Libya, earthquake, Jobs' resignation, & a botched penis-cutting in Kentucky. Unfortunately, I'm not on the air until NEXT week!
  • I'm not an early adopter, so I won't read Steve Jobs' resignation letter. I'll wait until Apple releases an updated letter next summer.
  • Why is it that no book publishers promote their "USA Today best-selling" authors? Is the NY Times the only list that matters?  Someday I hope to be a "free weekly newspaper thrown in your driveway even if you don't want it" bestselling author.
  • Celebrating in Tripoli means shooting your gun straight up in the air. Good thing there's no gravity in Libya.  What did they do before guns were invented -- throw rocks and sticks above their heads? How'd that work out?
  • A perfect solution to the dilemma of whether or not Jerry Lewis should appear on this year's MDA telethon, from Mark Evanier.
  • Flamingoes predicted the DC quake by gathering in a circle at the National Zoo, while the giant pandas just sat there. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Final Table #134: Ben Lamb

Today on The Final Table, we talked with Ben Lamb, one of this year's November Nine for the WSOP Main Event and the leader in the Player Of The Year race (he also made the final table of the Poker Players Championship and won a bracelet in the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha Championship). Since Ben was one of many players who lent money to Chino Rheem, we asked his opinion of the sanctions placed on Chino by the Epic Poker League (which Jeffrey Pollack alluded to on last week's show).

Then we moved on to discuss how Ben is preparing for the November Nine, what went through his head in a big hand on Day 7 against Matt Gianetti that lasted over 10 minutes, and whether he's learned anything by watching the ESPN coverage of the World Series Of Poker.

In our poker coach segment, Jared Tendler of StackEmCoaching.com explained how you can solve your tilt problems. We also recapped our weekend at the Hollywood Casino, where Dennis played in the Indiana State Poker Championship while I played in the PLO cash games, and got some insight from poker room manager Thomas Krauss and tournament director Kevin Dawn about how Hollywood boosted its tournament attendance 100% from last year.

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In Case You Missed These

From my Twitter feed...

  • I just came across "Funny People" on an HBO channel during the scene at a big MySpace corporate party. Was 2009 really that long ago?
  • James Randi has challenged psychic hucksters James Van Praagh and Alison Dubois to take the JREF Million Dollar Challenge.
  • It's unlikely Jon Huntsman will be the GOP presidental nominee, so he'll have to settle for being their only pro-science candidate.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Remembering A Songwriting Legend

One of my favorite interviews was the conversation I had 2 years ago with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, one of the all-time legendary songwriting teams. The list of their songs that you know includes "Stand By Me," "Hound Dog," "On Broadway," "Young Blood," "Yakety Yak," "Love Potion #9," "Jailhouse Rock," "Poison Ivy," "Kansas City," and so many more -- most of them featured in the Broadway musical "Smokey Joe's Cafe."

Jerry Leiber died today at age 78 after a long illness. In his memory, here's my 2009 conversation with the Hall of Fame songwriting duo.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Anderson Cooper's Pee Tee Vee

In telling the story of Gerard Depardieu's public urination on an airplane, CNN's Anderson Cooper got caught up in his own puns until he lost it on the air last night...

Ronald Kessler "Secrets Of The FBI"

A couple of years ago, I talked to Ronald Kessler about his book, "In The President's Secret Service," in which he was given unprecedented access to the agency and uncovered some disturbing things about cutbacks that could affect presidential security.

Kessler was back with me on KTRS/St. Louis to discuss his new book, "The Secrets Of The FBI." Once again, he was granted unprecedented access to a law enforcement agency and once again, he discovered some amazing stories.

Some of the topics we touched on:
  • whether the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, and other parts of the intelligence community are now sharing information, a decade after the 9/11 attacks revealed the walls they had built up between them that hampered their ability to track terrorist activity;
  • how the FBI gets into houses and offices of suspects to plant bugs and other surveillance devices, with methods that sound like they're right out of a Hollywood movie (they bring their own dust????);
  • what the FBI's role was in the Seal Team Six raid that killed Osama Bin Laden;
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Dave & Ridley Are At It Again

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson created something magical when they wrote "Peter And The Starcatchers" 6 years ago. It launched a series of bestsellers that the two have continued to produce while simultaneously working on their individual projects.

Now they're back with a new book, "The Bridge To Never Land," which has its roots in those earlier stories but begins a whole new series of adventures with new characters. They joined me on KTRS/St. Louis to talk about this novel and how their unique collaborative style still works, as well as sharing a story from their book promotion tour.

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ground Force One

Karl Rove jumped off the right-wing cliff again today by having his political attack group go after President Obama for the new bus the Secret Service bought to protect him on this week's tour of three midwest states.

Sure, the new Ground Force One cost $1.1 million, but I'd bet that's not much more than the price of Sarah Palin's logo-plastered cost -- not to mention Brooks & Dunn, Beyonce, and Aerosmith's custom wheels, all made by the same Tennessee company that did Obama's. The Secret Service defends the expense by explaining that the buses they'd been leasing for previous presidential road trips were not as safe as they needed to be. And when you have a president who receives more death threats than any of the 43 who preceded him, you want to be sure he's in a secure ride.

Can you imagine what Rove's reaction would have been if a left-wing group had said the same things about choices the Secret Service made to protect Dubya when he was President? He would surely have pointed out that the President has nothing to do with decisions made by his protective detail, and he would defend the expense at any cost. In fact, when Bush's bus was retrofitted for the 2004 campaign, Rove didn't raise an eyebrow because it was for his boy. And watch out next year, when Rove will show off his hypocrisy again by keeping silent when the eventual GOP nominee is driven around the country in a bus identical to Obama's.

My only complaint about Obama's bus is that it tends to stand out a little wherever it goes since it's painted solid black (considering his background, shouldn't it be half black, half white?). If the Secret Service wants to make it a little less conspicuous, they should make it look like the tour bus of someone who won't grab much attention.

Put Taylor Hicks' face on there and no one will look twice.

JREF on Nightline

ABC's "Nightline" is on in primetime tonight with an hour about psychics that is supposed to include a skeptical viewpoint, thanks to the James Randi Educational Foundation. Banachek, who oversees the JREF's Million Dollar Challenge, will appear on the show to put some self-proclaimed psychics to the test (thanks to some protocols designed by Randi and magician Jamy Ian Swiss).

I worry that "Nightline" will fall for the likes of James Van Praagh and others who prey on the naive, probably ending the show with a line like "So, are psychic abilities real? The truth is, we just don't know." Of course, we do know that this is all garbage, but it wouldn't be the first time ABC News has made paranormal con artists look good before while giving short shrift to skeptics, scientists, and debunkers.

Anyway, set your DVR for ABC at 9pm CT and we'll see how it goes.

The Way The Cookie Crumbles

In Hazelwood, Missouri, there's another case of overzealous city officials cracking down on kids selling stuff at the end of their driveway. This time, it's the Mills sisters, who for six years have been out there with a folding table full of Girl Scout Cookies. But, in a brilliant use of resources and tax dollars, the authorities have cracked down on the girls because they don't have a business license. I talked the case over with their attorney, Dave Roland, today on KTRS/St. Louis.

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

Texas Tall Tales

Rick Perry says that, while he's been governor of Texas, his state has had more job growth than any other state. But it turns out that most of those jobs were in the public sector, thanks to government spending -- you know, the number one thing Tea Partiers like Perry are supposed to hate. Moreover, he's taken plenty of stimulus money from Washington while dissing President Obama for the federal government's spending.

I talked about all of this today on KTRS/St. Louis with Rick Newman of US News, who dug into the Texas numbers.

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Final Table #133: Jeffrey Pollack's Epic Post-Mortem

Today on The Final Table, Dennis talked about playing in the Empire State Poker Championship, a Heartland Poker Tour event at Turning Stone in upstate New York, before we both head off to the Hollywood Casino for the Indiana State Poker Championship later this week.

In our guest segment, we welcomed Jeffrey Pollack back to the Final Table. He's executive director of Federated Sports and Gaming, which ran its inaugural Epic Poker League tournament at the Palms in Las Vegas last week. We asked Jeffrey about the turnout (just over half of the eligible pros played, with very few from Europe), whether the league has lined up any sponsors to cover the cost of its rake-free tournament with $400,000 added to the prize pool, whether Epic is planning a real-money online poker site, when their TV coverage will begin, and how he responds to recent comments about the league from Daniel Negreanu. Jeffrey also addressed how Epic will deal with league pros whose reputation isn't exactly clean in the poker community -- like Chino Rheem, who won their first tournament.

In our new weekly poker coaching segment from StackEmCoaching.com, Joe Tehan talked about bet-sizing and how too many players are putting too much money in the pot instead of just enough to get the job done.

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

Richard Wiseman "Paranormality"

Richard Wiseman joined me today on KTRS/St. Louis to talk about his new book, "Paranormality: Why We See What Isn't There."  In it, Wiseman -- who has been researching paranormal claims for over 20 years -- debunks them, explains them, and provides some historical perspective for what psychics, hypnotists, and others claim is supernatural, but isn't.

The most amazing thing about "Paranormality" is that Wiseman couldn't find an American publisher to release the book here -- even the ones that have published his previous best-sellers -- despite its success in England and other countries.  I asked him about that, as well as:
  • Whether his background as a magician helps him look for deception by people claiming paranormal ability;
  • Why, as we know more about the real world, more people believe in garbage;
  • The story of the supposedly psychic dog;
  • Why the unreliability of eyewitness testimony isn't challenged more often in court;
  • The scientific explanation for "out of body" experiences;
  • Why people refuse to believe the truth even after it’s been revealed to them;
  • Whether the US military and intelligence community learned anything after spending hundreds of millions testing people with supposedly paranormal abilities.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Also worth your time...

Sam & Warren & Ron & Michelle

Here's my conversation with Sam Donaldson on KTRS/St. Louis this morning. We talked about whether Warren Buffett's "tax me more" op-ed will have any impact with Congress, why Obama doesn't use those arguments to advance his cause, and why Ron Paul gets no respect from the media even though he was a close second to Michelle Bachmann in the good-for-nothing Iowa Straw Poll.

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

Monday, August 15, 2011

In Case You Missed These

From my Twitter feed...

  • A must-read op-ed piece by Warren Buffett, who says the US should raise taxes on the mega-rich (like him) who've been coddled too long by a billionaire-friendly Congress.
  • Quote from Michele Bachmann this weekend:  "I am an Iowan! Everything I needed to know in life, I learned in Iowa." For more info, contact her at home in Minnesota.
  • From Stephen Colbert:  "Sesame Street says Bert and Ernie aren't gay, though I find it suspicious that the last episode was brought to you by the letters L, G, B, & T."

An Unnecessary Greeting

My wife and I celebrated our 28th anniversary yesterday, so a couple of days ago, I went to the store to buy her a card. While there, I noticed that they're already selling Halloween cards. My first thought was, "In August? Isn't it a little early to think about Halloween? I think my daughter may still have some candy left over from last year!"

My second thought was, "Wait, who buys a greeting card for Halloween?" Who are you supposed to send them to? Kids don't care about getting a card for Halloween -- all they want is to dress up and get some candy. Teenagers don't want a card -- they just view Halloween as another excuse to have a party with their friends. And adults don't want a card and probably aren't celebrating that holiday anyway -- they're too busy buying candy for the kids, making sure the teenagers don't have alcohol at their party, and wondering whether the new young secretary at the office will come to work in a sexy nurse costume again.

Gene & Roger & Woody & Mel

Roger Ebert has dug up a classic bit of video from "Sneak Previews," the movie review show he did three decades ago for PBS with Gene Siskel (before they went into syndication on commercial TV). It's a discussion from 1981 about who was funnier, Mel Brooks or Woody Allen, who at the time were the predominant writer/directors of comedies in America.

In re-watching this, I felt some sadness for two reasons.

One is that, by that point, both Brooks and Allen had created the best movies they'd ever make -- Allen did later have "Hannah and Her Sisters" and the current "Midnight In Paris," but they were the two standouts in an ongoing catalog of far too many other mediocre-to-poor films. Meanwhile, Brooks -- who set a new standard for movie parodies with "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein" -- ran out of genres to satirize after hitting new depths with "Spaceballs" and "Men in Tights" and hasn't made a movie since 1995 (although he did hit it out of the park with the Broadway musical version of "The Producers").

The other reason I felt sad was that I miss seeing Siskel and Ebert having these kind of bright, sophisticated critiques of movies and filmmakers every week on television. While many have tried to copy the form since, none stands up to the original duo, and that includes the two reviewers that Ebert, as producer, has on his new show each week. Without his voice and Siskel's, it can never be the same.

I can't embed the classic conversation from 1981, but you can find it at this link.

Friday, August 12, 2011

In Case You Missed These

From my Twitter feed...

  • Mitt Romney said today corporations are people because in the end the money goes to humans. By that logic, soda machines are people, too. I think what Romney meant to say is that corporations are Soylent Green.
  • Whatever I was going to say about the brilliance of "Louie" this season has now been said by Chuck Klosterman.
  • People who build roller-coasters must be watching the stock market with awe this week. They'd never make a ride this wild w/o seat belts.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Smells Like Teen Deja Vu

That's the daughter of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, Frances Cobain, now 18 years old and posing for a fashion shoot. You can tell by the tattoos and cigarette that she's already made some bad choices in her young life, but I'm not surprised. Having a drug addict father who committed suicide at 27 and left you with a drug addict mother is not the prescription for a healthy upbringing.

I'm sure that I'll get flack from Cobain and Love fans for saying that, but it won't be the first time. When Cobain killed himself in April, 1994, I railed against him the next day on my DC101 morning show. I called his suicide a selfish act lacking in responsibility -- leaving behind a one-year-old daughter by putting a shotgun to your chin is narcissistic and deplorable.

Those comments got me called into a meeting with the radio station's general manager, who lit into me. He said that I was out of line because Cobain was a role model to the station's target demographic of men 18 to 34, and I had attacked their musical hero. I rebutted that Cobain may have created some music they enjoyed and been one of the progenitors of the grunge movement, but there was nothing heroic about his actions the day before.

The GM demanded that I apologize to the audience. I refused, arguing that if our listeners really looked up to Cobain, they might think that suicide was a good way out of their difficult lives, too, and it was important to say that it wasn't. Today, Dan Savage is trying to sell that same message with his "It Gets Better" project.

What I did the next day was tell this story on the air and open the phones to comments. Sure enough, quite a few Nirvana fans raked me over the coals. But an equal number of listeners agreed with me and appreciated the message. They understood that I wasn't attacking the man's music, just the choice he'd made two days earlier.

I knew no one on that station, nor elsewhere in the media, would say these sort of things. Instead, they'd all mourn the loss of another "rock god" (as the modern media did recently with Amy Winehouse, and earlier outlets did with Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon, John Bonham, and others). They'd gloss over the ugly parts of the story -- to use the title of a Nirvana album, they would "Nevermind" -- and portray Cobain as a genius sadly lost through no fault of his own.

It was bullshit then and it's bullshit now. Got that, Frances?

The Immaculate Misconception

As I mentioned the other day, my daughter and I were in Ohio last week looking at colleges and made stops at two Halls of Fame. The story of our visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is here. The other one was the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

We weren't planning on going there, but on our drive south on I-77, we passed through Canton and there it was on the side of the road -- the big round building with the giant football sticking out of the roof. We didn't have time to stop that day, but after the second college visit the following morning, we had to drive back to Cleveland for our flight home and, since we had a few hours to kill, I pulled off the interstate and headed for the massive concrete pigskin.

Our visit happened to coincide with the beginning of induction weekend at the Hall of Fame, when the Class of 2011 -- Ed Sabol, Marshall Faulk, Richard Dent, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter, Shannon Sharpe, and Deion Sanders (without his Tinker Bell TV commercial outfit) -- would arrive to make speeches, sign autographs, and see their busts installed. Fortunately, we were there on Thursday afternoon, before the crowds arrived, so it wasn't at all difficult to get around.

The Hall of Fame is directly adjacent to a residential community, and the locals were all ready for the visitors, with hand-scrawled signs offering to let you park on their lawn for $5 or buy a bottle of water or soda for $1. Not exactly a tailgate party, but if you're going to be overrun by out-of-towners once a year, you might as well take advantage of the opportunity.

My daughter, a non-football fan, wasn't particularly excited about this, but as a lifelong NFL fan, I found myself nearly giddy at spending a couple of hours inside, re-living stories about some of the guys I'd grown up watching and some I'd actually gotten to know during my years on the radio.

The front of the Hall of Fame has a longstanding exhibit about the history of football from its very beginnings, with some original uniforms and helmets on display, although calling them "helmets" is like calling a band-aid a "shoulder pad" -- that's about how much protection they offered.

As we walked through the exhibits, I told my daughter stories about Bart Starr's plunge to win the Ice Bowl, John Facenda's booming voice on those early NFL Films documentaries, being taken by my father to see Joe Namath and the Jets practice at Hofstra University, standing in the shadow of Joe Jacoby (the Redskins lineman who was so big he blocked out the sun), and what it was like to attend two Super Bowls in the disparate climates of San Diego and Minneapolis. She remembered doing our private little touchdown dance every time Marshall Faulk scored for the Rams. We traced the history of the other football leagues (USFL, WFL, XFL) that couldn't compete with the NFL, watched spectacular highlight videos of inductees, and saw a montage of funny comments made by players and coaches who'd been miked up pre-game.

Deeper inside the museum, there's a large room with busts of all the Hall of Famers. I went through looking only at their names and trying to remember their teams and positions, doing better with the players from the 70s through 90s than I can today. When we got to legendary Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris, I told my daughter about interviewing him in 1988 and the picture someone took of us that made us look like brothers. She insisted that we take a new photo of me next to Franco's bust...

I think you'll agree that any resemblance that may have once existed is long gone -- mostly because I'm not made of bronze, and the statue has more hair than both of us combined today.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In Case You Missed These

From my Twitter feed:

  • TBS has canceled "Lopez Tonight." No word on when George Lopez will start his new show on Current TV. Meanwhile, Jay Leno will follow Conan.
  • My Final Table poker show has just been upgraded by S&P to AAAA. Hope we don't get beat by a straight flush. There's no bad beat jackpot.
  • Some good tips for using technology to make air travel a little easier, from NY Times' David Pogue.
  • Conservatives love to shout about "states' rights," but Ed Kilgore shows up their hypocrisy on social issues. 

Final Table #132: David Sands & Erika Moutinho

Today on The Final Table poker radio show, we talked with David Sands and Erika Moutinho, the couple that finished 30th and 29th, respectively, in this year's World Series Of Poker Main Event. We discussed the strategy of playing against each other at a televised feature table, how David feels he improved his game by teaching Erika, and whether they're considering following other young pros in moving from Panorama Towers into Las Vegas to somewhere outside the US so they can continue playing online poker.

We also got an update on potential internet gaming legislation from Chris Krafcik, an analyst who's been keeping an eye on attempts to regulate and license online poker at both the federal and state level -- from California to DC to New Jersey. Then he explained how the CEO of Harrah's parent company views the future of internet poker.

Today we introduced a new weekly poker coaching segment from StackEmCoaching.com with John Kim, one of their pros, kicking it off.

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

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Greatest Story Ever Told

Bank forecloses on man? Not a story. Man forecloses on bank? Now that's a story!

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Rock Hall

I was in Ohio for a few days last week looking at colleges with my daughter, and we made a couple of Hall of Fame stops. Literally.

The first was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, which I'd visited before, about 6 years ago. It's a six-story structure that starts at the bottom with the roots of rock (the original bluesmen and folk singers who created the basics of the form) and winds its way up through decades of music. Along the way, there are lots of audio samples, videos, and written information about the singers, songwriters, bands, label executives, and even the cities that were home to various styles of rock and roll (Detroit, San Francisco, New York, London/Liverpool, etc.).

My daughter, a huge Beatles fan, was excited to see the new exhibit dedicated to them, with memorabilia such as a program from their legendary Carnegie Hall concert which mis-identified one of them as "John McCartney." There's also a video wall that always draws a crowd as it shows mini-docs on each of their 13 British albums, with classic images and more recent commentary by the principals and their producer, George Martin.

The Rolling Stones get their own exhibit across the room, where the challenge is to watch the constantly-streaming concert videos and understand the lyrics as Jagger sings them. Let's just say that pronouncing has never been a key skill of Mick's in live settings.

Artists aren't eligible for the RRHOF until 25 years after their first recording, so there isn't much contemporary representation. You'll have to look elsewhere for artifacts from Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, and Katy Perry. But there is a new exhibit on Women In Rock that showcases performers from Linda Ronstadt to Lady Gaga and many more in between. There's also a permanent display of stage outfits, which look downright silly hung on mannequins -- made me wonder what some of these singers thought when they were first presented with the clothes.

We spent over 5 hours at the RRHOF, just about the right amount of time to absorb everything, including a movie that showcases every inductee from 1986 to this year, when both Alice Cooper and Neil Diamond were added (I'm guessing they never toured together), as were Tom Waits, Leon Russell, Dr. John, and Darlene Love. It's an effective history lesson and a helluva nostalgia trip.

Later on, I'll tell you about the other Hall of Fame we visited, which brought back lots of other memories.

Frame By Frame By The Sea

My daughter found this one last night. It's a piece of stop-motion animation, but what makes it unique is that it was done outside, on a beach, with a cell phone as a camera...

Even more interesting is how they did it...

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Random Observations

In case you missed these on my Twitter feed:

  • After hearing about the debt ceiling deal, I have to congratulate the Wealthy & Powerful for continuing their career-long unbeaten streak.
  • My teenage daughter's back from a month in NYC. We're happy to see her, hear about all her adventures, and...hey, where's my car?
  • An Ocean Spray OJ bottle says it contains "100% orange juice with other natural flavors." What else do we need in there besides oranges?
  • Spotted this sign on a gas pump yesterday: "Please Prepay In Advance." Does that apply to customers who understand prefixes?
  • Showed my daughter Barry Levinson's "Tin Men" w/Danny DeVito doing the best Baltimore accent ever & Barbara Hershey at her most beautiful.  The rest of the cast was great, too: Richard Dreyfuss, John Mahoney, JT Walsh, Bruno Kirby, Seymour Cassel, and the hilarious Jackie Gale. Classic!
  • It's been so hot I haven't been outside much until the other night when I played tennis & noticed my legs were whiter than a Michele Bachmann rally.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Final Table #131: Phil Hellmuth

Today on The Final Table poker radio show, we talked with Phil Hellmuth, owner of 11 World Series of Poker bracelets, who almost won his 12th this summer, finishing 2nd in 3 WSOP events and cashing in 2 others.

While Hellmuth still has a big ego, he did quiet some of his critics with his performance this summer, and you'll hear no evidence of The Poker Brat in our conversation. He was remarkably blunt in admitting mistakes he made when it got to heads-up in the $50k Poker Players Championship, analyzing several hands in detail and explaining why he regrets playing them the way he did.

We also talked to him about:
  • why he's still haunted by some of those hands;
  • how he improved his non-hold-em games, and who helped him;
  • his advice for this year's November Nine;
  • why he gave props to Minh Ly when he was eliminated 3rd in the PPC;
  • whether he'll play in the upcoming Epic Poker League, and whether it's good for the game.
In our news segment, we discussed a controversial hand at the EPT Grand Final, whether the Epic Poker League's TV deal will attract more players to its inaugural event later this week, and the two Bad Beat Jackpots that have hit in the Harrah's St. Louis poker room in the last 3 days -- for a total of almost $400,000.

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