Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis every Friday, 3-6pm CT

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Nerd Prom

President Obama will make his final White House Correspondents Dinner appearance tonight, which will be carried by CSPAN and all the cable news channels. Larry Wilmore ("The Nightly Show") is the comedian who has to follow him. That used to be a much better spot before the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations hired an entire staff of clever people to write the presidential routines and put them on par with any late-nighter's monologue. The game tonight will be to score who gets in the better lines about Donald Trump.

While we're on the subject, here's my memory of the time I attended that event many years ago.

Showbiz Show 4/29/16


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed three movies -- "Keanu," "Mother's Day," and "Sing Street." We also talked about the amazing technology behind "The Jungle Book" and whether we need a new streaming service from Turner Classic Movies.

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

Harris Challenge 4/29/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include Keanu Reeves Movies, Century Number Nineteen, and Countries In Both Europe and Asia. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 4/29/16


This edition of Knuckleheads In The News® includes stories about shirtless Subway sandwiches, a bushbaby for a prostitute, and an evidence-eating lawyer. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®? Click here.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cruz And Fiorina's WTF Moment


After Ted Cruz's deranged announcement yesterday that he's chosen Carly Fiorina as his running mate -- and her accepting the role of second banana to a man who will never be his party's candidate -- Fiorina took to the stage and sang to Ted Cruz's daughters.  She may have been trying to be sweet and grandmotherly, but it came off as if she was auditioning to play Creepy Mary Poppins.

As I discussed this odd event with ABC's Brad Mielke, we couldn't fathom why the guy who was wiped out in this week's primaries and is mathematically eliminated from getting the nomination was even pulling this bizarre move. It would be like an NHL team pulling its goalie with 3 seconds on the clock when it was down 75-0. Or the Rams selling PSL licenses for The Dome after they've moved to Los Angeles.

As my colleague Josh Gilbert says, "So this is what a death rattle sounds like."

Brad and I also talked about Bernie Sanders firing hundreds of staffers and Donald Trump's foreign policy speech. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Religious Bigotry Loses In Missouri


I'm happy to say that Senate Joint Resolution 39, which would have legalized religious bigotry against LGBT people in Missouri, died in a House committee last night.

As my guest Tony Messenger (who has railed against it in his columns for the Post-Dispatch) pointed out, the law was so poorly written that it would have legalized murder and Sharia law in the state. We discussed the politicians who had blinders on so they couldn't see the economic impact such laws are having in North Carolina and Mississippi, how -- even if it were written less broadly -- it would legitimize hatred and discrimination, and the real motives behind the legislation.

Watch the video above or listen to the podcast version, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Ben Radford, "Bad Clowns"


Here's my conversation with Ben Radford about his book, "Bad Clowns." Our conversation ranged from John Wayne Gacy to The Joker to Ronald McDonald to Punch and Judy. I also asked him why so many people are afraid of clowns, and when that phenomenon started. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Andrew Hacker, "The Math Myth"


I have believed for a long time that the reason so many Americans say they hate math is that they got turned off to it in high school. Like my daughter, they were probably pretty good with arithmetic when they were younger (I taught her all sorts of tricks with numbers, which she loved), but once they were forced to learn algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus, their eyes glazed over and the headaches started.

That's why I was so happy to read "The Math Myth And Other STEM Delusions" by Andrew Hacker and invite him on my show. Although he's a professor of political science, he's been teaching a course in Numeracy to help students learn the kind of math they need to know in real life. He says that higher-level math is important for students going into STEM fields, but too much of a burden for everyone else.

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cringeworthy Video Of The Day

This is a piece conceived by Just Not Sports, which describes it thusly:

Online harassment of women in sports is a troubling, ongoing issue. #MoreThanMean hopes to open guys’ eyes – by having them open their mouths. The video shows what happens when real sports fans read real online comments made about women sports reporters … right to their faces.

In reading the statements out loud to women journalists, guys are forced to experience, sometimes for the first time, the shocking online harassment happening to women in sports day in, day out. It serves as proof most sports fans would NEVER say these things to another person – so we shouldn’t type this garbage, either.

We filmed this last week with Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro - both of whom display amazing poise and dedication. The piece was directed by Chad Cooper and One Tree Forest Films.
Hat tip to Andy Dehnart.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

As I Tweeted

If radio hosts walked off the job over miscommunication by management a la Kelly Ripa, there'd be a helluva lot of dead air every day.

Movie Review: Elvis and Nixon


"Elvis and Nixon" is based on the photo above, the most-requested in the history of the National Archives.

It was taken on December 21, 1970, when Elvis Presley showed up at the White House unannounced and asked to meet with President Richard Nixon. By way of introduction, he handed the guards -- who at first thought he was an Elvis impersonator -- a letter he'd written on a cross-country flight, in which he complained about what he considered the moral decline of the country, war protesters, hippies, and the Black Panthers:
I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can and will do the most good. I am glad to help just so long as it is kept very private.
Elvis wanted to be an undercover agent-at-large for the federal government, complete with a badge, to infiltrate these groups he considered subversive. When asked how one of the most famous people in the world could go undercover, he explained that he had plenty of experience in costumes and disguises because he'd made a lot of movies.

It turns out Presley was much more conservative than his rock-and-roller image might have implied, and his political views aligned more with Nixon's than with those who opposed him. This was a guy who became a superstar in the fifties and early sixties whose fame was beginning to wane and he blamed it on the generation that followed him. There's also the lovely irony of a guy who acted like he was appalled by drug abuse, but would die seven years later from his overuse of prescription drugs.

In the movie, Michael Shannon plays Elvis and Kevin Spacey is Nixon and, to their credit, they don't do cheap imitations of their subjects. There have been thousands of Elvis impersonators who exaggerate his voice and physical movements, but Shannon doesn't. Even though this is a comedy, he plays Elvis sincerely. Spacey does a pretty good Nixon voice but doesn't sound like every impressionist who's done him -- or rather, an imitation of David Frye's gold standard impression of Tricky Dick. It's a little odd seeing Spacey playing a president other than Francis Underwood ("House Of Cards"), but he pulls it off and, as with Shannon, it doesn't take long to suspend disbelief and buy into both of these guys as the men they're portraying.

As I said, this is a comedy, but it plays for laughs through the situation, not a series of jokes. The cast includes Colin Hanks, Johnny Knoxville, and Tate Donovan -- not to mention the velvet bellbottoms and enormous gold belt buckle Elvis wore on that historic day.

I really enjoyed "Elvis and Nixon," so I give it an 8 out of 10.

It would make a good double bill with "Dick," the 1999 Andrew Fleming comedy starring Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams as teenage girls hired to walk Nixon's dog at the time of Watergate. Like that administration, it's a bold-faced farce. "Dick" works due to the earnest performances of Dunst and Williams, plus a cast that includes Dan Hedaya as Nixon, Saul Rubinek as Henry Kissinger, Harry Shearer as G. Gordon Liddy, Ana Gasteyer as Rosemary Woods, Jim Breuer as John Dean, and Will Ferrell as Bob Woodward -- plus Teri Garr, Dave Foley, and Ryan Reynolds.

Worth A Link

  • On its 40th anniversary, director Martin Scorcese, screenwriter Paul Schrader, and stars Robert DeNiro, Jodie Foster, and Harvey Keitel remember making "Taxi Driver."
  • Mark Joseph Stern explains what happens when lawyers do a lousy job answering questions from Supreme Court Justices.
  • Seth Stevenson on what it's like to go through baseball umpire school.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Movie Review: The Jungle Book


Wow! I said it to myself over and over while watching Jon Favreau's "The Jungle Book." The story is familiar to anyone who knows the 1967 animated version, but the technology deployed to make this one is simply startling.

Favreau -- who proved his dexterity with advanced visual effects with the first two "Iron Man" movies -- has used a combination of live-action, computer graphics, and motion capture cinematography to create the most lifelike animation I've ever seen. Imagine the genius of Pixar plus the image density of James Cameron's "Avatar," and then ramp the combination up to a new level.

The result is remarkable. At no time do the animals look cartoonish. They and the boy, Mowgli (Neel Sethi), all live in the same dimensions and spaces -- there's no painted overlay effect. The jungle, the river, and the fire all look realistic. There's a scene where the characters are outside in a rainstorm, and the way the drops of water on their fur hang there, drip off, or run in rivulets down their faces is identical to how it would look in real life.

Walking out after "The Jungle Book," I wanted to know how Favreau pulled it off, so I found Carolyn Giordina's piece in "The Hollywood Reporter":
In order for Mowgli to share the screen with Baloo, Shere Khan and all the rest — including Scarlett Johansson’s snake Kaa, Ben Kingsley’s panther Bagheera, Lupita Nyong’o’s mother wolf Raksha and the late Garry Shandling’s porcupine Ikki — Favreau used the advanced “virtual production” techniques also employed by James Cameron on Avatar and Alfonso Cuaron on Gravity. The movie was shot on blue-screen stages at L.A. Center Studios, but the only live-action element in the movie is Mowgli and whatever small piece of set Sethi stood or climbed on. The rest is a rich photo-real CG jungle brought to life by the VFX and imaged by an art department led by production designer Christopher Glass. And, in the action sequences, the viewer is running or swinging alongside Mowgli thanks to cinematographer Bill Pope’s kinetic camera.

The technical processes involved were cutting edge, but the decision to make the movie in a virtual production environment was both a creative and practical one. Says Legato, “Photographing a kid in the jungle and on a limited scheduled is very difficult. A live-action shoot would be difficult, it wouldn’t look as good and It probably would be more expensive. With blue-screen, you are well on your way. Also you get to play a little, and if you miss a shot, you can easily go back. And the production design was definitely a part of the decision.”
As for the story, "The Jungle Book" is about Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves and other animals, all of whom can speak to him and each other. The antagonist is a menacing tiger (voiced by Idris Elba) whose previous run-in with humans taught him not to trust any of us, including this man-cub. Along the way, Mowgli meets Baloo The Bear (Bill Murray) and others. Two songs from the original movie are preserved -- "Bare Necessities" and "I Want To Be Like You" -- in updated versions. Murray's take on the former is fine, but Christopher Walken's interpretation of the latter can't hold a candle to the standard set by Louis Prima five decades ago.

The other thing that occurred to me while watching "The Jungle Book" is how scary it must be for young kids. Parents who think they're treating a child to another goofy Disney animated story will be quite surprised when their daughter or son jumps into their lap in fear, then has nightmares for a week because of a few very intense scenes in the movie. They'll also need to be reminded that, in real life, it's not such a good idea to get close to bears, panthers, snakes, and bees -- let alone a vengeful tiger.

I give "The Jungle Book" 8.5 out of 10, mostly because of its dazzling visual effects.

Postscript: before "The Jungle Book," we were shown trailers for three upcoming animated movies: "The Secret Life of Pets," "Ice Age: Collision Course," and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows." They all look awful and unfunny, but after "The Jungle Book," they all looked outdated, too -- left behind while animation technology takes a huge leap forward without them.

Best Thing I've Read Today

Gregory Orfalea on the greatest baseball announcer in history, Vin Scully -- who (at 88, after 67 years calling Dodgers games) will retire after this season:

[Kurt] Gibson’s gimpy homer has been voted the greatest sports moment in Los Angeles history, but it wasn’t Vin’s, by his own reckoning. His was not of a Dodger at all; in fact, it took place during a Dodger loss. It was the middle of Watergate, April 8, 1974, almost four months to the day before Richard Nixon would resign the presidency. Henry Aaron was at the plate, tied with Babe Ruth for the all-time record in home runs (714), facing the Dodgers’ Al Downing. Aaron took the first pitch, low, below his knees. And then: “Fastball, high drive to deep left center field. Buckner goes back, to the fence—it is GAWN!” Scully later recounted that he took the headphones off, went to the water cooler for a drink, and let the crowd’s ecstasy and fireworks fill the nation’s ears. “Scully made his greatest contribution by saying nothing, thank you,” he told a benefit audience honoring him in February 2016. But that is not true. Here’s a condensation of what he said when he returned to the mike:

"What a marvelous moment for baseball, what a marvelous moment for Atlanta, for the country and the world! A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South. And it is a great moment for all of us, but particularly for Henry Aaron who is met at home plate not only by every member of the Braves, but by his father and his mother, who came running across the grass, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him for all she was worth. As Aaron circled the bases, the Dodgers on the infield shook his hand. And for the first time in a long time that poker face of Aaron’s shows the tremendous strain and relief of the past seven months. It is over, at 10 minutes after nine o’clock in Atlanta, Georgia. Henry Aaron has eclipsed Babe Ruth. You could not get two more opposite men—the Babe, big and garrulous, oh so sociable, immense in all his appetites—and then the quiet lad out of Mobile, Alabama, slender. Ruth, as he put on the pounds and the paunch, the Yankees put their ball players in pin striped uniforms because it made Ruth look slimmer. But they didn’t need pin stripes for Henry Aaron. And now you can hear Georgia around the world."
Read Orfalea's full piece here.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Heroin vs. Opioid Pills

Two responses to my previous entry. First, Steven emails:

Living in Washington state, my experience has been that heroin seems to be easier to get than Rx narcotics.

I know that anecdotes are not evidence, and my experience is probably atypical as I run a feeding ministry, but a night's supply up here is barely more expensive than a pack of cigarettes and I've never heard of anyone having trouble finding it.

On the other hand, my 76-year-old relative was given 48 hours to come in to her doctor for a surprise drug screening. The mandatory "contract" that she had to sign as a chronic pain patient mandated it. She was exempted from the mandatory pill count because her nursing home handles her medication. This contract treats this poor old woman like a god damn junkie for no other reason than her body has broken down on her.

Also, she spends most of her life in pain. The state is crawling so far up the ass of doctors that they are reluctant to write scripts. A high pill count means unwanted attention. We've given up on getting her an adequate dose of opiates. We do the best we can with ibuprofen and cannabis....and pray the cannabis doesn't show up on her next drug screening. (and yes, it's legal up here but is a violation of the "contract" anyway.)

I'm with you, a rational discussion is needed...but I don't think we will agree on the best course of action.

I say let doctors decide how much pain medication their patients need. We don't need bureaucrats looking over their shoulders. I understand that loosening restrictions will lead to more black market pills being available...but so what? If people want to be junkies, let them. They're grown ups and can decide for themselves how they want to live their lives.

Also, wouldn't you rather have people using black market Rx opioids than street heroin? They're made in a laboratory with consistent quality controls instead of an underground operation producing inconsistent product.

Remember those heroin addicts I opened the email with? Most of them turned to heroin when the Vicoden market went dry from the government pressure on doctors. Everyone of them tells me that heroin is easier to get.
Actually, Steven, we agree completely. I'm in favor of medical professionals, not politicians, making decisions about pharmaceuticals and other treatments for pain or any other condition. The way your 76-year-old relative was treated (like too many of that generation) is reprehensible. That said, there's abuse in any system, and when a patient over-consumes opioids because of an irresponsible doctor, that's when we need more scrutiny.

Next, Tom writes:
While I agree that pain prescription abuse is a major problem, it may be some of the laws we have that are to blame.

Prince was able to fill multiple prescriptions because patients doctor shop (which means they go to multiple doctors in a week) and each doctor has no way of knowing that another doctor wrote a similar prescription. Patient privacy laws prevent it. The pharmacy has an obligation to fill each prescription. If they don't they can be sued. People often go to the emergency room to get pain pills.

In the city hospitals, on the weekend, the number one complaint is toothache. I have heard many stories of the little old lady or man getting a script for pain pills so the grandson could sell them, if they didn't they would abuse them.

Another avenue of acquiring is what are referred to as "Dr. Feelgoods." These are doctors who pretty much only write pain medications. They have clinics, usually cash only, and will write the triple play -- Xanax, Ambien, and pain pill of choice (Opana is a big one now). The doctors are writing it for what it is the patient tells them they have. The biggest is fibromyalgia, for which there is no way to test a person and the pain is very subjective.

There are doctors in the area who refuse to write any pain medications or have patients sign a code of conduct which says they will not divert the drugs or abuse them. This is not really a solution but it is what they do.

Another problem we are now seeing with the opiates is that taking them orally will not get them high fast enough. The next step, along with heroin, is injection. So what we have seen is a case like Austin, Indiana a town of 2000, where there have been over 200 cases of HIV and Hepatitis C -- all from one person having the HIV virus and sharing of needles. We are now seeing the secondary wave from that out break in other towns in Indiana and Kentucky. I think we will start seeing more of this in the near future as the heroin usage increases in the poorer areas of the country.
Thank you, Tom. These are the aspects of the pain-pill-addiction problem that are not getting enough attention from news media. As I wrote earlier, perhaps the Prince story will launch more reporting on the subject.

I Wonder

I wonder if Prince's death will lead to a rational conversation about rampant addiction to prescription pills like Percocet and Oxycontin. They're a lot easier to acquire than heroin -- just look at the report that Prince went to Walgreen's four times in a single week to get more. Who are the doctors who wrote those scrips? On the other hand, considering how much money the big pharmaceutical companies that make those pills spend on advertising on television and print, I doubt most media outlets will be inclined to rock that boat.

I wonder how Donald Trump's most fervent supporters reacted to one of his top aides saying in essence that, until now, Trump has just been playing a part and that the vile and uninformed things he's spewed are not a reflection of how he really feels. I don't believe the claim for one minute, but considering millions of people have voted for Trump because they consider him a straight-shooter, if they discover he's been lying, will they change their minds? Have any of them ever heard of Lonesome Rhodes?

I wonder how many companies thought they'd help their brands by exploiting Prince's death on social media. For example, Cheerios tweeted an image of the words "Rest In Peace" on a purple background with a Cheerio as the dot over the letter I. The folks at Hamburger Helper posted one, since deleted, saying "A glove can only take so much sadness" (sounds like they confused Prince and Michael Jackson until you remember that the logo for Hamburger Helper is a glove -- because so many people make dinner with their hands covered?). Meanwhile, the 3M company changed its logo to purple, with a tear. Did anyone feel the urge to buy more Cheerios, Hamburger Helpter, or Post-It notes in Prince's honor?

I wonder what happened to the Apple Watch. There was a lot of hype when it was first released, as with any other Apple product, but I don't see many people wearing it. Perhaps the problem stems from the fact that most of us abandoned the entire timepiece-on-our-arms concept once we had smartphones-in-our-pockets (i.e. we stopped wearing a watch years ago, and the idea of wearing one that doesn't do much more than our iPhones has no appeal to us). Instead of Apple Watches, I see a lot more wrists adorned with FitBits which, as you know, have virtually ended America's obesity problem.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Showbiz Show 4/22/16


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed three movies -- "The Huntsman: Winter's War," "Miles Ahead," and "Elvis and Nixon." We also discussed Amazon and Hulu increasing the competition for Netflix in streaming video, and recommended a few movies and TV shows to watch.

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

Harris Challenge 4/22/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include He Wasn't A Symbol, Aliens On Earth Day, and By The Numbers. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 4/22/16


This edition of Knuckleheads In The News® includes stories about a bulldozer battle, a slapped horse, and some bonus meth. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®? Click here.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Message For Earth Day

For Earth Day, a message from Cloris Leachman, M. Emmet Walsh, Michael Lerner, Bill Cobbs, and Ed Asner...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mouth Yes, Money No

A few months ago, I overheard two guys at work discussing why Hillary Clinton will not be president. Their entire argument came down to the fact that she would be indicted for charges related to using her private e-mail server.

I couldn't help myself. I jumped in and asked, "Who is going to indict her?" The more certain of the two said, "The FBI." I pointed out that the FBI doesn't indict people; at the federal level, that would be the Justice Department, which is part of the Obama administration, which isn't going to indict its party's leading candidate for the presidency.

He was completely convinced I was wrong, probably because he is exposed to the right-wing media machine that has been pounding this fact since last fall. I asked him when this was likely to happen, and he said, "By April fifteenth." That's when I offered to bet him $500 that it wouldn't. He replied, "Well, I don't make that much money. How about $20?"

In other words, he's 100% sure that something's going to happen, but not willing to back it up.

I played along and agreed to the $20 bet. Six weeks later, he approached me and asked, "Want to double it?" I don't listen to right-wing radio or read their websites, but somebody must have re-launched this line of attack and convinced him the indictment was pending. I agreed to the $40 bet.

Well, as you know, it's several days past the deadline, and Clinton remains unindicted. I haven't seen this guy yet, nor has he contacted me to say, "I was wrong and I have your money." But I'm sure I'll get it eventually.

Meanwhile, I went through virtually the exact same conversation with someone else this week -- another guy absolutely sure Clinton was on the cusp of being indicted before the Democrats have their convention this summer. The difference is that I know that this guy has plenty of money, so surely he wouldn't flinch from betting $500 on it. He paused for a couple of seconds before declining the bet. So, he's positive, but not really.

This reminds me of a similar conversation I had with yet another right-winger a month before the 2012 election. He was checking out something on his phone and blurted, "Wow, Romney is going to crush Obama. I'd bet any amount that he gets over 315 electoral votes." I wanted to make sure I'd heard him correctly, so I asked him to repeat it, which he did. Then I replied, "Well, if you're so sure that you would bet any amount, I'll take that wager for $10,000."

He looked at me like I was crazy, but I could see a tiny flicker of doubt in his eyes. He obviously hadn't considered that whatever "information" he was absorbing might not be connected to reality. He hemmed and hawed for a minute or so, then agreed to take the bet, but for only $100. On election day, it wasn't close -- Obama got 332 electoral votes while Romney got 206.

I got paid a few days later.

Don't you wish some of the genius pundits on TV and radio -- who are feeding this garbage to their viewers and listeners -- were forced to put their money where their loud mouths are?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Best Thing I've Read Today

Last week, I wrote a critique of Robert Reich's critique of Bernie Sanders skeptics. One of his points (that I debunked) is to quote polls that say Sanders will beat any Republican candidate in the general election by even larger margins than Hillary Clinton would. As I pointed out, polls in April aren't very valid in predicting what will happen in November, especially since the GOP attack machine has yet to aim its guns at Sanders.

Paul Waldman agrees:

So let's consider the kinds of attacks Sanders would face from Republicans. They wouldn't just call him a socialist — in fact, that'd be about the nicest thing they'd say about him. They'd say he's coming to raise your taxes to fund big-government schemes. They'd say he wants to cripple the military. They'd say he's advocated eliminating our intelligence capabilities. They'd say he was part of a Trotskyite party that expressed "solidarity" with the theocratic government of Iran while it was holding Americans hostage. They'd say he wants government to seize the means of production. They'd say he hates America. They'd say he's the author of smutty rape fantasies.

These attacks would be unfair, exaggerated, distorted, dishonest — and when Sanders protests, the Republicans would laugh and keep making them. By the time they're done with him, most Americans would think Sanders is so radical and dangerous that they wouldn't want him running their local food co-op, let alone the United States government.

Sanders supporters tend to wave away the possibility that these attacks would hurt him in much the same way the candidate himself dispenses with questions of practicality, by saying that his revolution will be so extraordinary that it will sweep all opposition away. Millions of heretofore absent voters will turn up at the polls, Americans will see the wisdom of his ideas, this election will be different than any that came before! But there's little reason to believe that will happen, particularly when even within the Democratic Party, Sanders hasn't been persuasive enough to overcome Hillary Clinton, who is supposed to be so weak.
Read Waldman's full piece here.

Doris Roberts


Doris Roberts, best known for her years as Marie Barone on "Everybody Loves Raymond," died yesterday at age 90. She had a career that lasted over 60 years, and in April, 2003, she published her autobiography, "Are You Hungry, Dear?" That's when I got a chance to talk with her about:
  • How she wasn't even close to the first choice for the role of Ray Romano's mother;
  • What her input was in creating the character;
  • The quality of the food on the set of "Raymond";
  • Whether it's too easy to make a studio audience laugh on a successful sitcom;
  • How much direction she needs on a set;
  • Having to audition for TV guests spots even after many years in the business;
  • Why Pierce Brosnan wasn't allowed to leave "Remington Steele" to play James Bond;
  • Some of the other TV series and movies in which she played moms.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Previously on Harris Online...

100 Years, 100 Shots

Some iconic images from a century of movies. Edited by Jacob Swinney, this montage debuted a few nights ago at the Tribeca Film Festival. If you can't identify all of them, he's posted the master list here.

Monday, April 18, 2016

St. Maarten


Thirty years ago, my wife and I went on our first Caribbean vacation, which turned out to be kind of eventful.

We arrived at a nice little resort in St. Maarten in the evening after dark. We unpacked, had some dinner, and went to bed. When we awoke, we opened the curtains and couldn't believe how beautiful the beach and ocean looked. As we walked down the beach towards the resort's restaurant, another tourist passing us said good morning, then made a comment about the space shuttle going up that morning. Or at least that's what I thought he said until my wife turned and asked, "Did he say the space shuttle blew up this morning?"

We rushed back to the room and put on CNN, then sat there for at least an hour transfixed by the horror of the Challenger explosion story. Finally, we tore ourselves away to get something to eat and spend some time on the beach. At the time, there was no internet, no cell phones, no other source of information, so we went back to the room every couple of hours to see if there were any new developments in CNN's non-stop coverage.

We were only going to be on St. Maarten for three days, and were determined to make the most of it. I took scuba lessons and went on my first dive, stunned at the beauty of the undersea world with fish and coral I never knew existed. My wife didn't want to dive, but she went along on the boat, where we left her -- alone -- while the rest of the group dove into the sea. She'd brought a book and lay back in the sunshine, enjoying the solitude, although she later said the thought did cross her mind that she'd have no idea what to do and where to go if we never came back up, because there was no land in site from the dive location.

The only thing that marred the adventure for me was another rookie diver, who was so nervous that he breathed too much and too quickly, thus using up his oxygen in twenty minutes instead of the scheduled thirty, forcing the dive-master to bring us all back to the surface prematurely. But I really couldn't complain because I'd discovered a new world, and continued to scuba dive on many of our vacations over the next decade.

We walked to the nearby town of Philipsburg, where the streets were lined with stores targeting cruise ship tourists with expensive nonsense. We found an off-the-main-drag restaurant whose name I can't remember, but the food was delicious.

Speaking of food, we'd heard about a very upscale resort on the French side of the island called La Samanna. We'd read that people like Mick Jagger had bungalows there, and that the view of the ocean from the well-regarded restaurant was magnificent. So we took a cab there and requested a table with a great view, which we got. Both the meal and the view lived up to the hype, but I was in for a bit of a surprise when the check came and the total was $560. The blood drained from my face. Nothing else on this trip had been even remotely that expensive and, frankly, we didn't have that kind of money. I wondered how we'd run up such a huge bill with only two people having lunch and a couple of drinks.

My wife noticed my panic and asked what was wrong. I showed her the check and asked what we should do. She paused for a moment, then said we should inquire about the exchange rate. I was still too shocked to understand what she meant. She explained that on the French side, their currency was probably the franc, not the dollar (as it was on the Dutch side). Just then, the waiter came by, so she asked and he explained that there were eight francs to the US dollar. Quick math: 560 / 8 = $70. Phew! Pricy, but not heart-stopping.

That evening, after dinner, we found the resort's tiny casino, which had a couple dozen slot machines, two blackjack tables, and a roulette wheel. That's where my wife gambled for the first -- and last -- time in her life (a story which I told in detail here).

The next day, we went for a walk on the long beach, which was fronted by several resorts. We left ours, walked past a few others, then came to a rock wall that seemed odd. It wasn't very tall, but it ran the depth of the beach and into the ocean a bit, like a jetty. It was low tide, so we had no trouble walking around it and continuing on our way.

Once on the other side of the wall, however, we discovered quickly why it was there -- for privacy. Within five seconds, we realized that every other person on that portion of the beach was completely naked. We had stumbled upon a nude beach, where fantasy and reality collided. In your mind's eye, when you think of a nude beach, you may think of very attractive people of both sexes, in great shape, romping in the sand and water or maybe just lying on a towel sunbathing and applying lotion to their beautiful bodies. 

That's the fantasy. The reality, in the form of this gathering of random individuals, was living proof that not everyone should be walking around unclothed. Being shy people -- who own mirrors -- we knew that the latter group included us. Unfortunately, these several dozen people didn't have the same honest appraisals of themselves. Or maybe they did but didn't care. Whatever. 

We quickly withdrew to the other side of the rock jetty and headed back to our resort, having learned a valuable human lesson and in need of a shower, where I tried to scrub from my eyes the images I'd just taken in.

We kept to our beach the rest of the day, with occasional CNN breaks, and relaxed in the sunshine until it was time to head for the airport for our flight home. That concluded our first international trip together, but I'm happy to say it's been followed by many more in these three decades.

And on each of those, we have studiously avoided nude beaches.

Best Thing I've Read Today

Jamelle Bouie recognizes that Bernie Sanders' candidacy strongly resembles those of previous insurgent Democrats like George McGovern, Bill Bradley, and Howard Dean. Each of them ran campaigns that excited liberals, but couldn't expand beyond that base, and their impact waned quickly after they lost. However, Bouie says, Sanders' appeal to young voters could have a lasting effect that his predecessors couldn't pull off...

All the enthusiasm is there; it just needs to be cultivated and channeled into something durable. But that requires a sacrifice, of sorts. For as much as Sanders and his most vocal supporters identify themselves as outside the party system, the only way a real Sanders movement can make change is to take an active role within that system. Voting is too imprecise to send a message or make a statement, and withholding a vote does nothing to persuade or build influence. (Who in the Democratic Party solicits Ralph Nader for advice and aid?) Sanders supporters who want to move the Democratic Party to the ideological left need to become Sanders Democrats, political actors who participate in the system as it exists. To win a lasting victory—to define the ideological terms of Democratic Party politics—the people inspired by Sanders need to do more than beat the establishment; they need to become it.

Liberals and leftists will have to work with an eye toward the long-term, operating from the ground up to make ideological liberals a key power-broker in the party. If the Bernie Sanders effort shows anything, it’s that the odds are in their favor. The youngest, most active Democrats are more liberal than their older counterparts, and technology has advanced to the point where they can organize and raise money without relying on established power centers. Even if Bernie Sanders is just the inheritor of friendly demographic and technological trends, his success suggests a real opportunity for the liberals and leftists who back his campaign. They have the chance, if they want it, to channel their energy into a move to make the Democratic Party theirs, in the same way that conservatives—until the rise of Donald Trump, at least—took hold of the Republican Party.

The energy of the Sanders campaign will almost certainly fade away. But if the voters inspired by Sanders can gather their energy and become a part of the Democratic Party, they can win the influence they need to shift its direction in the long-term. And with their youth, they can play the long game, if they choose to.
Read Bouie's full piece here.

Joke Of The Day

As seen on Reddit...

Scientists recently did a study on the effects the right side and left side of a brain had on counting. They first took out the left half of a man's brain and asked him to count to 10. He said, "2, 4, 6, 8, 10".

They put the left half back in and removed the right half, asking him to count to 10 again. He said "1, 3, 5, 7, 9".

Finally they decided to just go for it and removed the whole brain. They again asked him to count to 10 one more time.

The man said, "Look. I'm great at counting to 10, ok? I love numbers and I have the best numbers. No one has better numbers than I do. My 4th grade math teacher -- and let me tell you, she was the best and smartest math teacher in the country at the time -- my 4th grade math teacher said to me that I am the best counter she's ever seen. The best. So if you want me to count to 10, let me tell you I can count to 10 alright. That's no problem. I will do it. I will. And I will do it better than any has ever done it before, ok?"

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Showbiz Show 4/15/16


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed three movies -- "The Jungle Book," "Barbershop: The Next Cut," and "Criminal" -- one of which ranks among the worst movies of the year. We also talked about texting in movie theaters, James Cameron's "Avatar" sequels, Ben Affleck taking the helm of the next "Batman" movie, and why Louis CK lost so much money on his pet project.

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

Harris Challenge 4/15/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include Sports and Politics, Tax History, and Taxing People. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 4/15/16


This edition of Knuckleheads In The News® includes stories about a flight attendant's slide, a stripper at a banquet, and a man texting himself. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®? Click here.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Forced Off The Air

I mentioned on my radio show this afternoon that I'd been tipped off that two veteran meteorologists -- Cindy Preszler and Mike Roberts -- have accepted buyouts from KSDK-TV-5 and would be leaving the station soon. Two hours later, at the end of their 6pm newscasts, they confirmed their last newscasts will be one week from today.

What wasn't said is that this is yet another example of local TV stations pushing aside staffers who have been there a long time and thus have large paychecks. Cindy has been with channel five for 18 years, while Mike has been there for 20. They've been making a nice salary with great benefits in a union shop and, instead of being respected as vital members of the on-air team, they're now viewed as commodities that are too expensive at a time when broadcast companies are cutting back.

A buyout might seem like a good deal, but only if they were planning on leaving the business entirely sometime soon. Cindy and Mike's skills aren't diminishing and they're popular enough with the audience to keep doing what they do for another decade. But the fiscal reality of local TV won't permit it. The station can hire people who are less than half their age and pay them a quarter of what they make.

This wasn't a complete surprise. KSDK's management announced a few months ago that it was offering these buyouts to employees over 55 because it wants to "make the news more interesting to younger audiences." I have no idea how you make weather more compelling to that demographic, but I'm sure we'll see a couple of twenty-somethings hired to take Cindy and Mike's place in an effort to do so.

The really bad news for them is that, if they weren't thinking about ending their TV careers soon, they now don't have many options. All of the other local outlets in St. Louis have gone the same younger (cheaper) route, hiring reporters and anchors who look like they were attending their prom a week ago. I think you can tell by the looks on Cindy and Mike's faces (and the tears) that this was not a voluntary move by these two longtime TV personalities...

Best Thing I've Read Today

Drew Magary thinks Donald Trump wants to lose a contested convention:

You don’t need to be some insane truther to believe that Trump’s entire campaign was a publicity stunt that has spiraled out of control. One of his former strategists has said as much. That crummy ground game of his? Not only is it a sign of laziness (and Trump is very lazy), but it’s also a clear signal that Trump never expected to get this far and probably didn’t want to. Trump is a ribbon cutter. He shows up for the Grand Opening, and then never returns. That’s his deal. He doesn’t do details.

Of course, Trump can’t drop out of the race now. He’s come too far and built up a visibly insane following that is, frankly, too loyal. He can’t quit without pissing those yahoos off. Do you know what they’ll DO to Trump if he quits? They’ll take his fucking scalp.

But if Trump loses at the convention? Oh, that’s perfect. Not only does chickenshit Trump get to slither out of the race, but he can spend the rest of his life bitching that he was “robbed” of the nomination while secretly relishing his getaway. Trump is always droning on and on about winning, but his obsession is merely with LOOKING like he’s a success and not actually BEING one. Winning is a branding exercise for him. If the Republican party pries the nomination out of his stubby, cocktail-frank fingers, he can say that he technically “won,” and then slip out the Quicken Loans Arena fire escape in disgust, leaving a mob of angry voters and tattered party platforms behind him.
Read Magary's full piece here.

Sebastian Maniscalco's Doorbell

Sebastian Maniscalco was featured on Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" a few months ago, but I never checked out his standup until my friend Ian told me about this bit, in which Maniscalco compares the way we react to someone ringing our doorbell today to how we handled it 20 years ago...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Worth A Listen

Here's an audio recommendation. David Steinberg, the comedian/writer/director who used to talk with other comedians on Showtime's "Inside Comedy," has taken the concept into the podcast world. As with the TV show, it's too bad they only run about a half-hour, but the conversations are wonderful.

His most recent episode, with "Everybody Loves Raymond" creator Phil Rosenthal, includes stories about the development of that show, but the best part is when David and Phil reminisce about TV projects they worked on that were disasters from the beginning. They each worked on sitcoms with two very good and talented dramatic actors who should never have been cast in anything comedic -- Faye Dunaway and Robert Mitchum.

If your eyebrows raised at the thought of that, wait until you hear David and Phil talk about it.


Previously on Harris Online...

Glass Ceiling

This parody commercial from Comedy Central needs no setup...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Feel-Good Story Of The Day

When the Montreal Orchestra heard about a violin being stolen from a homeless man who busks in Metro stations, they contacted a music shop owner and got him a brand new one.

Bernie


Despite being Hillary Clinton's friend of 50 years and former Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton, Robert Reich is a big supporter of Bernie Sanders. In the video above, he counters half a dozen arguments made by Sanders skeptics.

I think Reich is wrong on two points. First, it's rarely valid to put faith in any political poll more than six months before the election, yet Reich quotes surveys that say Sanders would do better against Trump or Cruz than Clinton would. There's too much that will change over the course of this year and too many political attack ads trying to sway public opinion, to be certain that the current poll numbers will hold. They may, they may not. After all, if Sanders believed that premature poll data were valid, he never would have run in the first place, because he was supposedly too far behind Clinton to have a chance -- and yet he's still around.

Secondly, Reich downplays the power of the word "socialist" by rightly pointing out that medicare, social security, public parks and schools, and lots of other things that are popular with Americans are actually "socialist" in nature. In fact, America's favorite sport, the NFL, should be considered "socialist" because it spreads its wealth (from TV rights) among its 32 teams evenly, so that a franchise in a little town named Green Bay gets the same amount a franchise in a big city like Chicago gets.

Unfortunately, the public is not attuned to "socialist" in those terms. To most Americans, "socialism" was what was practiced in the big bad Soviet Union, or Castro's Cuba, or any other place that was once considered evil. Most people think that "socialist" is exactly the same as "communist," a word that still carries strong negative connotations -- even though we all love those smartphones we're walking around which were made in a "communist" country called China.

Sanders refers to himself as a "democratic socialist," a reference to the economic system popular in many European countries that the US could learn a thing or two from. But that nuance has been (and will continue to be) lost on voters in this nation. And if Sanders becomes the Democrat nominee, every negative connotation of "socialist" will be pounded over and over again by the Republican attack machine.

None of this takes away from Sanders' enormous appeal. As someone more politically in tune with him than any of the others, I'm thrilled to see that a candidate who says what Sanders says has come this far and gotten the attention that he has. It's refreshing to see a believable, passionate man who (let's be honest) was until last year basically an asterisk in the Senate, finally getting a national stage to take on the plutocrats and corrupt power brokers. It's even more rewarding to see his ideas resonating with millions of Americans, and to see him succeed without taking PAC money.

However, I'm a realist, and in a world where super delegates decide nominees, I think it's only a matter of time before we Feel The Bern Out. My hope is that there are others who share Sanders' views who can pick up the ball and run with it in future elections, at every level, and keep alive the flame of popular revolt that he has ignited. And I hope he stays around long enough to continue inspiring people.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Led Zeppelin's Ripoff Riff Lawsuit

In February, I talked with Tim English, author of "Sounds Like Teen Spirit," a book about bands that have ripped off other people's rock riffs and used them in their own tunes. We played several samples of the originals and the copies, and he cited Led Zeppelin as the most frequent culprit.

Now, a lawsuit is charging that, in creating Led Zep's most famous tune, "Stairway To Heaven," Robert Plant and Jimmy Page stole riffs from the song "Taurus" by the band Spirit. That was one of the examples English and I dissected during our conversation, which you can listen to here.

The irony is that Led Zeppelin hasn't been sued for ripping off all those black blues artists whose tunes they appropriated along the way.

The Cabbies Fight Back


Last fall, I wrote about my pleasant experience using Uber in New York and Las Vegas. I wondered how the cab companies were going to fight back, other than their doomed efforts to keep Uber (and Lyft) out of more cities across the country.

In New York last week, I got my answer. The yellow cab companies have joined forces to work with two taxi-hailing apps, Way2Ride and Arro. They use the same concepts as the ride-sharing companies. After downloading, you create an account and enter your credit card info. Then, you simply hail a cab the same way you would Uber -- via the app, which then shows you the number of the taxi that's coming to pick you up, and a map indicating where it is in relation to you. When the ride is over, it's charged automatically to your card (with the option of adding a tip). You can also use the apps to pay for a ride when you hail a cab from the sidewalk the old-fashioned way.

The best thing about those taxi apps is that they don't do what Uber gets the most complaints about -- surge pricing, in which the cost of your ride goes up when demand is highest. So, during a rainy rush hour in Manhattan, when you don't want to get wet waiting for an available taxi and don't want to pay the increased cost of the surge price, you simply order a yellow cab to come pick you up at no extra charge. There's likely to be one a few minutes away.

Of course, using those apps means you're still getting into the back seat of a generic New York City taxi, complete with no leg room and the imposing bulletproof shield between you and the driver, as opposed to an Uber or Lyft driver's private car, which has undoubtedly seen a lot less wear and tear (and fewer stains).

New York is not the only place where cab companies are using tech to try to keep customers from using Uber/Lyft. In St. Louis, Laclede Cab has its own STL Taxi app with many of the same features. Other cities have their equivalents. It'll be interesting to see if they can fight off the disruption over the next year or two.

Hopefully, in the end, the competition will be good for customers, especially if you're still getting where you need to go while saving a few bucks.

I Forgot These Rotten Things


That's Tony-winner Christian Borle as William Shakespeare in "Something Rotten," in a performance at the White House that reminds me of Tim Curry.

I'm returning to "Something Rotten" because in writing about it yesterday, I mentioned how the show pokes fun at other musicals, but I neglected to mention that its creators had never created a Broadway show themselves. However, they have quite a collective resume. According to Playbill:
  • Wayne Kirkpatrick (music and lyrics) won a Song Of The Year Grammy for "Change The World" by Eric Clapton. He's also written top-ten singles for Garth Brooks and Amy Grant, plus other songs for Bonnie Raitt, Joe Cocker, Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood, and Peter Frampton.
  • His brother Karey Kirkpatrick (book, music, and lyrics) used to work at Disney Animation, where he wrote the screenplays for "James and the Giant Peach" and "The Rescuers Down Under." His other credits include "Chicken Run," "Charlotte's Web," and "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy."
  • John O'Farrell (book) has written several novels and non-fiction books that have been translated into 25 languages, in addition to several TV and film scripts.
  • The show does have one huge Broadway connection in Tony Award-winning director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw, who also oversaw "Aladdin," "The Book Of Mormon," "The Drowsy Chaperone," and the dancing in "Spamalot" (directed by Mike Nichols).
That's an impressive roster of credits all around.

One more thing about "Something Rotten." The fun it has at the expense of both The Bard and Broadway musicals is very much in the spirit of the shows The Reduced Shakespeare Company performs all over the country. In fact, on his RSC podcast, my friend Austin Tichenor interviewed Brad Oscar, Heidi Blickenstaff, and John Cariani about how they were cast in "Something Rotten," how the show changed during rehearsals, and how difficult it is to make it through a performance without cracking up themselves.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Theater Times Two


I spent last week in New York, visiting my mother and daughter and taking in a couple of Broadway shows that could not be more dissimilar -- a stunning drama and an out-and-out musical farce.

The drama was David Harrower's "Blackbird," starring Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams. It's the story of a woman in her mid-20s, Una, who shows up to confront Ray, the now fifty-something man who had sex with her when she was 12. Since then, he's done prison time for the crime, changed his name, and started a new life. When Una re-appears at his place of work, Ray is freaked out as he ushers her into the lunchroom, away from his colleagues, to find out what she wants.

Over the next 90 minutes, Daniels and Williams give intensely powerful performances that leave them -- and us -- emotionally exhausted. Daniels is terrific as Ray -- he played the role in its off-Broadway premiere in 2007 -- but it's Williams that blew me away. In a soliloquy about two-thirds of the way through, as Una remembers the night she spent with Ray in an out-of-the-way motel and the sequence of events that followed, Williams stands still and -- with a subtle lighting change by director Joe Mantello -- gives a master class in acting as Daniels sits, unmoving, watching her.

That's one of the reasons I go to live theater, for moments like that, for performances that drain everything the actor has and stories that you can't look away from. I had the same feeling walking out of the Belasco Theater that I had at the end of the movie "Room," which could almost serve as a prequel to "Blackbird."

Afterwards, a woman in the row ahead of me commented, "I have no idea how they can do that 8 times a week." Neither do I. I also can't imagine the challenge for the next actors to take on Una and Ray. They'll have an impossible task in matching what Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams are doing.

The other show was "Something Rotten," a musical that's not nearly as intense, but still wonderful. Brian D'Arcy James (a Broadway veteran who was also one of the reporters in the Oscar-winning "Spotlight") plays Nick Bottom, an English playwright who is William Shakespeare's rival in 1595 London. When he and his brother Nigel (John Cariani) can't come up with a great new play, Nick finds a soothsayer (Brad Oscar) who can look into the future and see the details of both Shakespeare's biggest play and what will be successful on stage many years from now -- musicals.

From there on, it's a parody of all things theatrical, with name-dropping and references to some of the most famous shows of all time -- along with a love story, an uptight religious figure, and lots of singing and dancing. It's clever as hell, without a weak moment from start to finish.

In the same vein as "Spamalot" and "The Producers" (both of which Brad Oscar appeared in, and both of which lovingly poked fun at their Broadway predecessors), "Something Rotten" is destined to become one of the most-produced crowd-pleasing shows across the country. Its national tour will begin in 2017 (it's already booked for the Fox Theatre in St. Louis for February).

Here's an abridged version of the show's big number, with visual cues as to which other musicals "Something Rotten" winks at...

A Remarkable Return


As someone who grew up with the US space program -- when that only meant NASA -- I was blown away by the accomplishment of Elon Musk's SpaceX crew on Friday.

They sent a Falcon 9 rocket to rendezvous with the International Space Station, but even more impressively, they managed to get the first stage of the rocket (the part that provides enough lift to get it off the launch pad and into space) to separate, return to Earth, and land upright on a barge in the ocean. The video above looks like you're watching a takeoff in reverse, but that's the image from the live feed as the first stage gently returns to a stable vertical position on the platform.

This means that, for the first time ever, there's such a thing as a reusable rocket -- a much less expensive option than having to build a new one from scratch because the previous one landed in the water and was lost forever. After more than five decades, SpaceX just changed the rocket business. Impressive.

In his Slate column, Phil Plait explains the science behind this achievement.

All The President's Men At 40


Michael Cavna of The Washington Post takes a four-decades-later look back at "All The President's Men," the best movie ever about newspaper journalism (last year, "Spotlight" became the second-best in that category), with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein naming their favorite scenes, and a breakdown of Alan J. Pakula's direction and Gordon Willis' cinematography. Still brilliant.

Worth A Link

  • Earl Burton argues that The Beach Boys, Madonna, Donovan, Bill Withers, and new inductee Steve Miller never deserved to be in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Here's his argument, and the acts he thinks deserve a spot instead.
  • In the wake of New York and California raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, here's evidence that 80% of business executives favor similar increases across the country.
  • TV producer Rob Long weighs in on, well, the weight problems of TV stars, including Amy Schumer's recent dust-up with Glamour magazine.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

If Trump Becomes President

Check out the Boston Globe's parody of its own front page one year from now.

Creepiest Story Of The Day


Ricky Ma, an inventor in Hong Kong, has built a robot and made it look like Scarlett Johansson.

Let me re-phrase that: an inventor has made himself a sex toy that looks like Scarlett Johannson.

Don't believe me? Take a look at how he has dressed it, the shape he has its hand form, and how he acts around it. Also note that the robot isn't built to do anything else, and can't really interact with him beyond a few canned responses.

I'm guessing that Ma has watched the movie "Ex Machina" several times and thought, "I can build one of those." The sex toy robot at the center of that story was played by Alicia Vikander, but Ma must be obsessed with Johansson who -- not coincidentally -- provided the voice of the computer operating system in the movie "Her."

It's said that porn is what pushes a lot of technology forward. The VHS tape didn't take off until the XXX movie industry embraced it as the preferred format, allowing guys to enjoy "adult" movies in the privacy of their own homes. Now that so much of that stuff is available online, the subject is consistently one of the top requests on Google and other search engines. The producers of that content are now making interactive products for the burgeoning virtual reality marketplace.

Ms. Johansson is unlikely to be flattered by her role in advancing the cause of robotics, but it could be worse. Once Donald Trump hears about this, he'll have one made that looks just like him.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Showbiz Show 4/8/16


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I discussed Melissa McCarthy in "The Boss," the new "Star Wars: Rogue One" trailer, the box office problems of "Batman v. Superman," and the movie streaming service The Screening Room. We also talked about the series finale (?) of "American Idol" and why the show's popularity dropped so much in recent years.

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

Harris Challenge 4/8/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include Could Be Willie Could Be Nelson, That Is Gross, and Where Was That? Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 4/8/16


This edition of Knuckleheads In The News® includes stories about a man named Weed, an Uber hijacking, and a very dry suspect. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®? Click here.

Friday, April 08, 2016

The Establishment Shuffle

In 1985, the Chicago Bears released a novelty song and video, "The Super Bowl Shuffle," which featured the team's stars singing a rather lame rap tune, most of them struggling to find anything close to the melody. But it became a hit and got lots of airplay.

Last weekend, "Saturday Night Live" produced -- but didn't air -- this updated version, which features Republican leaders (instead of NFLers) doing "The Establishment Shuffle." It's well done, but I'm guessing the reason it didn't make the final show is that SNL's target demo wouldn't know the three-decade-old reference...

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Worth A Link

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Will Durst On Trump

The latest from my friend Will Durst...

Go ahead, exhale a deep sigh of relief because our long national nightmare could very well be over. Yes, dear friends, Donald Trump might have bitten off more than he can chew and we may be mere moments away from combing him out of our hair for good. Then throw away the comb. 

And indeed, we’ve heard this refrain a couple of hundred times already, but finally the aerodynamically-coiffed real estate developer may actually have gone too far. Even for him. Which apparently is… light years far. A galaxy far far away far. Go to eternity and take a left, far. 

Up to now, Trump has doubled down on his outrageous statement no matter who he insulted: Mexicans, women, Congressional Medal of Honor winners, people who prefer vinegar-based coleslaw, and it always worked out. He even got in a fight with the Pope. This Pope; the good Pope. Not the former Nazi Pope. 

In January Trump even bragged he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn’t lose voters.” But the conceit of that remark involved the shooting of other people, and he’s since spent the time shooting himself. In the foot. And the mouth. With his small hands. 

These missteps could be described as jumping the shark. Over-sprayed his tan. The follicle that broke the camel’s back. Forced to wear the wrong hat. Inadvertently fired his daughter. Whatever is a bad thing for him, he did it. Repeatedly. 

In response to a Chris Mathews question about abortion at a Wisconsin Town Hall, Trump said that women who had the procedure should be punished. And immediately both the Pro-Choice and Anti-Choice movements landed on him faster than greased beach balls filled with sand slide down a ski jump. See, he does bring people together. He is a uniter, not a divider or a multiplier. 

It is uncanny how consistently Mister Trump manages to annoy women. Someone on his staff needs to remind him they can vote too now. And that person should probably be somebody other than campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. 

Trump’s approval rating amongst America’s y-chromosome challenged citizenry is right below hot coals on your genitals and slightly above knitting needles in your ears. Suddenly, he reminds every woman in America of her first husband. Who was biologically incapable of apologizing. 

His competition for the GOP nomination also attacked his make-it-up as he goes along, public-policy theories, but they’re treading a fine line here, because Republicans have been responsible for consistently carving away the edges of women’s health care. And prosecution is a logical extension of their legislation creep. Until they reach their ultimate goal of a 9 month waiting period. 

Wail all they want, Trump isn’t damaging the GOP as much as he’s lifting the rocks they’ve been hiding under. Everything he says is a megaphone version of the whisper they’ve spent decades perfecting. He’s taken the dog out of dog whistle. 

The question is: will this major gaffe precipitate the meltdown we’ve all been waiting for, or is The Donald truly a political cockroach able to survive anything, including a nuclear war on women? It would certainly explain the hard protective shell on the top of his head masquerading as hair. Very Kafkaesque.

Copyright © 2016, Will Durst. Will Durst is an award- winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comedian and former part owner of the Crummies sandwich shop. For sample videos and a calendar of personal appearances including his new one- man show, Elect to Laugh: 2016, appearing every Tuesday at the San Francisco Marsh, go to willdurst.com