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

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Movie Review: Weiner

While watching Josh Kreigman and Elyse Steiner's documentary "Weiner," I kept asking, "Why?"

The movie is the story of Weiner's attempt at a comeback after resigning from Congress (7 terms) because he sent pictures of his junk to several women. As he runs for mayor of New York, we see him trying to convince people to give him a second chance through the ups and downs of campaigning, raising money, and battling the tabloid press (which loves the story of his sexting alter ego, "Carlos Danger"). We've rarely seen someone in the midst of a scandal from this point of view.

But why would Anthony Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, allow cameras to capture the lowest moments of their personal -- and his professional -- life?

He relishes the fight, but it’s very tough to watch Abedin suffering. At one point, one of the documentarians asks her how she’s doing and she replies, “It’s like living a nightmare.” As a top aide to Hillary Clinton, she knows none of this is good politically. Her sorrow and disgust make it clear she regrets allowing cameras into her home and her life.

Meanwhile, he is too feisty and short-tempered for his own good, and doesn’t know when to keep quiet or back down. There's a scene where he's talking with some New Yorkers in a bakery, and it hasn't gone well, so he's leaving. He's through the door and only a few steps away from the car that will whisk him away when someone says something ugly about him. Weiner doesn't have the political discipline to simply get in the vehicle and get out of there. Instead, he turns and confronts the man face-to-face. It's not pretty and the cameras -- from both the movie and the local TV stations -- capture the whole thing.

There's even an appearance by Sydney Leathers, Weiner's sexting and phone sex partner who exploited her 15 minutes of fame with a sex tape.

In the end -- as the negativity about the man and his campaign mounts -- even the documentarians can’t believe Weiner allowed them to film all of this. But I'm glad they did.

I give "Weiner" a 9 out of 10.

Best Thing I've Read Today

Paul Krugman thinks coverage of this presidential election has focused too much on the horse race and not enough on the substance, thus giving people the wrong impression about the current status of who's winning and why...

At a certain point you have to stop reporting about the race for a party’s nomination as if it’s mainly about narrative and “momentum.” That may be true at an early stage, when candidates are competing for credibility and dollars. Eventually, however, it all becomes a simple, concrete matter of delegate counts.

That’s why Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee; she locked it up over a month ago with her big Mid-Atlantic wins, leaving Bernie Sanders no way to overtake her without gigantic, implausible landslides — winning two-thirds of the vote! — in states with large nonwhite populations, which have supported Mrs. Clinton by huge margins throughout the campaign.

And no, saying that the race is effectively over isn’t somehow aiding a nefarious plot to shut it down by prematurely declaring victory. Nate Silver recently summed it up: “Clinton ‘strategy’ is to persuade more ‘people’ to ‘vote’ for her, hence producing ‘majority’ of ‘delegates.’” You may think those people chose the wrong candidate, but choose her they did.
Read Krugman's full piece here.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Stairway To Beatles

The Beatnix, an Australian Beatles tribute band, performs "Stairway To Heaven" with a Fab Four arrangement on the TV show "The Money Or The Gun" in the early 1990s...

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Picture Of The Day

In my house, when there's a major tennis tournament on TV, my wife takes control of the DVR. So, during the French Open, there have been a lot of hours of singles matches recorded and viewed. Still, neither of us saw this one, which included three unbelievable points...

Showbiz Show 5/27/16

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "X-Men: Apocalypse," "The Nice Guys," and the documentary "Weiner." We also discussed the new season of "Bloodline" (which debuts on Netflix today) and more movie/showbiz news.

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

Knuckleheads In The News® 5/27/16

This edition of Knuckleheads In The News® includes stories about a blowtorched squirrel, an abandoned Flintstones car, and yet another guy stuck in a chimney. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®? Click here.

Harris Challenge 5/27/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include A Day Of Memorials, X-Men And Women, and It Happened In May. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Amanda Marcotte on Bernie, Hillary, and Trump

A few days ago, I posted a link to Amanda Marcotte's column, in which she says Bernie Sanders has to drop the notion that everyone who disagrees with him is corrupt or a dupe. I liked it so much that I invited Amanda to discuss it on my radio show. We also delved into whether Hillary Clinton's e-mail problem will cost her any votes, why Sanders' getting a role in developing the Democrat platform doesn't mean much, and why Donald Trump was never going to debate Sanders (despite what he told Jimmy Kimmel).

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

Kavin Senapathy, March Against Myths

Several cities had Marches Against Monsanto last weekend, but in more than a dozen of them, they were met from people from March Against Myths, who were there to spread facts and debunk lies about GMOs. I support groups that fight back against anti-science and pseudo-science nonsense, so I invited March Against Myths co-founder and Forbes columnist Kavin Senapathy, who calls herself a quack-fighting mom and science advocate, to discuss how their counter-protests went and the reaction they received.

We also talked about whether food containing GMOs should be labelled as such, how anti-Monsanto protestors are like anti-vaxxers, and how the biggest problem is that most people don't understand what GMOs are.

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

Previously on Harris Online...

The Truth About Self-Driving Cars

Over the last few years, we've heard claims that we're very close to having self-driving cars. Several of the big automakers are investing in Uber and Lyft in hopes of developing robotic vehicles that can transport us -- and companies like Google continue to do research into autonomous vehicles. But my guest Steven Shladover, head of Partners for Advance Transportation Technology at UC/Berkeley, said in a Scientific American piece that while self-driving cars may be coming, they won't be in the way you've been led to think. Among the questions I asked him:

  • Do automated cars have trouble with unpredictable road problems like construction, a parked car pulling out, and severe weather?
  • Will we ever get to the point where we don’t even have to own cars, just order a robot driver?
  • Siri doesn’t always understand voice commands — what if self-driving car's computer doesn’t?
  • Is this a software problem?
  • Are humans better than computers at driving?
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

John Opdycke, Open Primaries

John Opdycke is president of Open Primaries, a group that wants to force the Democrats and Republicans to allow everyone to vote in their primaries, rather than the closed system that's been in place for years. I asked him why it would make a difference, how he's going to get them to change a system that keeps them in power, and whether such reform would have more impact on presidential or statewide primaries.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Picture Of The Day

Serena Williams does some trick tennis shots with a bunch of YouTube guys. Whenever I see shots like this, I wonder how many takes it took to get each one...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Best Thing I've Read Today

Amanda Marcotte says Bernie Sanders has to drop the notion that everyone who disagrees with him is corrupt or a dupe:

The fact of the matter is that Sanders has been campaigning for nearly 13 months now. He not only had a chance to make his pitch, but he had a chance to make it to the most sympathetic audience possible: Democrats, who already lean left and are far more open to the concept of socialism than the country as a whole.

Democratic voters had months to hear and consider his theory of change, and the majority of them voted for Hillary Clinton anyway. At a certain point, one has to consider the possibility that she just had a more appealing pitch to the voters.

But Sanders seems unwilling to admit this, instead resorting to insinuations that the game has been rigged against him.
Marcotte concludes:
In reality, most people who disagree with Sanders are not bamboozled or corrupt. In most cases, they simply have different priorities or values. Republican voters aren’t being tricked by the Republican party into voting against their own self-interests. If the party was that good at manipulating the voters, it’s impossible to imagine Trump would be the nominee. No, they really are conservative and put a value on maintaining racial and social hierarchies over policies that would improve their economic wellbeing.

Nor are Democrats somehow cheating some silent majority of socialists out of the nominee of their choice. Sanders had a chance — he even outspent Clinton for most of the primary race — and the voters just had more faith in Clinton’s theory of political change. If Sanders is as big an advocate for the people as he claims to be, he really should work harder at respecting their intelligence.
I'll talk this over with Marcotte this Thursday at 10am on KTRS. Meanwhile, read her full piece here.

All The Way

I saw Bryan Cranston as LBJ on "All The Way" on Broadway a couple of years ago and walked out astounded at his talent. Here's what I wrote at the time:
Cranston plays Lyndon Johnson from shortly after he became president in November, 1963, until he was elected to his own full term in November, 1964. The centerpiece of that year was the Civil Rights Act, which Johnson cajoled through Congress. The political resistance came from within his own party, as the racist South (the so-called Dixiecrats like Dick Russell, Strom Thurmond, and Robert Byrd) lined up against him on one side while civil rights leaders (like Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, and Stokely Carmichael) tugged from the other.

The actors portraying those men, as well as the women who play LadyBird Johnson and others, plus Michael McKean as J. Edgar Hoover, all give solid performances, but it is Cranston's energy that drives the show. He's on stage for virtually the entire three hours, and his LBJ is in constant motion, even when sitting down. It's a powerful, densely verbose performance that must leave him drained nightly.

There were a couple of times where I thought I heard echoes of Walter White, another Cranston character who didn't suffer fools gladly and used his wits to stay one step ahead of his opponents. Many in the audience were no doubt drawn to "All The Way" because they knew Cranston's talents from his years on "Breaking Bad" -- and wanted to see him play LBJ as The President Who Knocks. Whether it's his celebrity or the 50th anniversary of the civil rights act that's putting them in the seats, they end up with a helluva history lesson.
Now, that production has been turned into an HBO movie, which debuted Saturday night, and it's even better. Opening up the story from the confines of the stage allows director Jay Roach -- who also did the brilliant "Recount" and "Game Change" -- to provide a bigger canvas for Cranston and his co-stars (Bradley Whitford, Frank Langella, Anthony Mackie, Melissa Leo, Stephen Root, Joe Morton), and they take full advantage of it.

While Johnson was rightly demonized for the Vietnam War -- "All The Way" includes a couple of scenes about the Gulf Of Tonkin lie that escalated US involvement and led to tens of thousands of soldiers' deaths -- his legacy also has to include his Great Society agenda of medicare, the Peace Corps, the immigration act, the national endowment for arts and humanities, and especially the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Ironically, his successes came at a cost, as the Democrats lost the racist south due to the latter two pieces of legislation. I'd bet that many viewers who don't know their history will be surprised to see that it was Dems who were the segregationists of that era. Today, those former Dixiecrats make up most of the Republican base. They're probably also shocked to see that a Democrat president was able to cajole GOP members of Congress to join him in getting things done.

As it did on the Broadway stage, the television version of "All The Way" serves as an important history lesson and a terrific piece of entertainment. If you missed it this weekend, look for it all month on HBO.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Graduate

When I was a kid, I saw my first major league baseball game in Yankee Stadium. I saw my first NFL game there, too, because it was the New York Giants' home field.

In 1985, when I was doing mornings for NBC's flagship FM station in New York, one of the women in the Yankees front office was a regular listener who invited me to come to a game. I went with a friend and was shocked between innings to look up and see "The Yankees Welcome Paul Harris Of 97 WYNY!" on the scoreboard.

Each of those events happened in the old House That Ruth Built, but last week I went to the new Yankee Stadium for a much more important ceremony -- my daughter's graduation from New York University. Thirty thousand of us filled the seats to watch the pomp and circumstance, the speeches, the honorary degrees for Billy Crystal and Congressman John Lewis, and the excitement of all those new graduates in violet robes.

The next day, we attended the smaller commencement for Gallatin, her school within NYU, at David Geffen Hall -- which used to be called Avery Fisher Hall, and before that Philharmonic Hall, where my parents took me to see Leonard Bernstein conduct Young People's Orchestra concerts fifty years ago.

My mind was flooded with circle-of-life thoughts, not just because of my history with the buildings, but because NYU is where my father got his doctorate and my brother got his law degree. Unlike them, however, she's not a native New Yorker -- having been born in Virginia and grown up in Missouri -- so she's the first in my family to graduate from an out-of-state college.

My wife and I started saving for our daughter's college education almost from the beginning, and it seems like not so long ago that I was driving her around several states looking at universities she might want to attend. For twenty years, starting in pre-school, we've been very involved with all aspects of her education, because we know how important it is to her future. Now, our jobs are mostly done, and we have to sit back and see what path she follows.

I'm still coming to terms with it, but I certainly couldn't be prouder of what she's accomplished and the smart, independent woman she's become. I can't wait to see what she'll do next as she fills in her own circle of life.

Movie Review: The Nice Guys

A good buddy action comedy starts with one important element: chemistry. Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy had it in "48 Hours." So did Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines in "Running Scared," Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin in "Midnight Run," and even Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in the first "Rush Hour."

In "The Nice Guys," the chemistry between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling is more along the lines of Jay Leno and Pat Morita in "Collision Course." In other words, no chemistry at all. Shane Black, who wrote and directed "The Nice Guys," should know better, considering he had Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in "Lethal Weapon."

"The Nice Guys" takes place in the late 1970s, which means a soundtrack full of disco dreck and wardrobe choices from The Polyester Institute. The plot starts with porn star Misty Mountains dying in a crash where she is thrown from the car with her shirt open, breasts exposed for no reason. Soon Gosling (as a private eye) and Crowe (as a guy who essentially goes around hitting people) get involved and the story bogs down with a missing woman and her connection to LA's dense smog and the auto industry.

I get the feeling Black was trying to develop something along the lines of Robert Towne's "Chinatown," where the story matters less than the personalities of the protagonists as they try to unravel whatever the hell is going on. Unfortunately, Gosling and Crowe's timing is awful and their characters' personalities so uninteresting that they can't overcome the cumbersome plot.

Oh, "The Nice Guys" also isn't funny. So what is it? A mess. How else can you explain Black's choices to put Russell Crowe with a fat gut in a Hawaiian shirt or have Ryan Gosling do a Lou Costello impression next to a dead body for absolutely no reason?

Do yourself a favor and skip "The Nice Guys." Instead, spend your movie dollars on a buddy action comedy that works -- Key and Peele in "Keanu."

I give "The Nice Guys" a 4 out of 10.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Best Thing I've Read Today

In his Scientific American column, David Pogue sees the changes coming when self-driving cars become a popular reality:
Yes, self-driving cars are revolutionary. But on-demand driverless cars? The changes would be so massive and fast and global, there's almost nothing about daily transportation that wouldn't change—mostly for the better. 
Inexpensive robotic rides would mean there would be no particular reason to own a car. You wouldn't have to buy one, maintain it, gas it up. You'd never be late because you had to push the snow off the windshield or shovel your driveway. 
When you get into a robo-car, you won't have to wait for it to heat up in the winter (or cool down in summer). You'll never have to hunt for a parking space; the car will drop you at the entrance of your destination, then zoom away. 
All the societal constructs designed to defend against lousy driving skills—speed limits, speeding tickets, guardrails, even car insurance—might become unnecessary. 
Similarly, who will need driver's ed or a driver's license? Twelve-year-olds will get their own rides home from sleepovers. And it won't matter if you (or your parents) are too old, frail or disabled to drive; millions of homebound Americans will suddenly be liberated. 
Drunk driving? No longer a problem; if you're not doing the driving, drink up! Feeling sleepy on your long drive? Your robo-Uber car can drive through the night as you nap. And teenagers? Text away! 
Read Pogue's full column here. 

The Lederer Apology

When my Final Table Poker Radio show ended in 2012, Howard Lederer hadn’t apologized for the Full Tilt Poker debacle, which left millions of poker players hanging. Now he has, via Daniel Negreanu, who offers his thoughts, as well. 

Meanwhile, we're still waiting to hear similar words from Lederer's sister, Annie Duke, for her role in promoting Ultimate Bet and the Epic Poker League.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Over Three Decades Of Whiskers

As I looked in the mirror this morning, I realized that I haven't been clean-shaven for 35 years -- which means my wife has never seen me without a beard. In fact, she insists that I never cut it off.

The last time I was whisker-free was when I was fired from my first radio job at WRCN/Long Island in April, 1981. I had never gotten into the habit of shaving before that, sporting a beard from whenever it started growing in high school. But that day, I was so upset at losing the job I'd held for three years that I went home and shaved it all off.

That lasted two weeks. I couldn't stand the drudgery of shaving every day -- which I had to do, because my beard was coming in dark and quickly (which sounds like a line from a bad crime novel). So, I let it grow back while looking for another job, and by the time I'd settled in as the nighttime jock at WHCN/Hartford a month later, it was as if I'd never cut it off in the first place.

A couple of years later, I moved to morning drive, and that's when the value of the beard really became apparent. I was getting up at 4:30am, and didn't want to give up any more valuable sleep just to make my cheeks hairless. It was the same policy I applied for the next 15 years of doing morning radio, similar to choosing to live close to the radio station -- after all, every mile away was another minute of dreamland I had to sacrifice.

In all my bearded years, I have always kept it close-cropped. I can't have a big overgrown mustache, because I can't stand the feeling of whiskers going up my nose, so a simple trim twice a week keeps things clean and manageable. I don't want to grow it out like a member of ZZ Top because it's too much maintenance. I couldn't do a poorly maintained beard because I've seen too many guys with long, mangy, dirty beards stained by cigarettes or with flecks of leftover food in them. Disgusting. In college, I had one suite-mate whose beard was so unkempt that he once found a loose joint in there -- while showering.

There was a point in my career when I thought I wouldn't get a job because I had a beard. It was the late 1990s, and WMAL/Washington wanted me to be the primary fill-in personality. In drive-time, there were two hosts on each show, and they'd all been there so long that they'd each accrued about 8 weeks of vacation each year. Add in another month of relief for the evening host, and it amounted to lots of airtime -- in a union shop for good money.

There was only one problem. WMAL had been owned by ABC, which was bought by Capital Cities, which was then swallowed up by Disney. That corporation had a policy of no facial hair for "cast members." It was ironic that the rule had been started in 1955 by Walt Disney, who had a mustache, but wouldn't allow anyone else who appeared in public on behalf of his company to have one. It's said that he did it to differentiate his theme parks from traveling carnivals by making his employees look cleaner and whisker-free -- it was all about image, and it extended to the broadcast arm of ABC. That policy wasn't changed until the early 2000s, when Disney started allowing mustaches, and then again in 2012, when it okayed beards and goatees.

So, how could WMAL hire me in 1998? Would I have to shave my facial hair off? I asked the program director, John Butler, whose response was perfect: "As far as I'm concerned, you're not appearing in public, you're just hosting a radio show, so no one will know." Of course, I'd been in the DC market for a dozen years and most of the town knew what I looked like from TV commercials, print ads, and hundreds of personal appearances. But when it came to Disney hierarchy, his attitude was Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

So I didn't. The beard remained in place -- and still does.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Poker Loans

If you lend a poker player $20,000, you will always get your money back.
But if you lend him $20, you'll never see it again.

That truism popped into my head the other night when several people around the table started talking about lending money to other poker players. Over the years, I have lent money to a few friends in casinos and, fortunately, I've always been repaid in full. I had one guy who stiffed me for a couple hundred bucks for several months -- the fact that he owed me money didn't stop him from buying in to games when he knew I wasn't around -- but even that eventually came home. Since then, I've only handed over some cash to people who I absolutely know are good for it and will return it within a reasonable amount of time.

The other thing that occurs to me every time the topic comes up is this joke. I don't know who originated it, so I can't give attribution, but present it for your enjoyment nonetheless.
A homeless guy walks up to a man on the street and asks if he can spare a few dollars. The man rebuffs him, saying, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be. That's Shakespeare." To which the homeless guy replies, "Oh, yeah? Fuck you! That's David Mamet!"
There's also my all-time favorite true story about lending money to a poker player, which I told in a post called "The Borrower," which Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck liked so much they used in their gambling movie "Mississippi Grind." Read it here.

Movie Review: Money Monster

I'm disappointed that other movie reviewers are dissing "Money Monster," the new George Clooney/Julia Roberts film directed by Jodie Foster. I think they were expecting another "The Big Short," and instead got a nice piece of movie entertainment that doesn't hit you over the head with revelations about the financial world, but does leave you with a smile on your face. And the audience I saw it with enjoyed it a lot, too.

In "Money Monster," Clooney plays Lee Gates, a Jim Cramer-like host of a TV stock-picking hour, complete with sound effects, garish graphics, and two dancers who help him open each show. It's goofball financial advice played for ratings, not reality. On this particular day, Lee's show is interrupted by Kyle (Jack O’Connell, who played Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's “Unbroken”), a delivery man who lost his nest egg on Ibis Financial, which Lee had told his audience was better than putting your money in a bank. He pulls out a gun, makes Lee put on a bomb vest, and holds him hostage while his producer/director Patty (Roberts) and the crew broadcast the scene to their live TV audience. That begins the adventure that plays out over the 95 minutes of the movie (a perfect running time, by the way).

Roberts and Clooney are not on screen together very much, but she's in his head via his earpiece a la Holly Hunter and William Hurt in "Broadcast News." My wife, who used to work in TV news control rooms, says Foster gets those scenes right, and adds the right amount of humor to lighten up the tension.

As I said, "Money Monster" is not really a statement about the stock market being rigged, but an indictment of pundits on financial news networks telling you which stocks to buy and sell or which funds to invest in — with no accountability for the predictions -- and the hedge fund managers who manipulate them. It also says some interesting things about the relationship between Clooney's character and his audience, and the voyeur-ish habits of the public.

So what if "Money Monster" isn't "The Big Short" or "Broadcast News" or "Dog Day Afternoon"? That's a very high standard to compare this bit of entertainment to. Instead, just go and enjoy the fun of watching Clooney, Roberts, O'Connell, and a good supporting cast including Dennis Boutsikaris and Giancarlo Esposito.

I give it an 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Best Thing I've Read Today

I love this story about the guy who took a "Grotesque Face Jug" to be appraised on the PBS show "Antiques Roadshow," and the expert appraiser, Stephen Fletcher, loaded up the bullshit wagon like an 8th grader finishing an essay that's due in five minutes:
Fletcher: There are grotesque face jugs out there.. .. When we turn this around, there's a whole variety of, well, characters, and this particular person looks like he had an eye injury. They've stitched his eye closed. They all have very distinctive characters or personalities. This person speaks with a forked tongue, it would seem. There's a little damage here and there. For example, this particular face looks like his tongue was stuck out at us. So we've been spared that. When we look at the base clay, it's red ware, and the potter has used an impressive array of techniques to come up with this extraordinary texture. This, in its own way, is really over the top. It's bizarre and wonderful. You even see a little bit of, like, Pablo Picasso going on here. It's a little difficult to identify precisely when this was made, but I think it's probably late 19th or early 20th century… Probably its origin, it's coast of the United States, maybe Middle Atlantic states headed southward. Estimating its value is a little difficult. I think in a retail setting, somebody might well ask in the area of between $30,000 and $50,000 for this.
Well, not quite. The thing turned out to be a high school art project from the 1970s, not an antique.

Read Elliot Hannon's full story here.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Clint Hill, "Five Presidents"

Clint Hill was a Secret Service agent for 17 years, helping to protect Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. He writes about his experiences in a new book, “Five Presidents,” and joined me to talk about it. Among the topics we covered:
  • The day Elvis Presley showed up at the White House to request a meeting with President Richard Nixon;
  • Nixon’s weird early-morning trip to the Lincoln Memorial during a massive anti-war protest;
  • The challenge of protecting LBJ in 1968 after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy;
  • Dealing with a group of students who staged a sit-in inside the White House in 1964;
  • How Hill overcame the massive grief and guilt he felt about not stopping the assassination of President John Kennedy.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Clint Hill will appear at the Missouri History Museum on Thursday night, May 19th, to discuss, sign, and sell copies of his book, "Five Presidents."

Showbiz Show 5/13/16

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed George Clooney and Julia Roberts in "Money Monster" and Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons in "The Man Who Knew Infinity."

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

Harris Challenge 5/13/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include Friday The 13th, The Business Pages, and The International Desk. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 5/13/16

This edition of Knuckleheads In The News® includes stories about a bullet hole in a shirt, a spear vs. a drone, and why you shouldn't hold the door for a cop. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®? Click here.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Importance Of Voting

President Obama gave the commencement address at Howard University a few days ago and proved that he is still one helluva speaker. During one extended section, he spoke to the historically-black school's students about what they can do to help shape our collective future -- vote:
You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy. I'll repeat that. I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy. Not just awareness, but action. Not just hashtags, but votes.

You see, change requires more than righteous anger. It requires a program, and it requires organizing. At the 1964 Democratic Convention, Fannie Lou Hamer -- all five-feet-four-inches tall -- gave a fiery speech on the national stage. But then she went back home to Mississippi and organized cotton pickers. And she didn't have the tools and technology where you can whip up a movement in minutes. She had to go door to door. And I’m so proud of the new guard of black civil rights leaders who understand this. It’s thanks in large part to the activism of young people like many of you, from Black Twitter to Black Lives Matter, that America’s eyes have been opened -- white, black, Democrat, Republican -- to the real problems, for example, in our criminal justice system.

But to bring about structural change, lasting change, awareness is not enough. It requires changes in law, changes in custom. If you care about mass incarceration, let me ask you: How are you pressuring members of Congress to pass the criminal justice reform bill now pending before them? (Applause.) If you care about better policing, do you know who your district attorney is? Do you know who your state’s attorney general is? Do you know the difference? Do you know who appoints the police chief and who writes the police training manual? Find out who they are, what their responsibilities are. Mobilize the community, present them with a plan, work with them to bring about change, hold them accountable if they do not deliver. Passion is vital, but you've got to have a strategy.

And your plan better include voting -- not just some of the time, but all the time. (Applause.) It is absolutely true that 50 years after the Voting Rights Act, there are still too many barriers in this country to vote. There are too many people trying to erect new barriers to voting. This is the only advanced democracy on Earth that goes out of its way to make it difficult for people to vote. And there's a reason for that. There's a legacy to that.

But let me say this: Even if we dismantled every barrier to voting, that alone would not change the fact that America has some of the lowest voting rates in the free world. In 2014, only 36 percent of Americans turned out to vote in the midterms -- the secondlowest participation rate on record. Youth turnout -- that would be you -- was less than 20 percent. Less than 20 percent. Four out of five did not vote. In 2012, nearly two in three African Americans turned out. And then, in 2014, only two in five turned out. You don’t think that made a difference in terms of the Congress I've got to deal with? And then people are wondering, well, how come Obama hasn’t gotten this done? How come he didn’t get that done? You don’t think that made a difference? What would have happened if you had turned out at 50, 60, 70 percent, all across this country? People try to make this political thing really complicated. Like, what kind of reforms do we need? And how do we need to do that? You know what, just vote. It's math. If you have more votes than the other guy, you get to do what you want. (Laughter.) It's not that complicated.

And you don’t have excuses. You don’t have to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap to register to vote. You don’t have to risk your life to cast a ballot. Other people already did that for you. (Applause.) Your grandparents, your great grandparents might be here today if they were working on it. What's your excuse? When we don’t vote, we give away our power, disenfranchise ourselves -- right when we need to use the power that we have; right when we need your power to stop others from taking away the vote and rights of those more vulnerable than you are -- the elderly and the poor, the formerly incarcerated trying to earn their second chance.

So you got to vote all the time, not just when it’s cool, not just when it's time to elect a President, not just when you’re inspired. It's your duty. When it’s time to elect a member of Congress or a city councilman, or a school board member, or a sheriff. That’s how we change our politics -- by electing people at every level who are representative of and accountable to us. It is not that complicated. Don’t make it complicated.
Read Obama's full remarks here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Your Brain Is Fine

I've had a cellphone for over two decades, and in every one of those years, I've read an alarmist story warning that, because we hold the devices up to our heads, we were all going to get brain cancer.

There has never been peer-reviewed confirmation of those claims, despite volumes of research. The latest to debunk those claims comes from Australian researcher Simon Chapman:

We examined the association between age and gender-specific incidence rates of 19,858 men and 14,222 women diagnosed with brain cancer in Australia between 1982-2012, and national mobile phone usage data from 1987-2012.

In summary, with extremely high proportions of the population having used mobile phones across some 20-plus years (from about 9% in 1993 to about 90% today), we found that age-adjusted brain cancer incidence rates (in those aged 20-84 years, per 100,000 people) had risen only slightly in males but were stable over 30 years in females.

There were significant increases in brain cancer incidence only in those aged 70 years or more. But the increase in incidence in this age group began from 1982, before the introduction of mobile phones in 1987 and so could not be explained by it. Here, the most likely explanation of the rise in this older age group was improved diagnosis.
That's a pretty large sample base over a good extended period, after which Chapman concludes:
We have had mobiles in Australia since 1987. Some 90% of the population use them today and many of these have used them for a lot longer than 20 years. But we are seeing no rise in the incidence of brain cancer against the background rate.
Read Chapman's full piece here.

Facebook And Balanced

Republican senator John Thune of South Dakota is upset about a story in Gizmodo claiming that Facebook has been censoring the news in its "trending" topic section, purportedly deleting stories with a conservative bent. So Thune is using the power of his office to demand that Facebook explain itself.

Except that he has no such power.

Sure, he and his committee can waste time and taxpayer dollars looking into whatever they want, but they have no right to tell any organization what kind of content it must provide to the public. Perhaps Thune should take a few minutes reviewing the First Amendment -- and then look up the phrase Free Market.

Facebook says it has found no evidence to prove the anonymous allegations but is looking into it. Meanwhile, right-wing outlets are making a big stink out of it -- part of their ongoing paranoia about liberal media bias. Of course, to them, any story that doesn't reference Obama as the antichrist is proof of a left-wing agenda.

Funny, I don't see Thune investigating the news stories delivered by Fox News or any other outlet that supports him and other Republicans with its editorial decisions. Oh, I forgot -- they're fair and balanced.

Stories Out There

The Associated Press says 63% of Americans do not believe in UFOs. In reporting this at FiveThirtyEight, Walt Hickey added:

Hillary Clinton is apparently not among that number, and she has promised to open up government files on UFOs if elected president. “There’s enough stories out there that I don’t think everybody is just sitting in their kitchen making them up,” she said in a recent radio interview.
If there is anyone who should not be making assumptions based on "enough stories out there," it's Hillary Clinton -- whose un-likability and untrustworthy numbers are based entirely on stories that have been told about her for the last quarter-century by her political opponents.

I'd also add that, by its strict definition, no one can deny there are UFOs -- unidentified flying objects. But just because you can't identify something doesn't automatically mean it has aliens inside. For that, you need actual evidence, none of which has ever been presented. Probably because it doesn't exist, despite those "stories."

Monday, May 09, 2016

He'd Be The Best Veep Ever

If we still ran the USA the way they did in the 1790s, Donald Trump would be on his way to becoming our Vice President.

Up until 1800, that position was filled by whoever came in second in the presidential election. So, John Adams served under George Washington. Next, Thomas Jefferson was veep for Adams. Then, Aaron Burr was second-banana to Jefferson. After that, the parties ran candidates for both offices together and the tradition was changed.

But if it hadn't been, can you imagine Trump agreeing to be VP for Hillary Clinton?

E-Mail From The Past

I thought people who still have AOL email addresses were out of touch until I traded correspondence recently with someone who still has a Prodigy e-address.

Considering the service was shut down a decade ago after being bought by AT&T (the Prodigy.net domain doesn't even exist any more), I asked him why he hadn't updated to a newer domain. He explained that he has over 4,000 contacts in his Prodigy address book and doesn't want to move them as long as it works.

I remember the pain of doing that when I abandoned my old Compuserve account, which I acquired in 1986, before you could choose your user name and instead were assigned a numeric address with a comma in the middle (I was 73030,2222@compuserve.com). After that, I had an AOL address for years before buying my own domain (HarrisOnline.com) and using it ever since.

Somewhere, there must be people using Earthlink, Delphi, and Genie -- via dialup.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Space Cool

I was impressed again on Friday when SpaceX launched a Japanese satellite into geosynchronous orbit and returned its booster engine to a barge floating in the ocean. That's the second time they've done it in a month -- more proof that Elon Musk's team is changing the space-delivery paradigm. Phil Plait explains the difficulty of what SpaceX pulled off here.

I was also struck by the team of three people narrating the event for the webcast from SpaceX headquarters. With employees cheering in the background, the casually-dressed trio explained what was happening in science-friendly language for a global audience -- a stark difference from more traditional and stuffy coverage of space-related stories over the last five-and-a-half decades...

Do Not Buy This For Mom

I heard two commercials for appliance stores having targeted sales this weekend: "Buy your wife a dishwasher for Mother's Day!" I immediately checked the calendar to see if it was 1954. It had to be, because what husband in 2016 considers doing the dishes purely his wife's job -- and what wife would gleefully accept an appliance as a personal gift rather than a necessary addition for the entire household?

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Kevin Nealon

Here's my conversation with comedian-actor Kevin Nealon, who spent almost a decade on "Saturday Night Live," co-starred on Showtime's “Weeds” for 8 seasons, and appeared in more than two dozen movie comedies, including "The Wedding Singer," "Anger Management," "Daddy Day Care," "Happy Gilmore," "Walk Of Shame," and "Roxanne." He's also done two hourlong standup specials and written “Yes, You’re Pregnant, But What About Me?” Now he’s coming back to St. Louis — the town he was born in — to do standup at Lumiere Place on May 21st.

Among the topics we discussed:
  • His memories of close friend Garry Shandling, who died a few weeks ago;
  • Working with Steve Martin on Nealon's first movie, "Roxanne";
  • What they were really smoking on "Weeds";
  • How different Weekend Update is now compared to when he did it on "SNL";
  • A pilot he just did with Elizabeth Perkins for Amy Poehler;
  • Crowd-funding "The Pleaser," which will mark his debut as a movie director.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Showbiz Show 5/6/16

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Captain America: Civil War" and discussed the new Han Solo, the "Match Game" revival," and Louis CK's candid stories about "Horace and Pete."

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

Harris Challenge 5/6/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include Happy Seis De Mayo, Showbiz Moms, and Horses Not Running In The Kentucky Derby. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 5/6/16

This edition of Knuckleheads In The News® includes stories about a busy drug dealer's phone, a sister who's no help, and a ban on boob and sock money. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®? Click here.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Worth A Listen

I only watched two episodes of Louis CK's "Horace and Pete" project before giving up on it. I recognized it as something original, but it never pulled me in enough to want to devote more time to it.

However, my curiosity has been piqued after listening to this remarkable conversation Louis had on the 700th episode of Mark Maron's "WTF" podcast. In it, Louis opens up completely about the creative process that led to "Horace and Pete," including how he cast Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco, Alan Alda, Aidy Bryant, and Laurie Metcalf.

He goes into great detail about what went through his mind as he wrote it, how he reserved the studio space before he even had a script, and how he managed to direct a four-camera television drama that he was simultaneously appearing in. He also explains what he said to executives at the FX network, where he was signing a new deal -- while putting his "Louie" show on hiatus so he could produce other projects -- but hadn't even told them about "Horace and Pete."

In doing so, Louis used what he had learned from distributing his own standup specials online and applied that to the ten-part "Horace and Pete" project, somehow managing to keep everything about it secret so as not to spoil it for viewers -- or even allow them to know what it was before they watched it.

In this "WTF" episode, he explains how he pulled all of that off. Spoiler alert: during his conversation with Maron, Louis does reveal a couple of crucial plot points that I didn't know -- but his description of how and why they came about interested me enough to make me want to see them acted out. It sounds like he's making a deal with Netflix to stream the show, which until then remains available only through his website.

You won't see any of that video in this YouTube audio-only embed, but you can hear the 105-minute conversation between Mark Maron and Louis CK...

Poker Stories: Cheapskates On The Road

"Poker players who chase straights and flushes
arrive in limos but go home in buses." -- Anonymous

I heard two poker road trip stories this week that I have to share with you, both about players who are way too tight with their money. I have changed the names to protect the cheapskates.

One of them involved my friend Rick, who told me a story from ten years ago, when he and another St. Louisan named Wayne both won a tournament that gave them entry into a World Poker Tour event in Reno, Nevada. In addition to that $5,000 buy-in, they also each received $6,000 in cash for travel and other expenses.

Rick booked a round-trip flight for about $400, but Wayne was so cheap that, instead of buying an airline ticket, he bought a round-trip Greyhound bus ticket for under $200. Okay, he was saving money -- but it wasn't like he couldn't afford it, what with the $6,000 in cash he'd just been given. Even worse, the trip by bus took almost four days, because it wasn't an express -- it made stops in every little podunk town between St. Louis and Reno -- and if you believe time is money, Wayne was wasting a lot of it. All to save a couple of hundred bucks.

Here's the best part of the story. After busting out of the tournament relatively quickly, Wayne had a couple of days before his bus ride home. He spent that time playing in cash games, where he managed to lose all of the rest of the travel cash he'd brought with him. How'd you like to have sat next to him on the four-day bus ride east?

The other story involves two friends, Adam and Gary, who went to Tunica, Mississippi, and shared a room in a motel where the rooms aren't even $100/night. They knew each other very well but had never traveled together before. After their first day of playing in some cash games, they drove back to the room and went to bed. It wasn't long before Adam started snoring, which kept Gary awake. Gary is a cranky guy to begin with, and the fact that he couldn't sleep didn't make things better. Before long, Gary threw a pillow at Adam on the other bed, waking him up and telling him to stop snoring -- as if Adam was doing it on purpose. This happened a half-dozen times during the night, so neither of them got much shuteye.

In the morning, they left the room early, pissed off at each other and not well-rested -- a bad way to start a long day of playing poker. Still, they each made some money, and when they finally went back to the room that night, Adam started bitching about the snoring again. Gary grabbed the pillows off his bed and told Adam he was going to sleep in the bathtub -- which he did for the next few nights, too.

Now, these are both middle-aged men, neither of whom can fit comfortably in a bathtub, so when they told me told the story and I pictured the scene, I burst out laughing. They asked what was so funny, and I pointed out that they each were playing in poker games with several hundred dollars in front of them -- and had bankrolls of thousands in their pockets -- but they're both such penny-pinchers outside of the game that the thought of going to the front desk and asking for another room (at under $100/night) wasn't even considered.

Being tight at a poker table because you don't want to risk a lot of money is one thing. Being stuffed into a bathtub or a bus seat because you're too cheap to find other accommodations is ridiculous.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

You Can't Plan Spontaneity

Last night, Jimmy Fallon did another one of his silly games with a guest. This one involved Chris Evans playing blackjack against Fallon, and whoever lost each hand had a pitcher of ice water poured into his pants. It's the kind of non-spontaneous spontaneity this "Tonight Show" is known for, as the games have to keep getting more outrageous to keep viewers (both on TV and in online clips) coming back for more.

What's missing is the genuine spontaneity of moments like the following. It's from September 26th, 1974, with guest Dom DeLuise showing Johnny Carson a trick involving raw eggs. Unlike Fallon (or any other current late night host), it's obvious that Carson's staff did not tell him ahead of time what DeLuise was planning, so he could react to it extemporaneously. It's also clear that what happened after the trick was Carson, the ultimate showman, and DeLuise, master of comedic timing, recognizing an opportunity to take things to another level, and the result was classic television:

Electoral Math

When people talk about the presidential election, they often quote polls showing how their candidate will win. But national polls mean nothing, because we don't elect presidents by popular vote. We still use the creaky electoral college method which, while long overdue for trashing, means you have to look at the candidates' opportunities on a state-by-state basis. As Chris Cilizza points out, that view doesn't look so good for Trump:

If Clinton wins the 19 states (and DC) that every Democratic nominee has won from 1992 to 2012, she has 242 electoral votes. Add Florida's 29 and you get 271. Game over.

The Republican map is decidedly less friendly. There are 13 states that have gone for the GOP presidential nominee in each of the last six elections. But they only total 102 electorate votes. That means the eventual nominee has to find, at least, 168 more electoral votes to get to 270. Which is a hell of a lot harder than finding 28 electoral votes.
Read Cilizza's full piece here.

The other part of any analysis of the election has to do with demographics. As I've written before, I don't see any group other than white men over 50 that Trump has a chance of winning, and there aren't enough of them to come close to an electoral win. He has virtually no shot with women, African-Americans, or Latinos.

What's ironic is that, after Romney's drubbing in 2012, the GOP supposedly did a post-mortem and decided it had to expand its reach to exactly those groups if it was going to have a chance to ever win the presidency again. Not that you could tell there was any effort in that department by looking at the policies it continues to embrace. And now Republicans have a candidate who has done nothing but magnify that demographic gap.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Random Thoughts

I was downtown last night, drove by The Dome, and noticed that it still has signs outside exhorting people to buy St. Louis Rams tickets. I'm sure someone will get around to taking them down any month now.

I was going to write a post about Larry Wilmore’s performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner, but Ken Levine said everything I would have.

A woman is suing Starbucks for putting too much ice in her iced coffee. This has been a problem with other cold drinks for a long time. As anyone who buys soda knows, you usually end up with a huge scoop of ice first, then the liquid. Which is why I always order mine "light ice" -- which sounds like I'm asking for diet frozen water, but it's simply an attempt to get a fuller serving of the beverage. The problem for Starbucks is that their menu signs say "24 fluid ounces," when there's only 14 or so ounces of coffee in the cup (unless you define ice as a fluid, in which case you might as well count steam the same way). Starbucks is also facing another lawsuit saying its average latte is underfilled -- because the foam takes up so much space. Prediction: the company will change the signs, not the cups or the method it uses to make the beverages.

A couple of days ago, I posted my mini-review of "Miles Ahead," the biopic of jazz legend Miles Davis. Then I tweeted links to it and, as I usually do, included the Twitter handles of both the movie (@MilesAheadFilm) and its director/star Don Cheadle (@DonCheadle). Within an hour, both of those accounts re-tweeted my original message. What's funny about that is that I hated the movie and said so in my mini-review, and yet whoever the "social media manager" is for both the film and the actor didn't bother to click through my tweeted link to see what I had to say about it. Even funnier is that several of Cheadle's followers, who saw his re-tweet, then liked or re-tweeted it again, probably also without bothering to see what I had to say about the movie. Nice to know they're handling their social media strategy the same way they made the biopic -- badly.

"Hamilton" has been nominated for a record 16 Tony Awards. In related news, there's a ticket available a year from tomorrow for a single seat in the middle of the next-to-last row of the balcony between a guy with a bad cough and a woman who's so hard of hearing she will keep asking you what they're singing about. It's only $310, so grab it fast!

Kudos to Jimmy Kimmel for taking on Sarah Palin and the idiotic climate-change-denying movie she's promoting. Unfortunately, refuting those lies with scientific facts will still not change the minds of the uninformed or the politicians paid by big polluters to obfuscate on the issue.

If you want to be one of the most powerful people in the world, but are so unaware of your own feet that you fall off a stage, you should immediately become ineligible for high office.

Movie Review: Sing Street

"Sing Street" is the newest from John Carney, the Irish filmmaker whose 2007 movie "Once" spawned the Oscar-winning song of the year and a Broadway musical. He followed that up with Keira Knightly and Mark Ruffalo in "Begin Again," but it wasn't nearly as good.

Now, Carney is back on track with "Sing Street," the story of a 15-year-old boy in Dublin in 1985. His parents are always arguing and out of money, so they put him into a new Catholic school where he gets bullied by both another teenager and the priest in charge, but he meets a girl and wants to impress her, so he forms a band with some of the other kids from the school. Influenced by the videos his older brother watches on TV (e.g. Duran Duran, The Cure, Culture Club), he begins dressing like those musicians, and writes songs like them, too, and gets the girl to appear in videos with his band.

"Sing Street" has a warm, comfortable feeling and fits right into the lineage of other Irish light comedies like "Waking Ned Devine" and "The Snapper," with a dash of "The Commitments" added. The kids -- none of whom you'll know from anything else -- are perfectly cast, the music is period-appropriate and enjoyable, and I walked out with a smile on my face, so I'm recommending it. Score: 8/10.

Picture Of The Day

John Oliver explains to the 17-year cicadas who will re-appear this year what has changed since they were conceived in 1999:

Monday, May 02, 2016

Movie Review: Keanu

I was a fan of Key and Peele's Comedy Central show and was disappointed when it ended last year, but I'm happy to see them making a very positive first step onto the big screen with the action comedy "Keanu."

They play two regular guys (blerds = black + nerds) who get mistaken for The Allentown Brothers, gangbangers who killed a bunch of people in a drug warehouse takedown. The only survivor is a kitten that belongs to the drug lord. It runs away and ends up on the doorstep of Peele’s apartment just as he’s recovering from his girlfriend breaking up with him. He names the cat Keanu and becomes attached to it. Then one day he comes home and finds his apartment has been broken into, the furniture is tossed around, and Keanu is gone.

That leads them into adventures with the Blips, a gang made up of people thrown out of the Bloods and the Crips. Key and Peele aren’t anywhere close to gangbangers, but they pretend they’re the Allentown Brothers, and end up having to improvise their way through every situation where they find themselves way over their heads.

Though the kitten-based plot sounds ridiculous, it works because their chemistry is great, the dialogue is very funny, and they fully inhabit these characters. The supporting cast includes Will Forte, Method Man, Nia Long, Luis Guzman, and cameos by Anna Faris and George Michael. "Keanu" was directed by Peter Atencio, who did most of the episodes of their Comedy Central show, so he knows how to make Key and Peele's material work on screen.

"Keanu" is rated R for a reason. It's raunchy, like the best comedies of 2014 (Chris Rock's "Top Five") and 2015 (Amy Schumer's "Trainwreck"), but I laughed out loud several times, so I'm scoring it 8 out of 10.

Best Thing I've Read Today

Campbell Brown, former anchor and reporter for CNN and NBC, blames TV news outlets for the rise of Donald Trump:

I really would like to blame Trump. But everything he is doing is with TV news’ full acquiescence. Trump doesn’t force the networks to show his rallies live rather than do real reporting. Nor does he force anyone to accept his phone calls rather than demand that he do a face-to-face interview that would be a greater risk for him. TV news has largely given Trump editorial control. It is driven by a hunger for ratings—and the people who run the networks and the news channels are only too happy to make that Faustian bargain. Which is why you’ll see endless variations of this banner, one I saw all three cable networks put up in a single day: “Breaking news: Trump speaks for first time since Wisconsin loss.” In all these scenes, the TV reporter just stands there, off camera, essentially useless. The order doesn’t need to be stated. It’s understood in the newsroom: Air the Trump rallies live and uninterrupted. He may say something crazy; he often does, and it’s always great television.
She goes on:
It is not just the wall-to-wall coverage of Trump. It’s the openness with which some are reveling in his attention. It’s the effort, conscious or not, to domesticate and pretty him up, to make him appear less offensive than he really is, and to practice a false objectivity or equivalence in the coverage. Here, journalism across all platforms -- corporate, as well as publicly funded -- is guilty.

Trump is a chronic liar and dissembler; this has been demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt. He repeatedly makes factual errors, large and small, in his statements. He is also a misogynist, has a cruel streak (including mocking people’s looks and physical disabilities), has condoned physical violence among his supporters and is shockingly ignorant. To ask journalists to pretend otherwise is akin to asking them to have pretended in the 1960s that George Wallace wasn’t a racist or in the 1950s that Joe McCarthy wasn’t a demagogue. Yet when former ABC anchor and National Public Radio’s legendary pioneer Cokie Roberts dared to state the truth, calling Trump “one of the least qualified candidates ever to make a serious run for the presidency,” NPR took pains to distance itself. The vice president for news issued a memo reminding staff that she is just a “commentator,” not a member of NPR’s staff.

It need not be this way.
Read Brown's full piece here.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Movie Review: Miles Ahead

"Miles Ahead" is another depressing biopic about a tortured musical genius, and it's a mess.

Don Cheadle (who directed and co-wrote) plays legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis at a time in the late 1970s when he’d stopped recording music. You learn nothing about why Davis was considered so great -- instead you get car chases and gun fights. There’s a white Rolling Stone reporter played by Ewan McGregor along for the ride, but he adds nothing to our knowledge of Davis, who comes off as a gangster drug addict who battles his record company. But we never understand why. There are some flashbacks to Davis’ successful years in the fifties and sixties, but not enough.

If you're not familiar with why Davis was considered great, "Miles Ahead" won't help. And if you're a Davis fan, you'll walk out disappointed. I give it 2/10.