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

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Movie Review: Equity


Anna Gunn got a raw deal in the last year or two of "Breaking Bad." Her character, Skyler White, was the wife of the show's anti-hero, Walter, who lied to her, manipulated her, and became more and more evil as he descended into a life of crime and drugs. Skyler tried to stop him, outraged and disgusted at what her husband had morphed into. Naturally, viewers loved Walter and hated Skyler, but worse, she became the target of horrible attacks in online forums, and some of those comments came from people who couldn't differentiate between the fictional Skyler and the real-life actress who played her. As Gunn wrote in a famous NY Times op-ed in 2013:
As an actress, I realize that viewers are entitled to have whatever feelings they want about the characters they watch. But as a human being, I’m concerned that so many people react to Skyler with such venom. Could it be that they can’t stand a woman who won’t suffer silently or “stand by her man”? That they despise her because she won’t back down or give up? Or because she is, in fact, Walter’s equal?

It’s notable that viewers have expressed similar feelings about other complex TV wives — Carmela Soprano of “The Sopranos,” Betty Draper of “Mad Men.” Male characters don’t seem to inspire this kind of public venting and vitriol.

At some point on the message boards, the character of Skyler seemed to drop out of the conversation, and people transferred their negative feelings directly to me. The already harsh online comments became outright personal attacks. One such post read: “Could somebody tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her?” Besides being frightened (and taking steps to ensure my safety), I was also astonished: how had disliking a character spiraled into homicidal rage at the actress playing her?
It took awhile for Gunn to come to turns with that outrage, and while Bryan Cranston sailed to greater heights with "Trumbo," "All The Way," and "The Infiltrator," she struggled to win parts commensurate with her talent.

Gunn's first starring role is in the movie "Equity," released this weekend. In it, she plays Naomi Bishop, an investment banker at a Wall Street firm who specializes in guiding Silicon Valley startups through their initial public offering. She’s involved with Michael, a broker at the firm -- and those two sides of the business are supposed to have a firewall between them to avoid insider trading. That’s part of the intrigue, which also involves an old friend who works at the DOJ investigating financial crimes (like insider trading).

Written, directed, and produced by women, “Equity” shows life inside Wall Street from the perspective of powerful people who happen to be female. There's internal debate about the glass ceiling and other issues women face in a male-dominated work atmosphere, including the question of whether Naomi’s assistant's pregnancy will affect her potential for promotion.

But Naomi has thrived in that world because -- as she tells a room full of women at a conference -- she “likes money.” She likes it not just because it can pay for things such as her younger brothers’ education or beautiful diamond earrings for herself, but because numbers fascinate her, the financial world is a game she loves to play and, of course, money is power. It's a very good speech, sort of an echo of Gordon Gekko's famous soliloquy on greed in "Wall Street."

Naomi is a good character, and Gunn is a good actress, but the story slogs down in the middle, and if you haven’t seen "The Big Short" or Showtime’s "Billions," you may not be able to follow the financially-dense plot. I really wanted to like "Equity," but in the end, I'm sorry to say, it disappointed me. There’s a reason this debuted at Sundance in January but wasn’t released until August, one of the driest periods on the movie calendar.

I give "Equity" 6 out of 10.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Gene Wilder


I was saddened by the news today of Gene Wilder's death at 83 due to complications from Alzheimer's disease.

Most obits will, of course, mention his great performances in "Blazing Saddles," "Young Frankenstein," and "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." They might even mention the beginning of his partnership with Richard Pryor in "Silver Streak."

But in remembering Wilder, my mind is full of his scenes as Leo Bloom in "The Producers," particularly the early ones where he first encounters Zero Mostel as Max Bialystock. Zero could blow people off the screen with the size of his performance as a blustery Broadway producer, but Wilder stayed right with him by playing his opposite, a meek accountant. Nobody played hysterical, wet pain better than Gene Wilder.

I'm also thinking about Wilder's small role in "Bonnie and Clyde" as a mortician kidnapped by the bank robbers. It's a backseat role, literally, but Wilder stood out in a cast that included Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, and Michael J. Pollard.

The other Wilder comedy I remember fondly (which not enough people have seen) is "The Frisco Kid," in which he plays a Polish rabbi who has come to America to oversee a Jewish community in San Francisco -- but he has to get there first, and that involves a cross-country trip mostly accompanied by Harrison Ford as a cowboy. The interplay in their scenes, on horseback by day and at campsites by night, was as good as any comedy duo you can name.

I would have loved to talk with Wilder about those movies and so much more, but I never got the chance because he didn't do a lot of interviews. One of the rare ones took place about 3 years ago at the 92nd Street Y in New York, with Robert Osborne asking the questions. As you'll see, Wilder told wonderful stories, even if they were slowed by the advancing disease that eventually took his life...

Picture Of The Day

Here's a clip from David Cross' new Netflix special, which is now streaming and really funny.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Best Thing I've Read Today

In a piece titled "The Dumbed Down Democracy," Timothy Egan laments the ignorance of too much of the American electorate and pins the blame on conservative media, which "has spent more than two decades tearing down the idea of an objective fact"...

How did this happen, when the populace was so less educated in the days when most families didn’t even have an indoor potty to talk about? You can look at one calculated loop of misinformation over the last two weeks to find some of the answer.

A big political lie often starts on the Drudge Report, home of Obama-as-Muslim stories. He jump-started a recent smear with pictures of Hillary Clinton losing her balance — proof that something was very wrong with her. Fox News then went big with it, using the Trump adviser and free-media enabler Sean Hannity as the village gossip. Then Rudy Giuliani, the internet diagnostician, urged people to Google “Hillary Clinton illness” for evidence of her malady. This forced Clinton to prove her stamina, in an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, by opening a jar of pickles.

The only good thing to come out of this is that now, when you Google “Hillary Clinton illness” what pops up are scathing stories about a skeletal-faced rumormonger named Rudy Giuliani, and a terrific Stephen Colbert takedown of this awful man.

But what you don’t know really can hurt you. Last year was the hottest on record. And the July just passed was earth’s warmest month in the modern era. Still, Gallup found that 45 percent of Republicans don’t believe the temperature. We’re not talking about doubt over whether the latest spike was human-caused — they don’t accept the numbers, from all those lying meteorologists.

Of late, almost half of Floridians have done something to protect themselves from the Zika virus, heeding government warnings. But the other half cannot wish it away, as the anti-vaccine crowd on the far left does for serious and preventable illnesses.
Read Egan's full piece here.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Dave Barry, "Best. State. Ever."


Here's my conversation with Dave Barry, one of my favorite guests, whose new book is "Best. State. Ever. A Florida Man Defends His Homeland." After an introduction by The Rock Bottom Remainders, the authors-only rock band he's in, we discussed:
  • His scientific explanation for why there are so many stupid people in Florida;
  • How he's managed to avoid the Zika virus;
  • His observations at the Republican and Democratic conventions;
  • His experiences at the Summer Olympics in Rio;
  • What happened when he and his wife went to the most exclusive dance club in Miami.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Previously on Harris Online...

Showbiz Show 8/26/16


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Don't Breathe" and "Equity." Then we discussed the failure of "Ben-Hur," the upcoming finale of HBO's "The Night Of," and where you can find the streaming of Bobcat Goldthwait's documentary about comedian/pedophile priest abuse survivor Barry Crimmins.

We also explained how you can be cast in a movie being made here in the St. Louis area by the company that made "Proximity," which starred Adam Wainwright (of the Cardinals). Open auditions for adults and children will happen in all four theaters that "Proximity" is playing in (Chesterfield Galaxy, Ronnie's, Mid-Rivers, and O'Fallon, Illinois) on Friday, September 2 and Saturday, September 3, from 5pm to 8pm.

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

Harris Challenge 8/26/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include I Thought The Olympics Were Over, Forbes' Highest Paid Actors and Actresses, and Who Did What Now? Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 8/26/16


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News® I have stories about a stomach full of knives, two fingers on a picnic table, and the unluckiest man in Florida. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Another Health Scare

A friend asked if I was worried about Zika. I explained that I wasn't because I don't plan on becoming pregnant and traveling to Florida any time soon, so my chances of meeting a killer mosquito were pretty low. Besides, I still haven't gotten over the previous health scares that were going to kill us, from SARS to West Nile Virus to Asian Bird Flu to Swine Flu to the deadliest of them all, Cancer-Causing Shampoo.

Bottom line: I spend pretty much no time at all worried about anything. Except for that weird rash I spotted this morning. I'll probably be dead by the time you read this.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Political Shocker


I can't help but laugh at the politicians and political media who are acting shocked by the notion that people who donated money to The Clinton Foundation may have gotten access to Hillary when she was Secretary Of State, and perhaps even had a favor done for them.

Isn't that exactly the problem across the spectrum of corruption on both sides of the aisle? The system we have now allows people (and corporations and lobbyists, etc.) to donate money to an incumbent's campaign fund. Does anyone believe they don't get something special in return? If you're a member of Congress and are told by an aide that there are two people on hold, one a person from your district you've never met, and the other a campaign contributor who's been a loyal financial supporter for years, which call are you going to take?

By the way, Donald Trump has admitted that this is exactly the reason he wrote large checks to Hillary and lots of other politicians (particularly at the local level). He knew it was the cost of doing business. He greased their palms knowing that when he needed help, they'd probably lean in his direction.

So, whether the pay-for-play allegations against Clinton when she was Secretary Of State are true or not, her political opponents and the pundit class must stop acting as shocked as Claude Rains was to find gambling going on in the "Casablanca" casino where he's just won money.

Story Of The Day


Rod Stewart In Concert


Rod Stewart has one of the great voices in rock history, with a songbook that includes dozens of tunes I played hundreds of times in my music radio days, but I'd never seen him in concert. While in Vegas with my daughter earlier this month, I got tickets to see him in the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, and we had a great time.

Stewart announced at the beginning of the evening he was only allowed to do 90 minutes because the casino wanted everyone out and back to the slot machines. Still, he packed plenty of classics into that time frame: "You Wear It Well," "The First Cut Is The Deepest," "Have I Told You Lately," "Forever Young," "Hot Legs," "Tonight's The Night," "Some Guys Have All The Luck."

He also did "Can't Stop Me Now," a 2013 song dedicated to his father, who supported Rod through his early years of rejection by an industry that hated his hair, his clothes, and his nose -- complete with images from Rod's early years as a teenage rocker displayed on big screens behind him. He even did a tune that I haven't heard in a couple of decades by his early band Faces called "Ohh La La."

My daughter didn't know a lot of those songs, but she got right into the spirit of seeing a veteran performer put on a great show, and I even caught her singing along a couple of times. Throughout the show, Stewart was in good humor, joking with the audience, urging them to take photos (despite the pre-show warning not to), and remembering to play to those of us in the mezzanine and balcony, too.

At 71, Stewart is secure enough in his stardom to let everyone in his 9-piece band (including two women who played violins, banjo, guitar, and mandolin, and another woman who played harp and percussion) have solos, including an extended one by his sax player. The three backup singers even got to do a tune while Rod was offstage changing his shirt and jacket. When he returned for the encore ("Maggie May" and "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy") he kicked soccer balls into the audience as balloons fell from the ceiling.

His voice, which started out raspy in his teens, retains that unique Rod Stewart sound, and is still strong. The man knows how to entertain a crowd, and he gives them what he knows they want -- the hits that have carried his career through five decades.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Road Trip: Four Shows In Vegas


A couple of weeks ago, my daughter was traveling the country for work and was going to end up in Las Vegas. I decided to fly out and meet her so we could spend a few days together, during which I taught her some casino games and how to get free drinks, we walked the strip, sat by the pool, and went to see some shows.

I booked a cheap room at The Mirage and arrived a day before she did to discover Jay Leno was appearing there that night. I'd never seen him in person and was curious what his post-"Tonight Show" performance might be, so I went.

It turns out Leno is exactly the joke machine you'd expect from all those years of monologues on NBC, but without the goofy nods to the bandleader. I hadn't seen someone do a pure joke-joke-joke act like that since Rodney Dangerfield -- four to five a minute in the simple setup/punchline style. If one didn't land, no problem, there was another right on its tail.

It was a joke onslaught, but most of the material seemed like warmed-over stuff from his TV days, with some dated references to Charlie Sheen, Warren Jeffs, and other personalities from several years ago. Too many of his setups sounded like this: "Did you see this a couple of weeks ago in the LA Times?" or "Hey, I read a weird item last week in the Washington Post." The problem was that none of the stories were actually from this year. He had very little current material -- maybe a half-dozen jokes about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton -- but nothing biting or particularly clever.

Towards the end, Leno did several minutes about the differences between cats and dogs that you could hear from any hack comic at the Funny Bone. Very few of his jokes made me laugh, but I was clearly in the minority as the rest of the crowd loved him. The only part I did enjoy was when he talked about his parents. For that, he abandoned the joke-joke-joke structure in favor of much warmer storytelling. I had heard a couple of the stories about his father before (like when he introduced dad to Sting), but he tells them with such obvious love that they still work.

Once my daughter got to town, we went to see Mystere, the original Vegas show by Cirque du Soleil, at Treasure Island. As with all Cirque shows, the acrobatics were quite impressive while the weird characters traipsing in and out throughout added nothing. However, I'd forgotten how good the musicians and singers are as they accompany each act with live performances that help set the tone. All in all, Mystere was worth the discounted tickets.

We also went to two shows playing at Planet Hollywood. One is "V: The Ultimate Variety Show," which consists of acts that were popular on NBC's "America's Got Talent" but didn't win -- if you win, you end up with your own Vegas show, like ventriloquist Terry Fator. The cast of "V" includes jugglers, a contortionist, a strongman hand-balancing act, a skating daredevil duo, and four guys who do a medley of Village People hits in costume while on their knees. In other words, exactly the kind of schlocky Vegas variety show I was hoping for.

We also went to see magician Nathan Burton, who has been in Vegas for several years, but hasn't become as big a star as some of the others in his field. It's clear that he desperately wants to be the new David Copperfield or Lance Burton (they're not related), and he does a lot of similar big illusions. Look, this box is empty but, wait a second, now there are four showgirls inside! Hey, where did that jetski suspended in mid-air come from? Wow, that showgirl in a box disappeared and turned up in the middle of the audience! Now let's change the tone to bring up a kid from the audience and dazzle him/her with something silly and then give them the Nathan Burton Box Of Magic, conveniently on sale in the lobby!

OK, fine, I've just defined your basic Las Vegas magic show, which is what Burton delivers. He's not nearly as good as Mac King, whose afternoon show at Harrah's is a must-see, and he's certainly nothing like Penn and Teller, the other magic show I always suggest when people ask me what to see in Vegas.

Burton also has an opening act, a guy named Russ Merlin, who does a routine with audience members that's pretty amusing. The problem was that we'd seen him do the exact same routine -- word for word -- at "The Ultimate Variety Show." Merlin is one of those opening acts that feels his job is to artificially pump up the crowd for the headliner. "Make some noise!!" "C'mon, let's get loud for this next act!!" "The more raucous you are, the better the show will be!"

I absolutely hate that. This must be what it's like to be the warmup person for a late night TV show -- try to get the crowd to exude over-the-top energy when no one onstage has even done anything yet. I will clap, cheer, and perhaps even stand up when you do something worth of an ovation. Yelling at me to shout back at you is not entertainment.

The better acts don't have to do that, and on our final night in Vegas, we saw a veteran performer put on a helluva show that didn't need any artificial assistance. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How To Grow Poker's Popularity

Keith Woernle has written some excellent pieces this summer for Part Time Poker with ideas on how to grow poker's popularity and global appeal. Since he was a producer for the World Poker Tour's tenth season, many of his thoughts have to do with televised poker, which he thinks should return to showing highlights rather than long hours of live coverage (which I agree is incredibly boring and has driven away the casual viewer).

Wernle also says television coverage needs to be more exciting because poker isn’t quite enough fun on its own:

I’m not saying we need to have dogs chasing frisbees every broadcast or guys screaming as they stand atop chairs, but I’m not opposed to it either. I think the average television viewer watches poker as a form of escapism. They watch and daydream about the high-roller lifestyle and playing for millions themselves. But if all the poker players look miserable, and if no one is talking, and if everyone is hiding under sunglasses and hoodies, and if everyone is min-raising, and tanking six minutes for every hand pre-flop, and not caring if they lose, and not caring if they win, and not even smiling when they win the entire tournament, then maybe the average viewer at home thinks this isn’t such a rockstar lifestyle after all.

Maybe they change the channel. Maybe for good.

Some of this responsibility falls to that of the players. While having a deep determined focus at the final table is absolutely warranted, it doesn’t need to prevent you from enjoying yourself. If you’re reading this and you’ve made a very deep run in a big tournament, was it not the most exciting moment of your poker career? That joy need not always be suppressed. It humanizes the game and makes the product of poker more enjoyable for everyone.
He also touches on a point I've been making for years, that poker is more fun when it's a social game, and table talk helps a lot.
If you’re laughing and joking and generally enjoying yourself at the table, then perhaps, even if you lose, you can leave with a smile on your face. If losing players are fraternizing, laughing, and otherwise enjoying the conversations about them, the sting of their losses will be much less severe. (This also applies to overall winning players that are simply having a losing session).

Poker is fun. Remember how poker is supposed to be fun? That fun should not be limited to your weekly basement home game. Many pros always try to have a good time at the table, regardless of the cards they’re dealt. And if the overall losing players still have a great time, then they are likely to come back for more and keep the poker economy moving.

Laughter and joy are contagious. If nine out of ten people in a crowd start laughing, then the tenth person usually joins in. And if Seats 1, 2, 4, and 5 are having a conversation, then it is simply a matter of time before Seat 3 jumps into that conversation as well (assuming they speak the same language of course).

I think table talk can create a bonding experience amongst players. Conversation creates connection, an almost kinship, between both the winning players and the losing ones.
I'd much rather be at a table where half (or more) of the players are joking around or discussing sports or TV or movies (but not politics or religion!) or even analyzing the last hand than sit with a bunch of automatons who never utter a sound because they're afraid to give off a tell -- even when they're not in a hand. When I played in the World Series Of Poker Main Event four years ago, that was one of my complaints:
I've had losing days at the poker table, but none as frustrating and boring as today. The frustration came from a complete lack of playable hands -- at one point, I went 64 minutes without voluntarily putting chips in the pot -- and the boredom came from the fact that no one at my table said a single sentence out loud in the six hours I was there. I thought of something Tony Dunst said on my Final Table Radio Show: "Without talking, a poker tournament is just a bunch of 24-year-olds in sweatshirts doing math problems silently." That's exactly what I lived through today. I had planned on not listening to music, but I finally put on the headphones after 2 hours because I needed something to keep my brain engaged.
Even worse are the (mostly younger) players who sit at the table with an iPad open so they can watch a movie or play Open-Faced Chinese Poker against their friends as they fold, fold, fold, never engaging with anyone else around them. When I'm on the road and get seated with several of those young obviously non-social pros, I'll ask for a table change or go play a different game -- or leave, which is exactly what they should not want recreational players to do.

The more welcoming, conversational, and fun the live poker experience is, the better it will be for everyone -- and more profitable in the long run for those pros.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Movie Review: War Dogs


There are two kinds of Jonah Hill movies. There's the lowbrow stuff like "21 Jump Street" and "Get Him To The Greek," and there's the Oscar-nominated performances in "The Wolf Of Wall Street" and "Moneyball." "War Dogs" is being marketed as one of the former, but it is actually one of the latter -- a very well-made movie that combines drama and comedy, with very good performances in a based-on-real-life story. And what a story it is.

Hill and Miles Teller play Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, who in 2005, while in their twenties, discovered a law allowing small businesses to bid on US military contracts online — after the exploitation of no-bid contracts by war profiteers like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and Dick Cheney’s Halliburton subsidiaries -- and wound up selling guns and grenades and missiles and mortars to the Pentagon for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Packouz and Diveroli made millions by bidding on smaller contracts that big defense firms showed little interest in, and then filled those orders by buying outdated weapons equipment online from Asia or Eastern Europe. They thought they could do it all from behind a computer screen in their office in Miami, but on at least a couple of occasions had to go to the Middle East to clean up some messes in person.

"War Dogs" is directed by Todd Phillips ("The Hangover" trilogy) from a script based on Guy Lawson's 2011 Rolling Stone article. Fortunately, Philips didn't turn this into a wacky comedy (don't believe the commercials and trailers!), but got the serio-comic tone just right. And because this is a story about young men who suddenly become ultra-wealthy, there's so much weed, cocaine and prostitutes that they could have called it "The Wolf Of War Street."

The supporting cast includes Phillips' buddy Bradley Cooper in a small part. Ana de Armas plays Packouz’s wife (she looks just like Valeria Galino in "Hot Shots"). Kevin Pollak plays the owner of a chain of dry cleaners who provides some of the money to get the arms dealing operation going. As for Hill and Teller, they're just right as the leads -- certainly better than Jesse Eisenberg and Shia LaBeouf, who were originally set to star and would have been terrible.

I give "War Dogs" an 8 out of 10. It's the best war-related based-on-real-life movie since "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot."

Poll Talk

There's been a lot of denial from Trump supporters, including Fox News, regarding polls that show Hillary Clinton with a 5-6% lead over Donald Trump nationally, and ahead in many of the battleground states that will decide the election. That can't possibly be true, they say -- look at how many people continue to show up for Trump rallies!

They have a short memory. In 2012, many Republicans and right-wing pundits refused to believe poll averages that showed Mitt Romney would lose badly to Barack Obama -- but he did. I also find it ironic that they never expressed doubts about the polls when Donald Trump was beating the other GOP hopefuls in the primaries.

Here is Five Thirty Eight guru Nate Silver explaining this -- and why you shouldn't cherry pick polls to find one that makes your candidate look better -- to Brian Stelter on CNN's "Reliable Sources"...


Speaking of polls, there is a difference between polls of "registered voters" and "likely voters." In the last presidential election, of the 219 million Americans who were eligible to vote, 146.3 million were registered, but only 126.1 million actually voted, and the percentages will be roughly the same this year. Asking the former their preference doesn't make much sense if it's the latter that will decide the winner in November.

Ben-Bomb


The "Ben-Hur" kinda-remake was a huge bomb this weekend. It cost $100 million to make (not counting marketing) and brought in only $11.4 million over the last three days. Part of the reason: no one has ever claimed the Charlton Heston original was a classic, save for the chariot race scene. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who can tell you anything about that version, so re-doing it with some CGI magic made no sense.

Chalk it up as yet another failed remake from a creatively-challenged Hollywood. Other big-budget bombs from this year include "Alice Through The Looking Glass," "The Huntsman: Winter's War," "Zoolander 2," "Neighbors 2," and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2."

As a moviegoer, you were much better going to see some of the truly original movies that came out in the last three months, like "Captain Fantastic," "The Infiltrator," "The Shallows," "Money Monster," "Weiner," and "Sing Street." If you missed them in theaters, add them to your Netflix queue or Amazon Prime wishlist when they start streaming this fall.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Nothing Sinister Here

This is a simple three-sentence story from BBC News:

A search has again taken place in Weston Park in Bath by police investigating the discovery of three human feet. The first turned up inside the park in February, the second and third were found in nearby gardens in July and earlier this month. Police say they do not think there is anything sinister behind the finds but they are continuing to investigate why they keep appearing.
Nope, nothing sinister here. Move along. It's just three human feet found in a park.

Wait a minute. Three feet? Shouldn't you contact Scotland Yard?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

James Andrew Miller, "Powerhouse"


James Andrew Miller co-wrote oral histories of ESPN ("Those Guys Have All The Fun") and SNL ("Live From New York"). Now he's back with "Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency," an insider look at one of the top talent agencies in the world, which has clients in movies, television, music, sports -- and even at Chipotle!

We discussed CAA's remarkable client list, how it was one of the first agencies to package stars/directors/writers/projects, and how it essentially invented the idea of getting gross points on the back end (except for its "Seinfeld" deal, which is an amazing story of hundreds of millions of dollars in lost commissions).

Miller shared some of the details he gleaned from David Letterman, Fleetwood Mac, and Tom Hanks, and how CAA's sports division now makes more money than any of its others through deals with athletes like Lebron James. We also touched on superagents Ari Emanuel and Michael Ovitz -- the latter a central part of the CAA story who may qualify as the most power-hungry non-politician of all time.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Previously on Harris Online...

Showbiz Show 8/19/16


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "War Dogs" and "Hell Or High Water." We also talked about the "Ben Hur" remake and the animated "Kubo and The Two Strings," and checked back on "The Hateful Eight" and "The Wire."

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

Harris Challenge 8/19/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include Rock and Roll Movies, Sea To Shining Sea, and Showbiz Week. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 8/19/16


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News® I have stories about a blackjack bank robber, man-on-van sex, and Dad's pot brownie adventure. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Nobody Watched


Another TV channel you never watched is going away. It's called Pivot, launched 3 years ago with a target audience of millennials. Unfortunately, that's exactly the demographic that isn't watching TV anymore. My 22-year-old daughter doesn't even have a television -- if she's consuming video, it's all online -- and I don't think her friends do, either.

Even if the network aired nothing but the "Friends" scene where Ross yells pivot!! at Rachel and Chandler as they try to get a couch up the stairs to his apartment, they weren't going to get that demo. Talk about a bad business plan.

The owners of Pivot can't even find a buyer for the network, so they're just going to shut it down later this year. The same thing happened to Al Jazeera America, a channel that similarly disappeared.

That makes me wonder what's keeping some of these other networks going? Can there possibly be enough viewers and advertisers for what I call the "click-by channels"? Have you even heard of these?
  • AWE, which stands for A Wealth of Entertainment (casting doubts on how its owners' define "wealth");
  • Aspire, owned by Magic Johnson;
  • Idea, which doesn't seem to even have a website;
  • Pop, formerly the TV Guide Channel;
  • Pets TV;
  • Cars TV;
  • Justice Central;
  • American Heroes;
  • DIY Network;
  • Z Living.
There are several networks whose names seem to have come out of a random word generator: Havoc, Ovation, Up, Velocity. I have never had anyone mention any show they've watched on any of those networks, probably because their programming is made up of reruns that other channels don't want. If they're producing original shows, they've gained zero traction and must be hemorrhaging cash.

I'm not even mentioning the myriad shopping channels nor the ones that seems to be nothing but a constant stream of infomercials (Value, Wow, GetIt, the Time-Life Channel). Does anyone ever spend more than 3 seconds watching them? Their entire viewership has to come from people flicking through every channel on their cable/satellite system and asking, "What is this?"

Then, of course, you pivot to a channel you actually want to watch.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Picture Of The Day

In honor of John McLaughlin, let’s watch the brilliant parody "The Sinatra Group" with Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, and Sting...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Told You So

Twenty six days ago, I tweeted:

Today, the headline is "Roger Ailes To Advise Donald Trump Ahead Of Presidential Debates."

Crazy People Welcome

In my four decades as a broadcaster, there have been a few times when a guest or a caller has said something insane on my show. I try not to let them get away with it. I always make it a point to challenge them, to insist they provide evidence of their claims (just as I do), rather than ignoring it and allowing them to spew nonsense.

Most of the time, that works out fine and we can continue, but occasionally, the guest is so far off the deep end, and unwilling to accept reality, that I terminate the discussion prematurely. Then I spend a minute or two pointing out to my audience how blatantly wrong they were, and assure them that guest or caller will not be welcome on my show again -- and I stand by it.

The cable news networks don't work that way, and neither does much of talk radio, because they have a different standard, summarized in three simple words: We Want Crazy. How else can you explain:

  • the repeated opportunities for Trump spokespeople like Katrina Pierson and Jeffrey Lord to spray ignorance all over the place and still be invited back to do it again?
  • that Al Sharpton and Oliver North, two nitwits whose lying and deception were uncovered decades ago, are still given a televised platform and treated like knowledgeable human beings?
  • Bill Kristol still being considered a pundit and regular contributor to a news show when almost every prediction he's ever made has turned out to be wrong?
  • guests who claim to be psychic or any of the other paranormal nonsense spewed on George Noory's program?
Where's the accountability? Where's the value of truth-telling? Where's the pride in what you're presenting to the audience? Where's the dump button?

Somewhere, Paddy Chayefsky's corpse is face-palming in disbelief.

Wilmore No More


Larry Wilmore's "Nightly Show" has been cancelled by Comedy Central.

I gave up on the show quite awhile ago because, despite Wilmore's unique voice in late night, it never lived up to its potential. Yes, it was the only show hosted by an African-American and thus an opportunity to make important points about the racial discussions that have made so much news over the last year. Unfortunately, Wilmore and his showrunner, Rory Albanese, never found the formula for making it work.

Wilmore's opening segment, a desk-bound recap of the day's news, was usually fairly strong, particularly when he talked about racial matters or the presidential campaign (or, as he calls it, "The Unblackening"). On many topics, Wilmore has a different perspective than his Caucasian competitors, and it was good to hear, although he frequently dipped into the same well of Trump-bashing clip-job material as everyone else.

But after the first commercial break, "The Nightly Show" devolved quickly into poorly-conceived sketches and a panel discussion that featured the same contributors plus a guest. Too often, that guest got short shrift when Wilmore could have talked to them one-on-one and squeezed out a lot more comedy and/or compelling commentary.

Perhaps Wilmore shied away from the singular interview subjects because Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had done that so well, but it was a mistake. Just as he made his opening remarks different, I would have liked to see how he handled one guest at a time face-to-face.

But the bottom line is "The Nightly Show" wasn't getting the ratings Comedy Central wanted, so it will be gone after Thursday night's finale. It must be said that Wilmore was not helped by the miserably unfunny job Trevor Noah is doing as host of "The Daily Show," where the ratings have dropped lower than Trump's favorability numbers with Muslims.

Starting next week, "The Nightly Show" will be replaced by Chris Hardwick's "After Midnight," a show that thinks it's a hundred times funnier than it actually is -- and which will now air before midnight in every time zone.

One last note: Comedy Central should have a serious conversation with Jessica Williams, the only standout correspondent on "The Daily Show" in the last year. She left a month or so ago for "another project." Giving that time slot to an African-American woman would be truly groundbreaking, and if she does it right, could create a whole new late-night comedy opportunity.

Previously on Harris Online...

Monday, August 15, 2016

Not Watching The Olympics


I am not watching the Olympics. There, I said it. Oh, I come across it now and then as I flick around the channels, but I'm not devoting any real time to it.

Neither are a lot of other people. The ratings are way down from last time in London, indicating you have found something better to do than observe athletes competing in sporting events you couldn't care less about. Be honest -- other than in these quadrennial get-togethers, do you ever watch archery, judo, or rugby?

I mention those three because when I went out for breakfast the other morning, the restaurant had the TV tuned to the Olympics as those events played out, and three women at the next table were watching intently and providing running commentary on everything that happened on screen. They referred to the US team in the first person plural, as in "we were in the lead until that shot, and now we'll have to hit a bullseye to win." That's the kind of in-depth archery analysis you can only get from someone with a mouthful of spinach-and-feta omelet.

Fencing, field hockey, team handball, weightlifting. Those are the events that used to make up the weekly programming for ABC's "Wide World Of Sports" and, along with track and field, swimming, and gymnastics, that's what should make up the Olympics -- not sports that already have global media attention, like basketball, tennis, and soccer. Those pros have plenty of championship events of their own. Leave the Olympics to badminton, kayaking, volleyball, and water polo.

NBC is streaming every event in every sport, but even those numbers aren't very large. Face it -- who, other than relatives of the players, is desperate to watch team handball or field hockey? It reminds me of when my daughter played cello in her school's orchestra. As her parents, of course we attended every performance. How many members of the community not related to one of the other musicians were there? None.

Which is exactly the amount of people watching Olympic taekwondo and skeet shooting.

I will admit that there is one event at the Rio games I am looking forward to, although I can't find it on my DVR guide. When are the swimming-in-sewage heats scheduled to begin? That must be the most anticipated water-related event since Ryan Lochte and his teammates were robbed at gunpoint (with no NBC cameras there to stream the mugging, unfortunately).

Woody Allen's Unfunny TV Trailer

A few weeks ago, in reviewing Woody Allen's "Cafe Society" as a contender for Worst Movie Of The Year, I noted that it was financed by Amazon Studios as part of a deal that includes Allen producing a six-part streaming TV series. Now we have our first look at the trailer for that project and, based on this quick glimpse, Allen looks to be simultaneously in the running for Worst TV Show Of The Year. Wow, is this lame, as if its creator has no sense of how comedy has changed in the last couple of decades...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Bobcat Goldthwait


The first time I saw Bobcat Goldthwait onstage was 30 years ago, when he was taking a shower in front of 10,000 people at the Universal Amphitheater in LA during the first Comic Relief show. The last time I saw him was a couple of years ago at the Funny Bone comedy club in Valley Park, Missouri. In between, he’s appeared in a bunch of movies, directed several more, and directed some TV shows including Dave Chappelle’s show, "Jimmy Kimmel Live," and Mark Maron’s show on IFC. He's also done voice work for a ton of animated projects and video games. Now he’s back in St. Louis to work at the Funny Bone here at Westport this weekend, so I asked him to stop by and spend some time in our studio.

Goldthwait long ago left behind the screaming character he did onstage and in the "Police Academy" movies, but we touched on lots of other topics (in his own voice), including:
  • Why he did that shower bit at Comic Relief;
  • His 2015 documentary “Call Me Lucky” about Barry Crimmins, the comedian, comedy mentor, and activist survivor of pedophile priest abuse;
  • God Bless America,” Goldthwait's very funny 2011 movie starring Joel Murray as a terminally ill man so fed up with idiots that he goes around shooting them;
  • His early days doing standup in Boston, with a peer group that included Paula Poundstone, Steven Wright, and Denis Leary;
  • What's it's like to be a comedian directing TV shows for other comedians;
  • A classic story involving the lead singer of Nickelback’s nose;
  • His close friendship with Robin Williams, who committed suicide 2 years ago this week;
  • His new TruTV series, "Bobcat Goldthwait's Messed Up Stories." 
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Showbiz Show 8/12/16


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Sausage Party," explained why there won't be a sequel to the all-female "Ghostbusters," and wondered why Hollywood is turning "Ocean's Eleven" into "Ocean's Eight" while rebooting "Mary Poppins," "Bad Santa," and "Splash." We also discussed breaking news about the Netflix series "Making A Murderer," why ratings are way down for the Summer Olympics, and which 1980s Steven Bochco series might be returning to television.

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

Harris Challenge 8/12/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include Paul McCartney, John/Paul/George On TV, and Have You Been Paying Attention? Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 8/12/16


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News® I have stories about an adulterous marriage protector, a man who ran for a plane, and a prosthetic leg in a beaver dam. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Best Thing I've Read Today

I mentioned earlier this week that Dave Barry is in Rio, blogging about the Olympics. Today, he touched on Michael Phelps' ridiculous purple pseudoscience body hickeys (which I wrote about here):

This makes the other swimmers nervous. They see the dots and think, “What the hell is THAT?” (Yes, the other swimmers think in English.) They’re afraid the dots are contagious. Sometimes they refuse to even jump into the pool with Phelps, leaving him to swim the race alone and collect all three medals.

In fact the dots are harmless. They’re caused by “cupping,” a medical technique originated by ancient Chinese doctors, who discovered that if they applied cups containing heated air to a patient’s skin, they created a vacuum that enabled them to extract money from the patient.

“Ha ha!” these doctors would exclaim, when they got together with the other doctors on the ancient Chinese golf course. “These people are actually PAYING us to make them look like victims of a squid attack! Say, do you think they’d be stupid enough to let us to stick needles into them?"
Read Dave Barry's full piece here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

As I Tweeted

The guy who climbed Trump Tower with suction cups today may be the best argument yet against building a border wall. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

As I Tweeted

I bet every time Mike Pence's phone rings, he thinks, "What impossible-to-defend thing did Trump say now?"

Your Tax Dollars In Action

Here comes yet another entertainment-related project -- a big aquarium -- that will be built in St. Louis with taxpayer dollars. This time, we're bailing out the company that owns Union Station, which hasn't been a must-visit destination for well over a decade (if not longer).

However, I can't seem to find the part of the deal where we share in the revenue. Surely, our city leaders haven't fallen for yet another negotiation in which the public only puts money in but never gets a return or a piece of the profit.

Here's a better idea. With the NFL gone and tax dollars still pouring into the now-vacant America's Center Dome, why don't we just fill that with water and let the fish swim around?

Best Thing I've Read Today

Comedian Will Durst on "The American People":

Politicians echo that refrain like hyperactive crickets in the summer dusk: “It’s what the American people want.” And “Let’s see what the American people want.” Nooooo. Let’s not see what the American people want. Have we learned nothing at all from segregation and civil war and The Real Housewives of Orange County? You want to know what the American people want? We’ll tell you what the American people want:

  • The American People want drive-thru nickel beer night. 
  • The American People want to lose weight by eating potato chips. 
  • The American People think louder is better and deafening is best. 
  • The American People want to climb K-2 in a Lazy-Boy recliner. 
  • The American People want the Supreme Being to help their team beat the other team totally oblivious that fans of the other team expect the same thing. 
  • The American People require a warning label on their brake fluid to keep them from drinking it. 
  • The American People want to win the lottery without having to buy a ticket. 
  • The American People think any piece of clothing they can squeeze into, fits. 
  • The American People want to make society safer with more guns. 
  • The American People want to visit foreign lands and speak English. 
  • The American People want better schools and roads by paying fewer taxes.
  • The American People would chew off their own foot if Oprah told them there was liquid gold in their ankle veins. 
  • The American People want to look like George Clooney by getting $10 haircuts.
  • 68% of the American People still believe professional wrestling is legitimate. 
  • The American People have the attention span of tornado-strewn straw. 
  • The American People think the laws of gravity should be repealed. 
  • The American People love the Home Shopping Network because it’s commercial free. 
Copyright 2016, Will Durst. Reprinted by permission.

Monday, August 08, 2016

A Cup Of Crap


After US swimmer Michael Phelps showed up at the Olympics with round purple bruises on his body, there have been a ton of stories explaining why. The short answer: he's fallen for pseudoscientific bullshit.

It's called cupping, a technique that dates from before modern medicine in which a glass cup is heated and placed on the skin. As the air inside the cup cools, it creates suction, pulling up the skin, often breaking capillaries underneath, and leaving that round purple/red mark. Believers say it helps fight muscle fatigue and, well, a litany of other things, but there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support those claims.

I've known about cupping for a long time, because my parents told me stories of their parents using the practice to heal them (and their siblings) when they were very young. What did it treat? Whatever you said it treated -- a cold, a fever, pneumonia -- you didn't have to be specific because the fact was (and remains) that cupping has no positive or restorative effect at all.

Of course, health expert Gwyneth Paltrow -- the woman who promoted vagina steaming -- is a cupping endorser, so you know it's garbage. Unfortunately, because of Phelps, the gullible public, which had never heard of cupping, will start using the practice. I predict that within a month or two, we'll see a rash (if you'll pardon the pun) of stories about people being burned by the practice, both literally and figuratively.

What really pisses me off about this story is that the vast majority of media outlets that report on Phelps' bruises won't bother to find someone who says what I've just told you. All they had to do was Google "cupping" to find this piece, in which David Gorski debunks the nonsense behind the craze.

I'd much rather they tell a better science-for-the-win story like this one, about a woman who got married this weekend and was accompanied down the aisle by the man who had received her father's heart after he died ten years ago. That's a tale of real life-saving science with a happily emotional ending.

A story like that could inspire more people to become organ donors, which we have a chronic shortage of in this country. But instead we'll get a batch of trendy idiots walking around with giant hickeys on their bodies.

Binge-Watch Suggestion: Marcella


My wife and I just finished watching all 8 episodes of "Marcella," a crime series streaming on Netflix. It opens with the scene pictured above, as a woman wakes up to find herself in a bathtub with blood on her body and the walls. And she's the heroine!

Marcella Backland (Anna Thiel) is a detective in London who comes out of retirement to re-join the homicide squad looking into a murder that may be connected to a serial killer she'd investigated years earlier. I won't tell you anything about the case, but I will say that Marcella fits nicely into the annals of brilliant but seriously flawed detectives.

The only problem we had with the show is that there are three actors who are hard to tell apart -- they're all thin, with dark hair, and the same British accent. In fact, I wasn't 100% sure which was which until the final episode. But that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the show.

The "Marcella" season comprises eight episodes that run about 45 minutes each. It doesn't answer all the questions it raises (none of which I'll spoil), but perhaps will address them in a second season I hope Netflix is planning. Meanwhile, you should consider adding "Marcella" to your Netflix queue.

One final note: "Marcella" highlights one of my continuing frustrations as a Netflix customer. I only found about about the show because my friend Darryl happened upon it by chance. With the company spending so many dollars to create new series, you'd think it would have a better way to let us know what it has to offer. Sure, I can go to the Netflix site and browse through the titles chosen for me by its recommendations software, but I don't do that on a regular basis, and I don't think other members do, either.

It would increase viewership (and interest) if Netflix sent out a weekly email telling us what's new -- from originals to movies it has acquired and begun streaming -- complete with brief explanations of what they are. While there's lots of publicity for series like "House Of Cards," with Kevin Spacey hitting the talk-show circuit to promote each new season, there are a lot of other gems that are going undiscovered except by word of mouth. Netflix should work on getting them discovered by more people.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Letter To The Editor Of The Day

Mark Puente found this on the letters to the editor page of the Tampa Bay Times...

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Showbiz Show 8/5/16


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Suicide Squad," Louis CK's pop-up comedy show, an Oliver Stone PSA for movie theaters, and a show you should add to your Netflix queue.

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

Harris Challenge 8/5/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include The New NFL Hall Of Famers, The Political Page, and the Summer Olympics Are Here. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 8/5/16


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News® I have stories about why you shouldn't Snapchat with a gun, two dogs in a car, and a lawnmower DUI. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Best Thing I've Read Today

President Barack Obama on being a feminist and what still needs to be done in that realm:

We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.

We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women, whether they’re walking down the street or daring to go online. We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women.

We need to keep changing the attitude that congratulates men for changing a diaper, stigmatizes full-time dads, and penalizes working mothers. We need to keep changing the attitude that values being confident, competitive, and ambitious in the workplace—unless you’re a woman. Then you’re being too bossy, and suddenly the very qualities you thought were necessary for success end up holding you back.

We need to keep changing a culture that shines a particularly unforgiving light on women and girls of color. Michelle has often spoken about this. Even after achieving success in her own right, she still held doubts; she had to worry about whether she looked the right way or was acting the right way—whether she was being too assertive or too “angry.”

As a parent, helping your kids to rise above these constraints is a constant learning process. Michelle and I have raised our daughters to speak up when they see a double standard or feel unfairly judged based on their gender or race—or when they notice that happening to someone else. It’s important for them to see role models out in the world who climb to the highest levels of whatever field they choose. And yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.
Read President Obama's full piece here.

Picture Of The Day

"The Simpsons" imagine a 3am call to Trump at the White House...

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Poker Stories: Check The Rules

While poker is played by the same basic rules everywhere (e.g. a flush always beats a straight), there are some things that can differ depending on the venue. Here are a few examples:

I once played in a no-limit hold'em cash game in Kansas City with $10/20 blinds and a $5 ante. Having the ante made it a much bigger game, so there was a lot of money on the table. The game was played in a casino, but run like a private game, so that a certain group of locals always had first dibs on the seats. I got in by invitation because I knew someone in the game who told me about the most important stipulation: the game starts at 6pm, and if you're winning, you're not allowed to leave until 2am. The idea was to keep someone from hitting-and-running (taking down a huge pot and then leaving), as well as to guarantee that the game would go for at least 8 hours. I asked how they could force me to stay and was told, "Well, legally we can't make you stay, but if you leave while you're ahead, you'll never be allowed back in the game." Fortunately, there was a lot of action and I had a very good night, so I had no interest in bailing until we broke up around 3am.

Speaking of hitting-and-running, there's a rule in a couple of St. Louis casinos that if you pick up your chips and leave a game, you're not allowed back at that table for 3 hours unless you put in play the same amount of chips you had when you left. The reason is to avoid someone from hitting-and-running with a big stack and then returning to the game with a minimum buy-in an hour later. The rule came about because of one particular player who -- to this day -- has a reputation for doing exactly that. Because of him, the time limit was increased from one hour to three hours. He still uses the same tactic, starting with the minimum and playing ultra-tight until he can double up and leave, but then he has to go play another game for the next three hours or go home.

At the Isle in Pompano Beach, Florida, they have a $5/10 no-limit hold'em game that starts every morning when Joe shows up. He gets to choose the starting time and can have whatever seat he wants at the table. Needless to say, the other players put up with this because Joe dumps a lot of money into the game -- so much that there's a full complement of players at the Isle most mornings by nine o'clock waiting for him to show up.

There can be all sorts of special rules in home games, where there's also a lot of variance in the rake (the amount the host takes out of each pot). Most that I've played in have taken $5 out of every pot. Over the course of an 8-hour session, that can amount to over $1,000 for the person running the game. Incidentally, that's the only part of home game poker that's illegal -- taking a rake -- which hasn't stopped it from being played pretty much everywhere.

In some places, the host is much greedier. I've spoken to guys from Texas (which has no legal casinos) who play in $25/50 pot-limit Omaha home games where the house pulls $30 out of each pot. When I heard a player from Dallas talking about this, I asked, "How can you possibly beat that rake?" He answered, "That's how good the game is." That's nothing compared to some other home games -- and cruise ships -- where the person running the game drags 10% of every pot, with no cap!

The best deal I ever experienced in a home game was when my friend Mike ran a weekly game at his house. He charged $20 as an entrance fee, but then took no rake at all the rest of the day. Plus, he provided free snacks, beverages, and food -- including dinner. The only variation was on the nights he served steak, when he asked for another ten bucks. I really liked that game, not just because it was profitable for me in the long term, but because of Mike's hospitality. However, the first time I played there I thought would be my last after I felted Mike (took all of his chips) twice in big hands. He wasn't happy, but the next week welcomed me back to the game as if nothing had happened.

And still only charged me $20.

Previously on Harris Online...

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Movie Review: Life, Animated


When he was three years old, Owen Suskind's parents Ron and Cornelia noticed that he was suddenly withdrawn and non-communicative. When a doctor diagnosed Owen as autistic, their lives changed. Ron and Cornelia struggled to help their son and desperately wanted to be able to reach inside and pull him out, but they were stymied by his condition.

Then, one day, Owen blurted out a line from one of the many Disney animated movies he'd watched over and over again, and that opened the door. Those cartoons ("The Little Mermaid," "Peter Pan," "The Lion King," etc.) served as a pathway between Owen and his parents. He learned to read from the credits and speak from the dialogue.

Owen was lucky to be born into a family with means and education, willing to do whatever it took to get thru to their son. Ron, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, told Owen's story in a best-selling book, and director Roger Ross Williams has turned it into a wonderfully inspirational documentary. Williams acquired the rights from Disney to use tons of clips, and there's original animation, too, to supplement the real-life story as Owen moves from childhood into adulthood, when he's ready to move out of the house and into his own apartment in an assisted-living facility.

I've never been a huge fan of Disney animation, which tends to be a little too sappy for my taste, but seeing it help Owen -- and others in the Disney Movie Club he formed at a school for kids with special needs -- is heartwarming. I give "Life, Animated" a 7 out of 10.

Previously on Harris Online...

Monday, August 01, 2016

Best Thing I've Read Today

Zack Kopplin is right that Hillary Clinton saying "I believe in science" should not be noteworthy, but it is, unfortunately.

Thirty minutes into Hillary Clinton’s speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, she made a simple admission that, in 2016, should not be remarkable but somehow was. “And, I believe in science!” she exclaimed. And then she laughed uncomfortably as the crowd applauded, perhaps uncomfortable themselves.

This is bizarre, because in 2016, stating a belief in science should not be a line in a presidential candidate’s speech. Science is not up for debate. Science is not something one chooses to believe in because it flatters one’s partisan preferences. Science is a fact, and either people acknowledge reality or they do not.
Read Kopplin's full piece here.

I'm Just Asking

With Trump continuing to make ridiculous remarks and horrifying statements on a number of subjects over the last few days, how's that "pivot" to a more presidential mode going?

Movie Review: Jason Bourne


It's been four years since "The Bourne Legacy" with Jeremy Renner, a decade since Matt Damon played the title character, and what do we get in the series' fifth outing? Another story that follows the same well-trodden path, in which Bourne pops up on the CIA's global surveillance system, so he must die. From then on, we get plenty of car chases, fights, close calls, escapes, and high-tech tracking software.

Damon is still very good as Bourne, although he didn't have many lines to learn. Tommy Lee Jones redefines "craggy" as the CIA director worried Bourne is going to divulge super-secret information. Julia Stiles returns as rogue ex-CIA employee Nicky Parsons, Alicia Vikander ("Ex-Machina," "The Danish Girl") has the Joan Allen role, and Riz Ahmed (Naz on HBO's "The Night Of") plays the CEO of a giant social media corporation that's entangled with the agency.

There's also “The Asset” (Vincent Cassel), another highly-trained assassin that the CIA sends after Bourne. It gets a little annoying that they never assign a name to this character, so Jones is always saying, "Send in The Asset!" or "Get The Asset on the phone." Even when he's talking to the guy, he still doesn't use a name. Just once, I'd like to hear, "Okay, Jenkins, we know where Bourne is, now please kill him, preferably in hand-to-hand combat even though you're armed to the teeth."

In these movies, you know Bourne will always win in the end -- it’s the chase that matters, with lots of collateral damage -- but I'd like to have seen them do something different. For instance, how about a plot where Nicky (Stiles) finds Bourne in his underground life, tells him about a really bad guy who's after her for what she knows, and because she betrayed the CIA, she can't go to them for help so Bourne is her only option. That's the sort of story that could have launched an entirely new direction for the series going forward -- one that could also involve Renner or others playing Bourne-like super-field-agents.

Bottom line: if you've enjoyed the previous Bourne movies, you'll probably like this one, but it's not nearly as good as the first three installments, which should have wrapped up this character for good. I give "Jason Bourne" a 6 out of 10.