Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis Mondays and Fridays, 3-6pm CT

Saturday, September 30, 2017

David Gardner, "Motley Fool Investment Guide"


Almost a quarter-century ago, I spotted two brothers named Tom and David Gardner on AOL (when it was pretty much the only way for most of us to do anything online). They were the guys behind The Motley Fool, and their mission was to teach people how to become informed investors. This was at a time when buying stocks and mutual funds was supposed to be done only by professional brokers and big institutions. Not only were the Gardners writing about investing, they were also opening up forums for the public to share their thoughts on companies they liked or loathed.

Over the next few years, I not only got to know David and Tom, but also had them on my radio show many times (I even helped them put together the pilot for their own radio show). Now, more than 20 years later, I still subscribe to one of their services, and the Motley Fool thrives online and in podcasts and in print. They’ve just published the third edition of their bestselling book, “The Motley Fool Investment Guide,” and I was happy to talk with David about it.

We discussed how investing is different than it was in the earliest days of the Motley Fool, what he says to naysayers about the bull market, and what advice he offers people in retirement or nearing that age who wonder what to do with their money. We also talked about disrupters, those companies that have changed the way the world works, and whether it's still worth investing in big names like Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix. Finally, I asked David why, after recommending so many tech stocks like eBay and PayPal, he is now suggesting buying 3M, the company that makes Post-Its.

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

Patty Farmer on Hugh Hefner's Legacy


With the death of Hugh Hefner this week at age 91, I called upon Patty Farmer to discuss his legacy because she worked with him on her books, "Playboy Laughs: The Comedy, Comedians, and Cartoons of Playboy" and "Playboy Swings: How Hugh Hefner and Playboy Changed the Face of Music."

Among the topics we discussed:
  • Hefner always contended he was not exploiting women, but his detractors said he was using women as objects;
  • How Playboy lost its way in the internet era;
  • Hefner's groundbreaking TV shows, "Playboy Penthouse" and "Playboy After Dark."
  • The impact of the Playboy Clubs on comedy and music;
  • Hefner’s involvement in the civil rights movement;
  • Why Playboy actually was worth reading for the articles.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Showbiz Show 9/29/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I reviewed Tom Cruise in "American Made," Emma Stone and Steve Carell in "Battle Of The Sexes," Ben Stiller in "Brad's Status," and Noah Wyle in "Shot." We also discussed movie spoilers on planes and the failure of Darren Aronofsky's "Mother."

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

Harris Challenge 9/29/17

This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- includes trivia categories about Famous Women Who Posed Naked In Playboy, People In And Out Of Power, and It Happened In September.

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

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 9/29/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about an actor at the back door, a politician in the back seat, and a toy in a lung. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Movie Review: "Shot"


In "Shot," a teen named Miguel is on one side of a Los Angeles street getting an illegal gun from his cousin so Miguel can protect himself against bullies at school. On the other side of the street, a man named Mark is walking down the street with his estranged wife Phoebe, trying to convince her not to divorce him. Suddenly, the gun goes off in Miguel's hand and the bullet flies across the street in an instant and hits Mark in the chest, knocking him to the sidewalk. That's not a spoiler, it's the launching point of "Shot."

We then follow the male leads in split screen: Miguel as he panics and runs away, hoping no one saw him and desperate to get rid of the gun; and Mark as he's taken care of by paramedics (including Malcolm Jamal Warner) and then to the emergency room. It's here that the movie gets a little odd, solely because Mark is played by Noah Wyle, who for fifteen years played Dr. John Carter on the TV series "ER" -- but now he's the patient, not the physician.

You won't be alone in thinking this makes "Shot" seem like a "very special episode" of "ER," or perhaps a TV movie-with-a-message. That may be because it was directed and produced by septuagenarian Jeremy Kagan, who spent forty years directing TV sitcoms and dramas, but only two other feature films, and it's been a decade since his last one.

I have a feeling that Kagan, who came up with the story in the first place, wanted to say something important about how any random gun incident can wreak havoc on the lives of both the victim and the shooter, but it does it in such a heavy-handed way that it leaves the viewer bored and not much more. To get to the end credits, which begin with text that reinforces how many Americans are victims of gun violence every year, he's forced us to sit through a story that doesn't really draw us in, with characters that I never found myself rooting for -- and that overly long sequence of Mark getting medical attention from the emergency room staff doesn't help, either.

Since opening on September 22nd, "Shot" has been playing in exactly one movie theater in the St. Louis area, and it looks like that week will mark its only run here. I doubt it's doing much business elsewhere, either.

I give "Shot" a 3 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Road Trip: Yellowstone


My wife and I just spent a week in Wyoming, visiting Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Jackson Hole. During the Yellowstone portion, I set a new personal record for use of the word "WOW!"

Words -- and even two-dimensional photos -- fail to describe the beauty of Yellowstone, one of America's greatest public spaces. Most people know it as the home of Old Faithful, but it is so much more. There are vast areas of open space, framed by tall mountains, with different geological features depending on where you go. We saw awe-inspiring views of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, beautiful waterfalls, forests destroyed by fire and then re-born, and natural mineral terraces formed by the wonder of geothermal activity.

As for Old Faithful, yes, it's nice to sit there and eat a soft-serve ice cream cone while waiting for Mother Nature to blow her stack with a geyser of water 100 feet high every hour and a half (park rangers post signs at the Visitors Center predicting, with a ten minute margin of error, when the next blast can be expected). To be honest, though, I preferred the view of the Gateway Geyser in East St. Louis, Illinois (which I wrote about here), where the water goes 600 feet in the air!

There's much more fascinating geothermal activity at the West Thumb Geyser Basin and its sister location, the Norris Geyser Basin. These are the two real hot spots (pun intended) of Yellowstone, with pools of boiling iridescent water that's come up out of the Earth. The ground is so hot, you can't walk on it, so the National Park Service has boardwalks throughout each area that take you safely around these hydrothermal wonders.

Interestingly, in our litigious society, there are no railings on the boardwalks, nothing to keep you from stepping off to see if the warning signs at the entrance were for real. Last year, an idiot 23-year-old didn't believe the cautionary messages and decided to leave the path and go for a walk. He quickly found out what 199 degrees fahrenheit feels like, and was dead within minutes. We heard a story from a park ranger about another moron who this summer disregarded the danger and is now laid up in a medically-induced coma at a hospital in Salt Lake City until they can figure out how to get enough grafts to replace the skin on his entire body. This is Mother Nature's way of saying, "Wasn't the steam coming out of my holes enough of a head's up?"

Then there's the wildlife. I had never seen bison in their natural habitat, bigger than I expected, and never dreamed that I'd be bored of them after a couple of days. The first time we came upon a few bison, they were eating grass in a patch between the road and a river. Before we even spotted them, we knew to pull over because several other cars already had, their occupants jumping out to take photos.

It reminded me of the old Soviet Union, where when you saw a line of people, you joined it, and then asked what it was for. Didn't matter whether it was bread or toilet paper, you were going to need it, so get in line. Same with pulled-over cars at Yellowstone -- they were always an indicator of an animal viewing opportunity.

One of the things we learned about bison is that a group of them is not called a "herd," it's an "obstinancy." However, after seeing hundreds of bison in the first two days, we got obstinate and stopped stopping for them. Been there, done that, can see them through the car window.

The other animal we saw in large numbers was elk. On our first day, while visiting West Thumb, we came upon several of them (apparently, their feet can handle the warmth), including a bull elk, which was bugling -- they make that sound when they're horny, and this was mating season -- to try to attract the nearby female elk. There were a few nearby, including one cow with her calf and several single ladies just lounging around acting as if they couldn't care less. This is known in science as the What My Nights Were Like Before I Was Married phenomenon.

We also spotted bighorn sheep just walking alongside the road, a gray wolf in a field pouncing on an unsuspecting smaller animal, antelope, deer, and maybe a moose. We weren't sure of the latter because it was a long way off, and even through binoculars, we couldn't discern what exactly that moving brown spot in the distance was.

The one animal we most wanted to see, but didn't, was a bear. Everywhere you go in Yellowstone, there's a reminder to carry bear spray when you go for a hike -- but of all the people we talked to, not one had ever encountered a bear on the trail. So, we didn't carry the spray, but then again, we weren't really hiking. We're two out-of-shape middle-aged people whose top speed is saunter and whose time outdoors is mostly used for getting to the next indoors location. We don't hike and we don't camp. We did go for a few walks, including one up a large hill for about a half-mile to get to view a lake, but nothing that required any equipment sold at REI. In lieu of bear spray, we were told by a ranger to be noisy on the trails because that actually keeps the bears away -- they're not looking forward to coming upon humans -- and that's one thing I'm good at. I'd shout out lyrics from obscure songs or make announcements to the animal population about our location, and we weren't bothered at all. Can't say as much for the other people on the trails, of course.

We would have gone for more walks, but the weather wasn't our friend. We expected daytime temperatures in the 50s, but a cold front came through and kept things not much above freezing most days, with a mixture of snow, rain, and 20mph winds on occasion. That didn't stop us from getting out of the car to see the amazing sights of Yellowstone, but combined with the thin air at seven thousand feet, spending a lot of time on our feet outdoors was not a priority. The most disappointing thing about the overcast skies was never getting to see the blanket of stars we'd been looking forward to -- away from the light pollution of American suburbia, we wanted to look up and see the vastness of the night sky, but it wasn't to be.

One thing that no one warned us about is that there's no cell phone service anywhere in Yellowstone because there are no towers. There's also no wifi (or TV!) in the hotels, so we were off the grid completely for several days. The good thing is that forces people who are so used to walking around looking down at their screens to actually look up at the magnificent natural surroundings they're in. Of course, everyone still uses their smartphones to take pictures, and lots of them. In the digital era, when we don't have to worry about running out of film, we took hundreds of pictures, including multiple shots of pretty much every place we visited in Yellowstone.

We took advantage of the vast knowledge of the park rangers, who lead tours, give educational talks, and can answer any question about Yellowstone. But the other information source we're glad we used was Gaper Guide. This is a device you can rent at locations near any of the park entrances (we got ours in Jackson Hole), which you place on the dashboard of your car and plug into the lighter. It has a speaker and a built-in GPS, so it knows where you are and tells you stories about the parks (both Yellowstone and Grand Teton) as you drive through. You also hear stories about the history, the sights, and the science (we heard the word "caldera" more in a week than ever before in our lives), as well as tips about every turnout and picnic area and available bathrooms along the way. Yellowstone doesn't have many roads, but without the ability to use Google Maps to navigate, Gaper Guide was an invaluable resource and worth every penny.

It Doesn't Matter If They Boo

Trump made a big deal out of the people in the stands at this weekend's NFL games who booed the players who kneeled during the anthem -- because in Trump's world of narcissism, public opinion is the only thing that matters. Unless it's against Trump, of course. Then it's not valid, like the polls that have his popularity down to about a third of the country.

Still, we must remember that when it comes to big social issues like civil rights, it doesn't matter how many people express their outrage by booing. They can let off all the obnoxious steam they want. It doesn't matter.

It didn't matter when they screamed at Martin Luther King as he led the Selma march. It didn't matter when they booed Tommie Smith and Juan Carlos as they raised their fists on the Olympics medal stand in 1968. It didn't matter when racist southerners yelled at National Guardsmen protecting African-American students who were just trying to go to school. It didn't matter when love-it-or-leave-it types yelled at college students protesting the Vietnam War. It didn't matter when homophobes tried to intimidate the first gay couples who applied for marriage licenses.

The virtue of being in the right is not diminished by the volume of your opposition.

Here is one of the voices of reason, longtime Dallas sportscaster Dale Hansen, who I have featured here before. Once again, he says exactly the right thing about the NFL/anthem controversy and the hypocrites who don't understand it...

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Random Thoughts

Has anyone heard from David Meade in the last couple of days? He's the nutcase who predicted the world would end on Saturday when the Planet Nibiru smashed into the Earth, which he figured out using "Christian numerology" (a/k/a "bullshit"). Even though many media outlets reported his prediction last week, I haven't seen one holding him accountable since then for being 100% wrong. On the other hand, there's no real upside to making a forecast like this, because if you're right and humanity is wiped out, there will be no one left to give you credit! (since I posted this, Meade now says he did the calculations wrong, and the real End Of World Day will be October 15th, after which he'll no doubt re-check his math and come up with another excuse).

It took me just a few minutes of Megyn Kelly's debut of her "Today" hour on NBC yesterday to understand why it will likely follow similar efforts by other news anchors who tried and failed with daytime talk shows (e.g. Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper, Jane Pauley, and Meredith Viera). Like the rest, Kelly is trying to go the Oprah route, but she has too much baggage from her tenure at Fox News Channel. Her fans from those years don't care about her interviewing the cast of the return edition of "Will and Grace," while those who didn't watch "The Kelly File" will wonder what all the fuss is about. Sadly, not much.

The federal government announced via Twitter yesterday that anyone on Puerto Rico who is suffering from the recent hurricane and needs help should ask for assistance at USA.gov. Apparently, the geniuses in Washington who sent that message aren't aware that no one on Puerto Rico has an internet connection after the storm. In fact, the vast majority of people there have no electricity, or clean water, or fuel, or food. A dam is in danger of collapsing and wiping out two communities. Eighty percent of the island's crops have been destroyed. Yes, the government should provide aid, but be a little smarter about it. Of course, it would be nice if we had a president who paid as much attention to the 3.4 million Americans (yes, they're citizens, too) whose lives have been turned upside down as he does to a couple of hundred NFL players silently protesting during the national anthem.

Speaking of those protests -- an issue that was 99.9% dead before Trump reanimated it over the weekend -- I have a suggestion for those of you offended by them: start watching the game a couple of minutes later and skip the anthem entirely. From then on out, all you'll see is football, without anyone doing anything to upset you. Unless the team you bet on doesn't cover the spread and your fantasy players don't score enough points -- then you'd have valid reasons to scream at the screen. I wonder how long it will take for Fox, CBS, NBC, and ESPN to go back to their longtime practice of not showing the anthem at all except during the playoffs and Super Bowl -- it's been years since they devoted airtime during the regular season to the anthem. Were they being unpatriotic by skipping The Star Spangled Banner to sell Bud Light and Cialis? Nope, that's capitalism in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Tim Harford, "50 Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy"


Here's my conversation with Tim Harford, author of "50 Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy." Among the things we discussed:
  • How have these inventions created both winners and losers;
  • Whethere we'll look back and say that robots were good or bad for humans in the workplace;
  • Things we take for granted — like paper money, concrete, and clocks;
  • Whether we're any closer to the paperless society we were promised years ago;
  • The device that’s around today because someone wanted to invent the Death Ray years ago;
  • What would be #1 on your list?
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Knuckleheads In The News® 9/25/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about the Mad Pooper, a car on fire, and a pocketful of problems. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Where's The Soap?

One of my many pet peeves when traveling is encountering a hotel with liquid soap dispensers in the shower. Excuse me, I meant to say "bath gel."

I understand why more hotels have adopted this practice. It's cheaper to refill the dispensers every week or so than to start out each guest with a new bar of soap that may only be used for a day before it has to be thrown away.

I don't have a problem using soft soap at the sink -- a couple of pumps and I have enough to clean my hands -- but in the shower, with a body as large as mine, I've gotta hit that thing more than a dozen times to get enough volume of "bath gel." Plus, there's something more satisfying about rubbing a bar of soap against the body and lathering up.

Perhaps I'll have to start traveling with my own bar of soap, as my daughter does. She's a vegan and -- I didn't know this until she informed me -- most commercial soaps (and "bath gels") contain at least one ingredient made from animal products. So she carries her own cruelty-free bar and forgoes whatever the hotel/motel/hostel offers.

That will also keep me from smelling like whatever combination of ingredients the "bath gel" producer has chosen for their product. Apparently, to be in that business, you only have to choose two random scents and combine them. Among those I've encountered on recent trips: lemongrass sage, cucumber melon, black raspberry vanilla, and oatmeal peppercorn.

It could be worse. I could be showering with pumpkin spice bath gel.

Friday, September 22, 2017

No Show Today

I'm taking a personal day today, so I won't be on KTRS this afternoon. However, I'll make up for it with a bonus show Monday 3-6pm CT. Until then, you'll have to figure out how to start the weekend on your own.

Best Thing I've Read Today

USA Today's Nancy Armour says that the revelation that Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who killed himself in prison after being convicted of murder, suffered from severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) will shake the NFL to its core -- and it should.

It was easy to absolve football when it is players in their 60s and 70s whose memories and personalities had disappeared, turning them into people their loved ones barely recognized when they died. There’s no definitive link, the NFL would say, alluding to a host of other environmental and lifestyle factors that might have played a role.

Even when it was Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, taking their lives in their 40s and 50s because their addled brains were already making their lives hell and they knew there was more to come, the NFL managed to tap dance around football’s responsibility. Tragic, but there are still so many unanswered questions, we’ve heard time and time and time again. More research is needed on genetics and mental illness and, well, anything else that might gum up the debate....

But a 27 year old? The NFL is going to own that whether it wants to or not.

The NFL spends considerable time and resources every year to reassure worried parents that it’s OK to let their kids play football at the youth level. But the news about Hernandez will only ratchet up the fear, making parents wonder if they’re consigning their kids to a jail cell or the morgue by allowing them to play.
As I predicted years ago when I started discussing the work of researchers like Dr. Bennet Amalu and Dr. Ann McKee, we've already seen a dramatic drop-off in the number of young kids playing organized football. That means fewer players interested in risking their brains to play the game professionally later on.

And there are quite a few fans -- myself included -- who just don't get as much joy from watching the NFL as we used to. That's a part of the reason the league's TV ratings started slipping several years ago. Stories like this, from respected sports columnists like Armour, are only going to continue to dent the NFL's image going forward.

Read Armour's full piece here.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Picture Of The Day

Thanks to Jacob Veitz for sending me the link to this funny piece by James Veitch about how he handled an unsolicited marketing email from a supermarket...

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Picture Of The Day

A very entertaining explanation of the magic behind sound design for movies and TV...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Movie Review: "American Assassin"


Mitch Rapp has just proposed to his beautiful girlfriend on the beach in Ibiza, Spain. When he goes to the bar to get a couple of drinks to toast their engagement, all hell breaks loose. Gunmen appear out of nowhere, shooting everyone in sight. She's dead, but somehow he survives.

The next time we see him, Mitch is in training. It's clear he's working to get back at the Iranians who pulled off the terrorist attack that turned his life upside down. Meanwhile, he's attracted the attention of the CIA, which is monitoring his communications with the jihadists. Pretty soon, he's being recruited to join an elite fighting force called Orion, run by tough guy Stan Hurley, played by Michael Keaton.

As in so many other movies, everything is better when Keaton is on screen. He's still a magnetic personality, but I like him best when he's playing a rogue character. This time, however, he's the boss and Mitch is the guy who doesn't like following orders, so you know they're going to butt heads before they're forced to work together to save the world.

Did I give too much away? No, because we've seen this formula and characters like Mitch before: John McClane, Jack Reacher, Jason Bourne. The kind of guy who can withstand a brutal fistfight, shoot you dead with the last bullet in his gun, and somehow know exactly where the bad guy is at just the right time. It's also the kind of movie where the bad guy doesn't kill the good guy because he wants his nemesis to see the havoc he's about to wreak (never mind the collateral damage of the rest of the people on the good guy's side). So, you're unlikely to be surprised by anywhere "American Assassin" takes you, including a finale that may remind you of a 2002 movie based on a Tom Clancy book.

That said, Dylan O'Brien, who plays Mitch, is very good in the role, and I have a feeling we'll see him as this character again, considering "American Assassin" is based on just one of sixteen Mitch Rapp novels in print. Of course, a lot of people said the same thing about Taylor Kitsch five years ago when he graduated from TV star on "Friday Night Lights" to action movie star in "John Carter," but that didn't quite work out. So it's ironic that Kitsch shows up in "American Assassin" as a bad guy. The cast also includes Sanaa Lathan as the CIA authority figure trying to keep both Mitch and Stan under control while simultaneously supporting every rogue move they pull off.

Last week, in discussing Jeremy Renner, I mentioned "Kill The Messenger," an underrated 2014 title in which he starred as real-life journalist Gary Webb, who uncovered the CIA's role in importing cocaine into American ghettoes in the 1990s. That movie was well directed by Michael Cuesta, who also does a good job with "American Assassin." He gets the action sequences right, doesn't telegraph what's coming next, and lets Keaton be Keaton, which always helps.

I give "American Assassin" a 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Movie Review: "Mother!"


After seeing Darren Aronofsky's "Mother!" I walked out of the theater not sure what I had just seen, but confident that I hated it and will find a place for it on my Worst Movies Of 2017 list.

The plot starts with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a couple living in a big Victorian house with not much around them except a meadow and some trees. He's a poet with writer's block. She's fixing up the house on her own. One day, there's a knock on the door and Ed Harris stumbles into their lives. It turns out he's a fan of Bardem's, who allows Harris to spend the night. The next day, Michelle Pfeiffer shows up as Ed's wife and moves in, too.

Lawrence doesn't understand why her husband allows these complete strangers into their personal space and walks around with a puzzled look on her face. That look changes to horror when the couple's two sons show up, a fight breaks out, and someone ends up dead. During all of this, Bardem does nothing to stop anyone while Lawrence screams. From there until the end of the movie, that's all you get from either of the leads -- apathy from him and terrified panic from her.

This is the kind of movie where, when Lawrence goes to the basement and sees blood dripping down the walls, she doesn't tell anyone about it. Is it a horror movie? Is it a metaphor for writer's block? What the hell is it?

I don't know, and I don't care. I did sympathize with Lawrence, however, because she's trapped in that house with something terrible taking place -- just like I was trapped in that movie theater for two full hours with a terrible movie unfolding in front of me.

"Mother!" is self-indulgent (note the exclamation point in its name), it's too long, and it's unsettling to see such good actors locked into a script that takes them nowhere.

The movie shares its title with a movie Albert Brooks made in 1996, in which he plays a grown man who moves back in with his mother, played by Debbie Reynolds. It was not one of Brooks' best (e.g. "Modern Romance," "Lost In America," "Defending Your Life"), but you'd be better off watching it five times than having to sit through this "Mother!" even once.

I give it a 2 on a scale of 10, with an exclamation point!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Andy Dehnart's Fall Reality Preview


Andy Dehnart, publisher of RealityBlurred.com, returned to my radio show to preview some TV reality shows you should watch this fall. We also discussed how local news in central Florida (where he lives) covered Hurricane Irma, why "Survivor" is better in other countries, and the upcoming "Celebrity Big Brother."

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

Showbiz Show 9/15/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I reviewed "Rebel In The Rye," "Mother," and "American Assassin." We also discussed new Marc Maron and Jerry Seinfeld standup specials on Netflix, why Hollywood shouldn't blame Rotten Tomatoes, and yet another new "Star Wars" director.

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

Harris Challenge 9/15/17

This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- includes categories about U2, the Emmy Awards, and the ME Awards.  Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 9/15/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about a dangerous swim, utility pole thieves, and suspects fleeing to the wrong building. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

KTRS Friday


I'll be back on my 3-6pm CT show on KTRS today.

In the first hour, I'll talk with Andy Dehnart of Reality Blurred about the reality TV shows coming up this fall, as well as this weekend's Emmy awards.

In the second hour, Max and I will review "Rebel In The Rye," "Mother," "American Assassin," and other movie/showbiz news.

In the third hour, you'll have a chance to test your trivia knowledge on my Harris Challenge, and I'll have a new batch of Knuckleheads In The News®.

You can listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Concert Review: Stevie Nicks

I saw Stevie Nicks in concert last night, and was pleasantly surprised to find that, at age 69, she still has the full, strong voice that made her a star more than four decades ago.

With legendary LA session guitarist Waddy Wachtel leading her 8-piece band, Stevie sang several of her hits ("Gypsy," "Rhiannon," "Landslide"), the best version of "Gold Dust Woman" I've ever heard, and some more obscure work going all the way back to her first solo album "Belladonna" and even to her pre-Fleetwood Mac days. She also told a lot of stories about her life and music, including how she became friends with Prince when his "Little Red Corvette" inspired her to write "Stand Back," one of her most popular tunes.

More than three-quarters of the crowd were women, many of whom had obviously put a lot of thought, time, and money into their Stevie Nicks concert outfits in an effort to mirror her wardrobe although none of them quite matched the real thing. Stevie herself went through an assortment of scarves and capes, including one she claimed to have paid $2,000 for in 1978 to her mother's horror -- but considering how many times she's worn it onstage since, she certainly got value for that expense.

I didn't see any guys who appeared to have given their concert wardrobe much thought. Like, me, most of them had just thrown on a shirt and a pair of jeans and were ready to go. My only other preparation for the concert was to get a pretzel at the concession stand on the way in, a tribute to my only face-to-face encounter with Stevie a long time ago.

It was 1980, and Fleetwood Mac brought their "Tusk" tour to the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, where I was the music director of WRCN, a rock radio station. The record company, Warner Brothers, not only gave me tickets to the concert, but also to an after-party where invited guests would meet the band.

Having gone to a bunch of these events, I can tell you they sound a lot more impressive than they actually are. They consist of a few dozen people standing around with drinks, possibly munching on some cheese and crackers and other snacks that have been provided, waiting for the artists to go through their own post-show ritual (whatever that is), before stopping by to schmooze for 20 minutes or so. Some performers are good at these meet-and-greets (e.g. Lindsay Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood) while others look like they're rather be anywhere else (e.g. Christine and John McVie).

On this night, we waited about a half-hour before the members of Fleetwood Mac started coming in to say hello. Lindsay walked straight over to the bar, where I happened to be standing. After getting a drink, he turned to me and asked what I thought of the concert. I told him I'd really enjoyed it, especially his guitar solos, which surprised me because you'd never know how good he was if all you'd heard were Fleetwood Mac's big hits. He thanked me and explained that he didn't have much opportunity to stretch out in the studio, but onstage, he liked to tear it up, and he was glad his band-mates allowed him to do so.

I asked him about producing his title track from the "Tusk" album, which featured the USC marching band. While Lindsay was explaining the process, Stevie wandered over. She listened to him, nodding with an odd, somewhat spacey look on her face, holding a pretzel in her fingers. When Lindsay paused, we both looked at Stevie. With a wide-eyed smile, she said, "I have the last pretzel!" Then she skipped away. As we watched her move across the room, Lindsay commented sarcastically, almost under his breath, "Great, Stevie."

Right there was everything I needed to know about their on-again off-again romantic life, the fertile ground they had mined for so many Fleetwood Mac songs.

Stevie has obviously grown a lot since then and although she's no longer the hitmaker she once was, she still knows how to entertain a crowd. If only she'd titled the tour "The Edge Of Seventy."

Best Thing I've Read Today

Hollywood is trying to figure out why box office numbers are down so dramatically this summer. Their thinking: it can't possibly be because the movies haven't been very good -- there must be some external factor. Aha! Maybe we can pin the blame on the Rotten Tomatoes website, because all the negative reviews on that site are keeping people away from the theaters.

Yves Bergquist, who manages the Data and Analytics Project at USC’s Entertainment Technology Center, decided to run the numbers:

I collected box office return data through Box Office Mojo for all the 150 titles released in 2017 that grossed more than $1 million, plugged in Rotten Tomatoes Scores and Audience Scores for all titles, and looked at correlation between scores and financial performance....

The result? Nope. The math is pretty overwhelming in saying there was no (positive or negative) correlation in 2017 between Rotten Tomatoes Scores and box office returns.
See Berquist's full research summary here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Look, Up In The Sky, It's The Sky!

While watching Apple's announcement of new iPhones and other devices yesterday, one thing struck me as wrong. As the company keeps pushing the edges of the technology envelope, I'm amazed by what computer engineers and scientists can squeeze into our all-knowing pocket computers -- but bothered by the insistence that we see everything in the world through the lens of a smartphone.

This was never more true than when Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing VP, showed off some new augmented reality software. In particular, he highlighted one overlay app that, when you point the phone at the sky, will show all the constellations above you.

The explosion in smartphone use over the last decade has created a global population of humans who spend too much of their life looking down at a device in their hands. We already have enough trouble getting people to look up from their phones in the first place to view the real world around them. When they do put down the electronics for a moment to gaze at the stars at night or a blue sky (or a sweet swirl of clouds) during the day, I wish they'd simply be amazed at the universe we live in. Take in reality and reflect upon it on a grand scale, not through some four-inch wide screen.

Of course, it could be worse. The smartphone-addicted could be spending hours playing with Apple's other ridiculous new offering -- a customizable "animoji" that allows you to provide the facial features and voice for a talking pile of crap.

By the way, that's old technology. I worked for a boss who personified exactly that a couple of decades ago.

Give Them An E For Ffort

The letter E used to be the most-used vowel in the English language. I just used it a dozen times in the previous sentence. In fact, E didn't just beat the other vowels, but all the consonants, too, to become the most-used letter in our alphabet -- until the last decade, when some businesses decided to get along without it.

First there were websites called Tumblr and Flickr. Then apps named Grindr and Blendr. Then Trackd and Smashd. There's one for finding activities for your children called Kidzexplor.

It's not easy coming up with a name for a product, particularly one that hasn't been used before, but I detest the reduced use of the letter E in many of these cases. However, you might notice that these outfits haven't dropped E completely. It's still okay in some places, like the middle of Blendr or Kidzexplor. Then there's this low-tech example I found the other day which dropped its second E, becoming unique enough to register as a trademark...


At least the company didn't call it Singl Serv. Someone else registered that trademark many years ago, but it must have looked wrong to enough people that the owner let it lapse.

On the other hand, it makes the name a little easier to use in a Tweet -- whr vry charactr mattrs.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Movie Review: "Home Again"


"Home Again" feels just like a lot of Nancy Meyers movies ("The Intern," "It's Complicated," "Something's Gotta Give"). That's because she produced it, and her daughter Hallie Meyers-Shyer wrote and directed it, fully inspired by her mother's formula: cast a likable well-known actress, put her in upper-class surroundings, and then get her involved in a possibly-romantic situation while she juggles her non-love-life.

This time around, it's Reese Witherspoon, who is too good for the role -- but it could just have easily been Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz, or Katherine Heigl. Reese is the mother of two daughters -- the kind that only exist in Hollywood movies, with dialogue that's far too cute and smart for kids of their age. She lives in an absolutely beautiful house in Los Angeles that once belonged to her father, a John-Cassavettes-like movie director of some renown who married several women and bedded even more. Reese is the result of his marriage to Candice Bergen's character and, even though Dad died years ago, Mom is still around to look after the kids, as well as pop in at inappropriate times.

The other half of the story involves three young wannabe-filmmakers who are trying to get a script through the movie-making machinery of Hollywood. They meet her in a bar on the night she's celebrating her 40th birthday and, before long, we learn that the guys have no money and nowhere to stay, so naturally, Reese is cajoled into letting them live in her guest house.

This is the kind of Meyers world where allowing three twenty-something male strangers to move in while you have two girls under 11 years old in the house makes perfect sense. It's also a world where, when Reese makes breakfast for everyone, there are eggs and pancakes and muffins and bagels and a tray full of enough fruit to bankrupt a farmers market. You know, just like the meals that start your day.

There are also nauseating subplots involving:
  • Michael Sheen as Reese's ex who lives in New York, but you know is going to show up in LA to object to this unusual living arrangement;
  • Lake Bell as a stuffy client of Reese's struggling interior design business;
  • The playwriting debut of the older daughter, who just can't go on stage without one of the cute guys being there.
I admit that I'm not the target demo for movies like these (let's say it: "chick flick"), so I brought my wife to the screening for her reaction. Like me, she couldn't stand any of the characters, thought the three young actors playing the movie-making wannabes were terrible, and couldn't have cared less about anything that happened along the way. She even used the word "boring."

She also agreed with me that while Reese looks fantastic, she needs to do a better job picking her movie roles, leaving stuff like this to the second-tier female stars and finding something befitting her talents.

My wife and I both give "Home Again" a 4 out of 10 -- and we're being generous.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Movie Review: "Wind River"


I first noticed Jeremy Renner when he starred in "The Hurt Locker," which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2008. Two years later, he caught my eye again in "The Town." Then the Marvel people plucked him to play Hawkeye (one of The Avengers), but he continued to impress me in non-superhero roles in "The Bourne Legacy," "American Hustle," "Arrival," and the underrated "Kill The Messenger."

This summer, Renner stars in "Wind River," a murder mystery on an Indian Reservation in Wyoming. As a tracker for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Renner is the first to discover the body of a barefoot young woman frozen in the snow, far from anywhere. He reports his find to the reservation's police chief (Graham Greene), who calls in the FBI, hoping to get a few experienced agents to look into the crime. Instead, he gets one rookie agent (played by Elizabeth Olsen, also part of the Marvel acting stable), who is as unfamiliar with Wyoming as she is with proper winter gear. Since he's familiar with the reservation (his ex-wife and kids are Native Americans and live there), Olsen recruits Renner to help her figure out what happened.

As they unravel the mystery, Renner and Olsen have good professional chemistry and, fortunately, that's where the movie leaves it, without forcing them into a love story. Greene is solid and stolid as ever -- he's been Hollywood's go-to Indian for 4 decades in movies like "Dances With Wolves," "Maverick," and "The Green Mile."

"Wind River" was written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, who did the screenplay for "Hell Or High Water" (which I liked despite Jeff Bridges' mumbling) and "Sicario" (which I didn't like despite his Oscar nomination). This time, he takes his time telling the story, showing us the vast frozen tundra of the reservation, developing the characters.

I won't give away any details of the murder plot except to say it eventually takes an ugly turn, with a burst of violence towards the end that stops just short of being Tarantino-esque. Still, it rolls on to a mostly satisfactory finale with a message about how many young Native American women go missing each year and are never found.

I give "Wind River" a 7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Joe Edwards on Blueberry Hill's 45th Anniversary



Here's my conversation with Joe Edwards, owner of the landmark St. Louis restaurant/bar/concert venue Blueberry Hill, which celebrates its 45th anniversary tonight. We discussed its history, his long friendship with Chuck Berry, his other business ventures on the Delmar Loop, and more.

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

Showbiz Show 9/8/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I reviewed "It" and "Home Again." We also discussed "Wind River," more fallout from Disney bailing on Netflix, a new Nurse Ratched TV series, and a Carol Burnett 50th anniversary show.

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

Harris Challenge 9/8/17

This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- includes categories about Hurricane Rock, the St. Louis Walk Of Fame, and That Thing In Your Pocket.  Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 9/8/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about nurses who peek, a geography problem, and an unflushed toilet. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Today On My Show


I'll be back on my 3-6pm CT show on KTRS today.

In the first hour, I'll talk with Joe Edwards about the 45th anniversary of his landmark St. Louis restaurant/bar/concert venue, Blueberry Hill.

In the second hour, Max and I will review "It," "Home Again," and other movie/showbiz news.

In the third hour, you'll have a chance to test your trivia knowledge on my Harris Challenge, and I'll have a new batch of Knuckleheads In The News®.

You can listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

About My Friday KTRS Show


Five years ago, longtime KTRS afternoon host Frank O. Pinion decided he no longer wanted to work a five day week, so he asked me if I would take over Friday afternoons. I had given up full-time radio and was enjoying my semi-retirement with other projects, but being on the air once a week with the freedom to do whatever I wanted appealed to me, so I agreed and have enjoyed holding down that slot since then.

Recently, Frank announced that he is leaving KTRS effective September 14th, and I have received a lot of phone calls, emails, texts, and social media messages asking what that will mean for me.

I'm happy to announce that, for the foreseeable future, I'm not going anywhere. I will continue to do my show -- complete with my guest interviews, the Harris Challenge, Knuckleheads In The News®, traffic from Tim Wilund, and talking showbiz with Max Foizey -- each Friday from 3pm to 6pm CT on KTRS.

Several people have asked if this is permanent, and I remind them that in the radio business, there is no such word. KTRS management doesn't have a new afternoon host lined up yet, but if they find someone they want to have on the air five days a week, that will mean the end of my show. I'm hoping that won't be the case, because I enjoy keeping my toe dipped in the radio water. I may also pop up here and there filling in for some of the other KTRS hosts, as I've done in the past.

About Frank: from the first time I met him in February, 1999, he has been very supportive of me. Having the radio station's star endorse me from the start gave me a big boost with the KTRS audience that continues to this day, and I have always appreciated it. I understand the reasons why he's moving and wish him all the best at his soon-to-be new radio home, KFNS.

Unfortunately for me, Dan Strauss will be moving with Frank, which means he'll no longer be part of my Friday show. Dan is a very easy guy to like and work with, and often makes the funniest comments of any of us. I will miss him -- in and out of the studio -- a lot. I'm also sorry that personal circumstances are preventing Ian Geisz from being part of the team, as he too was always a valued contributor.

Bottom line: while some things change, others stay the same.

I hope you'll continue to check out my show every Friday 3-6pm CT over the air on KTRS, or via the station's app or website. Of course, I'll keep posting portions of the show here as podcasts, too.

Most of all, thanks for your kind words -- and for listening.

Another Movie Theater Complaint

Yesterday, I wrote about the torture of paying for a movie and having to sit through 20 minutes of trailers and other on-screen nonsense before the feature started. But I left out one complaint that I was reminded of last night when I went to a screening of a romantic-comedy that I'll review in the next few days.

The rom-com had a couple of quiet moments with nothing but dialogue between two people -- yet that's not all we heard. We also got the audio of the movie playing in the theater on the other side of the wall, a big-budget action flick with lots of noise and a loud soundtrack that overwhelmed our auditorium. It was like living in an apartment next to a neighbor with a hearing problem who turns the TV volume up enough to be heard in another zip code.

I'm surprised the theater company doesn't sell that as a perk, a combo pack allowing you to watch one movie while listening to two!

TV at 90

The medium of television is 90 years old today. According to the AP, a live webcast this evening "will celebrate the transmission of the first electronic TV signal on Sept. 7, 1927, and the man behind it, Philo T. Farnsworth" on TheHistoryOfTV.com.

I love the irony that this milestone will be webcast, not broadcast.

Best Thing I've Read Today

Dan Gardner on the media's failure to hold pundits accountable, and rush to praise someone who got one prediction right, regardless of how often they were wrong:

Whenever a shocking event occurs, journalists rush to find the wise few who saw it coming, anoint them oracles, and beg them to reveal what will come next. It’s an understandable reaction to surprise and uncertainty. It’s also an embarrassing failure of the elementary skepticism that should be journalism’s foundation.

For big events like presidential elections, terrorist attacks, and stock market crashes, the number of observers making forecasts is always large, with varied forecasts. As a result, every possible outcome will usually have been predicted. In those circumstances, the mere fact that someone correctly predicted something means little. To take it as proof that the forecaster possesses deep insight and knows what’s coming next makes as much sense as asking today’s lottery winner to reveal next week’s winning numbers.

When it comes to the predictions and forecasting, the challenge is to separate the lucky from the skilled. As any baseball fan knows, that requires statistics. One home run or one strikeout says very little. To judge a batter, you need to know his batting average—a performance statistic based on the careful observation and scoring of a large number of at-bats.
Read Gardner's full piece here.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Movie Theater Torture

I've become spoiled by years of seeing movies in press screenings.

The films are almost always shown on big, wide screens. I never have to worry about not having an available seat or standing in line. The other reviewers never talk during the movie or create distractions by taking out their phones midway through.

It also means that I get to see almost all of the movies I'm interested in (along with plenty of others that I attend just to have something to talk about on the air and on this site). The downside is that my Netflix queue is very small, because there aren't many titles I missed when they came around the first time.

However, every once in awhile, my schedule prohibits me from attending a screening and I have to catch the movie during a regular showing. Every time I do that, I'm reminded of how painful the experience can be.

The other night, I went to see "Wind River" (review to come) at the AMC theater a few miles from home. It was a matinee, so it cost less than six bucks. So far, so good. The scheduled start time for the movie was 5:40pm. I got there about five minutes early and sat through the commercials that are euphemistically called the "pre-show." Then, the torture began as we were forced to sit through trailers for upcoming movies.

I try to avoid these whenever possible, preferring to see the movie with virgin eyes, knowing as little as possible about it. Another nice thing about press screenings is not having to endure these spoiler-fests -- I never watch the trailers online beforehand because they kill the experience for me.

There was a time when movie trailers were a tease; they told you just enough about the movie to entice you to come back and pay to see the whole thing. Now, trailers are two-to-three-minute highlight reels that give away every major plot point. If it's an action flick, you see all the big stunts. If it's a comedy, you get all the punchlines. If it's a drama, you see the plot twists. In each case, the trailer tells you all the stuff the creative team would have preferred were kept secret until it's revealed in context. I'm often left thinking why I need to see the entire movie at all (e.g. the trailer for George Clooney's upcoming "Suburbicon" leaves nothing un-spoiled, rendering it unnecessary for me to view the full-length version).

As if that weren't bad enough, we were forced to sit through seven of these trailers, followed by the AMC reminders about where the exits are and how to guard our personal belongings -- things that used to fall under the heading of Stuff We Should Already Know -- followed by the time-waster that urges you to go get something at the concession stand. Counter-intuitively, that promo is run last in the package, right before the movie starts, when no customers are going to bolt out for a last-minute Coke or $12 box of Sno-Caps. Why not sell the snack bar before the trailers, giving the audience time to get their 128-ounce soda-and-popcorn combo without missing any plot points?

All of this took 20 minutes of screen time, so the movie that was advertised as starting at 5:40pm didn't actually begin until 6:00pm. Were I to wait until that movie came out on DVD, there would still be trailers popping up, but I could fast-forward through them and get right to the film. Yet with no such option available in a captured-audience setting, devoting that much time to coming attractions is nothing less than audience abuse.

Recent articles about Hollywood having its worst summer in a generation all mention that movie theater companies are in trouble because there weren't enough blockbusters to lure in audiences, plus they have to compete with on-demand content on our portable devices and on our home televisions. The part of the equation that isn't mentioned is that the experience of going to the theater, which can be wonderful with the right movie, can be too easily ruined by taking the customers for granted.

One last point. A couple of weeks ago, I witnessed an idiot in a movie theater repeatedly opening his iPad (not his phone, but a tablet-sized screen) during the movie, oblivious to the distraction he was creating for everyone around and behind him. He should have been thrown out of the auditorium immediately, but there were no theater employees anywhere in the room.

I flashed back to a column I wrote in 1998 entitled "The Beacon Of Shame":

There was a time when movie theaters actually employed people to keep order in their theaters. If you were talking too loudly during the movie, or making out with your intern in the balcony, or -- god forbid -- putting your feet up on the chair in front of you, the Usher would appear from nowhere and point a flashlight at you. Mind you, this wasn't just any flashlight. It had approximately the same candlepower as the Bat Signal. When the Usher lit you up, you were bathed in the Beacon Of Shame. Nothing more needed to be said. You were shamed into stopping whatever illicit activity you were involved in. You also missed the next 10 minutes of the movie because you were blinder than Mr. Magoo (which actually would have been helpful if you had found yourself in a theater showing the big screen version of Mr. Magoo, starring Leslie Nielsen...what were they thinking?).

Of course, wielding the Beacon Of Shame is a little more difficult these days. There's more than a small chance that after the Usher whips out the Beacon Of Shame, the offending 70mm-filmgoer is going to whip out a 9mm-usher-stopper. And soon thereafter, that sleeping infant in the reserved seat in front of you is awakened by the sound of gunplay, and then your whole moviegoing experience is ruined.
You can read that entire column here. But only during the pre-show countdown.

Best Thing I've Read Today

Jonna Ramey, a 67-year-old white woman, in a letter-to-the-editor of the Salt Lake Tribune:

White person to white supremacist person: What is wrong with you?

People of European heritage are doing just fine in the world. They run most of the world’s institutions, hold much of the world’s wealth, replicate as frequently as other humans. You’re not in any danger here. The world is changing, that’s true. Others want a piece of the pie. They work for it, strive for it and earn it. Technology (robotics) is having a greater effect on your job prospects than immigrants. Going forward, tackling corporate control and climate change will need all of our attention, ideas and energy. Put down your Tiki torches and trite flags and get involved in some real work.

By the way, the world won the war against Nazi fascism in the 1940s, just as America won the war against the Confederacy in the 1860s. Aligning with two lost causes just labels you as profound losers.
Read Ramey's full letter here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Greatest Bob Newhart Story Ever


Comedy legend Bob Newhart is 88 today. I've had him on my radio show a few times to share some stories, but one stands above all the rest. Here's a transcript from January 5, 1988:
Harris: Every show you've ever been on has been well written. Do you have a say in who writes the show?

Newhart: Well, you sit down with them and see if there is a chemistry and see what direction they see the show going and who they see me as. On the first show, The Bob Newhart Show, one of the conditions I made was that we don't have children and that I be a psychologist rather than a psychiatrist. The reason being that a I know a psychiatrist would deal more seriously with people. I didn't want to be making fun of really serious people.

Harris: Right.

Newhart: I didn't want to have children because I didn't want to be the dumb husband/father who keeps getting in trouble and then the precocious children bail him out at the last minute.

Harris: Which is the plot of every major sitcom on television today, by the way.

Newhart: Exactly! So, in the sixth year of The Bob Newhart Show, I got a script to come home with on Friday night. I was reading it Sunday afternoon and noticed that it said that Emily was pregnant. So I called the producer. I said, "I read the script." He said, "Oh, what did you think of it?" I said, "Oh, it's a very funny story. It is great." He said, "We were a little concerned, you know." I said, "It was very funny. [pause] Who are you going to get to play Bob??"
You can read the entire conversation here.

Also on Harris Online:

The Ripe Fruit Conundrum

Why is it that you can no longer get fruit at the supermarket that is ripe and ready to eat?

My local supermarket hasn't sold a yellow banana in five years. They're all green! It looks like they were plucked off the tree the day after they became, officially, bananas.

There's a gas station near me where I can go in any day and buy a ripe banana and eat it right now. But if I go into the supermarket, I have to wait a week and a half. Otherwise, I risk bodily damage.

Q: What happened to you today?
A: I chipped a tooth on a banana. Yes, I took the peel off.

Bananas should not be crunchy.

My wife and I used to make the mistake of buying too many bananas. There's no way two normal people can eat eight bananas during their ready-to-eat phase before they go bad. She has left me notes on the counter saying, "For chrissake, eat one of these last two bananas before they turn brown," because when they do, it's mush-mouth time. We learned to only buy them in bunches of four or six, and then get some more. But it's hard to work out that timing when the damned things are as green as a lime.

It's not just bananas. Same thing with watermelon and cantaloupe, the two greatest summer fruits. I used to look forward to eating them almost every day between Memorial Day and Labor Day. But you cannot get them ripe anymore. There was a time when you could pick one up out of the supermarket bin, feel it, and make an educated guess about whether you could eat that melon when you got home. Not anymore. If you try that, you'll be disappointed as soon as you cut it open.

What else in the supermarket is sold like that? Not milk, not eggs, not cereal, not salad dressing. If I buy some boneless chicken breasts this afternoon, I can have them for dinner tonight. Unlike the fruit, if I kept them around for another week, I'd be inviting a colony of salmonella to join me for the meal.

We live in the on-demand society. We have these things in our pockets that will answer any question about anything immediately. You want to watch a TV show you missed? It's waiting on your DVR or streaming service whenever you're ready.

But if you want a ripe banana right now? You can't have one -- unless you fill up your tank, too.

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

Picture Of The Day

If you enjoyed the Luke Harris short "The Heist" that I posted the other day, you might like this one, which he did a few years ago...

Monday, September 04, 2017

Random Thoughts

With the death of Walter Becker, that leaves only Donald Fagen to explain what the lyrics in all those brilliant Steely Dan songs mean. Don't get me wrong. I love most of them (including the non-hits like "Don't Take Me Alive") and appreciate the musical artistry involved, but I have no idea what they are singing about most of the time.

When I heard that Trump had pledged $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, my first thought was that "pledged" is not the same as "gave." Believe me, if he actually gives the money, he'll make a huge deal about it. Speaking of which, on Thursday, his press secretary asked reporters (you know, the ones he hates and claims create nothing but fake news) to suggest some charities he could give the money to. Because it's not like he's the president, with an entire government full of people who could look into that sort of thing -- or at least click the link for good charitable organizations helping Harvey victims at Charity Navigator.

Kudos to Ed Cunningham, the ESPN college football analyst who, after 20 years of watching young men bash their brains out on the field, has walked away from his six-figure job with a public announcement about his concern for their future well-being. It's never too late to see the pain.

Consumers sued Kraft and other companies for saying their containers of parmesan cheese were full of "100% parmesan cheese," even though there were other ingredients in there, including wood pulp (in the form of cellulose, to keep the grated cheese from clumping up over time). I discovered this a few years ago and, since then, my wife and I have only bought real parmesan cheese wedges and grated them by hand over our pasta. But the judge threw the case out, saying the slogan on the box didn't necessarily mean there was only cheese inside, and besides, consumers should have read the label more closely. It reminded me of my first week of working at McDonald's as an 18-year-old. Bringing a box of frozen hamburger patties out of the storeroom, I noticed it said "100% beef." I asked the manager if that was true and he replied, "Yes, all of the meat in the burgers is beef." I thought it was a less-than-truthful non-answer then, and it still is.

I'm not surprised that Juicero has gone out of business, but you've gotta give its founders credit for major chutzpah. They convinced Silicon Valley that what America needed most was a $400 juicer, an internet-of-things device that squeezed the liquid out of its specially formulated juice packs. When customers noticed that they could do the same thing with their hands -- or that they didn't really want to compress fruit to get juice that's available in cartons in every supermarket -- the scam was revealed, and sales plummeted. Loss to investors: $120 million. Loss to anyone who bought and then bragged about owning a Juicero: human dignity.

It could have been worse. The machine could have added wood pulp to the juice.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Picture Of The Day

The most famous routine by comedian Shelley Berman, who died last week, is a masterful piece of timing and one-sided storytelling...

Previously on Harris Online...

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Liam Caffrey, "Best Year Ever"


Here's my conversation with Liam Caffrey about his book, "Best Year Ever: One Guy, One Year, Twelve Once In A Lifetime Adventures." Among his adventures we discussed:
  • Going to a party at the Playboy Mansion;
  • Running with the bulls at Pamplona, Spain;
  • Playing in a World Series Of Poker tournament;
  • Being part of the Flugtag in Chicago.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Showbiz Show 9/1/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I reviewed the movie "Patti Cake$." We also discussed why Hollywood took such a hit at the box office this summer, the 40th anniversary re-release of "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind," and the new seasons of "Black Mirror" and "True Detective."

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

Harris Challenge 9/1/17

This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- includes categories about Labor Day, Sports and Showbiz, and On This Day.  Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 9/1/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about a frog in a salad, a boy who called the cops on his mother, and the wrong car to steal license plates from. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Picture Of The Day

This clever and funny short film by Luke Harris starts off parodying the "Ocean's Eleven" movies (love the guy in the Elliott Gould role) and then rolls on to cliches from other genres...