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

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Showbiz Show 12/29/17

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I run down our separate lists of the Best Movies Of 2017. Because we don't go see the same movies, and our opinions sometimes differ greatly, there isn't much crossover, so you'll have a bunch of titles you might want to add to your own want-to-see list.

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

Harris Challenge 12/29/17

This is the 2017 Year In Review edition of my Harris Challenge, with categories about stories from the last twelve months in politics, movies, TV, and dead celebrities. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 12/29/17

This collection of Knuckleheads In The News® stories include a monkey's butt, a man stuck in a box, and a Christmas crisis at a ferry terminal. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Two Music Movies You Might Not Know

I have added two new documentaries to my Movies You Might Not Know list.

First is "Clive Davis: The Soundtrack Of Our Lives," a biography of the man widely considered the greatest record company executive of all time. The movie, made with funding from Apple Music, is currently only available via iTunes, where you can rent it for a mere ninety-nine cents.

Known for his ability to not only spot talent but nurture it, Davis also discovered and gave his artists songs that would become mega-hits. In his years running the music labels Columbia, Arista, J Records, and the RCA Music Group, he signed dozens of acts that went on to become hugely popular, including Bruce Springsteen, Barry Manilow, Billy Joel, Earth Wind and Fire, and Aerosmith. He also resuscitated the careers of Aretha Franklin, Carlos Santana, and Rod Stewart. All of those musicians, and more, appear in the movie, which also includes an extended segment on Davis' relationship with Whitney Houston, who he signed at age 19 and mentored until her untimely death at 48.

The best story in the movie is footage of Davis at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, sitting among thousands of young people in jeans and t-shirts while he wore khakis and a tennis sweater. That's where he says he had his mind opened to the future of rock as a viable pop culture business, signing Janis Joplin, the Electric Flag, and others to his label, which until then had been hesitant to push into that genre.

The other title worth your time is "Score: A Film Music Documentary," about the composers who create the soundtracks of movies, including John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Trent Reznor, Randy Newman, and many others. "Score" shows you not only the process of developing musical themes (e.g. the duh-duh-duh-duh of the "Jaws" shark), but also the orchestras recording the full pieces in a giant recording studios, conducted by the composers.

Two things struck me about those sessions: 1) the musicians are sight-reading -- that is, playing the music cold, because they had never seen or rehearsed it before; 2) this is modern-day classical music, in that these composers are the rare few who are creating new pieces for full orchestras.

There's plenty of iconic music you'll recognize, from "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" to "Star Wars" to "Rocky" to the James Bond theme. It's all stitched together very nicely by director Matt Schrader, who includes both contemporary and archival interviews with many of the most famous names in the business.

"Score" is currently streaming on Amazon, also for a mere 99 cents.

Click here to see my full Movies You Might Not Know list.

Signature Not Necessary

I'm happy to see that, in a few months, you'll no longer have to waste your time signing a receipt when you charge something to a credit card from MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. I'm reminded of the college sociology professor who once instructed his student that, for the next 30 days, whenever they bought something with a credit card, they were to sign the receipt "Mickey Mouse." At the end of the month, he asked if anyone at any retail outlet had ever questioned them about the signature. None of them raised their hands.

When I go to our local supermarket, they don't make me sign the electronic receipt on the screen for any total less than $25. The message that sends is, you can defraud us for $24, but never for $26! Nonsense.

Now that you can buy things online or through your smartphone without ever having to sign something, or easily send cash to a friend via a service like Venmo, and with new technology like those chips in credit cards, the companies admit the signatures have become less necessary as a safety measure. It's about time.

By the way, what's keeping Visa from joining the rest of the herd?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

It's A Good Start

The FDA announced last week that it will crack down on some homeopathic products. Note the word "some" in that sentence, when it should be "all." Homeopathy is nothing but a scam, with companies producing bogus health aids that do nothing but enrich those corporations to the tune of about $3 billion a year. Walgreens, CVS, and any other pharmacy that puts those items on the shelves next to actual medicine should be ashamed of themselves.

If you're not aware of homeopathic claims, here's the bottom line: they take a drop of something good, then dilute it so much that there's only a trace of the original good thing left in there. They claim the water has a memory of that positive ingredient -- somehow it doesn't have a memory of all the crap and pee that were in there at some point, too -- but there's no scientific basis for their claims.

Several years ago, my friend James Randi used to start his speeches by announcing he was going to swallow an entire bottle of sleeping pills. He then produced the bottle, showed the audience the pills, and swallowed them right down. Before anyone in the audience could panic, however, he told them that there was nothing to fear because these were homeopathic sleeping pills, meaning they contained no active ingredient whatsoever that could harm him. He then went on with his presentation without ever becoming even a tiny bit drowsy.

Most homeopathic remedies are sold in liquid form, but are nothing more than water. On its own that isn't bad for you, but when you expect it to help you overcome serious health problems (at least one homeopathic product claimed it helped cure cancer!), that might keep you from seeking out real medical advice from a doctor who could prescribe something that actually does have science behind it.

Remember the old saying: if alternative medicine worked, it would be called medicine.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Worst Movies Of 2017

I don't see every movie that's released (e.g. I skipped Woody Allen's "Wonder Wheel," keeping him from making this list three years in a row), but of those I saw in 2017, these were the ten worst. Links go to longer reviews I posted on this site.

1) "King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword." I don't know what the hell is going on. That's what I kept saying while watching this. From the very first scene, where CGI monsters attack a castle and hundreds of stunt people fall dead all over the place, I had no idea what was happening. Having not read any of the King Arthur folklore, I don't know about the mystical powers of his sword, or who those monsters were, or why there are eel-women swimming in the water under the castle -- and the movie doesn't bother explaining anything. Halfway through, I considered leaving the theater to go home and watch a great movie about King Arthur, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." But I stayed to the end, and I'm sorry I did.

2) "The Comedian." Robert DeNiro is Jackie Burke, a comedian whose career is on the skids yet finds himself in the spotlight after video of him punching out a heckler goes viral. None of it works, at least partly because it’s so hard to make movies about stand ups with actors who aren't comedians. Tom Hanks and Sally Field couldn't do it in "Punchline." Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler (who used to be a standup) couldn't do it in "Funny People." Even Billy Crystal couldn't make a hit out of "Mr. Saturday Night," although he was much better at mining the same bitter-old-comic turf for laughs. As for DeNiro, his comic delivery and timing haven't improved since his days as Rupert Pupkin.

3) "The Sense Of An Ending." When you name your movie "The Sense Of An Ending," you leave yourself wide open to easy shots from critics. For example, I wish this movie with Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling actually had an ending. Or, I was worried that it would never end. Or, sitting through this made me wish I'd lost my senses of sight and hearing. You get the sense I didn't like it? You're right. The end.

4) "The House." I didn't have high hopes for the Will Ferrell-Amy Poehler comedy "The House," but I didn't expect that it would come in so far below my already-low expectations. Stay away from this piece of dreck, which has a lot of balls calling itself a comedy, considering it made me laugh zero times. It cost $40 million to make, but only brought in a total gross of $25 million at the box office and a 17% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes -- proving that "The House" doesn't always win.

5) "The Dinner." Richard Gere is a Congressman running for Governor, Steve Coogan is his brother, a failed teacher with mental issues, and Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall are their wives. Even though I’m a fan of all four of the principal actors, I can’t recommend "The Dinner," which is an American remake of an Italian movie, based on a book by a Dutch author, written and directed by an Israeli. Perhaps what went wrong was some sort of cinematic version of the game of telephone where, by the time the message is translated through enough people, it makes no sense and has no value.

6) "The Dark Tower." I knew nothing about Steven King's Dark Tower stories going in, and I knew exactly the same amount when it was over. Here's what I can tell you: Idris Elba is the good guy; Matthew McConaughey is the bad guy; Tom Taylor is a boy caught between them; there's a tower that controls the universe, with portals between places on Earth and other worlds; there are children screaming, special effects galore, dark mysterious people and locations, and a plot that is totally incomprehensible.

7) "Mother!" Speaking of films with an incomprehensible plot, this is the mother of them all this year. It's 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. Lawrence and writer/director Darren Aronofsky became a couple during filming, but she dumped him after seeing how unpopular this mess of a movie was.

8) "Going In Style." In 1979, director Martin Brest made a little movie called "Going In Style," with George Burns, Art Carney, Lee Strasberg, and a simple story: three old retired men live together, go to the park together, and basically just hang around together, collecting their social security and pension checks. Bored of sitting on a bench with not much else to do, on a whim, they decide to rob a bank. That movie is a classic. This remake, with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, is the opposite. It's formulaic, predictable, and has a copout happy ending that's contrary to everything the original did right. In fact, if this were the first version, it would never be remade.

9) "Norman." Richard Gere makes the list twice this year. He has made a career playing classy, good-looking Gentiles, but in “Norman,” he’s cast against type as Norman Oppenheimer, a schlubby Jew in his 60s with a Woody Allen accent whose entire life revolves around making business connections. Director Joseph Cedar loses the pace halfway through, and for some reason uses a score that sounds like it was lifted from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which made me wonder if he was trying to make a satire or a straight-on drama. “Norman” fails on both counts, although I give Gere credit for doing smaller movies like these and parts he wouldn’t seem right for.

10) "The Florida Project." The movie is set in a motel in Orlando that's decidedly not part of the Disney empire, where many of the residents are lower-class people trying to scrape by day to day without much money. Because it's summer, the kids don't go to school, so they make their own fun -- and their own trouble. "The Florida Project" is being compared to last year's Oscar winner, "Moonlight," for showing us a portion of humanity whose stories rarely get told on screen. That's true, but the main characters in this are so unlikable that I left the theater with a very bad taste in my mouth. I imagine it would be hell to live in that motel as neighbors of these kids and adults, and I didn't enjoy spending time with them in a movie theater, either.

Also on Harris Online:

Monday, December 25, 2017

Just Jolly

I was on my way home from the gym where, as I worked out, I had listened to a podcast of Kevin Pollak talking with Jennifer Tilly. I intended to listen to more when I got in the car, but when I turned the key, the radio came on, blaring Burl Ives singing "A Holly Jolly Christmas." My hand darted to the off button as fast as humanly possible, and instead of resuming the podcast, I drove in silence for a few minutes.

During that downtime, I starting thinking about the fact that the only time you hear the word "jolly" is at this time of year, in that song. You never ask a friend how they're doing and have them respond, "Jolly!"

Then I thought of the times we've vacationed in Ogunquit, Maine, where there are several trolleys (not on tracks, they're more like open-air buses) that carry tourists around town. The vehicles are named Molly, Polly, Dolly, Lolly, Wally, and yes, Jolly.

Then I remembered a bad day 25 years ago when I had a kidney stone -- the most painful thing I've ever experienced. After a couple of hours of writhing in pain at home, my wife insisted that she take me to the emergency room. After I went through the initial triage by a nurse, a doctor came in and introduced himself, but I was in so much agony, I didn't catch his name. I just nodded and said, "Help!"

The doctor instructed the nurses to pump several liters of saline solution through my veins until the pressure pushed the stone out of my urethra. Meanwhile, he ordered a morphine drip, which would make me feel better right away (it did). It came with a button that allowed me to self-administer the medication if and when the pain returned.

After a half-hour or so, I felt the morphine wear off and the deep twinge inside me returning. Desperate to avoid the discomfort, I hit that button, then hit it again and again. The doctor happened to be watching me and asked, "Do you think we're idiots?" I replied, "What are you talking about?" He explained, "That button gives you one dose when you need it, but then it has a timer so you can't give yourself another one for awhile. That's to keep you from overdosing or, worse yet, developing a dependence on the morphine. You're here to get rid of the kidney stone, not to become a drug addict."

As he talked, the morphine kicked in and I felt better again.That's when I asked the doctor to repeat his name, and he did: Til Jolly. I don't know if it was the medicine or the natural way the comedy center of my brain works, but I thought his name sounded like part of a prescription: "Take two doses of morphine three times a day 'til jolly."

If only the nurse's name had been Holly.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

As I Tweeted

  • The CEO and president of the Miss America pageant have resigned over emails in which they made offensive remarks about contestants' looks and size and sex lives. I'm shocked that the men in charge of a beauty pageant are sexist and judged women based on their appearance. Next you'll tell me that guys don't go to Hooters for the food.

Movie Review: "All The Money In The World"

One of the positive things about the #MeToo movement has been the removal of Kevin Spacey from this movie. When the news broke with charges of Spacey's alleged history of sexually assaulting an underage boy (and others), director Ridley Scott was stuck with a problem.  He had finished production on "All The Money In The World," with Spacey in one of the featured roles, and was worried the scandal would kill the movie's potential box office. So Scott convinced the studio to give him more money to re-shoot Spacey's scenes as J. Paul Getty, replacing him with Christopher Plummer, who Scott had originally wanted for the role, but was told he had to use a bigger name.

In news stories about this, I had been led to believe it was a supporting role so small that Scott would have no trouble getting the band back together for a re-do of a few scenes in the nine days or so he had before the movie had to be delivered to make it in time for release this weekend. In reality, Plummer is in quite a bit of the movie, often in sets that are large and complex, which makes this achievement even more worthy of attention. At 88 years old, Plummer is perfect for the role, a much better option than a non-scandalous Spacey would have been while wearing prosthetics and old-man makeup.

I wonder what went through the heads of those studio execs who initially refused to allow Scott to cast Plummer when they saw the final version -- but he is not the only reason to see "All The Money In The World."

The plot involves the real-life kidnapping of Getty's 16-year-old grandson Paul in Rome by men who intend to hold him until they get Getty to pay a huge ransom. But Getty -- at that point, the richest man in the history of the world -- refuses to part with even a small piece of his wealth, claiming that if he paid the ransom, his other grandchildren would be at risk of being kidnapped, too. Besides, the only thing Getty loved more than having a lot of money was getting more of it, and thus the idea of giving anyone anything was anathema to him.

Stuck in the middle is Gail, Paul's mother and Getty's daughter-in-law. It's a meaty role, inhabited by Michelle Williams with the force of other female protagonists in Scott's movies, from Thelma and Louise to Ripley in "Alien." After too many movies in which she's been cast merely as the hero's wife ("Manchester By The Sea," "The Greatest Showman," "Brokeback Mountain") Williams grabs the spotlight of "All The Money In The World" and runs with it in a stunning performance. It reminded me of seeing her on Broadway last year opposite Jeff Daniels in "Blackbird," where her energy leapt off the stage.

I have heard other moviegoers complain that "All The Money In The World" doesn't reveal much information about Paul, the grandson played by Charlie Plummer, but that didn't bother me one bit because his back story is irrelevant. He's merely the MacGuffin that keeps the plot rolling.

The supporting cast includes Mark Wahlberg as Fletcher Chase, an ex-CIA operative who does Getty's bargaining in business but feels sympathy for what Gail goes through as she battles the billionaire while trying to find her son. It's also nice to see the underused Timothy Hutton as Getty's attorney. Still, the movie belongs to Scott's brilliant direction and the performances of Williams and Plummer.

I give "All The Money In The World" an 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Josh Dean, "The Taking Of K-129"

Here's my conversation with Josh Dean, author of a book with a very intriguing title: "The Taking Of K-129: How The CIA Used Howard Hughes To Steal A Russian Sub In The Most Daring Covert Operation In History." No, it's not a novel -- it's a true story, and I won't be surprised when it's turned into a movie.

Among the questions I asked him:
  • How did the US know the Soviet submarine had sunk, considering how different technology was in 1968?
  • What information did the US gain from the retrieval?
  • What was the Howard Hughes part of the plot?
  • Has the US ever lost a nuclear sub?
  • Considering the CIA lied to the American public, how do you know your intelligence sources told you the truth?
  • Was the equipment used to lift the sub off the ocean floor ever used again?
  • Did the CIA recover the whole sub, or is some of it still under the Pacific?
  • How do you answer conspiracy theorists who say the Soviet sub was poised to attack the United States?
  • Could this happen today?
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Showbiz Show 12/22/17

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I reviewed "All The Money In The World," "The Shape Of Water," and "The Greatest Showman." Then we answered a listener's question about how Will Smith's new movie, "Bright," can possibly make a profit when it cost $90 million to make and is only streaming on Netflix. We finished the show by running down each of our lists of the top ten worst movies of the year.

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

Harris Challenge 12/22/17

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun that you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include That Guy's Not In Charge Any More, Christmas Movies, 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® 12/22/17

This collection of Knuckleheads In The News® stories include a cross country pot trip, ricin in a retirement home, and alcohol in the air. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Picture Of The Day

Google looks back at 2017, based on its most popular searches...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Placing The Pigskin

During Sunday night's NFL game between the Cowboys and Raiders, referee Gene Steratore used an index card to measure whether the Cowboys had gotten enough yardage for a first down. When he determined that they had, Cowboys fans were elated and Raiders fans were outraged.

Here's why the whole thing was ludicrous.

The placement of the ball at any point in the game is a relatively random decision by the officials. When there's a player pileup, they can't really see the exact position of the pigskin, so they make their best guess. Similarly, the sticks-and-chains used on the sidelines to mark the start of a series of downs and the point ten yards upfield (the "first down marker") are also placed in an imprecise manner. Everything's an estimate, and everyone's okay with that -- as long as it doesn't work against your team.

The NFL is probably the most technologically advanced of the major sports leagues. Here are just a few examples:
  • use of replays to verify touchdowns/fumbles/catches/interceptions;
  • on-field audio picked up by mics on the players;
  • overhead cameras that put viewers in the action as if in a Madden video game;
  • plays sent in to the quarterback's headset by coaches on the sidelines.
Yet the NFL still uses the human eyeball to determine the placement of the pigskin, or to determine where a player's forward motion stopped. On a fumble or punt reception, a referee throws a blue beanbag in the general area of the change of possession. How can that possibly be 100% accurate?

It shouldn't be that hard to solve this problem by putting -- inside the ball -- an RFID chip that transmits its exact location. When there's a question about where things stand, check the data. Otherwise, if you're going to stick with a referee's judgement, the NFL (and college football, too) should change the rules to "well, it's close enough."

As a fan, I'd be fine with that -- unless it affects one of my football bets, in which case, this whole thing is a ripoff!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Mr. Perspective on Cellphone Radiation

Last week, CBS News reported, "the California Department of Public Health is releasing guidelines about cellphone radiation and how you can reduce your exposure." The story quoted Dr. Karen Smith:

We recognize that there are a lot of people in the general public that have some concerns about their cellphones and whether using a cellphone is safe. When you sleep, you keep the cellphone at least arm's length away from your body. And also, not carrying your cellphone in your pocket, having it either in your purse or not carrying it with you."
That makes it sound as if scientists have found a link between cellphones and some health risk. Plenty of other media outlets picked up the report and made it sound like your cellphone is going to give you cancer unless you only use it while holding it six feet away while wearing a hazmat suit.

The problem is this clause in the story:
Although conclusive medical research is lacking...
In other words, there is no proof that cellphone radiation is harmful to humans. When asked if California's new guidelines mean that it believes cellphones are dangerous, Dr. Smith replied:
"Not at all. Our position is that the science is evolving."
That means nothing. Science is always evolving -- its basic rule is that you keep working on things until you reach a definitive answer about them, and that answer may eventually change, too. But you don't go issuing public health warnings without any conclusion whatsoever!

So why did California issue these guidelines? Check the penultimate paragraph of the CBS News story:
The state said one of the main reasons they've decided to release these guidelines now is that there are new numbers out showing that cellphone use is higher than ever, with 95 percent of Americans using them on a regular basis.
What? You issued these guidelines because a lot of people use cellphones? Then what about ballpoint pens, light bulbs, thumbtacks, and drinking glasses? A helluva lot of people use those items, but no one is announcing health guidelines warning us to limit our exposure to them.

Oh, right, the medical research did come to a conclusion about those.

Movie Review: "The Greatest Showman"

"The Greatest Showman" is a musical about PT Barnum gathering a group of unusual characters and acts to create what would come to be known as the first circus. It stars Hugh Jackman as Barnum, Michelle Williams as his wife, and Zac Efron as his business partner.

The acts include a bearded lady, a dwarf, Siamese twins, a brother-and-sister trapeze act, a tattooed man, and a giant. They are the kind of performers who would later populate sideshows at carnivals, but Barnum put them front and center to exploit the curiosity of average Americans in the mid-19th century.

Director Michael Gracey fills the screen with lots of spectacle, a love story, and nine original songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul ("La La Land," "Dear Evan Hansen," "A Christmas Story"). Unfortunately, although every tune in "The Greatest Showman" is delivered as a showstopper, none is particularly memorable. Instead, they're anachronistic with a too-contemporary feel -- and there's one character introduced as a famous opera singer who then goes on to sing not one aria or anything else from that genre, instead doing modern show-tune-ish numbers that don't quite work.

As for Jackman, he's a dynamic presence on screen, a born ringmaster who can sing, dance, and act (my wife offers the female perspective: "There is nothing wrong with that man"), but watching him and the rest of the cast, I couldn't help but think the whole production would be better as a Broadway show than it is as a movie. The energy of the performances by Jackman and some of the rest of the cast -- particularly Keala Settle as the bearded lady -- doesn't translate as well through the camera as it would in a live theater setting. Ironically, there was a Broadway show called "Barnum" in the 1980s, starring Jim Dale and Michael Crawford, but "The Greatest Showman" isn't based on it.

There's also a question of timing. Jackman says that the project languished in development for seven years because studios were hesitant to take on an original musical. Perhaps "La La Land" changed their mind, but the fact is that during that delay, the circus Barnum started (which later included partners Bailey and the Ringling Brothers) was dying and finally closed forever earlier this year, mostly because it was no longer unique in a digital world where we have access on demand to any kind of entertainment we desire.

"The Greatest Showman" displays plenty of boisterous effort from everyone involved, but it just isn't enough. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Jen Chaney on The Year In TV

Here's my conversation with Vulture TV critic Jen Chaney about the past year in television.

We started by dissecting Sunday night's live Fox broadcast of the musical, "A Christmas Story," adapted from the classic 1983 movie based on Jean Shepherd's radio shows and books. I couldn't take more than half of it, but Jen soldiered all the way to the end of the three hours, and we both had lots of opinions on what we saw.

Next, Jen ran down some of her favorite shows of 2017, including some streaming recommendations you might want to add to your queue. Speaking of streaming, we discussed whether the CBS subscription service All Access can be a success with original shows like "The Good Fight" and "Star Trek: Discovery," or whether viewers already get their fill of streamed shows from Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Other topics we covered included whether Louie CK's admission of sexually inappropriate behavior has tainted Pamela Adlon's "Better Things" on FX (one of my faves), what will happen to "CBS This Morning" and NBC's "Today" show now that Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer have been forced out, and whether Jimmy Fallon can still compete against Steven Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and even Seth Meyers, all of whom have ridden anti-Trump material to ratings success.

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

Cassandra Sweet on Clean Energy in St. Louis

Cassandra Sweet is a senior writer at GreenBiz, a website that reports on renewable energy and corporate sustainability. Recently, she wrote a piece about the city of St. Louis ramping up its clean energy efforts, with a goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2035, and I asked her to come on my show to talk about it.

We discussed how the legislation was passed despite opposition from Arch Coal and Peabody Energy (both of which are based in St. Louis), but thanks to support from other local businesses like Anheuser Busch and Nestle Purina -- as well as Ameren, the electric utility that is also expanding its renewable energy endeavors.

Then we discussed how electric vehicles can be part of this solution, and whether the infrastructure to support them must come before sales can increase. Cassandra also explained how other regions of the US are making similar efforts to use more renewable energy and less coal and oil -- including Texas, which has made a major commitment to wind power, thus lessening electric bills statewide.

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

Dr. Robert Lustig, "The Hacking Of The American Mind"

Here's my conversation with Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist and UCSF professor, about his book, "The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains." We discussed the thesis of his book, that "marketing, media, and technology have capitalized on subverting our brain physiology to their advantage in order to veer us away from the pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of pleasure, which for them of course equals the pursuit of profit."

We talked about the difference between happiness and pleasure, whether all our devices that supposedly make our lives easier actually do, and whether they're shortening our attention spans. Then we delved into how the food we eat has changed over the decades, whether this is purely an American phenomenon, and his four-word recipe for making ourselves healthier.

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

Monday, December 18, 2017

Movie Review: "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

I'm not a "Star Wars" fanboy. I kinda liked the original movie, put up with the next two sequels, skipped the next three, and then went back a few years ago for "The Force Awakens," which was Chapter 7 in the extended saga. I wasn't bowled over. Now comes the eighth chapter, "The Last Jedi," which I wasn't planning to see. But since my radio show was pre-empted on Friday, I had a few hours to kill, and with a matinee show priced at only $5.62, I figured what the hell.

Well, those are three hours I'll never get back. The movie itself lasts two hours and twenty minutes, which is already too long, but it was preceded by 8 -- yes, eight! -- trailers for coming attractions, thus tacking on another half-hour to the proceedings. That's just plain ridiculous.

Since I'm not up on all things "Star Wars," and don't remember the relationships between the various characters, I had a hard time following several elements of the plot, which essentially boils down to the continuing attempts by the evil ones (Kylo Ren, Snoke, and General Hux) to wipe out the good ones (Rey, Finn, Po, etc.). Despite having advanced weaponry and the ability to jump to light speed, it's one long slog through the sky with a lot of snarling, mysticism, and lame dialogue.

From the original cast, Mark Hammill is back as Luke Skywalker, living a lone-monk-like existence on some island where Rey shows up and beseeches him to return to the resistance and teach her the ways of the Jedi. Carrie Fisher's back, too, in her final performance as the no-longer-a-princess-now-a-general Leia. I seem to remember she's Luke's sister, so of course they can communicate across the galaxy via telepathy, a skill that Rey can also use to send brain-text-messages to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

None of this makes any sense, but it doesn't matter because, in the end, it comes down to yet another epic battle between enemies wielding those flashy Jedi light-saber-swords. These space sagas always have to have a hand-to-hand component, even though each side has lasers and blasters that can shoot their opponent to smithereens, not to mention giant clomping walking machines, which seem a waste of technology when you have spaceships that can fly. It would be like going into an air battle with a pack of camels. There's also a chase through a casino that wants to be an updated cantina scene, but serves no purpose whatsoever -- other than to let the CGI artists and special effects crews create and then destroy sets, both real and virtual.

As for supporting characters, there are a few new ones, none of them memorable, including Laura Dern looking like an outcast from "The Hunger Games." From the past, you get the return of Chewbacca, C3PO, R2D2, BB8, and a very old friend of Luke's (guess, you may). There's also a new cadre of alien animals that are supposed to inject either some cuteness and comedy into the plot, but do neither. They will still make Disney lots of money on the toy shelves this Christmas.

"The Last Jedi" is another one of those action movies where hundreds of people die, but when it's over and there are a dozen or two left standing, they cheer and celebrate as if the deaths of all their colleagues and friends didn't matter. Oh, well, too bad, let's get a beer.

I realize that my opinion is in the minority, since "The Last Jedi" made about $220 million this weekend, the second biggest box office opening of all time. I have a couple of friends who have seen it three times already. If, like them, you're really into "Star Wars" lore, you'll have a very different view of "The Last Jedi" than I do -- from my perspective, it's full of a lot of noise and fury, but too little substance.

I give "The Last Jedi" a 4 out of 10.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Picture Of The Day

There are a few old-time acts I wish I could have seen in person on one of my trips to Vegas -- Sammy Davis Jr., Buddy Hackett, and Louis Prima/Keely Smith -- but I missed them by a generation. In particular, I would have loved to see Prima and Smith in one of their late-night lounge shows, which were so popular that all the other performers in town would go see them after finishing their own acts on other stages.

Since Smith died this weekend at 89, let's take a look at one of the songs she famously performed with Prima during their heyday. You may know them from "I'm Just A Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody," with a delightfully deadpan Smith remaining straight-faced while the boys go a little crazy -- David Lee Roth copied it and turned it into a hit again a few decades later -- but I love the Prima/Smith chemistry on "That Old Black Magic," as seen in this clip from the 1999 documentary, "Louis Prima: The Wildest."

Friday, December 15, 2017

My Aching Colon, Ten Years Later

I wrote the original version of this in 2007, but have revised it after a return visit to the same doctor for the same procedure a decade later...

I'm going to share a medical secret with you. It's about having a colonoscopy, as I did yesterday.

When my physician first told me I'd have to have one, I was a little nervous, but I've reached the age where you're supposed to get screened for cancer and other problems, so I was resigned to it. Fortunately, they didn't find anything wrong. Even more fortunately, the whole hospital experience was a breeze.

What nobody told me was how un-breezy the day before was going to be. Remember, this is a procedure that tens of millions of people have had done. Two members of my extended family have had a colonoscopy within the last couple of years, but neither one of them -- nor anyone else -- ever shared with me the day-before warning. Since I'm sure you can't count on your friends or family either, I'll be the one to give you a heads-up.

The problem is that before the gastroenterologist goes exploring around in your colon with a camera on a tube inserted in your rear end, you have to be, um, as empty as possible. To achieve that, I couldn't eat any solid food all day, and could only drink clear liquids, which for me meant nothing but water. Then, at 6pm that evening, I was to consume an entire bottle (six ounces) of an incredibly powerful liquid laxative, along with 48 ounces of water.

The stuff tastes absolutely disgusting, but it works fast. Beginning at 6:30pm, I began the first of several hurried visits to the bathroom. I'll leave out the disgusting parts of this, which I'm sure you can imagine, but suffice it to say that it was clear how the rest of my evening was going to play out from that point on. I consider it one of the most unpleasant nights of my life -- and that was only part one.

The instructions said that, for part two, I had to drink another bottle of the laxative, plus the same amount of water, five hours before my colonoscopy appointment. Since that was scheduled for 9:30am, I set the alarm for 4:30am. When it went off, I wasn't very rested, since I'd continued to make those bathroom visits through much of the night. Still, I got up, downed the gross liquid (which at one point felt like it was going to come back up), and knew I wouldn't be able to fall asleep again.

I was right. I stayed awake until it was time to go. Despite not eating anything for over 24 hours, I wasn't hungry at all. My brain must have recognized that adding anything solid into this human sluice-gate system of mine, where whatever went in would be coming right back out, was not a pleasant prospect.

At 9:15am, my wife drove me to the hospital, and here's where the easy part began. The staff at Barnes West were nice and efficient and had me ready to go within 15 minutes of my arrival. The toughest part was figuring out how to tie a bowtie knot behind my back on that backwards hospital gown (I actually was concerned with making sure that it was completely closed back there, until I remembered that the nursing staff was about to get a very good view of my butt, and it was just one of many they'd face that day).

Soon, gastroenterologist Dr. David Goran came in and explained what was going to happen during my colonoscopy. He asked if I had any questions, and when I didn't, he said, "Okay, then we'll see you later." For a moment, I thought this meant he was leaving. Then I realized they were about to give me the general anesthesia. In the next moment, I was unconscious. In the moment after that, they were waking me up and he was telling me that everything had gone well and I was fine.

Because I wasn't awake for any of it, I have no memory of anything being done. There's actually part of me that wonders if anything was done, since I didn't feel a thing during or after the procedure. It's like when the mechanic tells you he's changed the oil on your car -- how do you know if he really did? It's not like Dr. Goran showed me a used air filter he'd replaced. I'm sure there's medical photographic evidence, but I'm not really interested in seeing it. After all, how would I know it came from inside me? I doubt that I'd recognize my own colon with any degree of certainty.

He told me that he'd removed a small polyp, but there was still a large one he couldn't take care of. He was sure it was non-cancerous, but should still come out, and gave me the name of another doctor who would remove it. The good news is that it can be done non-surgically. The bad news is I'll have to go through the same prep regimen again next month before I go in for that procedure. Damn! I was hoping to avoid that unpleasantness for another decade, but better to get it taken care of as soon as possible.

After the nurses wrote up all my dismissal paperwork in the recovery room, we headed for the door, and then to our favorite diner, so I could finally have some solid food. Next stop was home, where I couldn't wait to lie down and finally get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. First, I made a mental note to tell everyone I could how easy the actual colonoscopy was and how horrible the night before had been.

Please recognize that I'm not telling you any of this to discourage you from having a colonoscopy, which is a potentially life-saving procedure. I hope you live long enough to have many of these screenings, and that each one shows nothing wrong.

I just want you to know what you're in for the night before, since no one warned me.

Those Boring Cars

Yesterday, I mentioned that the next inductees into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame will be the Moody Blues, Nina Simone, Dire Straits, Bon Jovi, and The Cars. Of those, the only band I saw in concert was The Cars.

It was 1980, when the band was at the height of its popularity on radio. My station, WRCN, played the hell out of their first two albums, so when The Cars announced a concert date nearby, we got our hands on a bunch of tickets. We gave them away on the air and I accompanied the three dozen or so winners on our Concert Bus to and from the show.

Unfortunately, as great as their records were, The Cars were terrible live. They played every song exactly the way the originals sounded, singer/songwriter Ric Ocasek didn't utter a word to the audience between tunes, and the rest of the band displayed zero personality, too. It's hard to make a rock concert boring, but The Cars managed it.

The opening act, Bram Tchaikovsky, was worse. Sure, opening acts often get ignored by the audience that's come to see the headliner, but that was the first time I saw an entire crowd walk out of an arena while a band was onstage. I'm not kidding -- every single human left their seat and went for a walk around the concourse until Bram Tchaikovsky's cacophony of noise was over.

On the bus ride home, I actually apologized to our listeners. Mind you, these were people who had gotten free concert tickets and transportation, so they didn't have a reason to complain, but I felt they deserved an "I'm sorry" for wasting their evening. Several of them shook their heads and mumbled their disappointment until the mood was broken by a guy in the back who shouted, "That's the first time I've ever spent so much time buying and drinking beer at the concession stand -- just to avoid a concert!"

We all laughed. It was the first thing any of us had enjoyed in a few hours.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Movie Review: "Lady Bird"

I first noticed actress Saoirse Ronan two years ago when she starred in "Brooklyn." She had done other movies, but that was her breakout role. Now she's really getting noticed for her work in "Lady Bird," and every bit of praise is well-deserved.

When the title was included this summer in a list of upcoming films, I thought it was going to be about Lady Bird Johnson, onetime First Lady of the United States. After all, its release more or less coincided with that of Rob Reiner's "LBJ," with Woody Harrelson in ridiculous makeup as the 36th president. But this "Lady Bird" has nothing to do with that one.

Ronan is fantastic as Christine McPherson, a 17-year-old who, for reasons unexplained, wants everyone to call her Lady Bird. Chalk it up to teenage rebellion, and there's lots of that in this character as she navigates her way through a Catholic high school, dating, a school play, applying to college, and the everyday frustrations of pretty much every human who's ever been that age. It's a time in life for expressing your individuality, and Lady Bird doesn't miss an opportunity to do so.

That means a lot of clashes with her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), who loves her daughter but doesn't much like her. Marion -- already stressed from having to work double shifts as a hospital nurse because her husband (Tracy Letts) is having problems at his job -- is constantly disappointed in Lady Bird. She's weary of their battles over every little thing, not the least of which is her daughter refusing to use the name she was given at birth. Marion has impossibly high standards and a near-aversion to happiness, which doesn't make for the smoothest home life.

That relationship, at the core of the movie, is about all of the other issues that will be recognized by anyone who's been exposed to the dynamic between a mother and her 17-year-old daughter, best summed up in this exchange in a clothing store where they can't agree on a prom dress:
Marion: I just want you to be the very best version of yourself.
Lady Bird: But what if this is the best version?
The other characters in Lady Bird's life -- her best friend, her new best friend, the boys she's interested in, her brother and his girlfriend, the teachers -- seem familiar, but don't spew the usual cliched dialogue you expect in a movie like this.

That's what makes "Lady Bird" work so well. Greta Gerwig -- a critical favorite for her work in Noah Baumbach movies like "Frances Ha" and "Mistress America" -- hits just the right tone in her directorial debut. Gerwig's script is based in part on her own youth, growing up in Sacramento. She knows these characters and how they'd sound in real life, which keeps them from being boring or predictable.

Like its title character, "Lady Bird" isn't perfect, but it's the best view of this world we've seen in a long time. It also contains two must-see performances by Ronan (the Irish newcomer who portrays a northern Californian without a trace of an accent) and Metcalf (a veteran star of TV and Broadway whose silent driving scene towards the end of the movie is the best acting you'll see this year). They, and the movie, will surely get more well-deserved attention when Oscar nominations are announced.

I give "Lady Bird" an 8.5 out of 10.

Moody Memories

The 2018 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductees will be the Moody Blues, Bon Jovi, The Cars, Nina Simone, and Dire Straits. Of those, the only ones I've interviewed are the Moody Blues, and I've dug them out of the archives for you.
  • From 1996, here's a transcript of my conversation with Justin Hayward about performing with a full orchestra, among other things.
  • From 2003, here's the audio of my conversation with John Lodge about their Christmas album, "December."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Best Thing I've Read Today

In the NY Times, James Poniewozik writes about the president's TV addiction:

The problem is not how much TV Mr. Trump watches. It’s the kind of TV he watches.

As Mr. Trump’s associates report and his Twitter feed confirms, his video diet of choice is cable news, the most agitating, psychically toxic programming you can immerse yourself in, even if you don’t have possession of the nuclear codes.

This is not to say cable news is bad journalism. There are talented people in the business doing great reporting. But it is to say that cable news — as a genre, a gestalt, an environment to spend hours a day in — is by nature agitating and provoking.

That’s the cable-news business model. Conflict means urgency, and urgency means viewers glued to the channel. So it seeks out arguments and pushes buttons. It is a machine designed to generate stress and negative emotion.
He's absolutely right about the programming that makes up hour after hour every day on all the cable news outlets. No matter what your political persuasion, it is toxic. I've seen its effect on my mother, who used to live in an apartment by herself with the TV spewing that stuff all day long, and witnessed how it turned her sour, angry, and anxious. Now that she's in an assisted living facility, she has more activities to take up several hours of each day, but when she's in her room, those are still the only channels she watches -- and they don't help make her day better.

Similarly, I have seen the same effect on friends who obsess over every story those outlets over-cover and the arguments they produce. For some of those friends, the only time they turn away from the TV screen is when they turn towards their phone or laptop screen to vent about what they've seen on Facebook, where they then consume even more noxious content. A couple of them even take their cable news obsession with them in the car, listening via SiriusXM or the TuneIn app, or listening to just-as-pernicious talk radio hosts. Do you think that might have something to do with instances of road rage in this country?

Poniewozik's advice isn't merely valid for the president, but for everyone. Turn that trash off. It's the same thing I urged in my "This Isn't Fake News" speech earlier this year:
I give you this advice because it’s exactly what I have done. When I used to have a daily radio show, I had to jump into the information ocean repeatedly throughout the day to catch whatever would make an interesting talking point for that day’s show. Now that I’m only on once a week, doing a show that’s dedicated to everything but the hard news of the day, I have pulled back dramatically on my news fetish. I am anything but an information luddite, but I’m happy to find other things to do with my time than bathing my brain in the fetid backwash that exists in our information overload.

I strongly suggest you cleanse yourself of it, too.
Poniewozik goes on to recommend that, if the president is going to watch so much TV, he should change the channel to find an old movie, or a sitcom, or the Golf Channel.

David Goldfield, "The Gifted Generation"

David Goldfield, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has written 16 books on southern and American history. His newest is "The Gifted Generation: When Government Was Good," which focuses on the social benefits provided to the early baby boomers under presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Johnson.

Among the questions I asked him:
  • Were they (Truman/Ike/LBJ) more sympathetic to working class Americans because they didn’t have much when they grew up?
  • Truman proposed universal health care 70 years ago, but couldn’t pass it — why?
  • What was public opinion on these matters, and were those men leading or pandering?
  • When did the belief that the federal government must work for all Americans begin to erode?
  • Are there other countries where the government continues to support its people that way?
  • Was there ever such a thing as progressive republicans?
  • Considering its current state, can American government ever be good again?
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Matthew Salganik, "Bit By Bit"

Here's my conversation with Matthew Salganik, sociology professor at Princeton University and author of “Bit By Bit: Social Research In The Digital Age.”

We started by talking about how the digital revolution has changed how our behavior is observed, how that gives companies and researchers more accurate portraits of us, and whether we should be wary of all the data being collected without our consent. We also discussed how selling information has become big business, what kind of ethical rules should be in place for that data, and how it can be misused. Matt also revealed a project he did last spring with his students that taught them how to manipulate their Facebook news feeds (and they're not even Russian!).

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Political Prediction

If Roy Moore is elected today, I predict there will quickly be calls for a boycott of Alabama akin to the one in North Carolina after that state's bathroom law was passed. Of course, Alabama can't lose a Super Bowl or MLB/NBA/NHL All-Star game, but businesses and tourists might stay away.

If he does pull off a victory, you can forget about the Republicans in the Senate throwing him out, as many of them publicly professed they would a few short weeks ago. No, they'll keep him in there because our over-caffeinated president wants him there -- and because that entire party is morally bankrupt.

While I'm on the topic, in case you missed it, how about this lead paragraph from a CNN story about Moore on Sunday:

Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore appeared on a conspiracy-driven radio show twice in 2011, where he told the hosts in an interview that getting rid of constitutional amendments after the Tenth Amendment would "eliminate many problems" in the way the US government is structured.
Let's see, what came up in the amendments after the first ten that make up our Bill Of Rights? Since Moore was a sitting judge for many years, he probably knows that:
  • the 13th Amendment abolished slavery;
  • the 14th Amendment defined citizenship and guaranteed due process and equal protection;
  • the 15th Amendment prohibited denying the right to vote based on race;
  • the 19th Amendment prohibited denying the right to vote based on sex.
Do you get the feeling old white man Roy Moore thinks he's living not in 2017, but in 1817?

Or, considering his extremist religious views, perhaps he just thinks it's the year 17.

No, wait, that's the age of the girls he lusted after in his thirties. Damn!

Chris Matthews, “Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit”

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, who was then three years into his first term as a US Senator, and just 80 days into his candidacy for president of the United States. Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC’s Hardball, has written about RFK’s brother in the books “Jack Kennedy—Elusive Hero” and “Kennedy and Nixon,” and now has published “Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit.” In our conversation about the book, the topics we covered included:
  • What made him want to return to tell more stories about the Kennedy family;
  • How Bobby was different from Jack and Ted;
  • What was his role in his brother’s administration;
  • If he’d lived, would RFK have been the Democratic presidential nominee in ’68;
  • Would he then have gone on the beat Nixon, and how that would have changed US history;
  • Whether Chris, a grad student at UNC in 1968, was an RFK-For-President supporter;
  • How Bobby Kennedy tangled with the Mafia and Jimmy Hoffa, and whether that affected his support from unions;
  • A touching story about the crowds that gathered to see his funeral train.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Kael Maness, Ex-Addict Helping Addicts

A couple of weeks ago, I read a piece by Michele Munz in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Kael Maness, one of several recovery coaches working with addicts who overdose on opioids and end up in hospital emergency rooms.

I contacted Kael and asked him to come in to talk about his work, which is so effective because he speaks the same language as the addicts he helps -- he's been in their shoes, addicted to pretty much anything you could name over the course of more than a dozen years. He's been sober for three years, and now works with Project EPICC (Engaging Patients In Care Coordination) through the Behavioral Health Network of Greater St. Louis.

Kael was very open about the road he'd been down with alcoholism and drug addiction, and offered some tough love suggestions for parents who have children -- of any age -- who have followed the same path ("if you baby your kid, you'll bury your kid"). With opioids killing more Americans last year than died in the Vietnam War, the efforts of Kael and other recovery coaches are part of the solution.

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

Dan Steadman and Tom Oldcroft, "The Shoe"

Dan Steadman is a writer/director who makes movies in the St. Louis area. Tom Oldcroft has appeared in a couple of them, including Dan's latest, "The Shoe," an anthology story that takes place over seven decades. When they joined me in the studio, we talked about that project as well as Dan's previous work, why he likes creating content in St. Louis, and his earlier life making movies and TV pilots in Hollywood (with stories about Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spencer, and Jim Carrey).

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Movie Review: "Darkest Hour"

"Darkest Hour" is the third movie this year whose plot centers on the British Army being trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk by the Nazis in 1940. The first was "Their Finest," a light drama starring Gemma Atherton and Bill Nighy (my review is here). The second was "Dunkirk," Christopher Nolan's epic told from three perspectives in three different timelines (my review is here).

Now we get "Darkest Hour," with Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in his earliest days as British Prime Minister. We've seen Churchill portrayed on screen before (both John Lithgow and Brendan Gleeson have won Emmys playing him in the last decade), but this is the best of the lot. The makeup job on Oldman is astounding, and his performance (sure to be nominated for Best Actor) is even better.

After the disastrous reign of PM Neville Chamberlain, Churchill was chosen to lead his country at a perilous time. The Germans had rolled through most of Europe with little resistance, and had trapped virtually the entire UK army at Dunkirk. Once they were wiped out, it wouldn't be long before the Nazis crossed the English Channel to attack Britain. While some in his government urged Churchill to try some sort of back-door negotiation with Hitler through Italy's Mussolini, he abhorred the idea, understanding that surrender could not be an option.

"Darkest Hour" portrays Churchill's meetings with Parliament, his war council, and King George VI during those difficult days. Unlike the action-heavy "Dunkirk," this movie is very talky, but never slow. We see Churchill portrayed not as a perfect man -- he drank too much and was never in good health -- but as a statesman trying to figure out how to lead his country and inspire its citizenry.

Joe Wright directs "Darkest Hour" with a keen eye for the subterranean corridors of power that Churchill must navigate, while also giving us scenes of his home life with wife, Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas), and his meetings at Buckingham Palace with the king (played by my "Mississippi Grind" co-star, Ben Mendelsohn), whose advisers were telling him to leave the island and rule in absentia for his own safety.

The biggest flaw in "Darkest Hour" is a scene towards the end in which Churchill rides the subway with common Brits in order to get their opinion on what he should do about the Nazis. The problem is that never happened. Wright and screenwriter Anthony McCarten invented the whole thing, which is a shame, because they got the rest of the Churchill story right.

Nonetheless, you should see "Darkest Hour," primarily because of Oldman's work in the role, but also because it's yet another part of world history most Americans know far too little about.

I give "The Darkest Hour" an 8 out of 10.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Tim Riley, National Churchill Museum

With the movie "Darkest Hour," opening today in St. Louis (with a remarkable performance by Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill), I called upon Tim Riley, chief curator of the National Churchill Museum, to discuss the man's legacy. He explained why the museum is in Fulton, Missouri, and the back story of the historic church that was moved there, brick by brick, from London, England.

Tim explained Churchill's leadership in fighting Germany during World War II, how he inspired his countrymen, and how he differed from his predecessor, Neville Chamberlain. We talked about Churchill's relationships with US president Franklin Roosevelt, and why the latter didn't come to Britain's aide as the Dunkirk story was unfolding in May, 1940. We also discussed a low point in Churchill's career, when he opposed the Indian independence movement and wanted to crush its leader, Mahatma Ghandi. We even had time to get into World War I, Gallipoli, the Korean War, and Joseph Stalin.

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

Showbiz Show 12/8/17

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I reviewed "Darkest Hour" and "The Disaster Artist." Then we talked about how the money a movie brings in is distributed and how much goes to the theaters that show it. We also discussed why the "Olaf's Frozen Adventure" short doesn't play before each showing of Pixar's "Coco" any more, what's wrong with the new trailers for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" and "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," what will happen when "House Of Cards" returns to Netflix without Kevin Spacey, and why you should stream the series "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" on Amazon Prime.

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

Harris Challenge 12/8/17

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun that you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include Resign Of The Times, The War Machine, and How You Will Die. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 12/8/17

This collection of Knuckleheads In The News® stories include people parked in the wrong spot, a self-incriminating bank robber, and a toilet seat in the wrong position. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

The End Of The Al Franken Decade

I'm disappointed in Al Franken, but not because he resigned from the Senate.

If the Democrats are going to claim the moral upper hand on the sexual harassment issue so they can wield it against Trump and the GOP in the mid-term elections, he had no choice. Besides, Minnesota's governor is a Democrat, who will likely name Tina Smith (the current lieutenant governor) to replace Franken until the next election, and then she'll have the power of the incumbency when she runs for re-election to that seat. So, it's not like the Dems had a one-vote majority they're sacrificing by urging Franken to step down.

My disappointment in Franken stems from my admiration for him both before and during his short political career. He always struck me as one of the smart ones, a rarity on Capitol Hill, a public official who seemed to care about using government to make people's lives better by carrying on the legacy of his hero, Paul Wellstone. That doesn't excuse Franken forcing his tongue down women's throats or grabbing their butts repeatedly -- for which he didn't apologize in his resignation speech -- but in a world where too many elected officials seem to have no idea what they're talking about, Franken stood out as different.

I have no idea what he'll do now, or if he can figure out a career path that gives him a third act, but once he does leave the Senate in a few weeks, it's going to be quite awhile before he re-emerges, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, is the US a better country without Al Franken in the Senate? You'll have to ask the women he assaulted.