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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Bad Move By "60 Minutes"

"60 Minutes" has hired Oprah Winfrey as a special contributor.

This is not good. This is the woman who made Dr. Oz famous, allowing him to spread pseudo-science to millions of viewers over and over again. This is the woman who gave Jenny McCarthy a national television platform to spread anti-vaxxer lies and fear-mongering. Oprah has wrapped her arms around other purveyors of nonsense, too.

In 2013, at Harvard's commencement, Oprah was awarded an honorary doctorate before addressing the crowd. That didn't sit well with some members of the Harvard community, including Nicholas Christakis, a professor of medicine and sociology, and Erika Christakis, an early childhood educator and Harvard administrator. In an op-ed for Time, they blasted the university's choice of Winfrey, saying it is an assault on science that sends the wrong message:

Honorary degrees are often bestowed to non-academic leaders in the arts, business, and politics. Harvard’s roster in recent years has included Kofi Annan, Bill Gates, Meryl Streep, and David Souter. But Oprah’s particular brand of celebrity is not a good fit for the values of a university whose motto, Veritas, means truth. Oprah’s passionate advocacy extends, unfortunately, to a hearty embrace of phony science. Critics have taken Oprah to task for years for her energetic shilling on behalf of peddlers of quack medicine. Most notoriously, Oprah’s validation of Jenny McCarthy’s discredited claim that vaccines cause autism has no doubt contributed to much harm through the foolish avoidance of vaccines.

Famous people are entitled to a few foibles, like the rest of us, and the choice of commencement speakers often reflects a balance of institutional priorities, allegiances, and aspirations. Judging from our conversations with many students, Oprah was a widely popular choice.

But this vote of confidence in Oprah sends a troubling message at precisely the time when American universities need to do more, not less, to advance the cause of reason. As former Dean of Harvard College, Harry Lewis, pointedly noted in a blog post about his objections, “It seems very odd for Harvard to honor such a high profile popularizer of the irrational. I can’t square this in my mind, at a time when political and religious nonsense so imperil the rule of reason in this allegedly enlightened democracy and around the world.”
I couldn't agree more. Read their entire piece here.

When Oprah endorses pseudo-science -- with claims that go virtually unchallenged, without any real equal time for skeptical rebuttal -- it carries tremendous weight with her audience, and that can be very dangerous. So, it was nice to get some reinforcement from Newsweek, which published a cover story on Oprah's crazy talk, exposing some of the ridiculous medical claims she and her guests have been pushing on her show and website and magazine, and their impact with the world of women who worship All Things Oprah.

I'm not holding my breath for Oprah to do a "60 Minutes" segment spotlighting real medical experts who can easily debunk the junk science she has preached for so many years. Instead, CBS will give her an even bigger platform from which she can spread a layer of garbage across the TV news landscape.

As we've seen, the American public swallows that stuff whole, which means she's now qualified to be President.

Movie Review: Gold


In "Gold," Matthew McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, head of a mining company that hasn't found anything valuable to mine in a long time. One night, he has a dream about finding lots of gold in Indonesia. He remembers an expert named Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) who has a reputation for knowing where to dig to find valuable minerals and precious metals. So he flies to Jakarta, meets with Acosta, and the two begin an adventure in the jungle to find the gold.

Actually, "adventure in the jungle" makes the movie sound more exciting than it really is. There's very little time spent poking in the dirt. Instead, "Gold" has too many scenes in offices and board rooms where Wells and other speculators talk about raising capital, selling shares in the company, and boosting stock prices.

McConaughey puts everything he has into the role of Wells. He gained lots of weight and shaved his head to achieve a look that seems taken directly from Christian Bale in "American Hustle" (Bale was originally going to play Wells before wisely, um, bailing). Too bad that McConaughey's fast-talking, always-smoking character doesn't have much charisma. I never liked him or rooted for him.

The movie includes a couple of twists I won't spoil, but I will say I saw them coming a mile away -- and I never know what's coming up in terms of surprises in movies like my wife does. If I can spot the turn before the movie gets there, something's wrong.

"Gold" has a strong supporting cast, including Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll, Stacy Keach, Bruce Greenwood, Craig T. Nelson and Bill Camp (he was Detective Box on HBO's "The Night Of"). Unfortunately, they're caught up in a plot that -- while based on a true story -- is murkier than an Indonesian river during a downpour.

I give it a 5 out of 10.

Picture Of The Day

This segment of a Dutch television show requires no setup...

Monday, January 30, 2017

Concert Review: Tedeschi-Trucks Band


The first time I saw Susan Tedeschi perform was in September 2000, at BB King's Blues Festival at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis (the night Buddy Guy stole the show!). Her voice sounded like Bonnie Raitt's and she played a mean slide guitar like her, too. The next day, I bought a couple of Tedeschi CDs, but didn't see her again for more than 16 years.

Meanwhile, her career rolled along and she met and married Derek Trucks, nephew of original Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks. Derek also played a mean slide guitar as he toured with the ABB for many years and did some solo shows, too. Then he and Susan decided to merge their acts into the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, and hit the road -- as the only married blues guitarists I can name -- with ten musicians and singers behind them. That's the lineup that performed Wednesday night at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis.

I wasn't sure the show would go on, because that morning, news broke that Derek's uncle had killed himself at age 69. There was no announcement about postponing, though, so I joined a couple thousand other fans for the concert wondering whether there would be any tribute. Sure enough, Trucks and Tedeschi started their set with Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues" (see the fan-shot video above), which the Allmans had made famous on their 1971 "Live At The Fillmore East" album. Two and a half hours later, to bring it full circle, they wrapped it up with another ABB classic, "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed."

In between, they played several originals, as well as covers of Dylan's "Don't Think Twice," Elmore James' "The Sky Is Crying" (by way of Stevie Ray Vaughan), George Harrison's "Isn't It A Pity," and BB King's "How Blue Can You Get." For the encore, they whipped out Ray Charles' "Let's Go Get Stoned."

The crowd didn't need the urging of that last song, as the aroma of weed had permeated the Peabody for most of the night. I haven't touched the stuff since 1978, but got a pretty good contact high thanks to the guy in the row ahead of me.

I do have some complaints, though. One is that when the headliner is going to play for two-and-a-half hours, there's no need for an opening act that goes on for 40 minutes. I know that the idea is to warm up the crowd, but that's moot by the time they leave the stage and the crew takes 20 minutes to reset for the headliner.

In the jam-band tradition, some of the songs went on far too long, with jazzy improvisations that got too weird (I thought of Spinal Tap's "Jazz Odyssey" during one long stretch that included the trumpet player pretending he was Miles Davis and the keyboard player abusing the synthesizer like a member of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters). For much of the night, while Tedeschi worked center stage, Trucks was off to the side, rarely even facing the audience. Hey, if I wanted to hear you without seeing you, I would have stayed home with your live album.

To make those long jams worse, there were three (!) drum solos during the evening, including one during the opening act's set. Drum solos have always been self-indulgent exercises and should have been banned 25 years ago (particularly for the warm-up act), so three of them during the same show is akin to torture.

Then there's the problem I call Peabody Claustrophobia. I'd forgotten that the rows in the balcony are so close together there's no place for anyone over six feet tall to put their legs. I'm 6'4" (and wider than I should be), so it was an uncomfortable squeeze all night long, made worse by having to hold my heavy winter coat on my lap because if I'd put it on the seat behind me, I would have had to kick a couple of people in the head before wedging myself into the remaining space.

At least downstairs, in the orchestra seats, I can scoot my feet under the seat in front of me, but upstairs, it's impossible. Considering that the Peabody was retrofitted in 2011 after lying dormant for 20 years, they should have consulted with a few tall people before jamming the seats so close together. I've had more legroom on a Frontier flight.

Then again, what should I expect on a night where "jam" was the operative word?

Worth A Link

Saturday, January 28, 2017

David Pogue's Search For The Super Battery


David Pogue returned to my radio show to promote his next Nova special, "Search For The Super Battery" (airing Wednesday 2/1 on PBS). We talked about improving wind and solar power storage, what went wrong with Samsung's Note 7 that made it burst into flames, the truth about lithium-ion batteries, and what Elon Musk's gigafactory in Nevada can do.

We also discussed David's visit to CES earlier this month, his new instruction manual for Apple's new Sierra operating system for Macs, and whether anyone cares about Google Glass any more. I'm also happy to say he's renewed his deal to stay at Yahoo Tech.

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

Showbiz Show 1/27/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed two new movies: "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter" and Matthew McConaughey in "Gold." We also discussed:
  • the controversy over "A Dog's Purpose;"
  • who got snubbed in the Oscar nominations;
  • Mary Tyler Moore's legacy.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 1/27/17

The trivia categories for this week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- include Mary Tyler Moore, Not Gonna Win An Oscar, and Other Walls Mexico Didn't Pay For.

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

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 1/27/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories of a man with a mop on his head, an electricity thief, and a possible body in the trunk. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, January 27, 2017

KTRS Friday


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

In the first hour, I'll talk with David Pogue about his upcoming PBS Nova show, "Search For The Super Battery." In the second hour, Colin Jeffrey and I will review movies (including "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter" and Matthew McConaughey in "Gold") plus other showbiz stuff. In the third hour, you can play along with 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, January 26, 2017

Remembering Mary Tyler Moore


To honor Mary Tyler Moore, who died yesterday at 80, I pulled a clip from my archives of Vince Waldron (author of "The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book") explaining the battle she had with CBS over her character, Laura Petrie, being allowed to wear pants -- instead of the then-standard TV housewife-at-home outfit of a dress, heels, and pearls. I also called upon TV critic Alan Sepinwall to explain why he calls Mary one of TV's best and most important stars.

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

Previously on Harris Online...

Usain Bolt, Fit Bit, and Non-Brown Apples


I had a fun conversation with Dr. Rick Lehman about three medical-related issues in the news this week:
  • Usain Bolt losing an Olympic gold medal because another member of his relay team tested positive for a banned substance;
  • Apples that are genetically modified to not brown when they're cut open and exposed to air;
  • Fit Bit-like devices that can predict when you're getting sick.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Bonus Radio Day


I get a bonus radio day today when I fill in for Martin Kilcoyne 10-Noon CT on KTRS.
My guests will include:
  • TV critic Alan Sepinwall talking about Mary Tyler Moore's legacy;
  • Susann Scrobsdorff on companies telling workers when to unplug from work;
  • Austin Huguelet on new rules for Uber and Lyft in Missouri;
  • Tom Spiggle on Trump's changes to family and medical leave.
You can listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com.

Best Thing I've Read Today

Here's a story that's destined to be turned into a movie. It's the tale of the $7.2 million Brinks heist in Miami in 2005, as told by its mastermind, Karls Monzon, to Salon's Jessica Lipsky...

Just as the group arrived at the Brinks warehouse, they heard sirens and saw a van full of U.S. Customs police speed toward the post office building — just in front of their target. Boatwright, who was driving, slowed down to watch the action and wait for the police to leave, but the presence of police shook everyone up. Boatwright and Perera wanted to go home.

“I just put my foot down,” Monzon said, telling his team. “This has to get done and don’t worry about distractions.”

Ironically, the police had created the perfect setup for Monzon and his crew. By the time Monzon had convinced Perera and Boatwright to continue with the robbery, around 3 p.m., the bag exchange was underway at the warehouse. “That’s when we decided to go around and jump out and go inside the warehouse because...there was no security. It was just open. They can walk to the tarmac and nobody is going to stop you.”
Read Lipsky's full piece here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

My Hands-On McDonald's Experience


In reviewing "The Founder" earlier this week, I mentioned that I worked at McDonald's as a teenager.

It was a summer job between my freshman and sophomore years of college. I was hired to work the grill. That meant turning frozen meat patties into edible hamburgers by the dozens, and when they gave me more hours, I added the breakfast shift and cooked eggs and pancakes, too.

The staff, almost entirely made up of teenagers, was split among gender lines. Women worked the registers, taking and fulfilling orders, while the men cooked and prepared everything -- burgers, fries, drinks, and those godawful apple pies that went into the same vat of hot oil as the Filet-O-Fish. Those are not two tastes you want intermingling (who wants a dessert that tastes like seafood?). Disgusting.

In "The Founder," there's an extended sequence about using a powdered mix instead of ice cream to make the shakes -- Ray Kroc and his franchisees loved the idea because it cut down on their refrigeration costs, but the McDonald brothers were horrified at the thought of not having an actual dairy product in their milkshakes. Of course, Kroc won both the battle and the war, so when I worked there, the menu board said "shakes," not "milkshakes." The customers didn't complain, but by then, they hadn't tasted an ice-cream-laden shake from McDonald's in years, so either they didn't know the difference or they didn't care.

I started the job in late May, and planned to go back to college right after Labor Day, but I didn't last that long because of an incident in July.

I was working the grill, cooking up quarter-pounders and burgers. The prep station was behind me. That's where another employee got the buns ready. Unlike the rest of the country, consumers on Long Island detested the taste of mustard on their hamburgers (similarly, we would never put ketchup on a hot dog!), so there were only three condiments involved -- ketchup, pickles, and (rehydrated) onions.

When the burgers were ready, I'd scoop each one up with a spatula, spin and place it on the prepared bun, then spin back and repeat, over and over again. When all of the burgers were off the grill, I'd reach into a box, pull out more frozen patties, and start from the top.

The burgers said they were 100% beef, but 20% of that was fat, which created a lot of drippings, and because I was moving the burgers from the grill over an open area and then onto the bun-prep table behind me, some of that hot, liquified fat dripped onto the floor. During downtimes (between the breakfast and lunch rushes), we were supposed to clean -- scrape the excess grease off the grill, mop up the inevitable mess on the floor, etc. -- but when we were really busy (e.g. noon-1pm), there was no time to clean anything.

And that explains what happened on that day in July.

I was making the turn back to the grill when my foot slipped on the greasy floor and went out from under me. Instinctively, I put my hand out to break my fall.  Unfortunately, the nice, flat surface under my hand was the 425-degree grill. Even though my flesh only touched the grill for a second, it hurt like hell, so I fell to my knees and blurted, "Jesus Christ!"

The manager, who was on the other side of the metal counter in front of the grill, heard both my scream of pain and the gasps of the other employees. He quickly came around to where I was now kneeling and grimacing, helped me up, led me to the back of the store, took one look at my hand and shoved it into the ice machine. That felt a little better, but not much.

After telling me to keep my hand in there, he instructed someone else to work the grill while everyone else returned to their stations and business resumed. The manager barked out instructions to them as he wrapped my hand in gauze from the first aid kit and told them he was going to take me to the hospital.

When we got to the emergency room, the manager explained to a nurse what had happened and she quickly got me to an examination room, where she unwrapped the gauze and we all got a good look at the damage to my hand. I almost threw up. A doctor appeared and assessed that I'd burned off most of the layers of skin on my right palm, but they would grow back. Meanwhile, he had the nurse apply some topical ointment (note: anytime that word comes up in your life, something has gone horribly wrong -- there's never a happy time for ointment) and wrap my hand in some new gauze.

I asked how long the pain would last. The doctor explained that I'd be in a lot of discomfort for a couple of weeks. He wrote me a prescription for something that would offer relief, as well as more ointment I was to put on my hand when I changed the dressing every couple of days. Meanwhile, I should try not to use the hand very much. After all, what would a teenage boy need his right hand for?

When I came out of the exam room, the manager was gone -- he'd returned to the restaurant -- but the franchise owner and his wife were there. They showed the appropriate amount of sympathy and told me not to worry about the hospital bill because they would take care of it -- and they did. Today, I'd assume they were afraid of a lawsuit, and maybe they were then, but it never crossed my mind.

Now the ironic portion of the story.

When that day started, I had planned to tell the manager at the end of my shift that I had to take some time off to join my parents at the Summer Olympics in Montreal. They'd left a week earlier to drive around in my father's car and do some sightseeing elsewhere in Canada before meeting me there. I was going to tell him I'd be gone for the last week of July, but would be back to work through August.

However, after the injury, there was no way I was returning to the job. I didn't say anything about it to the owner then, but the next day called to say I wasn't coming back. No one made a fuss, but wished me well and hoped my hand felt better soon. I never heard from any of them again.

Twenty-four hours later, I got into my mother's car (a Plymouth Barracuda!) and began the 400-mile, solo trip north. It wasn't easy, because it had a three-speed manual transmission and I couldn't handle the stick shift very well with my injured paw, but I got there and received love and compassion from my parents as we went around to several Olympic events over the course of the next week -- with my father doing all the driving.

The good news is that I was able to unwrap my hand for good by the end of August, and within a couple of years, it had healed so well that you would not have been able to tell which of them had been burned. I was left with no scars, just the memory of that awful day.

That incident, combined with the experience of being around McDonald's food every day for a couple of months, kept me away from the Golden Arches for a very, very long time. And even when I did return, I never ordered an apple pie or a non-milkshake.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

No Signature Required


For the last year, I've used my iPhone's Apple Pay feature when checking out at supermarkets in our area. It's quick and easy.

But when the total is over $50, the store's system still makes me pretend to sign a receipt on its screen. I say "pretend" because I just make a squiggly line and click "done." No one cares, so I wonder why we go through that pretense.

In fact, the whole signing-the-receipt thing is so 20th-century. Credit card companies don't use it as proof of your purchase -- if you claim you didn't buy something, they usually just write it off.

I had a friend who used to sign all of his receipts "Mickey Mouse" and no one said anything or even noticed. At the other end of the spectrum, I knew someone who was so concerned about her financial security that she wrote "ask for ID" on the signature strip on the back of the credit card. That seemed ridiculous to me -- and I went through a whole stolen-identity problem a couple of years ago that took months to clean up. To her frustration, cashiers never looked at the back or bothered with that unnecessary extra step.

When you buy something online, you don't have to sign anything -- you just charge it to your card. So why are we still going through this bogus routine when we pay for something electronically in person?

Worth A Link

  • Walt Mossberg on how lousy ads are ruining the online experience.
  • Eileen Sutton on playing in New York's male-dominated underground poker scene.

Monday, January 23, 2017

New CBS Reality Show "Hunted"

I was going to write something about last night's first episode of the new CBS reality series, "Hunted," but after tweeting back and forth with Andy Dehnart of Reality Blurred during the show, I knew he'd have it covered. And he does, saying pretty much everything I would have said -- and more. Read his review here.

Movie Review: The Founder


I worked at McDonald’s as a teenager, and I still remember the training that went into learning the system — the way two people cooked the food, someone else prepared the buns with condiments, the special squirters for ketchup and mustard, someone else made the fries, someone else made the drinks, etc. I thought that was how all fast-food places worked, but I didn’t know the concept had been created by Dick and Mac McDonald, two brothers who created the Speedee Service system in 1954 at their restaurant in San Bernardino, California.

It was an efficient assembly-line approach that literally created the fast food industry by having items ready for customers within 30 seconds, and set the standard for how the business would work from then on. I also didn’t know that Ray Kroc, who called himself The Founder of the McDonald’s corporation, had screwed the McDonald brothers royally after convincing them to let him franchise the business.

In the movie, we meet Kroc in St. Louis as a traveling salesman, trying to convince drive-in burger joints and diners to buy the milkshake mixers he was pushing, not very successfully. They didn’t want his multi-mixers, which could make five shakes at a time, but then his office said that a restaurant in San Bernardino had ordered six of them. He couldn’t believe it, so he drove to California to see what the owners, the McDonalds, were doing — and supposedly saw the future.

Kroc is played by Michael Keaton, who is so good at playing a guy down on his luck (on the verge of bankruptcy) who recognizes an opportunity and then turns on the people he’s supposed to be helping. He’s on screen almost every second of “The Founder” and is riveting, giving Kroc a charming veneer even when he is very unlikable. Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch are perfect as the McDonald brothers who readily welcome Kroc into their restaurant and show him their system -- a decision they will come to regret. Laura Dern plays Ethel, who was caught in a loveless marriage with Ray, and Linda Cardellini plays Joan, who he falls for and eventually marries (there’s no mention of Kroc’s second wife, Jane).

Director John Lee Hancock made “The Blind Side” and “Saving Mr. Banks,” so he knows how to make bio-pics about bigger-than-life characters. Here he takes Kroc, who launched one of the most successful companies in the world, and shows that there’s more to his story than the shiny, polished image McDonald’s wants you to believe.

I give “The Founder” an 8 out of 10.

Picture Of The Day


There were a lot of impressive things about the Women's March(es) on Saturday. Chief among them was the size of the crowds that turned out by the hundred of thousands in DC and dozens of other cities around the world (even Antarctica!). It was the largest protest anyone has seen in decades, and there wasn't a single person arrested -- in fact, the cops and marchers were high-fiving each other in Atlanta.

Someone in the White House -- with a huge ego and an inability to keep from commenting on anything that might be perceived as even a slight attack on him -- asked where all those women were on election day. I'd bet the answer is that the overwhelming majority of them went to the polls and cast ballots for his opponent -- just not in large enough numbers in places like Wisconsin and Michigan. But in his mind, if a state went red on election day then everyone in that state must have voted for him, which isn't true even in the reddest of states.

The other thing that made me smile Saturday was the creativity of some of the signs the marchers were carrying. Mashable compiled some of the good ones here, but this is the one I liked best:


Worth A Link

  • Lisa Chase's profile of veteran ABC newswoman Martha Raddatz, one of the best in the business.
  • What Americans said in letters to Obama, and the White House process for dealing with them.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

As I Tweeted

The over/under for today is 61. Not for points in the Falcons-Packers game. For “alternative facts” (lies) told by the Trump White House.

Inauguration Observations


I'm not one for pomp and circumstance. Actually, I'm okay with circumstance, it's pomp I can't stand. Why is that word never used on its own? It's always partnered with circumstance. You never hear, "She was a victim of pomps."

Watching the inaugural on Friday, it was so weird seeing Obama laughing it up with Trump after the latter had said -- and continued to say in his inaugural speech -- all sorts of horrible things about him. It was even weirder seeing Hillary there. Oh, she told people she did it because she loves our country and our democratic process, but it was just as awkward seeing her there as it was when other losing candidates sat and watched the man who beat them take the oath of office (e.g. Bush 41, who, as incumbent president, had to be there when Bill Clinton took the oath in 1993).

As I recall, none of the Cleveland Indians showed up to sit onstage at the end of the Chicago Cubs World Series victory rally last fall. Because who wants to be there to celebrate the person who took the thing you wanted most?

I couldn’t do it.

I had one occasion in my radio career when management decided to replace me in mornings, but because I was still under contract for another year and they didn't want to pay me for doing nothing, had me do my show in afternoon drive. I rationalized that I was still getting to do my show, but without having to wake up at 4am, which I'd done for 15 years. Yet deep down, it hurt like hell, and I had no interest in being around the new morning drive guy. Didn't even listen to him. However, I did walk around with a huge grin when I got better ratings in the afternoon that he did earlier in the morning.

As for our new president, anyone who thought he'd be different once he was sworn in should have been disabused of that notion almost immediately. He will always be the same thin-skinned narcissistic liar he's always been. Just look at what he had his press secretary do Friday afternoon, rebuking the media for reporting that the crowd on the national mall was smaller that it had been for other presidents. Trump is a guy for whom size really matters. In his egomaniacal eyeballs, he saw the biggest crowd ever. The fact that photos and video prove otherwise doesn't matter -- blame it on camera angles!

His inaugural address was almost word for word identical to the speeches he gave at his campaign rallies -- full of vitriol and false promises. He was never going to be inspirational or inclusive. It isn't -- and never will be -- who he is. You have a better chance of turning around an internet troll. Oh, wait, that's who you elected to the most important job in the world.

While watching him take the oath of office, my mind flashed back to that same scene eight years ago when Chief Justice John Roberts screwed up the oath at Obama's first inaugural. We should have known then how impossible the Republicans were going to make it for him to get anything accomplished.

There are six words in the presidential oath that always jump out at me: "to the best of my ability." It reminds me of all those times my teachers told my parents that I wasn't "working up to my potential." Maybe it wasn't me. Maybe it was that they had set the "potential" bar a little too high.

Maybe that's why the founders included that clause in the oath in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. As an out, an excuse, an opportunity to claim, "hey, I'm doing the best I can!" If you think of it that way, perhaps it wasn't Bush 43's fault that he was the worst president of our lifetime. He was just doing the job to the best of his ability. It's not his fault that we put him in the Oval Office and believed he'd be a great leader. He simply couldn't do the job any better than he did -- to the best of his ability.

Unfortunately, with Trump's love of superlatives, I'm sure he heard the word "best" in the oath and thought it was an advance assessment of how he'll do over the next four years, when -- in reality -- we've set the "potential" bar lower than it's ever been.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Andy Dehnart on New Reality Shows


Now that we have a reality show star as President, it seems like a good time to check in with Andy Dehnart of Reality Blurred to talk about some new reality shows coming soon to a TV near you.

Among them: "Hunted," "The Partner," and MTV's "Stranded With A Million Dollars." Then we discussed a UK show called "Undressed," how producers are pressured to put celebrities on their shows, and the death of the Esquire network.

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

Showbiz Show 1/20/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed two new movies: Michael Keaton in "The Founder" and M. Night Shyamalan's "Split." We also discussed:
  • new Netflix deals with Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, and Phil Rosenthal;
  • a new TBS animated series from Albert Brooks and Louis CK;
  • the release date for the fifth season of "House Of Cards" on Netflix;
  • the Jay Leno/Craig Ferguson appearance on "Lip Sync Battle";
  • the 25th anniversary re-release of "Wayne's World";
  • why you should not see "A Dog's Purpose."

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

Harris Challenge 1/20/17

Did you pay attention this week? Prove it by taking my Harris Challenge trivia quiz -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! The categories include Other Famous Showbiz Donalds, Inauguration History, and You Know The Name.

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

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 1/20/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories of a scary alligator encounter, a dumb tattoo, and a missing man who wasn't. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Best Thing I've Read Today

Rob Long, a screenwriter and TV producer, on why Hollywood should already know how to handle Trump:

I’m a Republican (sort of), so maybe I’m predisposed to look on the bright side of any Republican administration, even one that’s run by a Democrat. But it seems to me that if there’s any community that knows how to deal with irrational, misinformed narcissists with way too much power, it’s us.

President Donald J. Trump is the insane director you hired so you could get the actor you wanted, and you’re just waiting and hoping that the footage you’re seeing from the location can somehow, in editing, get stitched together into something usable. President Trump is the movie star you need to get the money for the project, but the movie star has decided to rewrite the script over the weekend, and the reports you’re getting back about the new pages are alarming. President Trump is the actor starring in your series who is going to make your life miserable for the next four years. President Trump is what you get when you put the talent in charge.
Read Long's full piece here.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Seinfeld On The Move


I'm not surprised that Netflix has picked up Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee." Reports say he'll do 24 new episodes for them starting this fall, and Netflix also gets the rights to stream the previous 59 he did for Crackle.

Sony has tried to create an in-demand streaming service with Crackle, but no one has noticed. Go ahead -- name one series or movie you've ever watched on Crackle (or Snap or Pop, for that matter). Its content is almost entirely populated by movies that have run a thousand times on cable channels, with a couple of originals thrown in -- including something that stars Charlie Sheen, thus making it unplayable in my home.

In fact, no one knew Seinfeld's "Comedians" series was on Crackle in the first place, because there was no reason to visit that service's website when you could (and still can) get Seinfeld's series by going to ComediansInCarsGettingCoffee.com.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The American People

Several times in his farewell address last week, President Obama gave credit for the advances we're seen in the last eight years -- and what can be accomplished in the future -- to "The American People." Check out these excerpts from the transcript:

Change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it...

We, the people, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union...

You were the change. You answered people’s hopes, and because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started...

I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.
Those are fine sentiments, but it's also giving Americans more praise than they deserve. As we've seen time and again, "the power of the people" is a myth. The truth is that "the people" have fewer representatives in Washington, DC, than any major industry has lobbyists. It wasn't "the people" who saved the American auto industry from financial catastrophe. It wasn't "the people" who helped 20 million of us get health insurance. It wasn't "the people" who legalized same-sex marriage in all fifty states. All of those were accomplished by your federal government, Mr. President, not by a public referendum.

What else is there to say about the American people? Aside from the fact that "the people" have fallen for a lying billionaire con-man as our next CEO, they're the ones who, in large percentages:
  • Use "password" as their password;
  • Do not believe in evolution;
  • Are convinced that voter fraud is rampant, despite no evidence that it's even a small problem;
  • Aren't sure that human-caused climate change is real;
  • Are convinced the government wants to take their guns away;
  • Give Congress an approval rating in single digits yet re-elect over 90% of incumbents;
  • Think abstinence-only sex education is effective, despite all evidence to the contrary;
  • Believe homeopathic remedies are the same as actual medicine;
  • Accept health advice from Gwyneth Paltrow, who once recommended women steam their vaginas;
  • Think the best way to cook hot dogs is to boil them.
In other words, Mr. President, you're giving The American People way too much credit for making our country better.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Movie Review: Live By Night


Several times in the last few decades, I've said I didn't need to see another mobster movie. After "The Godfather" saga and "Goodfellas," what else was there to tell? Then came "Donnie Brasco." Then "The Departed." Then "American Gangster." They all pulled me back in.

"Live By Night" isn't in that pantheon of great mob movies, but it's pretty good.

Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane ("Mystic River," "Gone Baby Gone," "Shutter Island," "Moonlight Mile"), "Live By Night" takes place in the 1920s during Prohibition. It was written, directed, produced by and stars Ben Affleck as Joe Coughlin, who came home from World War One and got involved in some illegal activities despite being the son of a police captain (Brendan Gleeson). Joe also started dating Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), who happens to be the mistress of Irish mob boss Albert White. That's the sort of romantic triangle that is destined to lead to trouble -- and it does.

There’s some blackmail and double-crossing before Joe is forced to run a bootlegging operation in Tampa on behalf of White's rival, Italian mob boss Maso Pescatore. Things go so well that he eventually expands the operation to include gambling and drugs while falling for a Cuban businesswoman (Zoe Saldana) and befriending the sheriff (Chris Cooper), whose daughter (Elle Fanning) he's trying to protect. Oh, and the KKK is involved, as well.

If that plot sounds dense, it is, because Lehane's book can only be considered epic. It covers a couple of decades, and Affleck has to squeeze it into a couple of hours, which means lots of exposition and some time jumps. Some of it doesn't work, but most of it does. He gets very good performances out of a wonderful cast, and the cinematography -- particularly one shot of a boat cruising through the water at sunset -- is absolutely beautiful.

"Live By Night" pulled me back into the world of mobsters and made me change my mind yet again. I give it a 7.5 out of 10.

Best Thing I've Read Today

Ken Levine on the Rams' lack of popularity in Los Angeles...

Last year the Rams returned… with all the fanfare of a cheating husband slipping into bed quietly so his wife doesn’t wake up. For the first four or five months there were no billboards, no commercials, nothing. Their first few games drew well out of nostalgia, but once it was clear they were terrible the fans stopped going. I’m not sure even Rams fans knew what radio station they are on. You don’t see any Rams bumper stickers around town. No one wears Rams jerseys or helmets in the street. It wasn’t so much a triumphant return as your old Uncle Lester returning after twenty years to borrow more money.

And now comes word that the San Diego Chargers are returning to Los Angeles. Wooo hoo! This announcement has generated the same level of excitement as a new tattoo parlor opening on your corner.
Read Levine's full piece here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Watered Down Football


If you want to know when the downfall of America began, you might want to timestamp the date a few years ago when NFL players stopped holding their own water bottles while taking a few sips on the sidelines.

Every team in the league -- and probably in college football, too, although I pay no attention to it -- has employees whose job it is to squirt water through the players' face masks when they come off the team. In some instances (like the photo above), the players have lifted up their helmets yet still need a designated water squirter.

Have you ever had someone squirt water into your mouth? It's not nearly as satisfying as controlling the flow by squeezing the bottle yourself -- but more importantly, are these heavily-muscled professional athletes incapable of lifting their own water bottles? Does the league have some sort of equipment manager internship program that these water boys must participate in before they advance to cleat organizer or jersey washer? Does their training regimen consist of watching that awful Adam Sandler movie?

During the Green Bay/Dallas game last night, I spotted one of the water boys wearing an earpiece, as if he's a Secret Service agent. Is there really a separate radio frequency for that job? What kind of communication must he be privy to? Perhaps there's someone up in the coaches' booth shouting in his ear, "Jenkins, get over to the linebackers and get them hydrated!!"

Worth A Link

  • Lenore Skenazy on a dad given unduly harsh punishment for making his 8-year-old son walk home.
  • RFK Jr. is not a "vaccine skeptic." It's worse -- like Trump, he's anti-vaccine.
  • Appropriate for our times: these professors want to teach college students about bullshit.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Best Thing I've Read Today

Farhad Manjoo says Netflix has deepened our cultural echo chambers, that there are no longer TV shows that have broad cultural reach, and that with our ability to binge-watch streaming shows whenever we want, we've lost the commonality that used to come with a successful production everyone talked about the next day.

As the broadcast era changed into one of cable and then streaming, TV was transformed from a wasteland into a bubbling sea of creativity. But it has become a sea in which everyone swims in smaller schools.

Only around 12 percent of television households, or about 14 million to 15 million people, regularly tuned into “NCIS” and “The Big Bang Theory,” the two most popular network shows of the 2015-16 season, according to Nielsen. Before 2000, those ratings would not even have qualified them as Top 10 shows. HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is the biggest prestige drama on cable, but its record-breaking finale drew only around nine million viewers.

Netflix does not release viewership numbers, but a few independent measurement companies have come up with ways to estimate them. One such company, Symphony Advanced Media, said Netflix’s biggest original drama last year, “Stranger Things,” was seen by about 14 million adults in the month after it first aired. “Fuller House,” Netflix’s reboot of the broadcast sitcom “Full House,” attracted an audience of nearly 16 million. On Wednesday, Symphony said that about 300,000 viewers watched the new “One Day at a Time” in its first three days on Netflix. (These numbers are for the entire season, not for single episodes.)

For perspective, during much of the 1980s, a broadcast show that attracted 14 million to 16 million viewers would have been in danger of cancellation.
Read Manjoo's full piece here.

Picture Of The Day

If you've ever used Google Translate, you know that the translation to English from other languages can be a little stilted, as the algorithm isn't built to understand certain colloquial phrases on the whole, but rather by individual words.

Malinda Kathleen Reese took that idea and ran with it. She had Google translate the English lyrics to the song "Let It Go" (from the movie "Frozen") into Chinese, then into Macedonian, then into French, Polish, Creole, and other languages before the final step -- back to English. Then she recorded herself singing the result...

Worth A Link

  • You should opt out of a creepy website that knows too much about you -- here's how.
  • Andy Dehnart on "Undressed," a reality show where strangers strip each other and talk in bed.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Showbiz Show 1/13/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed two new movies: "Paterson" and "Live By Night." We also offered some streaming suggestions you can binge-watch during the ice storm this weekend.

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

Harris Challenge 1/13/17

Did you pay attention this week? Prove it by taking my Harris Challenge trivia quiz -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! The categories include Ice On The Screen, The Business Page, 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® 1/13/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories of a drunk maid of honor, a sock full of kitty litter, and a hamburger assault. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Picture Of The Day

When I heard of the death of "The Exorcist" author William Peter Blatty, I didn't think about the overrated movie version of his novel, but of this sketch from the first season of "Saturday Night Live" with Richard Pryor (and Laraine Newman in the Linda Blair role)...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Nat Hentoff


Long acknowledged to be one of the country's best writers about jazz music, Nat Hentoff also wrote a long-running and highly-respected column on civil liberties. In fact, he wrote about pretty much everything, particularly in his 50 years at The Village Voice. He was often among the most vocal and staunch defenders of our constitutional rights, never more so than in recent years, as he continued to tap out columns into his 80s.

I had a lengthy discussion with Hentoff about the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 abuses in March, 2004, when he published, "The War On The Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance." With his death this weekend at 91, I have dug that interview out of my archives for you.

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

Worth A Link

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

There Goes Your Argument


Republicans dismissing Meryl Streep's speech at the Golden Globes because she's a wealthy Hollywood celebrity is absolute hypocrisy from the party that elected a wealthy former reality star to the highest office in the land.

Even if you argue that Trump's a businessman, not a celebrity, remember that the GOP is the same party that put actor Ronald Reagan in the White House, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the state house, singer Sonny Bono in the mayor's office, and actor Fred Grandy in Congress. Not to mention having that poor Hollywood unknown Clint Eastwood take the stage at the 2012 Republican convention to try to diss President Obama by having a nonsensical conversation with an empty chair.

Does no one in Trumpland own a mirror or know the definition of irony?

Monday, January 09, 2017

Showbiz Show 1/6/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed two new movies: "Hidden Figures" and "A Monster Calls." We also talked about the Rams getting terrible TV ratings after returning to Los Angeles, and the impending departure of Chris Berman from ESPN's NFL pre- and post-game shows.

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

Harris Challenge 1/6/17

Did you pay attention this week? Prove it by taking my Harris Challenge trivia quiz -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! The categories includes New Year New Taxes, Athletes In Movies, and Who Was That? Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 1/6/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories of a landlord's privacy invasion, a pseudo-science shark repellent, and man vs. furnace. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

I'm Just Saying

I'm not saying this was a classic bit of comedy from Paul Reiser...

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Picture Of The Day

This commercial was created by German film student Eugen Merher, who sent it to Adidas, but they weren't interested. Too bad, because it's pretty damned good...

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Movie Review: Hidden Figures


In November, 2016, Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal Of Freedom to Margaret Hamilton -- not the one who played the Wicked Witch in "The Wizard Of Oz," but the computer scientist who, among other things, developed the on-board flight software for the Apollo space program. Watching the ceremony, I was surprised and embarrassed because I did not know that any women worked for NASA in such a capacity in the 1960s.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I saw "Hidden Figures," which is about the African-American women who were an integral part of our space program -- all the way back to its earliest Mercury days. It's a lesson that I, along with the overwhelming majority of Americans, never learned in our history of that era.

The movie focuses on three women: Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), a mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for John Glenn's orbital flight and others, all the way up to the moon landing; Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), who taught herself the Fortran programming language so she could work on NASA's new IBM mainframe; and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), another mathematician who wants to be an engineer but is hindered by the Jim Crow laws of the time.

These women, whose accomplishments have been overlooked, finally get their due in a very entertaining story. "Hidden Figures" shows their battles for respect in a society with segregated bathrooms and a work environment full of white men in white shirts (Jim Parsons is miscast as one of them) who looked down on the women and refused to believe that they could contribute anything. We also get a taste of what life was like for them off the job, which humanizes and lightens their story.

Director Theodore Melfi ("St. Vincent"), who co-wrote "Hidden Figures" with Allison Schroeder, gets very good performances out of his stars -- particularly Henson -- as well as the supporting cast, which includes Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Mahershala Ali.

In his review of the movie, African-American computer programmer Odie Henderson wrote, "Hopefully, 'Hidden Figures' will inspire women and people of color (and hell, men too) with its gentle assertion that there’s nothing unusual nor odd about people besides White men being good at math."

I concur wholeheartedly, and having seen the movie in a theater populated mostly with under-50 African-Americans, I heard that sentiment being expressed throughout the room -- along with the joy of seeing an unknown piece of our history uncovered in such an entertaining fashion.

I give "Hidden Figures" a 9 out of 10.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Luther's Last Stand

When Keegan-Michael Key guested on "The Daily Show" last night, he brought along one last sketch he'd done with Jordan Peele of President Obama's anger translator, Luther...

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The Seven Tacos Story


Seeing the Wall Street Journal's story on Jack In The Box tacos (described as "a wet envelope of cat food") made me think of my college days.

There was a Jack In The Box a couple of miles from campus. It was the only place to get food late at night, and considering the amount of pot we smoked in those days, there were always several of us with the munchies. Unfortunately, I didn't have a car. Fortunately, my good friend Phil did. He and other car-owners in the dorm would, several times a week, walk the hallways well after midnight to announce a Jack In The Box run and take orders from other students.

Sometimes, there were a lot of them -- burgers, tacos, Breakfast Jacks, Bonus Jacks, fries, whatever -- and whoever went along with the driver was tasked with getting both the orders and the money. Whenever Phil drove, this responsibility fell to me.

We discovered very early on that, by the time we returned with the food, it was no longer anywhere on the warm scale. So we'd go to JITB, order our own stuff, eat it there while it was hot, and when we were done, order everyone else's food and lug it home. No one in the dorm complained because a) they were too hungry, and b) they were too stoned to care.

Phil and I had a history of wagering on silly things. For instance, there was the time he bet me that I couldn't eat thirty pieces of raw spaghetti in two minutes. When I didn't swallow the last pasta twigs until the 2:05 mark, I had to pay him off. Another time, he bet that I couldn't drink a 12-ounce beer in under seven seconds. I punched a hole in the side of the can with a ballpoint pen and shotgunned it in five for the win.

One night, Phil commented that he liked JITB tacos so much he could eat a half-dozen of them with extra hot sauce. I'd seen him scarf several of them down, but six seemed like a big number to me. Naturally, I offered a bet -- I would take the under on six tacos & sauce (I would win if he didn't get past six). He asked if he had to eat all of the seventh taco and I said he'd get the win if he ate half of it. He agreed and the bet was on. Two other friends heard about the bet and wanted to see him do it, so all four of us piled into Phil's VW bug.

This was all in the days before events like the Nathan's hotdog eating contest or competitive eaters like Molly Schuyler, who I interviewed in 2014 after she ate a 72-ounce steak in two minutes and forty-four seconds (you can hear that conversation here). We were just college kids making our own fun.

At JITB, the guy at the counter saw us coming and alerted the other person working the late-night shift that the crazy college kids were about to walk in with a big order. When we told him about the bet, he sized up Phil -- six feet tall but rail thin -- and said he didn't think he could do it, either. After Counter Guy and his colleague made the order (including whatever I and the other three guys wanted), he came around the counter to watch this fast-food-orgy.

The notion of what was about to happen suddenly struck me as hysterical, no doubt boosted by my earlier herbal inhalation. So I sat there laughing as Phil chomped into the first taco. It didn't take long. Neither did the second, third, or fourth. He started to slow down on number five and I thought I had him, but when he finished it off and applied more hot sauce to the sixth taco, he had a smile on his face that told me he was going the distance. He made it all the way through taco number seven, then sat back with his hand out, waiting to get paid, while the rest of us -- including the clerk and the cook -- gave him a standing ovation.

The next day, while news of Phil's food adventure made it around the entire dorm very quickly, the same could not be said of Phil. All of that grease and hot sauce had caused more than a little gastric distress, along with his vow to never make another food bet with me.

At least not if it involved Jack In The Box tacos.

Best Documentaries Of 2016

These are the three best documentaries I saw in 2016...


1) "Weiner." The movie is the story of Anthony Weiner's attempt at a comeback after resigning from Congress because he sent pictures of his junk to several women. As he runs for mayor of New York, we see him trying to convince people to give him a second chance through the ups and downs of campaigning, raising money, and battling the tabloid press (which loves the story of his sexting alter ego, "Carlos Danger"). We've rarely seen someone in the midst of a scandal from this point of view. But why would Anthony Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, allow cameras to capture the lowest moments of their personal -- and his professional -- life? In the end -- as the negativity about the man and his campaign mounts -- even the documentarians can’t believe Weiner allowed them to film all of this. But I'm glad they did.


2) "Where To Invade Next." The only war in Michael Moore's new movie, "Where To Invade Next," is a cultural war, as he travels to several countries to find out what they're doing better than America so he can bring those ideas home. The irony is that, in many of these nations, the interviewees often tell Moore they got their ideas from the United States Of America. So, while we were being sidetracked by political nonsense and fear-mongering, other parts of the world not only moved forward, but used our concepts to overtake us on the social progress scale.


3) "Life, Animated." Ron and Cornelia Suskind couldn't break through their son Owen's autism. Then, one day, Owen blurted out a line from one of the many Disney animated movies he'd watched over and over again, and that opened the door. Those cartoons ("The Little Mermaid," "Peter Pan," "The Lion King," etc.) served as a pathway between Owen and his parents. He learned to read from the credits and speak from the dialogue. I've never been a huge fan of Disney animation, which tends to be a little too sappy for my taste, but seeing it help Owen -- and others in the Disney Movie Club he formed at a school for kids with special needs -- is heartwarming.

Check out my Best Movies Of 2016 and Worst Movies Of 2016 lists, too.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

National Trivia Day

Even though I've been doing trivia on my Harris Challenge for about 30 years (you can hear it live Fridays at 5:15pm CT on KTRS -- or later in the podcast version on this site), I never knew there was such a thing as National Trivia Day. Apparently, it's today, and lots of folks on Twitter are posting a mix of the interesting and the silly, using the hashtag #NationalTriviaDay:

The Next Ten Movies

I published my ten Worst Movies of 2016 on Tuesday and my ten Best Movies Of 2016 on Monday. Here are The Next Ten -- movies that weren't good enough for the Best Of list, but deserve Honorable Mention. As usual, the links go to my full reviews.


11) "Sing Street." The story of a 15-year-old boy in Dublin in 1985. His parents are always arguing and out of money, so they put him into a new Catholic school where he gets bullied by both another teenager and the priest in charge, but he meets a girl and wants to impress her, so he forms a band with some of the other kids from the school. "Sing Street" has a warm, comfortable feeling and fits right into the lineage of other Irish light comedies like "Waking Ned Devine" and "The Snapper," with a dash of "The Commitments" added.


12) "Elvis and Nixon." This wacky movie is based on the most-requested photo in the history of the National Archives. It was taken on December 21, 1970, when Elvis Presley showed up at the White House unannounced and asked to meet with President Richard Nixon. Michael Shannon plays Elvis and Kevin Spacey is Nixon and they both strike just the right absurd tone.


13) "Eye In The Sky." In this thriller about drone warfare, Helen Mirren is a colonel who's been hunting for some terrorists who have been tracked to a safehouse in Nairobi, Kenya. Alan Rickman -- in his last role -- plays her boss, and Aaron Paul is a US Air Force pilot doing aerial surveillance and pulling the trigger. But there's a problem -- civilians are too close to the safehouse, including a little girl. The action on the ground in Kenya and in the war room in Britain are tense and suspenseful, and that's all I'm going to give away.


14) "Lion." A wonderful movie about a lost boy who wants to go home, "Lion" starts with five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar), who ends up on a train a thousand miles away from home without his older brother, in a city where no one speaks his language, and with no place to sleep and no food to eat. That's just the setup to the story, but I'm not going to tell you any more because, if you're going to see "Lion," you're better off not knowing where the plot goes from there. With Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman.


15) "The Infiltrator." It's the story of Robert Mazur, an undercover federal officer who exposed money laundering by Pablo Escobar’s Colombian cocaine operation in the mid-1980s, sent dozens of men to prison, and caused the world's 7th-largest bank to collapse. Bryan Cranston inhabits the multiple layers of the role in the same way he did Walter White, and he gets good support from a cast that includes John Leguizamo, Amy Ryan, Olympia Dukakis, Benjamin Bratt, and the stunning Diane Kruger. Like "Donnie Brasco," "The Infiltrator" shows what it’s like to be undercover, how you can never drop the act, the life-and-death situations Mazur found himself in, and the toll it takes on his wife and family.


16) "War Dogs." Jonah Hill and Miles Teller play Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, who in 2005, while in their twenties, discovered a law allowing small businesses to bid on US military contracts online — after the exploitation of no-bid contracts by war profiteers like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and Dick Cheney’s Halliburton subsidiaries -- and wound up selling guns and grenades and missiles and mortars to the Pentagon for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They thought they could do it all from behind a computer screen in their office in Miami, but on at least a couple of occasions had to go to the Middle East to clean up some messes in person. Funny, suspenseful, and a good story well told.


17) "The Shallows." Blake Lively is Nancy, a woman who goes to a very secluded beach in Mexico to surf. The only other humans she meets in the water are two young guys who explain the geography of the surroundings. The three of them ride some big waves for awhile before the men head in and call it a day, but Nancy wants to get one more good wave. Once they're gone, she's completely alone, or so she thinks, until a great white shark makes it presence known by knocking her off her board and sinking its teeth into her leg. She gets away, but the battle is on, and Nancy has to figure out a way to get out of there without being eaten by the giant killing machine.


18) "Queen of Katwe." The real-life story of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), a girl from the very poor Ugandan village of Katwe who develops an extraordinary talent for chess. She's coached by Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), who introduces the game to several of the boys and girls in the village. When her abilities become more apparent, he wants to take her to regional, national, and then international competitions, but money is a severe problem. With Katende's urging and his clever politicking with the chess authorities, Phiona grows from a child of the slums to a teen with a talent that can help her rise above her surroundings.


19) "The Girl On The Train." On the train, Rachel (Emily Blunt) stares out the window at the houses passing by, particularly those in a neighborhood she used to live in. Rachel is still psychologically devastated by the dissolution of her marriage to Tom (Justin Theroux) who still lives in her old house with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby. She can't help but look to see what's going on for a few seconds in each direction each day. Rachel is also taken with the couple that lives two doors down -- Scott and Megan (Haley Bennett). We see all of this through Rachel's booze-riddled disorientation, and the setup takes a little bit too long before we get to the actual mystery. That starts rolling when, shortly after Rachel sees Megan kissing a man who is definitely not her husband, she goes missing. That sets off a mystery that Rachel investigates -- or is she involved?


20) "Sully." In January, 2009, Chesley Sullenberger became the most famous pilot in the world when he landed US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River after its engines were knocked out by a flock of birds, saving the lives of all 155 people on board. The story was destined to become a movie, and now it has, with Tom Hanks as "Sully." After "Apollo 13" and "Captain Phillips," Hanks is our go-to real-life disaster bio-movie guy, and he's as good as ever in this one.

Tomorrow: the three Best Documentaries Of 2016.