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

Friday, February 24, 2017

KTRS Friday


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

In the first hour, I'll talk to Tom Nichols about his book "The Death Of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge And Why It Matters." In the second hour, Max Foizey and I will review "Get Out," "Rock Dog," "A United Kingdom," and tell you who's going to win Oscars on Sunday night. In the third hour, you can test your trivia knowledge on my Harris Challenge and I'll have a new batch of Knuckleheads In The News®.

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

Picture Of The Day

If you see just one movie this weekend, make it "Oscar Bait," starring Seth Meyers...

Could This Be A Hit Today?


The other day, I heard a song I hadn't heard in a very long time -- Sheena Easton's "Morning Train" -- and wondered could you have a hit today with lyrics like this?

My baby takes the morning train
He works from nine to five and then
He takes another home again
To find me waitin' for him

All day I think of him, dreamin' of him constantly
I'm crazy mad for him and he's crazy mad for me
When he steps off that train, amazingly full of fight
Work all day to earn his pay, so we can play all night

When it was released in 1981, Easton's song was already anachronistic, as there were already plenty of women in the workplace. Three-and-a-half decades later, there are a lot more of them, and the notion of a woman who just stays home all day waiting for her man to return from work doesn't sound quaint or romantic. It sounds positively sexist.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

State's Wrongs

In the same day, the Trump administration invoked "states rights" in rolling back protections Obama had set up at the federal level for transgender kids when it comes to which bathroom they may use -- and then Sean Spicer said the Justice Department was going to step up enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana, even in the states that have legalized it.

Apparently, "states' rights" only applies to laws the administration favors, and protecting vulnerable children who are already being singled out and harassed for their sexual identity is not one of those. If only these kids were asking for the right to carry a gun into their school bathrooms -- that's a permission slip the right-wing would sign en masse.

I wish our Twitter-loving president would read this thread from Rhea Butcher (who plays Adam Conover's sister on TruTV's "Adam Ruins Everything") to get a personal, and very human, perspective on the transgender bathroom issue.

My Poker Night In America


If you watch "Poker Night In America" on CBS Sports Network, you might have caught a glimpse of me on Monday night when they aired a show that was recorded during Thanksgiving weekend 2015 at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida. My wife and I happened to be down there for the holiday, so when a friend who was one of the producers called, I put aside a day to go and play.

Unlike other poker TV that shows tournament action, PNIA is about cash games, where you can buy-in for any amount from $5,000 to $20,000 and rebuy anytime you like. The stakes are $25/50, so I bought in for 300 big blinds ($7,500). Of my six opponents, some started with more, some with less.

When I agreed to do the show, I assumed that the player lineup would include well-known pros who had appeared on other PNIA episodes, like Phil Hellmuth, Phil Laak, Tom Schneider, Shaun Deeb, and Gavin Smith. Unfortunately, none of them were there. Instead, I ended up with people I didn't know -- Jake Schindler, Michael Laake, Samantha Abernathy, Mike Dentale, Mike Sigel, and Joe DiPascale.

The former three were pretty quiet, but the latter three talked up a storm, particularly when they were in hands against each other -- which was quite often. Meanwhile, I was positively card dead, getting very few playable hands, which was a shame because there was a lot of loose, aggressive action. Stacks were pushed around, pots got huge, and I was just an observer. If you saw the show, all you saw me do was fold 95% of the time while watching the three guys at the other end of the table go crazy.

I hoped that would change later, but I never got the chance, because after four hours, we took a dinner break and Matt Glantz (a poker pro who recruits players for PNIA) came over to tell us that because we weren't getting involved enough, Laake, Schindler, and I were going to be replaced at the table. I started to protest, but then realized that, because they're making a TV show, Glantz and the other producers were only interested in a loud game with plenty of loose play -- the worse, the better. During that opening session, four of the players (Abernathy, Dentale, Sigel, and DiPascale) had lost all their chips at some point, but re-bought and just kept pushing.

Later, my friend who had invited me asked for a post-mortem. I told him I had no problem with the stakes, the stacks, or the lineup, but was very disappointed I didn't get to keep playing, especially when Jennifer Tilly joined the table after dinner. I also predicted that the production wouldn't use any of the few hands that I did play because they weren't exciting enough for TV.

Although I did end up winning a bit, my prediction came true. So, I chalk it up as an interesting experience and nothing more.

Vaccine Followup

Regarding my post yesterday about vaccinations, Jeff Fishback e-mails:

I agree with your premise, to vaccinate all who are possible.

Please look to the State of Mississippi for validation. Mississippi had the WORST test scores of school students, in the entire nation. Governor Haley Barbour, a staunch Republican, got bipartisan support to improve the test scores. It was discovered that many school days were missed due to student absence, often to chicken pox, flu, and other childhood diseases.

Mississippi enacted the most severe immunization law in the entire nation. A child could not attend any school without a complete health record. No exceptions for choice, religion, or family finances. The only way a child opted out of the program was for a physician deferral for health reasons.

School attendance went up, immediately. Test scores at every level went up, immediately.

Cost to the state of Mississippi was almost nothing.
Jeff is right. Mississippi and West Virginia are the only states that don't allow parents to claim exemptions for philosophical or religious reasons -- your kid must be vaccinated unless there's a medical reason not to. If only we could get the other 48 states to follow suit.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Beth Kobliner, "Make Your Kid A Money Genius"


Here's my conversation with Beth Kobliner about her book, "Make Your Kid A Money Genius (Even If You're Not)." We discussed how early you should start teaching your child about money, whether it's smart to tie their allowance to household chores, and why it's better to give them cash than a credit card. We also discussed why American kids get no financial education from their schools or their parents and why it's better to give college kids a lump sum at the start of a semester than a monthly amount.

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

Beth Kobliner will discuss her book at the St. Louis County Library on Monday, March 13th at 7pm.

Taking On Anti-Vaxxers (Again!)

Last week, I linked to a story about Robert DeNiro joining forces with noted anti-vaxxer Robert Kennedy Jr. to offer $100,000 to anyone who could turn up a study showing that it is safe to administer vaccines to children. Of course, there have been dozens of such studies, but no one will be paid because the fine print on the offer makes it impossible. That's the point -- not to award the money, but to get free publicity for the anti-vaccine bullshit that's been around for almost two decades despite having no scientific evidence to back it up, yet continues to be a public health problem (as I've said many times on the air and on this site).

As pediatrician Dr. Daniel Summers wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled, "The Evidence For Vaccine Safety Is Abundant. That Will Be $100,000, Please":

In the off chance that my word alone isn’t sufficient to collect the $100,000, I’m happy to proffer lots of studies that support the safety of vaccines. Studies never seem to settle the question for anti-vaccine activists, but they are the best evidence we could ever have, based on millions of people and using many different types of comparisons, that vaccination is safe for kids.

The explanation for the bogus vaccine-autism link is a constantly shifting target. As noted, both the MMR vaccine and thimerosal have been blamed, and the anti-vaccine movement happily gloms onto both explanations despite the fact that they are completely unrelated. That the various theories never really cohere doesn’t seem to give the movement pause. Blurring dark but vague threats, anti-vaccine activists blend them into a miasma through which no given study can hope to penetrate. Uncertainty is good for stoking fear.

When studies show that the MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism, and when the original study suggesting a link is exposed as a fraud? It must be thimerosal! Other studies show no association between thimerosal and autism, and thimerosal isn’t even used anymore? The combination of all the vaccines at once is the problem! Produce evidence to support the safety of the current vaccination schedule, and the boogeyman simply adopts another form.
I'm particularly concerned because Kennedy seems to have the ear of Donald Trump, who has made statements supportive of vaccine denial. Worse, more and more state legislators believe the anti-vaxxer nonsense and could undo laws that force parents to get their kids vaccinated before they can set foot in school. One of the states most in danger is Texas, but some residents are fighting back, like Jinny Suh, who runs Immunize Texas, a grassroots community dedicated to promoting immunization and keeping Texas communities protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

I invited Jinny onto my radio show to discuss what pro-vaccine supporters must do to take on the anti-vaxxer movement publicly, how the battle is going in her state, and how badly herd immunity is being reduced in schools near her. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

A Fan Grows Up With Springsteen

During the song request portion of his concert in Brisbane, Australia, this weekend, Bruce Springsteen noticed a young guy named Nathan Testa with a sign asking if he could do "Growin' Up" with the band. Bruce asked if he knew how to play it all the way through and when Nathan said yes, the Boss invited him onstage for one of the greatest moments of his life...

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Live On Tape

This evening, I watched Stephen Colbert for the first time in a long time and noticed something I hadn't heard before. At the top of the show, the announcer says Colbert is "live on tape."

Sorry, that's not possible. "Live" means "happening now," while "on tape" means "recorded earlier." They can't both be true, unless the show is hosted by Schrodinger's cat.

Moreover, I doubt very much that "The Late Show" is recorded on tape. It's almost certainly done digitally.

Bottom line: there's nothing about the statement that's true. Who's Colbert's announcer -- Sean Spicer?

KTRS Tuesday


I'm going to fill in on the 10am-Noon CT show on KTRS today. My guests will include Beth Kobliner, author of "Make Your Kid A Money Genius."

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

When My Daughter Grows Up, Her Life Won't Include...

When my daughter was eleven, I started making a list of all the things from my own life that will never be part of hers. It was inspired by my brother telling me that he'd been in the car with my two nephews, and when they reached their destination, he told them to "crank the windows up." The two boys had never heard that expression, and my brother realized it's because they had never been in a car without electric windows. Sure, they exist, but not in the world of those kids, who were then under seven years old.

I published the original version of the list on the Op-Ed page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 9, 2005. Since then, others have chimed in with suggestions, I've thought of a few more, and the list has grown to include:

Double features. Drive-in theaters. Theater marquees proclaiming: "Held over for 30th week!" Signs under the marquee advertising "It's Air Conditioned Inside" in letters that look like dripping ice.

Movies on videotape. Remembering to "Be kind, rewind."

Rabbit ears on top of the TV. Using pliers to change the channel because the knob's broken. Getting up to change channels. Wired remote controls. Waiting for the TV to warm up. Having to watch a show when it airs or missing it forever.

Owning a tape recorder. Cassette, 8-track, and reel-to-reel tapes. A Walkman that plays cassettes. Cassingles. CD singles. DAT tapes. Mini-disks. Records and turntables. Adapters for 45s. "You sound like a broken record."

Cameras with thumbwheels to advance the film. Cameras with film. Waiting for film to be developed to see if the photos looked good. Flash bulbs, flash cubes, flip flash.

Ultra-bright home movie lights. Home movie screens. Home movie projectors. Slide projectors. Editing small reels of Super-8 film onto bigger reels.

Film strips at school with a next-frame beep that every kid could imitate and drive the a/v guy crazy.

Phones with dials. Phones with cords. Changing your phone number when you move. Pay phones. Dial tones. Busy signals. Really expensive long distance calls. Party lines.

Knowing the phone number to call for time and weather. Looking in a phone book for the number of a business. Playing songs on the buttons of a touchtone phone.

Seeing people wearing pagers on their belts. Answering machines that you check as soon as you get home.

Smoking on airplanes. Smoking in movie theaters. Smoking at work. Ash trays on restaurant tables.

Bank tellers. Writing checks. Buying tickets for games, concerts, and movies at the box office.

Going to the library to use an encyclopedia. Copying something out of the World Book for a school assignment. Microfilm. "The Reader's Guide to Periodicals."

Gas stations with the rubber hose that dings when you drive over it. Gas for under a buck a gallon. Free drinking glasses with a fill-up.

Rear car windows that open all the way. A foot switch to activate bright headlights. Cars with wing window vents in front. Cars with bench front seats. Watching a car's analog odometer roll up from a number ending in 999 to 000.

Scoring your own bowling game. Women wearing swim caps at the pool. Only boys playing sports at school. Lawn darts.

Soda in glass bottles. Soda made with cane sugar. Church keys for cans without pop tops. Cans without pop tops. Pop tops that come off when you pull them.

TV weather reports without Doppler radar. TV weather forecasters who use stick-on pictures of sun and clouds. TV news that's only on in the evening. TV stations that sign off in the middle of the night.

Floppy disks. Computers that fill a room. Dot matrix printers. Green-and-white computer paper with tractor feed perforations.

Typewriters. Carbon paper. Correctype. Wite-Out.

Fax machines. Thermal fax paper. Mimeograph machines. The smell of mimeograph ink.

Prices on food items at the supermarket. Jiffy Pop you shake on the stove. Coffee cans with keys. Coffee percolators on the stove.

Metal ice cube trays. Defrosting the freezer with a turkey baster and a yardstick. Yardsticks with furniture store names and logos. Yardsticks.

Susan B. Anthony dollars. Sacagawea dollars. $2 bills.

Writing letters. Postage stamps you lick. Envelopes you lick. S and H green stamps.

Cotton diapers. Rectal thermometers. Bar soap. Portable bubble hair dryers with the carrying strap. Wearing curlers to bed.

Metal keys for hotel rooms. Winding a wrist watch. Tonka trucks made of steel. Styrofoam boxes at McDonald's.

Rubbers -- the ones that go over your shoes.

K-Tel collections of "the original hits by the original artists!"

Listening to great Top 40 DJs being funny while talking up every song right to the vocal.

Car radios with an analog tuner dial. Tuning across the radio dial and hearing signals coming in and out.

Free-standing mailboxes in the neighborhood. A metal slide in the neighborhood playground.

Using a standalone calculator. Using a tube tester in a hardware store. The "thunk" of the Sears catalog being delivered to your door.

Pulling out a drawer to look through the card catalog at the library. Having to fold up a big paper map. Getting directions for a road trip from AAA on a Trip Tik.

Going to the airport gate to meet someone.  Going to the top of the World Trade Center.

Got something I should add to the list? Drop me a message via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter via the addresses on the upper right corner of this page. Now I wonder if the next generation will understand the previous sentence.

Updated 2/21/17 3:38pm...A few more from readers/listeners:

Using a key to open a car door or trunk. Holding down the rear license plate to fill the gas tank. A manual transmission with a shift knob on the steering column. Non-power steering.


Buying a standalone radio. A telephone booth with hinged doors. Fuses.

Those retail credit card machines that made the "clunk" noise as the clerk moved the car that transferred the number from your embossed card onto carbon-paper receipts.

Movie Review: Magicians, Life In The Impossible


A few years ago, I saw a Kickstarter campaign for a documentary about magicians. I know a few people in that business and have always enjoyed the work of good illusionists and great sleight-of-hand artists, so I donated some money. The filmmakers, Marcie Hume and Christoph Baaden, spent the next few years following a quartet of magicians around with their cameras. The end result is "Magicians: Life In The Impossible," which I watched this weekend on Netflix.

As we see them performing at The Magic Castle and corporate gigs and in restaurants, it's clear the four magicians are very different performers, yet they have two things in common: they've spent thousands of hours working on their craft, but they're struggling to patch together their careers and maintain relationships.

The magicians are:
  • Jon Armstrong, who does close-up card magic, writes books, lectures, and tours. He's a very talented but vulnerable guy who relates to audiences and workshop attendees well, yet his personal life is a roller coaster -- we see him get married but then divorced in a very short timespan.
  • Brian Gillis, who made multiple appearances on Johnny Carson's show in the 1980s, but can't get back to that peak, and can't afford the upkeep on the big house he's built and kept full of magic memorabilia.
  • David Minkin, who just wanted to do magic on TV. He got his chance in 2013 on a series called "Magic Outlaws," in which he and fellow magicians Chris Korn and Ben Seidman went town to town doing street magic, but the show only lasted a couple of episodes on Travel Channel.
  • Jan Rouven, an illusionist who, with manager/partner Frank Alfter, had his own stage show in Las Vegas complete with female assistants and lots of moving parts. The movie shows their success and their frustrations, particularly when they discover that Criss Angel has stolen one of Jan's big illusions. There's a sense of great drama in that moment, but it dissipates quickly when Rouven and Alfter decide not to sue Angel for taking their idea.
Unfortunately, "Magicians: Life In The Impossible" finished filming before one of its performer's careers came crashing down. Rouven lost his show at the Tropicana last March after he was arrested for owning and distributing thousands of child pornography images. He pleaded guilty to those charges in November, but the filmmakers haven't added any mention of those crimes to the end of the documentary.

Even without that, the movie has other problems. In concentrating on the mundane personal lives of its subjects, the filmmakers don't show enough magic being performed, nor do we see how they develop their tricks. In the end, they come off like other semi-successful performers in other fields whose talent isn't always enough to pay the rent. Maybe that the "impossible" in the movie's title.

I give "Magicians: Life In The Impossible" a 4 out of 10. Despite my very small financial contribution, it's a disappointment.

If you want to see a great movie biography of a magician, I strongly recommend "An Honest Liar," a documentary about the life of James "The Amazing" Randi, whose work I've written about often. It includes his earliest days as a magician, his years as a Houdini-like escape artist, and many of his TV appearances, including his legendary debunking of faith healer Peter Popoff on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show." It also examines his decades running the James Randi Educational Foundation. Its final portion delves into a personal matter that Randi wasn't particularly happy about having included in the movie -- but acquiesced because of the way directors Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein handled it. 

You can listen to my conversation with Randi about "An Honest Liar" (as well as many other times he's appeared on my radio show) here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Leonard Maltin On Covering The Oscars


Here's my conversation with movie critic Leonard Maltin about what it's like to cover the lead-up to the Academy Awards, a job he did for many years at "Entertainment Tonight."

He shared stories about the Oscars nominees luncheon, whether he ever got any good answers during five-minute interviews with the stars, and what it's like on the red carpet. I also asked him about Mel Gibson apparently being back on Hollywood's good side, his recent discussion with Denzel Washington at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, and the 50th anniversary of "Bonnie and Clyde."

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

You'll find Leonard Maltin's podcast here and his website here.

Previously On Harris Online...

Showbiz Show 2/17/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, new movie reviewer Max Foizey and I discussed Matt Damon in "The Great Wall" and the documentary "Magicians: Life In The Impossible." We also talked about why a TV host quitting won't affect the show's popularity at all, ESPN losing subscribers, and the fake news ad campaign for "A Cure For Wellness."
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 2/17/17

This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- includes categories regarding President's Day plus the usual test of your knowledge of the news of the week.

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

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 2/17/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about a spelling error, a truck on top of a car, and some naked tourism. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

KTRS Friday


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

In the first hour, I'll talk to Leonard Maltin about what it's like to cover the lead-up to the Academy Awards. In the second hour, new movie reviewer Max Foizey will talk about Matt Damon in "The Great Wall" and other showbiz stuff. In the third hour, you can test your trivia knowledge on my Harris Challenge and I'll have a new batch of Knuckleheads In The News®.

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Best Thing I've Read Today

I have commented often on the horrible deal cities fall for when they agree to host the Olympics. The recent summer games in Rio are no exception, leaving both the city and the country with leftover infrastructure that's empty and unneeded, as Anna Jean Kaiser writes:

Less than six months after the Summer Games ended, the host city’s Olympic legacy is decaying rapidly. 
Empty Olympic buildings abound, puncturing any uplifting buzz from the competitions last summer. At the Olympic Park, some stadium entrances are boarded up, and screws are scattered on the ground. The handball arena is barricaded with metal bars. The broadcast center remains half disassembled. The warm-up pool is decorated with piles of dirt and puddles.

Deodoro, a neighborhood in Rio’s poor periphery, has the second-largest cluster of Olympic sites. The canoe slalom course was to be converted into a giant public swimming pool. It closed to the public in December. Today, residents fill plastic pools a few hundred feet away.
 
“The government put sugar in our mouths and took it out before we could swallow,” Luciana Oliveira Pimentel, a social worker from Deodoro, said as her children played in a plastic pool. “Once the Olympics ended, they turned their backs on us.”
Unfortunately, even proof like this won't stop other cities around the world from bidding to become Olympics hosts. They will then inevitably join the long line of venues that will never recoup their investment -- money that would be much better spent on projects that benefit their own people, not the IOC and its corrupt corporate brethren.

Read Kaiser's full piece here.  

Worth A Link

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Movie Review: John Wick, Chapter 2


The "John Wick" movies are not going to test your brain. Don't walk in expecting anything more than full-on action, with lots of gun-fights, a big body count, and a limited amount of dialogue. In other words, they're perfect for star Keanu Reeves.

John Wick is a hitman with a reputation, part of a vast underground that has its own code, and you'd be a lot better off if you didn't make him mad. In the first movie, he killed everyone involved in taking his car and killing his dog. In the second movie, he still really wants his car back.

Then a guy shows up at his house to call in a marker, something the rules in Wick's world mean he can't refuse. The guy wants Wick to kill his sister in a power grab, but Wick insists he's done with that life and turns him away, so the guy blows up Wick’s house. Well, if you think Wick went wild over his car and dog, you can only imagine what happens when you level his home.

In the first movie, we heard other characters talking about the time Wick killed three guys in a bar with a pencil. In the second movie, the filmmakers are smart enough to actually show us Wick with his lethal pencil moves. There's also a scene where he's given a gun with just 7 bullets to fight his way out of a heavily-guarded place. That's not a problem, though, because as he goes along killing people, he just takes their guns and continues shooting. It makes perfect sense.

I don't need to tell you much more about the plot, because by this point you're either along for the ride or you aren't. I was, because I enjoyed the intrigue of this mysterious world of anti-Bonds. In fact, "John Wick: Chapter 2" has the sort of action that makes recent James Bond movies seem so tame by comparison. There's even a scene where he goes to a "sommelier" to get the right weapons to use on his mission -- it's as good as any recent scene with Q in the lab with Bond.

"John Wick: Chapter 2" is probably 75% action scenes like that, which they’ll love overseas and especially in China, where some of the financing came from. There will be more movies in this series -- the end of this one sets up Chapter 3 -- and I can't wait to see what the guy can do with just a pen cap.

I give "John Wick: Chapter 2" a 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Prove It

‪Phrase I'd like to hear journalists use to interviewees: "Unless you offer solid proof of your claim, I'll consider it a lie you made up."‬

Picture Of The Day

From Denmark, a video that's not going where you think it's going...

Monday, February 13, 2017

Worth A Link

  • I bet this made some Wallenda family members beg to get out of the wire-walking business.
  • No surprise: the TSA's "behavioral detection" program cost a billion dollars but does nothing.
  • I'm glad to see this scumbag go to jail for a long time.
  • She felt something crawling around in her head -- it turned out to be a live cockroach.
  • Maybe this prison shouldn't have let the inmates be in charge of the big hole in the fence.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Showbiz Show 2/10/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed Keanu Reeves in "John Wick: Chapter 2." We also discussed why "The Lego Batman Movie" and "Fifty Shades Darker" will rule the box office, "SNL" bringing Weekend Update back to primetime, and what Johnny Depp spends $2,000,000/month on.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Note: this is Colin's last Showbiz Show with me, as he is moving on to a behind-the-scenes job at KSDK-TV. I have had a great time working with him for nearly three years, and I'm sure this move will be a great boon to his career. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to having Max Foizey join me in the studio beginning next week.

Harris Challenge 2/10/17

The trivia categories for this week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- include Movie Love, TV Love, and Grammys History. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!


Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 2/10/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about an obvious fire, a woman who fell off a donkey, and a police pot appeal. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

KTRS Friday


I'll be back on my 3-6pm CT show on KTRS today. Along the way, Colin Jeffrey and I will review "John Wick: Chapter 2" plus other showbiz stuff. You can also test your trivia knowledge on my Harris Challenge and I'll have a new batch of Knuckleheads In The News®.

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

Thursday, February 09, 2017

How Louis CK Tells A Joke

The Nerdwriter breaks down one of the comedian's routines to explain how and why it works...

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Android Alert!

I'm happy to announce my podcasts (which you could always subscribe to via iTunes at this link) are now available for Android devices, too! Search for ”Paul Harris Show” in the Google Play Music store.

The Poker Track


In the last 15 years, horse and dog tracks have added poker and other games because the race business is dying. This is not the 1920s, when horse racing was prevalent enough to have a song about it open up the Broadway musical "Guys and Dolls." Now the cards (and in some states, slots and other games in the "racino") are helping keep the tracks in business.

Racing may have once been The Sport Of Kings, but you won't find any royalty at the track these days betting on horses or dogs. When I played poker the other night at Tampa Greyhound Track, there were no live races going on and only about six people in the off-track betting area, where they could wager on races at other tracks around the country. Unfortunately, these six guys looked like they didn't have a nickel between them.

If your only image of horse racing is the glamorous façade of the Kentucky Derby, that's like judging the popularity of bobsledding in Jamaica by the movie "Cool Runnings." That's not to say no one's betting on these animals -- but technology makes it possible to get those bets down without ever setting foot in the grandstand. That may help the prize pool, but not by much. A friend who occasionally puts down ten bucks on a horse via his phone told me that for many races, the entire parimutuel betting pool is only a few thousand bucks. No one's gonna get rich at the track -- including the owner who, with attendance down so much, misses out on the concession revenue, so income is even lower.

I've played in a few racinos that are well cared for (e.g. The Isle in Pompano Beach, Parx in the suburbs of Philadelphia, the West Palm Beach Kennel Club) and a pleasure to be in, but most of the others look and feel like they're on their last legs, hanging on by a card game. You always have to take a creaky escalator upstairs, pass by a bored security guy at the front desk who couldn't stop a crime if it were in his pants, and wait forever for a surly waitress to bring you a bottle of water. And if there are live races going on, there are no more than a hundred people in the stands, looking like they're just killing time -- and their social security checks.

Still, for poker players, it's nice to have more venues where we can play, if you can overlook the fact that the facility you're sitting in was originally built to entertain people who enjoyed watching small men sit atop large animals and whip them to go faster. Now that the world's biggest circus company is closing up shop and no longer forcing animals to do tricks, the tracks might very well be next.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Movie Review: The Comedian


In 1982, Robert DeNiro starred in Martin Scorcese's "The King Of Comedy," the tale of a man named Rupert Pupkin, who is obsessed with late-night talk-show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). Desperate to get on Jerry's show, Rupert finally kidnaps the star with the help of another stalker named Masha (Sandra Bernhard, in the only good thing she's ever done). The ransom Rupert demands in exchange for Jerry's release is to be able to appear on the late-night show to do a comic monologue.

When Pupkin gets the opportunity, the material he's written isn't that funny and though he's clearly rehearsed for quite a while, his delivery is stilted. Still, the audience laughs along and Rupert becomes a star.

Now, 35 years later, we get "The Comedian," which should have been called "Rupert Pupkin Gets Old."

This time, Robert DeNiro is Jackie Burke, a veteran comedian whose career is on the skids. He had a hit TV show 30 years ago that he’s still recognized for, but he's not really in demand. The first gig we see him do is at a comedy club on Long Island with two other TV has-beens, Brett Butler and Jimmie Walker. During Jackie's set, he goes after a heckler who’s egging him on for a YouTube video series. Jackie decks the guy, who files charges. Jackie goes to jail for a month, then has to do community service at a place that dishes out food to the homeless.

That's where he meets Harmony (Leslie Mann) and, despite the age difference (he's 73, she's 44), they fall for each other, of course. Harvey Keitel shows up as Harmony's father, who isn't happy that his daughter won't move down to Florida and work in his old-age homes. Mann's character is ridiculous -- a woman in her forties who dates a man three decades older while being told what to do with her life by her rich, obnoxious father.

Meanwhile, Jackie has to go to his brother (Danny DeVito), who runs a deli, to borrow money. It's at this point that I should mention that both Jackie and his brother are supposed to be Jewish. So, who do you cast to play cranky old Jews? Why, two guys named DeNiro and DeVito, of course!

As badly written as Mann's character is, Patti Lupone suffers more as DeVito’s wife -- all she gets to do is nag and complain. Later, Jackie meets his agent (Edie Falco) at the Friar’s Club, where's he forced to suck up to Dick D'Angelo (Charles Grodin), a comic who’s stolen bits from Jackie, in order to get on a TV special honoring May Conner (Cloris Leachman) for her lifetime in comedy.

The movie is full of scenes like that and two others that were pulled from the bottom of some humorless well. One takes place when Jackie gets up at his niece's lesbian wedding and insults all the relatives and other attendees. The other one has Jackie leading a roomful of seniors in a song about going to the bathroom.

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.

If you want to see a terrific movie about what it's like to be a standup, see Jerry Seinfeld's 2002 documentary "Comedian," in which he starts his post-sitcom life by throwing out all of his old material and going on the road to develop an entirely new act. You'll see the hard work it takes to come up with ideas, turn them into jokes with just the right pacing and wording, and create the finished product that is a real comedy routine.

Don't confuse it with "The Comedian" which, despite actual comedians like Jeffrey Ross and Jim Norton helping out on the script, isn't very funny at all. Instead of gathering together a cast of non-comics, perhaps director Taylor Hackford -- who made "Ray," "An Officer And A Gentleman," and "Hail Hail Rock And Roll" -- should have just filmed some of the comics who make cameo appearances in "The Comedian," like Hannibal Buress, Gilbert Gottfried, Jessica Kirson, and Nick Di Paolo. At least they know what to say and do behind the microphone, unlike DeNiro.

 I give "The Comedian" a 4 out of 10.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Best Thing I've Read Today

Tom Nichols explains why Trump-haters and even media outlets have to stop being outraged when he does the kind of things every president does upon taking office, from firing political appointees, to issuing executive orders, to changing the board members of Voice Of America:

There is plenty of fuel for the president’s critics in these actions, yet Trump’s opponents — especially in the media — seem determined to overreact on even ordinary matters. This is both unwise and damaging to our political culture. America needs an adversarial press and a sturdy system of checks and balances. Unmodulated shock and outrage, however, not only burn precious credibility among the president’s opponents, but eventually will exhaust the public and increase the already staggering amount of cynicism paralyzing our national political life.

Much of this anxiety is rooted in the public’s tragic ignorance of civics and government. For younger Americans, this is somewhat understandable. They may have no firm memory of any president taking office other than Obama, and it’s unlikely that they were overly concerned with the statutory membership of the National Security Council eight years ago. Even citizens who remember earlier transitions would have to go back to the chaos of the 2000 election to recall a more divisive transfer of power.
Later, Nichols adds:
The abuse of presidential power is a continuing risk in a system of separated powers, requiring the greatest vigilance on the part of the media, Congress and ordinary citizens.

But a continual state of panic serves no purpose and will eventually numb voters and their institutions to real threats when they inevitably arise. Trump is, without doubt, the most unusual chief executive in American history. He has promised to do many things, some of which are almost certainly impossible and a few of which are probably unconstitutional. In the meantime, he won his election fairly — as determined by the electoral college and certified by Congress — and he is thus mandated to staff and run a superpower.

Whether he will do so wisely or constitutionally remains to be seen, but the legitimate concerns of the president’s critics are not well served by attacking the normal functions of the executive branch merely because those powers are being exercised by someone they oppose.
Read Nichols' full piece here.

Random Thoughts On Super Bowl 51


At halftime of the Super Bowl, with the Falcons up 21-3 over the Patriots, I have a feeling New England's head coach went into the locker room, looked into a mirror and knew the game was far from over as he blurted, "I'm Bill Bellichik, bitch!"

Meanwhile, Lady Gaga was starting her halftime show with an impressive opening that included 300 Intel drones lighting the sky behind her and converging to make a red-white-and-blue flag, too. Wired's Brian Barrett explains how they pulled it off:
Each drone communicates wirelessly with a central computer to execute its dance routine, oblivious to what the hundreds of machines around it are doing. The system can adapt on the, er, fly, too. Just before showtime, the computer checks the battery level and GPS signal strength of each drone, and assigns roles accordingly. Should a drone falter during the show, a reserve unit takes over within seconds.

All of which is pretty cool in its own right. But making it work for the biggest television event of the year takes a whole different level of planning.

Students of Super Bowl security measures and FAA regulations may by this point have some questions. The government strictly forbids drones within 34.5 miles of Houston’s NRG Stadium, after all, and the FAA limits on how high drones can fly in any circumstance, let alone above 80,000 or so people. How on earth did Intel get away with it?

The short answer is, it taped the show earlier this week.
The rest of Barrett's piece is here.

When I got to the end, and read about other uses for synchronized programmable drones, I couldn't help but think of the final episode of season 3 of "Black Mirror" (streaming now on Netflix). I won't spoil anything about it other than to say devices like Intel's drones play a key role in the plot, which doesn't turn out the way you might think it will based on the beginning of the episode.

By the way, am I the only one who noticed that while the Falcons were romping through the first half, the commercials were very unimpressive -- what a waste, at $5 million each --  but as the Patriots started their remarkable comeback, the spots got better? I liked the Mercedes spot with Peter Fonda, the Honda yearbooks ad, the Audi gender gap commercial, and especially the 84 Lumber commercial about the Mexican mother and daughter trying to cross over the border into America. That last one was truncated by Fox, which refused to air its finale, so the commercial referred viewers to a website to see its finale -- and so many of us did, that the demand crashed the site almost immediately.

If you haven't seen the whole thing, here it is:

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Showbiz Show 2/3/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed two new movies: "The Space Between Us" and Robert DeNiro as "The Comedian." We also answered a listener's question about what all those people in a movie's credits actually do, and explained why February is such a horrible month for movies.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 2/3/17

The trivia categories for this week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- include Super Bowl 51, Singers In The News, 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® 2/3/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories of a cartwheeling teacher, a bad bank robber, and a problem at Bed Bath and Beyond. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, February 03, 2017

KTRS Friday


I'll be back on my 3-6pm CT show on KTRS today. Along the way, Colin Jeffrey and I will review "The Space Between Us," "The Comedian," plus other showbiz stuff. I'll also test your Super Bowl trivia knowledge on my Harris Challenge and I'll have a new batch of Knuckleheads In The News®.

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

Picture Of The Day

In my review of a Postmodern Jukebox concert three months ago, I mentioned the wonderful tap-dancing of Sarah Reich. Here she is, featured in a new PMJ video, "The Evolution of Tap Dance"...

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Tina Fey's Credit Card


Every time I see these Tina Fey commercials for American Express, I don't view them as an expression of how great the credit card is, but rather as a reminder that Fey is a multi-millionaire.

In one, she goes into a sporting goods store and buys all sorts of workout equipment -- weights, a yoga mat, silly toe-shoes -- in such volume that it takes four employees to carry her bags out to a waiting cab. In another, she's on an airplane when a stewardess tells her they're out of salad because the guy across the aisle got the last one, so Fey bribes him by paying for his in-flight movie with her credit card. Elsewhere in the series of commercials, Fey buys a bunch of stuff at a supermarket for her dog with an I-can-do-anything-because-I'm-famous attitude.

None of these spots prove anything special about the American Express card she's shilling for. You could purchase all of the same stuff Fey buys with a Visa or Mastercard -- if you had the money.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a Tina Fey fan (I was one of the few reviewers to heap praise on her movie "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" last year) but I think she's giving off the wrong image in these spots. She comes off as a spendthrift who has so much money she doesn't care how much she charges.

Does that resonate with her fans, who no doubt have lower credit limits? I doubt it. Or maybe the average American's complete naiveté about financial matters, including credit cards and interest rates, is irrelevant when someone as likable as Tina Fey is involved.

Worth A Link

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

As I Tweeted

‪Dear Jon Stewart: Please stop doing bad shtick with Colbert's lame setups. Instead: go on, be yourself, and offer some good funny commentary.‬ You're better than this.

Best Thing I've Read Today

From time to time in my travels, I meet twenty-somethings (almost entirely men) who think they can play poker professionally. None of them has a wife and kids and a mortgage and a retirement plan. Oh, I'm friends with a couple of middle-aged guys with families for whom poker provides the only income -- they haven't worked for anyone else for years -- but they are a rarity.

For the record, I am nowhere near a professional poker player. While I do sit down at the tables a couple of times a week, and have been known to travel to Vegas and other places to get into more games, I do not look at it as a real source of income. I am simply a recreational player for whom poker does not pay the mortgage.

If you live in a city like St. Louis, the action doesn't go 24/7, so many of the younger pros I've met and played against have moved to Vegas, where there's always a game somewhere. It's not easy to grind out a living in a city where so many others are trying to do the same thing. Since you're unlikely to make a lot of money from each other, you have to wait for tourists with deep pockets and loose action to donate their chips to you. Fortunately, Vegas offers a never-ending supply of donors, but that doesn't mean you're going to be the recipient of enough of it to support yourself on a regular basis.

Daniel Negreanu, one of the most respected and rewarded poker pros in history, wrote a column in which he lays out the math of how difficult it is to grind your way to success:

For example, let’s say your bankroll and skill level have you playing $2-$5 no limit hold’em at Bellagio. It’s important to know how much that game is worth to you. The best place to start would be to ask around and see what the best player in that game can expect to make, then deduct about 30% from that total. Yes, you may become the best player in that game, but until you have proven you can be, lets assume you are still in the learning phase and shouldn’t expect to jump out of the gate and be the best player at the table.

Based on what I’ve heard, the best players in that game may make as much as $30 an hour. Deduct 30% from that, if all goes well you can target $21 an hour. To make the math easier, let’s just make it $20 flat per hour. Since our goal is to make $100,000 a year, now we can have a rough idea of how many hours we actually need to spend at the table playing poker. That comes to 5000 hours a year playing. If we break down that further, that comes to 417 hours a month, which breaks down to over 100 hours a week! This is before we even add all of the study hours required to be in line with our vision statement. For ever 10 hours of play, you should add at least two hours of study time. Add on another 1000 hours a year of study, which boils down to 14 hours a week.

So now we have you playing 105 hours a week, and studying around 14 hours a week for a total close to 120 hours in a week. Do you know how many hours are in a week? 168. If you plan on sleeping 8 hours a night, that’s another 56 hours a week. With work/study at 120 and sleep at 56, that totals 176 hours a week.

Uh oh, Houston we have a problem! While your vision statement was quite clear as was your goal, your plan just isn’t feasible. It’s just not humanly possible unless you plan on skipping out on sleep entirely and having absolutely no social life whatsoever! No matter how good you play, your plan is destined to fail and it will.
Negreanu goes on to explain that maybe 2-5% of players who try it will actually be able to make a living from poker -- even if they don't blow the rest of their meager earnings on craps and blackjack (not to mention strippers, drinks, drugs, etc.).

I had a friend whose son graduated from college and wanted to move to Vegas and support himself by playing poker. The kid had saved up about $25,000, which he thought would be a good bankroll to both start with and fall back on. He promised to never ask mom and dad for money, and was confident he'd never need to get a job.

Six months later, the son was back living in his parents' house.

Read Negreanu's full piece here.

Trump To The Future

A dozen days into his presidency, I'm still not used to hearing the two words, "President Trump." It just sounds wrong, as if it were lifted from that scene in "Back To The Future"...

Dr. Emmett Brown: Then tell me, future boy, who's President of the United States in 1985?

Marty McFly: Ronald Reagan.

Dr. Emmett Brown: Ronald Reagan? The actor? Then who's vice president? Jerry Lewis? I suppose Jane Wyman is the First Lady!

Marty McFly: Whoa. Wait, Doc!

Dr. Emmett Brown: And Jack Benny is secretary of the treasury.

Marty McFly: Doc, you gotta listen to me.

Dr. Emmett Brown: I've had enough practical jokes for one evening. Good night, future boy!
Well, if you don't believe that, Doc, wait until I tell you about 2017!