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

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Movie Review: "Hostiles"

It's been a long time since Hollywood has produced a Cowboys-And-Indians movie, and there hasn't been one like "Hostiles." It's 1892, a time when the US Cavalry and western settlers were taking more and more land from the native population, and relations were, let's say, not good.

In the very first scene, Comanches attack a family ranch, killing the father and children and burning down the house. Only the mother, Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike), gets away. It's a brutal scene -- consider that your warning that this is one violent movie.

Next, we meet Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale), whose troops are rounding up an Apache family and brings them to Fort Berringer, New Mexico. Upon his arrival, he's informed by a superior officer that President Benjamin Harrison has ordered the Army to transport an ailing Cheyenne chief named Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family back to his tribal burial grounds in Montana, and Blocker is chosen to lead the detail. He resists, since he's hated all Indians his entire life, and Yellow Hawk is responsible for the deaths of several of Blocker's friends. But when he's threatened with losing his Army pension, Blocker reluctantly agrees. Along the way, they come across Rosalie and, of course, they take her along.

As Blocker, Bale continues to show his broad range of roles. From "The Fighter" to "American Hustle" to "The Big Short" to "Hostiles," no two of his characters are alike; each is a vivid persona who keeps you riveted. My only complaint about Blocker -- and this is Cooper's fault, not Bale's -- is that he's repeatedly shown reading Shakespeare’s "Julius Caesar," as if that softens up a man for whom slaughtering other men has been an occupation he's mighty comfortable with.

Rosalie, as played by Pike, is a woman torn apart by the murder of her family, yet determined to make a new life somewhere. If you have any doubt that she and Blocker will be attracted to each other and act on it, well, you haven't seen enough movies.

As Yellow Hawk, Studi is stoic. He's played this part many times over the years, as one of the two go-to actors playing any kind of American Indian (the other is Graham Greene, who had to make nice with Kevin Costner's white soldier in "Dances With Wolves"). Fortunately, Yellow Hawk is given more to do that just sit on a horse. He recognizes the danger from the Comanches, who would kill him and the other Cherokees as quickly as they'd scalp the Army soldiers. Studi and Bale have good chemistry in several scenes, and it's their relationship I found the most interesting in "Hostiles."

"Hostiles" was written and directed by Scott Cooper, who I'll never forgive for letting Jeff Bridges mumble his way through "Crazy Heart" on the way to an Oscar. He also made a big mess of "Black Mass," with Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger.

At least in "Hostiles," he gets the scenery right, and uses a solid cast of supporting actors along the way, including Bill Camp, Timothee Chalamet, Rory Cochrane, and Jesse Plemons (currently America's most prolific actor, appearing in more than a half-dozen projects produced in the last year alone). Ben Foster has a small but important role as a disgraced sergeant sentenced to hang for indiscriminately killing Indians, and he's not above pointing out the irony that he's going to die for something his friend Blocker has done his whole career.

It took me a few days to figure out whether I liked "Hostiles," but in the end I decided to give it a 7 out of 10 -- but don't see it if you're squeamish, particularly about scalping.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Dr. Demento, "Covered In Punk"

Radio legend Dr. Demento -- the man who popularized such oddball songs as "Fish Heads," "Wet Dream," and "Shaving Cream" -- visited my radio show to discuss his new project, "Covered In Punk." He was accompanied by John Cafiero, who produced the project, which plays like a two-hour Dr. Demento show with punk covers of some of the songs he first gave airplay to.

We talked about how Dr. Demento's career began at one local station in Los Angeles and eventually grew to a weekly national show on rock stations across the country. We also discussed how he gave Weird Al Yankovic his start, why he appeared on an episode of "The Simpsons," and the influence of Spike Jones, Tom Lehrer, Allan Sherman, and Stan Freberg on his musical taste.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Dr. Demento still does a weekly show, but now it streams online at his site.

Andy Dehnart on Reality Stars' Fake Followers

Andy Dehnart, publisher of RealityBlurred.com, returned to my radio show to discuss Omarosa's return to reality television, the future of "The Amazing Race," and Ann Curry's new PBS show. We also delved into the New York Times story about a company that sells millions of fake followers on Twitter and Facebook, the reality stars who have inflated their fan numbers that way, and an analogy to radio ratings.

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

The Stars Of "Faceless"

Last week, I raved about "Faceless," a drama that's playing at The Rep in St. Louis. I liked it so much that I invited its two leads to join me in the studio to talk about it. Susaan Jamshidi plays the prosecutor, Claire, while Lindsay Stock plays Susie, the teenager accused of trying to run off an join ISIS.

We talked about what they see as their characters' motivations, what it was like to step into those roles again after having played them a year ago at the Northlight Theatre in Chicago, and what it's like to be a working actress in that city.

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

"Faceless" continues at The Rep through Sunday, February 4th. Get tickets here.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Best Thing I've Read Today

Dr. Jen Gunter went to Gwyneth Paltrow's "In Goop Health" event last weekend and wrote up a long recap of what she saw and heard. The audience was made up of women with an average age of 40 who could afford to pay $650 to be subjected to pseudoscience and paranormal prattle at its worst. Most of the speakers, of course, had a book to sell, and Gunter does a good job of debunking the nonsense they were promoting. My favorite is this one:

Then the worst person of the day emerged, Anita Moorjani. She told everyone that she died from lymphoma and her brain was dead, like dead, dead, dead. Rotting, mush dead. And yet she was conscious and decided to heal herself. She was once healthy and even took supplements and yet she got cancer (supplements increase your risk of cancer, by the way). However, Anita Moorjani got cancer because she feared cancer! Then her dead, dead, dead brain figured it out and she came back from that beautiful place to pass on the message that fear kills and love saves. She told us the following:
  • If you follow your passion life takes care of itself.
  • Your body is smart, it will heal naturally.
  • It is easier being dead than alive.
  • When children pass away it is because they chose to come as a gift and then leave. If they leave sooner that you as a parent would like, well, that was the gift the universe thought was right for you.
  • You can heal cancer with love.
  • You get sick because your life is not going in the right direction and you are not living enough and are fearful.
Moorjani wants us to believe that love from her dead brain cured the lymphoma that she had refused to treat for over three years (she didn’t mention the part about turning down conventional therapy). She was admitted to the ICU when she was dead, dead, dead (she wasn’t medically dead, she was in a coma) and funny enough she didn’t tell us about the chemotherapy she received. Small plot point, don’t cha think?
Read Gunter's full piece here.

Previously on Harris Online...

Goop vs. Goop

On my Friday radio show, as I was ranting about Stephen Colbert giving Gwyneth Paltrow a network TV platform to promote her Goop nonsense, Tim Wilund asked how she can use that name when there's already a company in St. Louis that makes a hand cleaner called Goop -- complete with a registered trademark. I answered that I didn't know, but I would e-mail the company and report back on any response.

Over the weekend I did exactly that, asking if they had licensed the name to Paltrow or challenged the use of their trademark in court, and whether there's a legal reason they can't prevent her from using Goop. This morning, I received this reply from Blake Critzas, whose Critzas Industries manufactures Goop:

We wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you, for looking-out for all of us here a GOOP. Your concern for us is very flattering. We are a family-owned business, and have been manufacturing GOOP since the 1940’s. We greatly appreciate your support, as we feel our GOOP brand is steeped in tradition as an American icon. We support this notoriety, and accolade, as we have been in business so many decades here in the States, and additionally, our founder was an awarded WWII hero.

There is not, nor has there ever been a connection of her products to our GOOP brand. We are aware of this situation, and have been for some time. Unfortunately the court system believes that since it is a different type of product (ie not another hand cleaner), that it is not infringing on our brand.

We can only ask that our customers continue to support us, and use our quality Made in USA GOOP products, while we focus on producing the best possible products available on the market. We certainly appreciate all of your concern, as we feel very lucky to have caring customers like yourselves.
That's a shame, because I would love to see a good attorney who specializes in intellectual property take on Paltrow and make her pay. While there's no legal way to stop her from spreading ridiculous claims about the products she sells, it would be nice if there were a way to get her to stop co-opting the name of a company that's been around for much longer than she's been alive and doesn't want to be associated with her business.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Shame On You, Stephen Colbert!

As I wrote Friday, I was outraged at Stephen Colbert -- for whom I'd had a lot of respect for both his comedic and critical thinking skills (Catholicism aside) -- for playing nice with Gwyneth Paltrow on his Thursday night "Late Show."

Over the last few years, he's made fun of Paltrow and her nonsense-promoting business, Goop, and he's been pretty direct about it. But this time, he allowed Paltrow a network television platform to promote her Goop pseudoscience (e.g. vagina steaming, magnetic acupuncture, binaural meditation), even going as far as to say, "I love Goop!" Instead he should have said, "I'm consciously uncoupling from even booking her in the first place!"

I don't have anything against Paltrow as an actress. I've liked her ever since I saw her in 1996 in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Hard Eight" (with the great Phillip Baker Hall), as well as "Seven," "Shakespeare In Love," "Proof," "Contagion," and even her multiple appearances with Robert Downey Jr. in the "Iron Man" movies.

On the big screen, she's likable enough, but this appearance on the small screen annoyed me so much that I went off on a nearly-fifteen-minute rant about it on my radio show Friday afternoon. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Previously on Harris Online...

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Honored To Be Mentioned

Nice of St. Louis Magazine to include me in their Reader's Choice poll for Best Local Talk-Radio Host. Not bad for a guy who's only on once or twice a week.

David Evanier on Woody Allen Backlash

Over the last few weeks, several actors and actresses who have appeared in Woody Allen movies (e.g. Joaquin Phoenix, Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Rebecca Hall, Greta Gerwig, Rachel Brosnahan, Ellen Page, and Mira Sorvino) have made public proclamations of regret in an attempt to distance themselves from the filmmaker.

The reason? The continuing claims by Dylan Farrow that Allen sexually assaulted her in 1992, when she was 7 years old. Allen has always denied the assertions, claiming that his ex, Mia Farrow, had coached Dylan into making the allegations because the adults were going through a messy separation.

To discuss this matter, I invited David Evanier, author of "Woody: The Biography," to return to my radio show to explain why he thinks those celebrities are acting out of ignorance, why he doesn't believe Dylan, and why he thinks Mia was the abuser in the household.

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

Showbiz Show 1/26/18

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I review the new Christian Bale movie "Hostiles." Then we get into who was left out of the Oscar nominations, why we love the movie theater company that's coming to St. Louis, and the upcoming remake of "West Side Story." On the TV side, we discussed the return of "Murphy Brown" and "The Greatest American Hero," plus Jimmy Kimmel's perfect guest for the night of Trump's State Of The Union speech.

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

Harris Challenge 1/26/18

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the categories include Never Won A Grammy, Names In The News, and Where In The World? Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 1/26/18

This collection of Knuckleheads In The News® stories includes a beauty pageant for camels, a catnip cocktail, and a real-life man-bites-dog headline. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Best Thing I've Read Today

I was very disappointed to see Stephen Colbert sucking up to Gwyneth Paltrow last night on "The Late Show." She was in New York for her Goop health summit, just one part of her empire of pseudoscientific nonsense that sucks in far too many people who believe the garbage recommendations that she and her 150-strong crew of bullshit artists have turned into a multi-million business.

My disappointment came from having seen Colbert acting like a skeptic, making fun of Paltrow's products and positions many times over the years. Yet here he was, telling her he's a fan of Goop, and helping her promote her dangerous views.

I had planned on writing a long piece about this, but David Gorski beat me to it:

I remind Colbert that Goop is about more than just fluffy, silly nonsense like jade eggs, magic energy stickers, and water bottles with amethysts in them to infuse your water with energy. It’s part of the mainstreaming of pseudoscience and quackery. Goop also strikes back when attacked, such as when Paltrow ordered her quack doctors to slime Dr. Jen Gunter, one of the foremost critics of Goop, with a condescending, misogynistic, mansplaining hit piece. I can’t help but note that one of those doctors, Dr. Aviva Romm, appeared to distance herself from Goop after that incident. Maybe Goop was too much even for her.

Finally, let’s not forget that the latest In Goop Health summit, which Colbert so gamely promoted by having Paltrow on his show, is a veritable quackfest. One of its main speakers is Dr. Kelly Brogan, a “holistic” psychiatrist who denies that HIV causes AIDS, advocates treating depression “naturally,” and is rabidly antivaccine, as evidenced by her publication of an e-book that features basically every antivaccine trope you can think of, a veritable cornucopia of antivaccine misinformation....

While I’m not so clueless as to expect that Colbert would have Paltrow on his show and attack her, other than gentle ribbing. That’s not what late night talk shows do, by and large. Their purpose is to promote whatever projects the celebrity guests on the show are doing or products they are selling. I just wish that, in this case, Colbert and his producers had just said no to having Paltrow on their show to promote hers. They didn’t have to have her on. They didn’t have to promote her brand so obsequiously. Sadly, they chose to do so.
Although I didn't write a full column on this subject, I did rant about it on my radio show for about fifteen minutes -- you can listen to that segment here (if you subscribe to my podcasts, you already have it).

Read Gorski's full piece -- complete with video examples -- here.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Best Thing I've Read Today

Gavin Edwards on the backstory of Otis Redding's classic song, "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay," the first posthumously-released single to go to number one...
Steve Cropper, who regularly backed Redding up as the guitarist for Booker T. and the MG’s (a.k.a. the Stax house band), remembered Redding calling him from the Memphis airport to make sure he was at the studio. When Redding arrived, the pair sat on beige folding chairs, hammering out the song. “I helped him with the second verse a little bit, helped him with the bridge,” Mr. Cropper said in a phone interview. “After he sang, ‘I watch the ships roll in, watch them roll out again,’ I said, ‘Have you thought that if a ship rolls, it’s going to take on water and sink?’” Redding told him, “That’s the way I want it, Crop.”

The duo went into the studio in November, joined by Donald Dunn (known as Duck) on bass, Al Jackson on drums, Booker T. Jones on piano and three horn players. In an interview, Mr. Jones remembered the sessions as having “kind of a hectic feeling — so much so that I remember a number of people sleeping over at the studio.” Redding and Mr. Cropper planned to ask the Staple Singers to contribute backing vocals to “Dock of the Bay,” which never happened. The whistling at the song’s end came in a section earmarked for vocal ad-libbing; on one early take, Redding sputtered and the engineer Ron Capone told him, “You’re not going to make it as a whistler.”
Read Edwards' full story here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Philly Phanatics

Seeing the story of over-exuberant Eagles fans celebrating their advancement to the Super Bowl earlier this week -- complete with open bonfires and the cops greasing light poles with Crisco so idiots wouldn't climb them -- reminded me of a story told by Dave "The Predictor" Murray, the sports guy on my morning radio show on WCXR/Washington many years ago.

Dave had gone on a weekend hockey trip to Philly to watch the Capitals play the Flyers.  When he got back to work Monday morning, he shared the experience with our audience, complaining about the loud, crude fans he'd encountered, including one in particular who kept shouting obscenities at the visitors while spilling beer down Dave's back and smoking a disgusting-smelling cigar.

Dave paused, then added, "and her husband was worse!"

Movie Review: "Den Of Thieves"

I like heist movies, and the more complicated the crime, the better. The heist at the center of "Den Of Thieves" certainly qualifies, but it gets bogged down in too much plot nonsense.

The hero is Nick Flanagan, played by Gerard Butler, head of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department major crimes squad. Calling him the hero doesn't mean he's all good. Nick and his fellow elite cops aren't above kidnapping and torturing to get the information they need.

Pablo Schreiber plays the villain, simply known as Merrimen, an ex-Marine and ex-con who has put together his own elite team, including Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, and a driver played by O'Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube's son, who played his father in "Straight Outta Compton" last year). You probably won't recognize anyone else in the cast, but if you look closely, you might spot a very small part for Eric Braeden, who has been on the soap opera "The Young and the Restless" for 38 years, and also starred in one of my guilty pleasures, the 1970 sci-fi thriller, "Colossus: The Forbin Project."

I won't give away any details of the heist in "Den Of Thieves" except to say it involves the LA branch of the Federal Reserve, the only bank in that city that's never been robbed. The intricacies of the plan are fascinating and captured on screen very well by first-time director Christian Gudegast, who also wrote the movie, as well as "London Has Fallen," which also starred Butler.

I enjoy when movies like this keep part of the plan secret from us and then catch us by surprise with something we didn't know until the very end (e.g. "Ocean's Eleven"). "Den Of Thieves" pulls that off pretty well, as well as the gun battles that bookend the movie, beginning in the very first scene where Merrimen and his crew hijack an armored truck outside a donut shop.

Unfortunately, as with Aaron Sorkin directing his own script for "Molly's Game," there was no one around to cut out extraneous parts of the plot. Thus, "Den Of Thieves" becomes yet another movie bloated to two hours and twenty minutes by irrelevant subplots. One involves Nick's troubles with his wife and daughters, another shows us 50 Cent at home scaring the crap out of the boy who's taking his daughter to the prom. Both subplots have nothing to do with the main story line and should have been left out.

Similarly, there are a couple of scenes where Nick and Merrimen meet face-to-face for verbal showdowns that reminded me of Pacino and DeNiro going heads-up in Michael Mann's "Heat." In "Den Of Thieves," one of those confrontations takes places in a Japanese restaurant where Nick gives away the identity of his informant, a plot reveal that's even more unnecessary than the entire scene in the first place. Gudegast also uses some titles early on to tell us the names of some characters and the places around LA where the movie takes place, but they're in the same font and used so randomly that at times I couldn't tell which was which.

There's a good movie somewhere inside "Den Of Thieves," but it got lost in a sea of bilge. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Larry Olmsted, "Real Food, Fake Food"

Do you know there's wood pulp in your parmesan cheese? Do you know there's probably no lobster in the lobster bisque you ordered? Do you know what makes olive oil "extra virgin"? Do you know that the Kobe beef on a restaurant menu is very unlikely to be real Kobe beef?

These are just a few of the questions answered by my guest Larry Olmsted, author of "Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don't Know What You're Eating and What You Can Do About It." Larry writes the Great American Bites column for USA Today and is the travel and food columnist for Forbes.

We also discussed why the FDA does such a poor job of regulating the food we buy, why you shouldn't buy apples in June, and what the real definitions are of "free-range," "natural," and "organic."

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

Peter Nicks, "The Force"

In the years since the Darren Wilson/Michael Brown story in Ferguson, there’s been a lot of talk about police department reform, both here in St. Louis and across the country. Documentarian Peter Nicks spent two years embedded with the Oakland, California, police department, as it tried to reform itself after years of high crime rates and scandals.

The finished product is called “The Force,” which aired last night on PBS as part of the Independent Lens series and is now streaming online. Here's my conversation with Nicks about it.

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

Aaron Carotta, "Finding The Current"

Here's my conversation with Aaron Carotta, who took a solo trip in a canoe the entire length of the Missouri River, then down the Mississippi River, and across the Gulf of Mexico -- that's 5,000 miles from Montana to Florida. Considering he had zero experience in a canoe (he didn't even own one) when he started, it's an amazing story, part of which is captured in the documentary "Finding The Current," which will premiere at the Tivoli in St. Louis on February 8th.

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

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Theater Review: "Faceless"

This is why we go to the theater. My wife and I saw a remarkable production last night.

"Faceless" is about Susie Glenn (Lindsay Stock), an 18-year-old white woman from the suburbs of Chicago, who has been arrested for conspiring to commit acts of terrorism. After being recruited online by ISIS, she was on her way to Turkey, and then Syria, to meet the man who had seduced her from afar to join the terrorist group. But before she boarded the plane, federal authorities grabbed her and threw her in a cell.

"Faceless" is also about Claire Fathi (Susaan Jamshidi), a Harvard-educated attorney in her thirties who works for the federal prosecutor who's been assigned Susie's case. Claire, the daughter of a French mother and an Iranian father, is Islamic and knows her faith well enough to recognize that Susie, a recent convert, has been sold a bill of goods by her jihadist recruiter, Reza. Susie's been wearing a hijab for four months; Claire has worn it all her life. Claire originally resists being forced into this prosecution by her boss, Scott Bader (Michael James Reed), the by-the-book US attorney who is obviously using her as a counter-point to the accused. But once she agrees, she's ferocious.

The internal battles of both Claire and Susie, a teenager so desperate to be understood and accepted, are at the heart of the drama as it moves from the courtroom to the media circus surrounding the case, from Susie at a computer meeting her recruiter via Twitter and Facebook to the strategy sessions in the prosecutor's office. We also meet Susie's father, Alan (Joe Dempsey) -- a blue-collar man desperate to save his daughter despite her attempts to push away from him -- and the attorney he's hired to represent her, Mark Arenberg (Ross Lehman).

Four of the five actors in this production of "Faceless" originated their roles at the Northlight Theatre in Chicago, where it debuted last year  (only Reed was not in the original cast). They don't just play these vivid characters, they inhabit them. The dialogue is crisp and smart, the direction and set design perfect (director BJ Jones and the Northlight design team recreated the set, lighting, and sound here).

"Faceless" was written by 22-year-old Selina Fillinger, a recent graduate of Northwestern University. Not that much older than Susie, she knows her attitude well, but also nails Claire's voice -- and those of the men, too. Her terrific script reminded me of "The Invisible Hand" by Ayah Akhtar, which we saw produced here a few years ago. I look forward to seeing what Fillinger comes up with next.

"Faceless" will be in the Studio Theatre at the Rep in St. Louis through February 4th. I heartily recommend you go see it.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Jeff Kreisler, "Dollars and Sense"

Here's my conversation with Jeff Kreisler, co-author with Dan Ariely of "Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter." Jeff explained such terms as opportunity cost, the pain of paying, and anchoring. We also discussed why we don't talk to each other about money, and why our kids don't get a good financial education in school. We also delved into why it's a bad idea to be your own real estate agent, how credit cards make us pay more for things, and what we did before there was money.

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

Jeff's next project is PeopleScience.com.

Showbiz Show 1/19/18

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I review the new movies "12 Strong" and "Den Of Thieves."

In other showbiz news, we discussed more #MeToo fallout, including a contract dispute on "Black-ish," whether James Franco and Aziz Ansari will attend the SAG Awards on Sunday, and a followup on the Michelle Williams/Mark Wahlberg pay gap on "All The Money In The World."

Next we turned out attention to television, including another nineties sitcom that NBC might bring back, Conan O'Brien's upcoming special in Haiti, and the two mother-and-daughter actresses concurrently playing the same character on two different CBS shows.

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

Harris Challenge 1/19/18

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the categories include the He Only Hired The Best People, Around The World In Seven Days, and You Know Her 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® 1/19/18

This collection of Knuckleheads In The News® stories include three bizarre airport incidents and one flying car. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Poker Maturity

When I'm at the poker table, I don't show my cards unless I have to. For instance, if I bet and my opponent calls, the rules say I'm obliged to turn them over first. Or if the reverse happens and she shows a hand I can beat, I expose my hand. But if I win because my opponent folds, I wait for the pot to be pushed towards me, then muck my cards face down. If the other player has to go first and shows a better hand than mine, I do the same thing.

This is not unusual -- most players don't expose their hands because it gives away information about how they play, and the better your opponents are, the less you want them to know about your strategy.

The other night, I was in a hand against a player in his early twenties who was fairly aggressive but not that difficult to read. I mostly stayed out of his way, but got tangled up with him in one hand. I called his bets on the flop and turn, but folded when he bet again on the river because I knew I didn't have the best hand.

As he pulled in the chips, he asked me if I'd had a pair of tens. I told him I didn't remember, a not-so-subtle way of saying I wasn't going to divulge any details of my play. But he didn't take the hint and kept asking, even telling me what his cards had been and why he'd bet so much on the river.

I nodded my head, then told him I have a don't ask/don't tell policy -- I'll never ask what you had, and I'll never reveal what I had. He replied, "So, you didn't have a pair of tens?" That's when the guy sitting between us, a pro in his mid-thirties who'd been silent the entire evening, turned to my opponent and said, "He's not going to tell you, and it's very rude to keep asking. Let it go."

The twenty-something player was taken aback. He'd never considered that he'd crossed an etiquette line. After letting it sink in for a few seconds, he looked over at me and said, "Sorry." I replied, "No problem," and we moved on. Lesson learned.

The whole thing reminded me of an encounter I had a decade or so ago while playing in a cash game in Las Vegas.

As I sat down in Seat 2, I looked around the table to size up my competition. Several of them looked like local grinders (bad), a couple of them looked like tourists (good), there was a drunk Englishman in Seat 8 who was clearly there to have a good time (excellent), and a guy who looked to have just turned twenty-one on my right in Seat 1.

I try to be sociable at the poker table, so I talked a little bit to this young guy who was very nice. It turned out he had moved to Vegas a month earlier to play poker for a living. As I watched him play, it was clear he knew what he was doing, so I made a mental note not to get involved in too many hands with him. There were weaker players to target instead, especially Drunk Englishman.

After an hour or so, Drunk Englishman, who was playing almost every hand, caught a miracle card on the river to beat Seat 1. Not only did Seat 1 lose the big pot, he also lost his temper, and started berating the Englishman for his poor play. Drunk Englishman responded with lines like, "Hey, I'm just trying to have some fun!" but Seat 1 would have none of it, and kept loudly explaining to Drunk Englishman how badly he'd played.

Under the table, I tapped Seat 1 on the leg a few times until he turned to me and barked, "What?!?" That's when I advised him: "You have to learn not to do this." Still pissed off, he asked what I meant.

I explained, "You're right that Drunk Englishman played the hand very badly. Unfortunately for you, he got lucky. But you want him to go on having a good time and making bad decisions. Even when he beats you, you should encourage him and be as nice as possible. Otherwise, if you yell and call him names, he might get up and leave this table, taking that big stack of chips and cash with him. If that happens, you'll never get a shot at winning it back. If this is your job, act professional at all times, especially towards tourists who are enjoying their free alcohol a little bit too much. In the long run, the more mistakes they make, the more money you make."

I could see the light bulb going on over his head as I spoke. He calmed down, apologized to Drunk Englishman, who was happily ordering another drink, and we all went back to having a friendly game of poker.

By the way, I wasn't just telling Seat 1 this so that he'd have another chance at Drunk Englishman's stack. I may be just a recreational poker player, but I wanted those chips, too. Fortunately, I got my opportunity about a half-hour later when Drunk Englishman made another horrible play. This time he didn't get lucky, and I won a massive pot.

Seat 1 turned to me and said, with a tinge of jealousy, "Nice hand."

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Best Thing I've Read Today

I'm far from the only one who has written recently about why Oprah Winfrey should not be considered a candidate for president because of the nonsense she endorses and enables. The latest is Kurt Anderson, author of "Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History"...

Perhaps more than any other single American, she is responsible for giving national platforms and legitimacy to all sorts of magical thinking, from pseudoscientific to purely mystical, fantasies about extraterrestrials, paranormal experience, satanic cults, and more. The various fantasies she has promoted on all her media platforms—her daily TV show with its 12 million devoted viewers, her magazine, her website, her cable channel—aren’t as dangerous as Donald Trump’s mainstreaming of false conspiracy theories, but for three decades she has had a major role in encouraging Americans to abandon reason and science in favor of the wishful and imaginary.
Read Anderson's full piece here.

Movie Review: "The Commuter"

When I walked out of a packed screening of Liam Neeson's latest action movie, "The Commuter," there were two groups of people in the lobby: regular people buzzing with excitement and a group of critics grousing about having to sit through it. That's because the latter group went in with their expectations bar set too high, perhaps because they've been exposed to so many award contenders in the last few weeks. Meanwhile, the non-critics went in hoping for a fun popcorn movie, nothing more, and that's exactly what they got.

At 65, Liam Neeson has probably reached the age where he should stop making movies like this (who does he think he is, Harrison Ford?), but he's still believable as the everyman who gets caught up in a situation beyond his control. This time, Neeson plays Michael Macauley, an ex-cop who, for the last decade, has been commuting by train to his job in midtown Manhattan as an insurance salesman.

It's the same routine every day, until he's called into the boss' office and unceremoniously fired. Deciding not to tell his wife over the phone, he goes to a local bar to have a couple of beers and commiserate with his former police partner (Patrick Wilson), then gets on the train home. That's where he's approached by a woman he's never met before (Vera Farmiga, who should be getting better roles by now) who engages him in small talk and then asks him a hypothetical question: would you carry out a single act that has no effect on you, and only has ramifications for a stranger, for $100,000?

Since Michael's just lost his job and has to pay not only his mortgage and bills but his son's upcoming college tuition, he's intrigued -- until he finds out the question wasn't so hypothetical. He's caught up in something very dangerous, and lives are on the line unless he can identify someone on the train and tag them with a GPS device. The premise may be thin, but it's enough to draw us in as Neeson pulls out his usual combination of bravery and brains to figure out what's really going on while eyeing everyone else on the commuter train to see who might be the target.

Director Jaume Collet-Saura, who made the similar Neeson adventure-on-an-airplane movie "Non-Stop" -- as well as the 2016 Blake Lively vs. shark thriller "The Shallows" (here's my review) -- keeps the suspense taut, although there are several sequences that are tough to accept. For instance, in one fight, a woman sprays mace in Neeson's face, but two seconds later, he's fine, no after-effects. Then there are the usual hand-to-hand brawls with enough punches and kicks to disable a normal human being, but not our hero. In that regard, "The Commuter" felt to me sorta like "Die Hard 3." Still, I was willing to suspend disbelief and go along for the ride, just as I do for any other movie from this genre (I'm talking about you, James Bond).

Unfortunately, Jonathan Banks isn't given much to do as a fellow commuter Neeson befriended on their daily trips over many years. Neither are Elizabeth McGovern, given the thankless role of Neeson's barely-seen wife, and Sam Neill, as his former boss on the police force (a role that looks like it may have been larger originally, but ended up on the cutting room floor).

If you keep your expectations low -- and don't question how Farmiga's character knows everything that happens on the train after she gets off it -- "The Commuter" meets them. It's not horrible, it's not great, it's probably not going to do a lot at the box office, but I bet it runs on cable and streaming services for years.

I give it a 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Best Thing I've Read Today

My friend Nolan Dalla has a piece about how Donald Trump reminds him of Archie Bunker. He runs down some of the similarities, and ends with these two differences:

Archie Bunker was a lower-middle-class working man who often struggled financially, but always somehow found a way to make ends meet. Donald Trump was born into great wealth, blew his vast fortune multiple times on idiotic business deals, and in the end was finally left with no other option than to hawk his name to try and sell products.

Archie Bunker held onto many outdated opinions. But he also revealed tremendous empathy for everyone, even those he viewed with suspicion. Many episodes of All in the Family showed Archie’s softer side, usually after he was taught a lesson about the wrongs of bigotry and sexism. Meanwhile, Trump hasn’t learned any lessons at all. He appears to have no empathy for others, particularly those he views as his adversaries. Archie had and often showed compassion. Trump shows no compassion, especially towards those he considers weak.
Read Nolan's full piece here.

Movie Review: "The Post"

"The Post" is the story of the internal decision-making at The Washington Post over the publication of The Pentagon Papers in 1971. Those documents, leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, proved that the US government had been lying to us for years about our involvement in Vietnam.

The New York Times was actually the paper that printed those revelations first, but Richard Nixon's White House convinced a judge to bar the Times from publishing more. When the Post subsequently got its hands on the documents, its management team had to decide whether to risk the wrath of a federal court and the administration by printing what it had. That decision could only be made by the paper's publisher, Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep).

At the time, Graham had run the family-owned newspaper for just a few years following the suicide of her husband, and was not taken seriously by her male employees and colleagues. She was the only woman in such a position at a major newspaper, although the Post had yet to distinguish itself as more than a local DC paper at the time (that changed after the Pentagon Papers and, of course, its landmark coverage of Watergate). The company was, however, in the process of going public, and she was pressured by the businessmen surrounding her not to rock the boat or risk losing institutional support for the stock offering.

Meanwhile, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and his team of editors and reporters were gung-ho to get the devastating details of the ongoing federal cover-up into print. It is that battle of journalistic integrity vs. the continued existence of the newspaper that drives the drama of "The Post." Although we know the outcome from history, director Steven Spielberg keeps us riveted. The script by newcomer Liz Hannah (with some punch-up by "Spotlight" scribe Josh Singer) shows us how Graham's upper-class life -- which included friendships with the Kennedys, Johnsons, Reagans, and then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), whose role in the Vietnam cover-ups was exposed in the Pentagon Papers -- impacted her decision-making process.

As if that isn't enough, the impressive supporting cast includes Bob Odenkirk, Bradley Whitford, Sarah Paulson, Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, Tracy Letts, David Cross, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Zach Woods.

While not as good as "All The President's Men" or "Spotlight" or "The Paper", "The Post" is a riveting and heroic tale of journalists trying to uncover the truth and share it with the world. Moreover, as our modern history echoes the past, it's a still-necessary lesson in the power of the press to keep government in check, a cautionary tale of how lies told by the most powerful people in our nation can lead us down a dangerous (and deadly) path if not dragged out into public view.

I give "The Post" an 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Movie Review: "I, Tonya"

"I, Tonya" starts with a title card telling us it's "Based on irony-free, wildly contradictory and totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly." I wasn't sure what to make of that -- is this going to be a drama or a comedy or a mix of the two? Call it a dark comedy, if you like.

It seems to be leaning in the comedy direction, but there's no humor in the tale of a woman who was physically and emotionally abused from childhood by her mother and into adulthood by her husband. That's why the 1993 Tina Turner biopic, "What's Love Got To Do With It" didn't present itself as a comedy. As horrific as some of those scenes are in "I, Tonya," a few of them are presented in a not-so-serious way. That bothered me.

The movie is fashioned as if it's almost a mockumentary, with many of the characters telling their versions of Tonya's life story in interviews. Other times, as we see the scenes they're describing played out, the characters break the fourth wall and look straight into the camera as they continue their narration. That lightens the tone of the movie unnecessarily.

"I, Tonya" plays as though she's a victim of every circumstance in her sordid life, but -- like "The Florida Project" -- this is a movie about bad people making bad choices. Tonya may have been a helluva skater, but she was also the kind of genius who alternated drags of a cigarette with hits from her asthma inhaler. She takes no responsibility for the problems that befall her, placing blame instead on her poor upbringing, her horrible mother, her scumbag husband, and the figure skating judges.

As for the cast, Margot Robbie is nothing short of great as Tonya. She gets the look, the attitude, and the swagger just right. I don't know how much of the skating she really did, but it's hard to tell when it's a double doing those triple-axels instead of Robbie. Allison Janney also does a very convincing job as LaVona, Tonya's mother, who is in the running for Worst Parent Ever. She'll probably be nominated for an Oscar and give Laurie Metcalf (the mother in "Lady Bird") a run for her money. It's nice to see McKenna Grace (who I enjoyed so much last year in "Gifted") onscreen again as young Tonya. There are also solid performances by Sebastian Stan as the slimy Gillooly (is that redundant?) and Julianne Nicholson as Tonya's skating coach.

Director Craig Gillespie's previous movie, "Their Finest Hours," was on my Worst Movies Of 2016 list. This time around, he does a better job with the action sequences -- the skating scenes look very authentic -- but gets so much of the rest of it wrong. For example, he fills the soundtrack with tons of songs right out of the Martin Scorcese playbook, but some of them are poorly placed chronologically (e.g. why do we hear Chicago's 1971 tune "25 or 6 to 4" in  a scene that takes place in 1993?). It's as if he had put his Spotify classic rock playlist on shuffle and added the results randomly. He evens includes the umpteenth use of Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit In The Sky," which should be retired from films forever.

One thing Gillespie and his crew got 100% right was the look of those characters and the era. You can compare his fictionalized versions with the real Tonya (on ice) -- as well as the idiots who surrounded her -- in archival footage during the closing credits.

Of course, the only reason the movie exists, the only reason we even know Tonya Harding's name, is because of The Incident. That was the 1994 attack on her rival, Nancy Kerrigan, at the US Figure Skating Championships in Detroit by Shane Standt, one of the lunkheads employed by Shawn Eckhardt, best friend of Tonya's husband Jeff Gillooly. These lowlifes are portrayed for comedic effect as pure dunces, another odd choice considering the violence against an innocent woman.

I remember much of the real story because, in those days, I talked about every detail of it on my radio show, and was even in the arena at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, when Tonya, Nancy, Kristi Yamaguchi, Midori Ito, Surya Bonaly and others competed (I was there for a weeklong remote broadcast of my WCXR/Washington morning show). On several occasions, I discussed the story with USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan, who covered the other top figure skaters of that era and wrote the definitive book about them. In a recent column about "I, Tonya," Christine was similarly disappointed with the movie:
For a quarter of a century now, popular culture has somehow fallen for the notion that Tonya got a raw deal from figure skating judges and the U.S. Figure Skating Association. This is the oxygen on which I, Tonya survives: Poor Tonya. The bad girl from the wrong side of the tracks got the shaft at every turn.

Nice try, but no. U.S. officials didn’t send Tonya to one Olympics. They sent her to two. She also won two U.S. national titles, one of which was later taken away due to her supporting role in the attack on Kerrigan. (She gave information about Nancy’s Cape Cod training rink to the “hit men," and later pled guilty to the felony of conspiracy to hinder the prosecution.)
Because of the attack on Nancy, Tonya's name stayed in the headlines for several months in 1994, until she was replaced by another athlete up to no good -- OJ Simpson, who sucked up every minute of our attention for months to follow. At least the recent movies about him didn't play the victim card, as "I, Tonya" unfortunately does.

I give "I, Tonya" a 5 out of 10.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dan Pink, "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing"

Dan Pink returned to my show to talk about his new book, "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing."Our conversation ranged from the hidden patterns of the day to why you shouldn't have surgery in the afternoon to why high school should start later in the morning to the value of naps to why NBA players high-fiving and chest-bumping is a predictor of team performance.

I'll point out that whenever you opt to enjoy this podcast, that's the perfect time. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Previously on Harris Online...

Showbiz Show 1/12/18

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I review the new movies "The Post," "The Commuter," and "I, Tonya." On two of them, we have major disagreements.

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

Harris Challenge 1/12/18

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the categories include the Richest Women In America, Hey I Know That Guy, 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® 1/12/18

This collection of Knuckleheads In The News® stories include a spider on fire, a guy applying for the wrong job, and a woman returning a dead Christmas tree. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, January 12, 2018

As I Tweeted

  • If I owned a radio station, we would have changed our music format today to Shithole Country.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Legal Responses Of The Day

The tweet from President Donald Trump:

"We are going to take a strong look at our country's libel laws, so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts."
The response from ACLU attorney Brian Hauss:
President Trump's threat to revise current libel laws is, frankly, not credible. There is no federal libel law, and the president does not have the authority to change state libel laws. Furthermore, the First Amendment provides strong protections against libel liability, particularly with respect to statements about public figures or matters of public concern. Whatever President Trump might think, he has no power to to override these constitutional protections.
If you think that's good, then take a look at the letter sent by Elizabeth McNamara, attorney for publisher Henry Holt after Trump's lawyers sent a cease-and-desist demand over Michael Wolff's book, "Fire and Fury," claiming it libels the president:
Mr. Trump is the President of the United States, with the "bully pulpit" at his disposal. To the extent he disputes any statement in the book, he has the largest platform in the world to challenge it. Generalized and abstract threats of libel do not provide any basis for President Trump's demand that Henry Holt and Mr. Wolff withdraw the book from public discourse. Though your letter provides a basic summary of New York libel law, tellingly, it stops short of identifying a single statement in the book that is factually false or defamatory. Instead, the letter appears to be designed to silence legitimate criticism. This is the antithesis of an actionable libel claim....

To briefly address a few of the additional substantive claims identified in your letter, we note that you understandably cite to New York as the governing law, yet we were surprised to see that President Trump plans on asserting a claim for "false light invasion of privacy." As you are no doubt aware, New York does not recognize such a cause of action. Messenger ex rel. Messenger v. Gruner Jahr Printing and Pub., 94 436, 448 (2000); Hurwitz v. US, 884 F.2d 684, 685 (2d Cir. 1989). Not only is this claim meritless; it is non-existent. In any event, it is patently ridiculous to claim that the privacy of the President of the United States has been violated by a book reporting on his campaign and his actions in office.
It's at times like this when it's clear that to be Trump's attorney means being forced by your client to lash out at anyone who he perceives to be insulting or demeaning him, even though there's no legal basis for that claim. I've never seen someone threaten to sue so many people -- including virtually every major news outlet -- without following through, as if the threat alone will make them back down.

Fortunately, his targets refuse to be bullied. Besides, they know that if he were to file an actual lawsuit, they'd be able to use the discovery process to reveal all sorts of things he'd rather not become public. Thus, they call his bluff time and again, but that doesn't stop him from going full bluster, both on Twitter and the letterhead of his attorneys.

One last thought: considering all the false claims and personal attacks that are part of so many of Trump's public statements, loosening the libel laws probably wouldn't work to his benefit. He'd face an onslaught of lawsuits against him from multiple parties.

As I Tweeted

  • The power went out at the CES show in Vegas yesterday for a couple of hours. An Apple spokesman says, "We were just trying to protect the light bulbs so they'd work longer."

A Streaming Suggestion

I'm glad "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" won two Golden Globes on Sunday night, for its star, Rachel Brosnahan, and best comedy series. The Globes may not have any prestige, but if the publicity brings more eyeballs to a show I've been raving about for weeks to anyone who will listen, which means Amazon will order a second season, so much the better.

The series, which streams on Amazon Prime Video, is about an upper-middle-class housewife in 1958 New York who discovers she just might have a talent for stand-up comedy. At the time, there were very few women in that business -- and they did mostly self-deprecating humor about their looks or their husbands. Midge (that's her first name) talks about all sorts of stuff, in free form, and has a natural knack for the timing and material she creates.

This causes a rift with her husband, Joel, who thought he was the comedian in the house, but all he could do was ripoff Bob Newhart's standup act, verbatim. The fact that Joel is also sleeping with his secretary drives an even bigger wedge between then. Meanwhile, she gets help and career advice from Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein), the of-course-she's-grumpy manager of a Greenwich Village nightclub where Midge gets onstage every now and then.

I won't tell you any more, except that Midge and Joel's fathers are played by Tony Shalhoub and Kevin Pollak, respectively, and the rest of the supporting cast is just as solid. The writing and direction are sharp, thanks to showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino ("The Gilmore Girls"), who knows something about this world because her father, Danny Sherman, was a standup on the Borscht Belt circuit.

Add "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" to your Amazon watchlist, and let me know if you like it, too.

Best Thing I've Read Today

On my Monday radio show, I praised Oprah Winfrey for her #MeToo speech at the Golden Globes, but tried to scuttle any thoughts of her running for president. My major objection to her has always been her embrace of nonsense and her enabling of people who advocate alternative medicine and flat-out scams, like Mehmet Oz, Phil McGraw, and Jenny McCarthy. We already have an administration that doesn't embrace real science -- why would we want another one, particularly one that promotes such bad information?

Here's what Julia Belluz, senior health correspondent for Vox (and former guest on my show) says about those three swindlers of pseudoscience...

On Dr. Oz:

As a regular medical expert on Oprah, he used the platform to back a range of questionable health practices, including lending credibility to the Brazilian spirit medium and well-known huckster ”John of God.” The Oprah seal of approval helped Oz get his own show by 2009. Her instincts about his potential were good, in a sense: Oz is immensely popular, and his media empire now extends to books, magazines, radio, websites, and, of course, TV. But on The Dr. Oz Show, the cardiothoracic surgeon has regularly promoted bad science and bogus health advice.
On Dr. Phil:
Like Dr. Oz, McGraw has been censured for using his celebrity and his show for ethically dubious practices. In 2016, he was criticized for peddling diabetes pharmaceuticals through paid sponsorships that were masquerading as friendly advice about a disease from a trusted source. And last December, a Stat investigation uncovered some unethical behind-the-scenes practices on the show, including giving vodka to a guest who was battling alcoholism and asking other guests with severe drug addictions to buy drugs on the street — all for the purposes of entertainment.
On Jenny McCarthy:
Jenny McCarthy has been an ardent anti-vaccine advocate. She helped propel the discredited British doctor Andrew Wakefield, who has argued that vaccines cause autism based on his own fraudulent research, to fame. (McCarthy even co-authored an anti-vax book in 2011 with Wakefield, titled Callous Disregard.) In the media, she’s claimed that vaccines gave her son Evan autism, and that she was able to “cure” him through a special diet and supplements. Of course, the notion that vaccines cause autism has never been supported by science. But Oprah gave McCarthy a vast audience via her TV show in 2007. Days after that Oprah appearance, McCarthy was invited on Larry King Live and Good Morning America to spread her anti-vaccine message even further. Between the three shows, she reached between 15 million and 20 million viewers with her anti-vaccine message.
Read Julia's full piece here.

Previously on Harris Online...

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Emily Dufton, "Grass Roots"

Recreational use of marijuana is legal in 8 states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) and decriminalized in another 14 (plus the US Virgin Islands). It's still illegal in Missouri, while Illinois is one of 29 states that allow the use and sale of medical marijuana.

All of this was made possible by the 2013 Cole Memorandum, which provided some protections from the enforcement of federal law. But that memo was rescinded by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week, which made this a perfect time to bring Emily Dufton onto my show to discuss her book, "Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America."

We talked about the impact of that memo being rescinded, whether weed was ever legal in the United States, and how the loosening of marijuana laws in the 1970s led to backlash in the 1980s that tightened them right back up -- and whether that can happen again. We also discussed whether, in states where it’s been legalized, there's been a commensurate increase in underage kids smoking weed. Other topics included banking problems for marijuana businesses, social justice issues about throwing users/sellers in jail, and what we know about the science of pot.

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

Brad Taylor, "Operator Down"

Brad Taylor spent more than two decades in the US Army, including 8 years in special forces as part of Delta Force. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, then went on to teach military science at The Citadel. He’s also the author of the popular Pike Logan series of books, including the newest entry, “Operator Down.” In it, special agent Pike Logan and his team stumble onto an attempted military coup in Africa when they search for a missing Mossad agent.

We talked about how he researches his books, whether he has to be careful about revealing confidential technology and spy craft, and whether his books will become TV series or movies. Then we broadened out to discuss North Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

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

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

As I Tweeted

  • Ignore those reports that Oprah is "actively thinking" about running for president. I’m "actively thinking" about working out, but that doesn't mean I'm going to the gym.

Phil Rosenthal, "Somebody Feed Phil"

Phil Rosenthal -- who created “Everybody Loves Raymond” and starred in the documentary “Exporting Raymond” (read my review here) -- did a PBS series a couple of years ago called “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having," in which he traveled the world meeting people and eating great food. My wife and I were quite disappointed when PBS didn't pick up the show for a second season, but we're happy now because he sold it to Netflix, where it will debut under a new name, “Somebody Feed Phil,” this Friday (1/12/18). I was happy to welcome Phil back to my radio show to discuss it.

Having seen three episodes -- in which he visits New Orleans, Saigon, and Tel Aviv -- I can report that the show still works because of Phil's likability and his very expressive face. When he bites into something delicious, it shows, and there's plenty of that in each episode. He also meets lots of locals in his travels (his classroom visit with Vietnamese kids is a joy) and shares their stories, as well as the sights and sounds of the cities he visits.

In our conversation, we touched on how high his tolerance is for spicy food, whether he ever eats any plain food, and whether he ever tries to duplicate some of those delicacies when he gets home from the road. We also talked about open-faced tacos, the food his mother made when he was young, and feedback he's received from viewers who've visited restaurants he's featured on his shows.

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