Thursday, December 11, 2003

Maryellen Hooper

The funny and lovely comedian Maryellen Hooper was back in the studio today to discuss publicly for the first time the brain tumor she developed earlier this year, along with other more traditionally funny subjects like electrical mayhem in the home and giving women compliments.

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

Previously on Harris Online...

Monday, December 08, 2003

Out of Commission

My wife and I have been shopping around for a new video camera. Because I hate the "shopping" part of any new purchase -- going store to store, comparing makes and models and prices and options -- we divide the responsibility like this: she does the reconnaissance work (the "shopping"), narrows our choices down to two, and then I swoop in to assist on the final decision (the "buying").

She had completed her part, identifying our options and the store in which we'd buy the camera. Now, it was my turn, which I was going to handle solo. It seemed so easy.

After work on Friday, I went to the store, armed with the information she had gathered and the name of the salesperson who helped her. We figured that if that clerk was there at the beginning of the process, they should be there at the end and get the commission. When I got there, a salesperson asked, "Can I help you?" I replied, "Yes, I'm looking for Tony." He said, "Oh, Tony, sure, I'll get her."

Her? Okay, I guess it's Toni, not Tony. Doesn't matter. A couple of minutes went by, and Toni hadn't shown up. Another clerk asked, "Can I help you?" I responded, "No, thanks, I'm waiting for Toni, but I appreciate the attention." The clerk said, "Okay, I'm sure she'll be here in a minute."

A few more minutes passed, and I still hadn't talked to Toni, although I did see a saleswoman down the counter dealing with a customer. I assumed that was Toni, and since she was busy, I told the first salesguy I had encountered, "It looks like she's in the middle of something and I don't want to wait, so can you help me?" Ron was more than happy to assist me.

He patiently spent the next fifteen minutes going over the difference between the two camcorders we were considering, explaining the features, discussing the pros and cons of this and that, and generally doing a great low-pressure sales job. Halfway through, Toni came over, apologized for being stuck with another customer and making sure that Ron was taking care of me. I assured her he was, and she left us alone to go deal with yet another customer.

Finally, I decided which camcorder was best, took the plunge, and bought the thing. Ron filled out the paperwork and, when he heard my name, said, "I thought I recognized your voice." It turned out he listens to my show. Although this didn't get me any special discount (I bet he wouldn't treat Ryan Seacrest this way!), we did chat for a few minutes. As we wrapped up the transaction, I asked if he'd get a nice big chunk of the rather large amount I had just charged to my credit card. He replied, "Well, I'll get some of it, and Toni will get some of it." That's good, I thought. Sharing the sale is good store policy.

When I got home, my wife approved of my choice (I had a 50/50 chance!). I told her the whole story of Ron taking Toni's place but still sharing his commission with her, and remarked, "Isn't that nice, that she'll get something for starting this ball rolling, even though he's the one who finished it?"

My wife stared at me. It's the stare every husband knows. It's the "you're an idiot" stare. Then she blurted out, "I never dealt with a saleswoman named Toni at that store. I talked to a salesman named Tony at their other store! The one across town!!"

In other words, Toni is going to get a commission on a sale she never had anything to do with in the first place! Oops. Sorry about that, Ron!

The bottom line is that my wife is thrilled to have the new camcorder. Not thrilled enough to want to go upstairs and emulate Paris Hilton with it, but happy.

As for Tony, he'll have to contact Toni for his piece of the pie.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Class Action

Several months ago, I passed along information on how you could get essentially free money from a class action lawsuit against the music industry, if you had bought at least one CD between 1995 and 2000. No one was sure how much we'd get, but it was going be somewhere between $5 and $20.

Well, the settlement has finally been approved, and it's going to work out to $12.60 apiece, and the checks should be in the mail within a couple of weeks. It's not exactly hitting the lottery, but free money is free money.

What held up the settlement was part of the suit involving members of music clubs (BMG, Columbia House, etc.). I'm glad I'm not part of their deal. Instead of a check, they'll get a voucher good for 75% off on the next CD they buy from the club. So, while we're getting something for nothing, they have to lay out more money and be happy with the discount. Chalk it up as one of the pitfalls of believing you'll come out ahead with that 12-albums-for-a-penny teaser.

That's the kind of class action settlement I hate, because the lawyers get huge lump sum payments -- believe me, they're not being paid in discount vouchers -- but the consumers get screwed. I was involved in one of these about fifteen years ago when someone put together a class action suit against a major airline on behalf of everyone who had flown that airline in the previous decade. My wife and I had, so I filled out a couple of forms (on paper in those days, as opposed to the ease of online filing in the CD suit) and mailed them off.

Two years later -- I had completely forgotten about it -- we received an envelope containing discount vouchers for the airline. For every ticket we bought in the succeeding year for $500 or more, we could take $25 off. Whoopee! A 5% discount!

Problem was, this was long enough ago that airplane tickets were a lot cheaper. The fare for a coast-to-coast flight was only about $250. In order to get an airline ticket that cost over $500, we would have had to fly to Europe or Asia, which we had neither the inclination nor credit limit to do.

The airline was counting on this in their settlement. You see, it's hard to get cash back from a consumer once you send them a check. But send'em a voucher that they might not use, and the company saves money -- not to mention that their expense only comes if and when you do use that voucher. Until then, the millions stay in the bank, earning interest.

That's why I'll be more than happy to take my $12.60 check and immediately use it to not buy a CD.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

High-Speed Chases

Today on my radio show, in a discussion of whether the police should engage in a high-speed chase -- such as the one that killed an innocent bystander earlier this week in Granite City, Illinois -- opinion was fairly well split, although most people don't blame the cops for the man's death. But several people said the police should take even more aggressive actions: bump the suspect's car with the police car, shoot out the tires, or use some high-tech weapon to disable the suspect and his vehicle.

There are several problems with these arguments.

Bumping the car sounds easier that it actually is. This guy was going 100mph. If you make contact with his bumper or fender, you risk wrecking your own vehicle, and possibly sending him hurtling into another innocent driver. Then you'd have the same complaints about cops needlessly endangering the lives of citizens.

As for shooting out the tires, that's part of the Dirty Harry Complex that too many Americans suffer from. It's part of the same thinking behind support for concealed-carry laws. They're sure that in any situation, the bullet from the good guy's gun will always hit its target perfectly, usually on the first shot, just like in the
movies. Of course, they would never miss, like movie bad guys do when they empty a hundred rounds without hitting James Bond or even nicking his tuxedo jacket. Unfortunately, in real life, it doesn't work that way. Firing a gun from a fast-moving, pursuing police cruiser at the tires of the suspect's weaving, speeding car isn't as easy as it sounds.

When it comes to high-tech weaponry, it seems that the most advanced devices local police can use are Stop Sticks, those spikes in the road that deflate car tires. They were used in the Florissant-Granite City chase, but the suspect drove around them. Meanwhile, where are all those other non-lethal weapons we've seen displayed on newsmagazines and the Discovery Channel for the last few years? Outside of televised demonstrations, I've yet to hear about a single incident in which the cops used sticky anti-riot foam, or giant capture nets, or directed electronic magnetic pulse devices. These and similar technologies may still be in the experimental phases, but are probably also too expensive for local department budgets.

So, it doesn't seem that the cops have many options. They can either chase the guy until they catch him -- which puts other lives at risk -- or let him go and try to catch him another day -- which may put other lives at risk.

If only they could literally corner the suspect between a rock and a hard place.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

The Simpleton Life

Somewhere, Jessica Simpson watched "The Simple Life" last night on Fox and thought, "I'm no longer the dumbest person on TV." That crown now belongs to Paris Hilton: "What does generic mean?" "What's a well?" And the piece de resistance, "What is Wal-Mart? Is that where they sell wall stuff?"

Watching "The Simple Life" last night made me vow never to let my daughter become a clueless ultra-rich party girl. That should be fairly easy. From now on, we'll just consciously avoid becoming ultra-rich. Oh, wait, that plan was already in place.

At the beginning of the show last night, Paris and her gal-pal Nicole Richie threw a going away party for themselves at the Hilton mansion. Paris was overheard saying she hoped that living on an Arkansas farm for a month would "make me appreciate my life here." Now there's a problem. She has every material thing she could possibly want, and then some, but doesn't appreciate it.

Blame that attitude on her parents, who apparently don't have a problem with what their kid has become at age 22, nor with her taking for granted the extravagant style in which she lives, simply by virtue of being born an heiress. Looks and acts like a slut? No problem. Hangs out with a heroin addict? No problem. Has the IQ of your average soccer ball? No problem.

I may be the only guy in America to admit this, but I don't find Paris and her "ho couture" style appealing. Yes, I've seen The Tape. She does nothing for me physically. I don't want to say she's thin, but she could hide behind Lara Flynn Boyle. She's slimmer than Dennis Kucinich's chance of becoming President. On next week's episode, she swallows an olive and everyone thinks she's pregnant. But, hey, I wanna tell ya.

So why watch? It's more than the fish out of water concept. There's something inexplicably fun about watching someone so privileged looking like such an idiot. Thus the "simple" moniker. I hope the show continues to play that up. But I'll drop the show in a second, along with many other viewers, if the producers make the mistake of having the show poke fun at the Leding family and their rural lifestyle. If they're smart, "The Simple Life" will continue to focus on Paris and Nicole's vapidity -- and make them try to define it, too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Gay Marriage

It's rare that you'll hear me recommend something a politician has said, but if you get into an argument about today's gay marriage decision by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, have your opponent read the recent op-ed by Alan Simpson, former Republican Senator from Wyoming.

He preaches tolerance, and quotes Dick Cheney -- whose daughter is a lesbian -- who said during the 2000 Presidential campaign, "The fact of the matter is we live in a free society, and freedom means freedom for everybody.... And I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one else's business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard."

To date, no one has been able to give me a rational, logical answer to my question about the gay marriage issue: What's the downside? If two guys or two women get married in Massachusetts, what does that have to do with anyone anywhere else? Truth is, your life would be no more affected by that than by a man and a woman marrying each other (unless you knew them personally, of course).

I heard one opponent of gay marriage say today that it would "destabilize" the institution of marriage. I have no idea what that means. Would straight couples no longer marry? Would currently married couples be forced to become single again? The argument makes no sense.

Another claim is that "this sort of thing is what's going to eventually destroy America." Wrong. Two lesbians getting legal protection for their loving relationship isn't going to destroy anything. The two things that most endanger America from within are hatred and intolerance.

The basis of the opposition to gay marriage seems entirely religious: "It's immoral!" Fortunately, in America, our laws are not based on a narrow reliance on biblical morality. If we did, a lot of people would be locked up for eating a ham sandwich and working on Sundays (or Saturdays). If you want a country based on one group's strict interpretation of religious law, you may want to revive The Taliban. Personally, I prefer The Constitution as the rule of law.

Which brings me to the large number of requests I've received for the Dear Dr. Laura letter that I read on my radio show today. It's been going around the net for several years, and I have no idea who wrote the original, but it's good to bring out again on occasions like this.

The letter was even paraphrased and adapted by Aaron Sorkin in a "West Wing" script for the second episode of the second season ("The Midterms"), which aired on October 18, 2000.

In the scene, a group of radio talk show hosts are visiting the White House. President Bartlet enters the room and they all stand, except one woman, Dr. Jenna Jacobs (obviously modeled on Dr. Laura Schlessinger). The President then lays into her over her claim that The Bible, in Leviticus 17:22, says homosexuality is an abomination:

President Bartlet: "I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you here. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking about that, can I ask another? My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or is it okay to call the police? Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side-by-side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you? Oh, one last thing. While you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club, in this building, when the President stands, nobody sits."

Everyone remains silent as he stares her down until she finally stands up, defeated.

Monday, November 17, 2003

The Governor and The Lottery

Twenty years ago, no one would have believed we'd someday say the words "the inauguration of Governor Schwarzenegger." In fact, at the time, no one would have believed Arnold could even pronounce the word "inauguration." But it happened today.

Seeing it was especially odd because, yesterday, I watched the new "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" DVD. It's not as good as "T2," which was so stunning because of the visual effects, but in the new sequel they kept the linear story intact, and didn't skimp on the explosions and devastation and stunts. In other words, if you bought and liked the original concept, you won't be disappointed with the latest installment.

The best part comes on the commentary track of the DVD, which features Arnold, the director, and his co-stars. In one scene, Kristianna Loken, as the new high-tech Terminatrix, is pulled over by a cop for speeding through a red light at an intersection. As the cop approaches, the Terminatrix notices a Victoria's Secret billboard featuring a busty model. To distract the cop, she inflates her robot breasts a couple of cup sizes.

On the commentary track, Governor Schwarzenegger says (and I quote verbatim so you can imagine this in your personal Arnold imitation), "This scene with the enlargement of the breasts was fantastic. In the audience, I saw women sitting there, telling each other, 'Now that's a great idea, I've got to check out where you get that done.' So you can deflate and inflate your breasts on command. It's a whole new concept. Because there's some guys that like little breasts and there's some guys who like big breasts. Wouldn't it be nice if you could play both sides, sometimes even simultaneously?"

Congratulations, California, that's your Governor talking! I'm not sure what kind of woman Arnold imagines would both inflate and deflate simultaneously -- maybe some sort of lopsided woman from the future -- but, as with all things Arnold, it would be fantastic, no matter what.

It's nice to know the Governor is a dreamer.

At the other end of the country, the state of Massachusetts has denied one man his dream of winning the lottery. Okay, he's a man with a dream and a very large bank account.

The odds of winning the Massachusetts lottery are 1 in 14 million. You could cut the odds down to 1 in 2 if you bought tickets covering half of the possible numeric combinations. That would mean a $7,000,000 outlay for a potential $39,000,000 payoff, or what gamblers call a big overlay. When one man tried to do it, the st the state told him he couldn't. The lottery director said, "The lottery exists for all its players. One player seeking to potentially buy a jackpot goes against the spirit of our mission."

Mission? What, are you going to the moon? Curing cancer? Teaching Jessica Simpson algebra?

C'mon, you're running a legalized state-controlled gambling operation. If the guy's got the money, sell him the tickets. Then take your cut -- the tax revenue -- and move on. You're not affecting the chances of anyone else winning (they still have a 1 in 14 million shot for every dollar they spend), and you're pumping up the jackpot at the same time. Worst case scenario is that some trailer park couple who stupidly invested their meager life savings in lottery tickets would have to split the pot with the high roller.

What I always find ironic about the lottery is that some people -- and I admit to being one -- won't play it until the jackpot gets huge. In fact, I'd never play any game with odds that bad, so don't look for me in line waiting for my Quick Picks. But if the prize is $300 million, and you're going to buy a bunch of tickets for everyone in the office, sure, get $5 worth for me.

Why don't we do it when the jackpot is only $10 million? Wouldn't that be enough, even after taxes, to keep us going for awhile? Wouldn't one million? Ah, but then the overlay isn't big enough, making a bad bet even worse.

Which is why I don't plop down $7,000,000 to buy up the other half of the possible combinations. That, and the fact that I'm about $6,999,500 shy right now. How much you got on you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Steven Bochco

Today on my show, television producer/writer Steven Bochco talked about some of the classic shows he's created, including "NYPD Blue," "Hill Street Blues," and "LA Law." He also reminisced about working on "Columbo," working with John Ritter on "Hooperman," and showing Dennis Franz' nude butt on TV -- and discusses his first novel, "Death By Hollywood."

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

Thursday, November 06, 2003

John Lodge of The Moody Blues

John Lodge, who has been the bass player and one of the creative forces behind The Moody Blues for over three decades, was back on my show today to talk about their Christmas CD, "December," the cover art of their classic albums, how digital technology has revolutionized the way they make music, and why flutist Ray Thomas is no longer touring with them.

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

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Average Joe, Average Jane

My wife had a great point last night about "Average Joe," the new reality show on NBC.

The concept of "Joe" is that a great-looking woman is wooed by sixteen average-looking guys, at least half of whom are shlubs, nerds, or both (not that there's anything wrong with that -- most of us would easily qualify). The twist is that the woman, a former KC Chiefs cheerleader, didn't know these were the kind of guys she'd be forced to choose from. When the producers asked her what five qualities she was looking for in a potential mate, she listed "looks" at number five. The first two were "good personality" and "sense of humor."

This is known universally to males of the species as "a lie."

My wife's point was that you could not do "Average Joe" in reverse. You couldn't make it a hot-looking GQ-type guy thrown in with sixteen not-cheerleader-attractive but still very normal women. There would be such an uproar from the women of this country -- about how the ladies on "Average Jane" were made the target of beauty bias, for instance -- that the networks would bow to the pressure groups and never put it on the air.

A listener named Vivian expanded on this point today on my radio show. Look at other primetime shows, she said, to see this double standard in action. On "King of Queens," Kevin James is an overweight delivery man for a UPS-like company. His wife is played by the extremely attractive Leah Remini. In real life, would a guy like that get a woman like that? Sure, Kevin James can get her, because he's a rich and famous TV star. But your average truck driver? Doubtful. Same thing with "According To Jim," where Jim Belushi's wife is played by the lovely Courtney Thorne-Smith.

Now, name for me one show where an overweight, plain woman is married to Studly Studright. There aren't any. Can you even name one successful show where the lead character is an overweight female? The last one was probably Roseanne, who cast her show perfectly, with John Goodman as her husband. As the Conners, they looked a lot more like real American couples than any other sitcom duo I can remember.

This is not to say there's anything at all wrong with average-looking women. Why, if it weren't for them, we average-looking guys would never get any female attention! But it is more proof that "reality TV" rarely reflects actual reality.

The irony is that we -- real, average Americans -- turn these shows into hits by watching.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Pyro Mania

What is it about a building on fire that's so fascinating? A warehouse in Granite City, Illinois, was on fire most of the day and the TV crews were all over it. Fire and smoke make good visuals, especially from "EyeInTheSkyViewChopper" or whatever they call it. In most shots, you could see people gathered around who had nothing to do with the warehouse -- they just wanted to watch as the flames went up and the building went down.

When I was a kid, they built a luxury apartment building up the hill from where we lived. Not long after it opened and tenants moved in, the thing was on fire. That was the day I learned the meaning of the word "engulfed." Within minutes, every kid in the neighborhood was on that hillside watching as firemen (there were no women on the job then) battled the blaze. We sat there for a couple of hours watching the inferno, as it consumed apartment after apartment, floor after floor. Windows popped out, blinds melted before our eyes, and smoke stretched to the sky in every direction. I swear the bricks seemed to glow with the heat. Every once in awhile, someone would say, "wow, I'm glad I don't live there" or "those poor people." But for the most part our reaction was, "This is so cool -- a big fire, right here in our neighborhood." We couldn't take our eyes off it.

Maybe it's instinctive in the human spirit; Prometheus lives inside us, or something like that. Why is a room full of lit candles so much more romantic, a jack-o-lantern so phony with a light bulb, a gas street lamp somehow more heartwarming? If Jeff Probst were here, he'd remind us that fire is life.

Next time you're at someone's house with the fireplace going, see how everyone seems drawn to it. They're mesmerized by the flames, unable to so much as blink, like Ashton Kutcher on that first great date with Demi Moore. You see it at a campfire or bonfire on a beach. People gather around as if they're paying homage to the fire deity. Maybe those Texas A&M fans weren't really cheering for their football team, but for another huge log glowing orange.

In 1980, I lost an apartment to a fire (I realize as I type this that it's going to look like I'm some sort of arson carrier, but this one was an electrical short that started two floors away while I wasn't even there). Being a 22-year-old single guy, I didn't have a lot of stuff, but what I did have was gone. Naturally, I didn't have tenant insurance -- the premiums would have cost more than my stuff -- so I lost everything. At that point, "everything" meant my clothes, a stereo, a bed, a table, and about a dozen milk crates which doubled as a place for my records and my laundry.

Still, at midnight, there I was, standing in the street watching firemen spraying water on the flames shooting out of where my bedroom used to be. I stayed until they left, and then I cried.

Mostly, it was because I didn't have a place to live and had to start over again. But a little part of me probably was sorry that the fire had been extinguished, and the show was over.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Vegas Animals

Just got back from a great weekend in Las Vegas, happy to say that I returned with more money than I brought. Nonetheless, I have to share two stories about events that bothered me.

While there, I went to The Mirage for a poker tournament, and wandered over to the area where they display Siegfried & Roy's white tigers in their "habitat." I'd never seen it before, and wasn't aware that they had done such a good job recreating a tiger's natural habitat -- all concrete with Greek columns and a giant fountain.

One of the beasts was wandering around inside while several hundred people gawked at it through the display window, pointing, taking pictures, etc. The first thing that struck me was how big a white tiger is. I've seen tigers at the zoo and in a circus or two, but those are safe and secure situations, so I never thought too much about their sheer bulk. Looking at this one, it was easy to imagine how much damage it could do once its feline brain was set to "maul" mode, even if the victim was your friendly neighborhood magician superstar.

Most surprising was that The Mirage had no signs or other tribute to Roy in this area. It may have been elsewhere, but if so, I (and most others) missed it. Instead, it seemed to be business as usual, as if the attack had never happened -- gift shops were selling a large inventory of stuffed white tigers, videos of the duo, and t-shirts. There wasn't a "Get Well, Roy" placard in sight. This was in marked contrast to the headlines in the Las Vegas newspapers, which were reporting on the 267 people who have lost their jobs because the Seigfried & Roy show has ceased to exist.

I was bothered by something else at The Mirage -- the attitude of the locals towards us out-of-towners during the poker tournament. This was the first time I've played in the Mirage no-limit hold'em tournament, and it's going to be the last.

I have been in lots of cardrooms over the course of many years and played in several tournaments. I know that the seats around a poker table are filled with all sorts of folks, but these were among the most arrogant, abusive people I've ever been around. It's one thing to look down your nose at other players while beating them and taking their money, but it's another to be openly disdainful and downright rude.

That attitude is going to be unhealthy for poker in the long term, and it's especially inappropriate at a time when the game is more popular than ever. Thanks to television, more and more people are coming to card rooms for the first time -- but if their first exposure to casino poker play includes being abused and insulted, they're unlikely to return. It's one thing to lose your money, it's another thing to be told you're a jerk at the same time.

The poker veterans with the lousy attitude forget that bringing new people and new money into the room is a good thing, and it should be encouraged. Personally, I love it when a "Travel Channel rookie" (as they're known, because that network's "World Poker Tour" series has increased interest in the game enormously) sits down and starts playing. They may get lucky here and there, but in the long run, the other, better players will wind up with that player's money -- it's the poker equivalent of a casino's house advantage. Scaring them off means chasing money out of the room, which is a pretty bad way to conduct business for these poker pros.

They could take a lesson from the Siegfried & Roy incident -- a bad mauling can end the show for everyone.

Friday, October 03, 2003

See Death Live!

There are two cheap life-and-death publicity stunts planned for this weekend, and they're both causing a ruckus. I know that by mentioning the parties involved, I'm just giving them more free publicity, but there's a point to be made.

One involves a Florida band, Hell On Earth, which claims a terminally ill man will commit suicide during their show on Saturday night, to bring attention to the right-to-die movement. The authorities are freaking out over this possibility, and got a judge to order a temporary injunction banning the group from doing their show within St. Petersburg city limits. The owner of the theater where they were originally booked has said they can't perform there, as has another venue they tried to book. The band says they have a new location and a select audience picked out, and the show will go on. The leader of the band says it won't be physician-assisted suicide, since there won't be a physician present. The patient will do it himself, because he wants to make sure the band doesn't go to prison.

I support physician-assisted suicide, and detest what happened to Jack Kevorkian, because we all have a right to die with dignity. Too many people endure horrendous pain in the last days, weeks, months of their lives, and none of us has the right to tell them when they may throw in the towel on that suffering.

That said, this stunt is a horrible idea. Real live death is not entertainment, and should never be cloaked as such. Spokespeople for the right-to-die movement agree, and while they agree with the band's position on the larger issue, they have rightly condemned this event.

The other stunt involves British magician Derren Brown, who plans to play Russian Roulette live on TV. With a gun pointed at his own head, he'll pull the trigger on a .348 Smith & Wesson until he "psychologically senses" that the next chamber is the one with the bullet in it. Then he'll point it harmlessly away from his body and fire the bullet.

Again, the authorities are freaking out, demanding that, if they can't stop the show, that it at least be run on a delay so no viewers will see him blow his head off on live television. Here's the part they're missing: IT'S A TRICK!

Brown is an illusionist. I've never heard of him, and have no idea what his reputation inside the magic industry is, but he has certainly come up with a much more clever way to get attention than by suspending himself over a river in a Plexiglas box.

But, again, this is a trick. You remember magic tricks, don't you? The cups and balls, the lady sawed in half, the self-restoring rope. They're about misdirection, science, and deception. David Copperfield didn't really walk through the Great Wall of China. Lance Burton doesn't really make fighter jets disappear. Saddam Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction. It's all a trick!

I've seen Penn & Teller perform the double bullet catch to close their stage show several times, and I've never failed to be stunned. With help from audience volunteers, and with neither Penn nor Teller ever leaving his side of the stage, they fire .357 Magnums through panes of glass and at each other's mouths, where they "catch" them. It's the most stunning illusion I've ever seen in person, and they perform it brilliantly. I have absolutely no idea how they do it (and I don't want to!), but I do know it's a trick.

So what's the difference between what Derren Brown or Penn & Teller do and what Hell On Earth says it will do? It's the difference between artifice and reality. In the former, they're playing with your imagination. In the latter, they're putting on the stage version of a snuff film.

I can see the mortifying pun in the headline now: "In Concert, This Band Kills!"

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Hayseed Dixie

Hayseed Dixie, the boys from Deer Lick Holler who turn rock classics into bluegrass classics, were back in the studio today to chat and perform AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" and Kiss's "Detroit Rock City."

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

Previously on Harris Online...

Arnold Sexharasser

It was disturbing to read today's LA Times story about the several women who say that Arnold Schwarzenegger groped and harassed them. Not because I put him on a pedestal -- believe me, that's far from the case -- and not because the story gets graphic (it doesn't), but because Arnold didn't think he was doing anything wrong at the time.

Worse, these women couldn't make a fuss about it because the culture of rich and famous movie stars means that their actions get laughed off, while the victims have to keep quiet or suffer the consequences. If the guy trying to fondle them had been an assistant cameraman or a caterer, it would have been different -- but Arnold was a Major Marquee Attraction. So none of them filed a police report, none of them filed a lawsuit, none of them went running to the press.

That makes their claims even more believable to me. For while you could brush off a single accusation as sour grapes or any number of reasons, when there are a half-dozen women who point to ugly incidents over the course of quarter-century (the most recent in 2000), you're looking at a blatant pattern of misbehavior.

Today, Arnold acknowledged the story, no doubt wishing he could use some special effect to travel back in time to tell himself -- repeatedly -- not to act like a jerk. In confessing, he tried to simultaneously spin the story and apologize for it: "Yes, I have behaved badly sometimes. Yes, it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets and I have done things that were not right which I thought then was playful, but now I recognize that I have offended people. And those people that I have offended, I want to say to them, I am deeply sorry about that and I apologize, because this is not what I'm trying to do."

Yes, he's deeply sorry -- sorry that this story came out now, when he was on the cusp of winning the gubernatorial recall election next Tuesday. But he wasn't sorry enough two years ago, when these allegations first appeared in an issue of Premiere magazine. There was no public apology or acknowledgment then. Of course, at the time, he wasn't a candidate, just a movie star. And there's your double standard right there. In 2001, he didn't have to cry mea culpa, but now he does.

A woman said to me today, "How could his wife put up with this? After all, she's from a rather refined background." Wrong! Maria Shriver is from the Kennedy family, for whom power, sex, money, and women have always been an aphrodisiac. No wonder Arnold fit in so well.

It's one thing for a young, single man to engage in a large amount of sexual activity or even a gangbang, as Arnold claimed he did in the infamous 1977 Oui interview. Some have attacked him for those admissions, claiming they proved his negative attitudes toward women. To the contrary, if it was consensual, he did nothing more than a lot of other guys have done -- even if it was in larger numbers -- with women who were willing participants.

However, these accusations are not about consensual activity. They're about groping, taunting, and using his powerful position to make women uncomfortable, all for his personal enjoyment.

The LA Times says no politician provided them with any of this information, nor did any of the women seek the paper out to tell their tale. Naturally, Arnold's supporters don't buy that for a second. They immediately insisted that the release of these claims at this time was nothing more than "dirty politics."

Wouldn't it have been refreshing if they spent even one minute expressing some sympathy for the women who were the alleged victims? I didn't hear a single Arnold-ite stand up and say, "If these allegations are true, Schwarzenegger has a history of demeaning and sexually harassing women. Those are not the attributes we want in a leader, or in a movie star!"

Think of how you would react if some man groped your wife, or daughter, or sister, but she had to keep her mouth shut or say "hasta la vista" to her own career. You'd want that guy terminated.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Halftime For Hitler

"Now, please stand for the presentation of the Nazi flag." The PA announcer at the Paris (Texas) High School game didn't make that announcement, but he might as well have.

At halftime of last Friday's high school football game, the marching band took the field for their show, "Visions of World War II." Never mind that most of these kids are barely old enough to have visions of the first Gulf War, or that the triumph of the Allies over the Axis had very little to do with marching in formation while playing the glockenspiel. The band played music from several of the nations that fought in WWII, and one of the kids ran around with the corresponding national flag during each song: the US flag, the French flag, the British flag, the Japanese flag, and the Nazi flag.

The Nazi flag? The swastika? Yep! To make matters worse, this particular Friday night fun took place on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year!

I don't want to say they were booed, but I think you'd find a more receptive crowd if the Dixie Chicks showed up at a benefit for the American Legion and sang a medley of Barbra Streisand songs.

Charles Grissom, the newest member of our People Who Just Don't Get It club, is the adult (?) director of the marching band who came up with the concept. He defended the idea of his show, but apologized to the community and admitted, "We had an error in judgement." Ya think?

What's planned for the next halftime show, Chuck? How about "Visions of 2001," complete with a picture of the World Trade Center going down and a kid running around with Osama bin Laden's picture on a flag? Maybe from here on out, the kids should stick to "76 Trombones," "Louie Louie," and "Rock and Roll Part 2."

Don McLean's lyric keeps running through my head: "The players tried to take the field, but the marching band refused to yield." No wonder. They were plotting their takeover of Poland.

Halftime For Hitler

"Now, please stand for the presentation of the Nazi flag." The PA announcer at the Paris (Texas) High School game didn't make that announcement, but he might as well have.

At halftime of last Friday's high school football game, the marching band took the field for their show, "Visions of World War II." Never mind that most of these kids are barely old enough to have visions of the first Gulf War, or that the triumph of the Allies over the Axis had very little to do with marching in formation while playing the glockenspiel. The band played music from several of the nations that fought in WWII, and one of the kids ran around with the corresponding national flag during each song: the US flag, the French flag, the British flag, the Japanese flag, and the Nazi flag.

The Nazi flag? The swastika? Yep! To make matters worse, this particular Friday night fun took place on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year!

I don't want to say they were booed, but I think you'd find a more receptive crowd if the Dixie Chicks showed up at a benefit for the American Legion and sang a medley of Barbra Streisand songs.

Charles Grissom, the newest member of our People Who Just Don't Get It club, is the adult (?) director of the marching band who came up with the concept. He defended the idea of his show, but apologized to the community and admitted, "We had an error in judgement." Ya think?

What's planned for the next halftime show, Chuck? How about "Visions of 2001," complete with a picture of the World Trade Center going down and a kid running around with Osama bin Laden's picture on a flag? Maybe from here on out, the kids should stick to "76 Trombones," "Louie Louie," and "Rock and Roll Part 2."

Don McLean's lyric keeps running through my head: "The players tried to take the field, but the marching band refused to yield." No wonder. They were plotting their takeover of Poland.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Medical Dilemma

When I answer the phones during my show, I'm never 100% positive what will happen. I have a producer who screens the callers to make sure they want to comment on the topic I'm discussing, but the only info I want her to give me is the caller's name and a couple of other basic pieces of information. Apart from that, we fly without a net, and it almost always works smoothly.

There have been occasions, however, when the content of the call is so compelling that it has knocked me back in my seat. These are always the most personal stories, and often the most heartbreaking.

I had one of those today.

It started with a moral dilemma based on a story I'd seen in the New York Times about a man in Toronto who needs a kidney transplant. If he waits on the regular list, it could take a long time. But if a family member is a healthy match and willing donor, they can donate directly to him. So, his adult children get tested and, in the process, the doctors discover that one of his daughters is a perfect match to be a donor -- but a genetics test shows that she's not biologically his daughter. The dilemma: should they reveal this family secret? If so, do they tell her? Do they tell him? Do they do the transplant first? Think about the privacy laws, the impact on the family, etc.

I come down on the side of telling her, because if it's me, I'd want to know. Besides, even if he's not genetically linked to her, he's still her father. Anyone can make a baby, but it takes a helluva lot more to be a daddy.

Listeners called with every opinion you can imagine. Tell them, don't tell them, tell her but not him, tell him but not her, tell the mother and let her deal with it.

In the midst of this discussion, there was a call from a woman who said she could relate to the story because she had gone through something very similar. Her daughter had became extremely ill at age 24 and needed a bone marrow transplant. What the mother knew, but the daughter didn't, was that the woman's husband had not fathered this child. The baby had been conceived during an affair with another man, who she never told about this offspring because he was married and had five kids of his own. They hadn't spoken or had any contact in all those years. The mother had never uttered a word of this secret to her daughter, either. What to do?

For this mother, there was only one possibility when her daughter got sick. She went to the biological father (in person), told him the truth, and asked him to be tested as a possible bone marrow donor. She also asked that his children be tested. Remarkably, they all did. In the face of this amazing revelation out of the past, everyone stepped up to the plate for the 24-year-old, putting aside their own life puzzles to try to solve hers.

Fortunately, it turned out that one of the kids was a match, and doctors performed the transplant. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to save the daughter.

What would you have done?

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Rated "B" For Beer

On my show today, I was talking about raising the tax on beer and other alcohol in order to discourage underage drinking. It's an idea suggested in a recent report by the Institute Of Medicine and the National Research Council (done with your taxpayer dollars, by the way, as it was commissioned by Congress).

As one who is of age but chooses not to drink, this proposal wouldn't affect me, but it does anger me. I hate sin taxes like this -- booze, cigarettes, etc. -- designed to change behavior by making people cough up more dough to the government.

If higher prices were an effective deterrent, no one would be driving an SUV today. They'd all be cruising around town in a Geo Metro. Remember, this is a nation that doesn't bat an eye at paying four bucks for a cup of coffee if it says Starbucks on it. If making beer more expensive would cut down on its consumption, you'd have to close every concession stand at every stadium and arena in the US, where a brew costs about $6 a cup.

There's a lot to say about this ridiculous concept, but here's a point I didn't get to on the air. In the report, one of the recommendations reads, "The Motion Picture Association of America...should consider content about alcohol use when rating films, and assign mature ratings for movies that portray drinking in a favorable light." In other words, if people enjoy alcohol on screen, the movie should be rated R.

Forget, for a moment, about how this would apply to current and recent movies. Let's consider one cinematic classic by the name of "Casablanca." Most of the movie takes place in Rick's Cafe Americain, where people are drinking and having a good time. Sure, Bogart cries in his whiskey when Ingrid Bergman reappears, but that's a broken heart, not an irritated liver. And when Bogie and Bergman are falling in love in the Paris flashbacks, they're draining bottle after bottle of champagne with smiles on their faces. You'd have to say that portrays drinking in a favorable light.

But what idiot would suggest that "Casablanca" be rated R, restricting anyone under 17 from enjoying it? Or would there be an exception for classics? I'd never argue that "Old School" fits that category, but let's not start this snowball down the hill.

Once you start rating for drinking, you have to do it for smoking. Next, you're rating for eating unhealthy meals and snacks. Then, for not enough exercise. Soon, we're adding a sin tax to movies that might be hazardous to your health.

Is this any way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of "Animal House"?

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Nine Eleven Plus Two

Remembering the past while getting on with our lives. That's what today was about.

This morning, my daughter saw me smiling at her and said, "Daddy, you shouldn't be smiling today! This is September 11th!" I had to remind her that, while it was the anniversary of a horrible event we should never forget, we can't let ourselves be so maudlin that we can't enjoy the tremendous number of good things we still have. For instance, those frozen cinnamon toast waffles she enjoys for breakfast, hot from the toaster oven! I'm proud that, at nine years old, she understands the significance of this date (and hopefully always will), but she shouldn't let it overwhelm all the positive aspects of our daily American life.

There are adults who take today far more seriously than need be. The major airlines canceled over 3,000 flights today because so many people refused to fly on September 11th. Whatever their reason, their fear is misguided. If there's one thing we can predict about Al Qaeda, it's their unpredictability. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, the 9/11/01 attacks, and other dastardly deeds were not done on dates with any significance. They may be thugs, but give them credit for understanding that you don't confront an enemy when it is most prepared, you attack when their guard is down. They're smart enough to know not to come after us on a major holiday or anniversary, or at a huge event like the Super Bowl. I remember being at work on the day of 9/11/01 when someone asked, "Is today an important date in history?" We checked every source we could and discovered the day was nothing more than a Tuesday. The only irony was that the date matched our national emergency number, 911.

On the website of the magazine Reason, Matt Welch has a good piece today, entitled "The Day Nothing Changed." He points out how, two years after the attacks, America isn't really very different than it was in August, 2001. He's right. Parents still take their kids to soccer games, we entertain ourselves with movies, TV, radio, and the internet, roads remain clogged at rush hour, business (for the most part) continues to be conducted. We know in the back of our minds we may be hit again at some point, but we don't worry about it so much that we can't live our lives the way we always have. Most importantly, we know that the vital concept at the heart of America -- freedom -- shows very few signs of any dents or dings, even with the dreaded Patriot Act.

I wonder if any members of Al Qaeda have considered this notion in the last two years. I'd like to think at least one of them has said to himself, "We hit America as hard as we could, and they're still there, still free, still drinking beer, still telling jokes, still cutting their lawns, still eating cheeseburgers, still going about their personal matters. Meanwhile, we sit in this stinking cave waiting for Osama to finish his dialysis treatment and help us roast a goat. I'd never say this out loud, for fear of being tortured, killed, and then tortured some more, but maybe the Land Of The Great Satan has the right idea! Excuse me, Allah, but you can keep your 72 virgins on ice for awhile. I want the American Dream, complete with 3,000 minutes of free night and weekend calling with no roaming charges!"

One last item, semi-related to this day and its connection to terrorism. Our stab-you-in-the-back "Partners In Peace," the Saudis, have declared that Barbie dolls must be banned in their kingdom. The order came from their religious police, officially known as The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which sounds like its members include Jerry Falwell and Dr. Zaius from the original "Planet Of The Apes."

Their reasons are twofold. The first is that Barbie is a threat to morality. The second reason is seemingly the worst offense possible in that part of the world -- they claim Barbie is Jewish.

Barbie a Jewess? HA! Let me tell you something, my peace partners, by paraphrasing Lloyd Bentsen. I know many Jewish women. My wife is a Jewish woman. And Barbie is no Jewish woman!!

If there's any doll in the world that screams "Gentile!" it would be Barbie. She's the least Jewish woman since Blythe Danner played Jonathan Silverman's mother in "Brighton Beach Memoirs." Next they'll ban GI Joe because he's one of the Fab Five on "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy."

Friday, September 05, 2003

Jessica Lynch, Million Dollar Baby

Jessica Lynch gets a million dollar book deal for her story. She couldn't make the deal while she was still in the Army, so they gave her a medical discharge a few days ago, and her book contract was announced the next day. Is this the same story she couldn't remember after it happened? Come to think of it, I don't remember anything about the ambush and rescue, either -- can I have my million now?

Meanwhile, Randy Kiehl, father of another member of the 507th Maintenance Company, Army Specialist James Kiehl, calls Jessica a "profiteer" who "makes money off the death of my son and off the deaths of so many others."

I disagree. Her story was going to be told whether she told it or not. In fact, NBC is going ahead with an unauthorized TV movie about her. She has every right to tell her story -- whatever it is -- and if she can get that huge advance, that's between her and the publisher. She's far from the first soldier to try to turn a war story into a bestseller.

But the oft-repeated notion that Jessica Lynch is a "hero" sickens me. We overuse that word far too much, just as we do "genius." Tupac Shakur wasn't a genius, and Jessica Lynch wasn't a hero. Worse, most of the oh-so-dramatic original "facts" of the Lynch story that were so overhyped in the media turned out to have never happened -- to her at least.

The real hero of the An Nasiriyah ambush was an Army sergeant named Donald Walters. But, unless you're a regular listener of my show, you haven't heard his name pumped up in the media because he's not a cute, All-American southern girl who got caught up in the hell that is war. No, Donald Walters was just a brave American man who really did empty his gun at the enemy to defend his combat colleagues during the ambush, and ended up getting left behind in the desert to die.

Maybe we're still too queasy about women in combat. If so, we need to get over it.

I've also never understood why we give extra honors to soldiers who are injured in combat. The Purple Heart is considered something special. There's a POW medal, too. Should they be considered more valuable than the normal commendation medals, the ones given to members of the military who come home safe and in one piece. Is there a ribbon that says, "Congratulations, you went to war and didn't get hurt"?

They even gave Jessica Lynch a Bronze Star! That's supposed to be awarded for acts of heroism or to a soldier who "distinguished himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service." What did Lynch do to deserve that?

Don't get me wrong here. I'm not denigrating anyone who wears the uniform and serves well where and when they're told to serve. I don't want to do it, and I'm awfully glad we have tens of thousands of Americans who do. I thank all of them for their service. However, we need to cut back on the hero worship when it's misplaced -- as it is in the Jessica Lynch case, to the tune of a million bucks.

Think they'll work that argument into the book or movie? You'll have to let me know, since I won't read it or see it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Innocence Wins Another One

Congratulations to Barry Scheck, Vanessa Potkin, and the staff of The Innocence Project for getting Lonnie Erby out of prison after serving 17 years for rapes he didn't commit. They used DNA evidence to prove his innocence, despite ongoing opposition to that science by St. Louis District Attorney Jennifer Joyce. Her office stubbornly resisted and dragged their feet in this matter, as they did with Larry Johnson, who the Project got released last summer. Shame on her.

Vanessa told me today that she got a call this morning from the UAW, which is going to try to get Lonnie his old job back at the Chrysler plant. This is the toughest part of his new freedom -- at 49 years old, he has no job, no money, no clothing. And the state gives him nothing except an apology.

Don't we as a society owe something to men and women we've imprisoned wrongly? This guy had a third of his life taken away. Think of losing your freedom for that long. Add to it the trauma of prison life and everything that goes along with it. How much would you be owed?

You can't give him back that time, you can't give him another chance to see his son grow up, but certainly we should make an effort to get him on his feet again. Train him to understand the technologies that have cropped up while he was locked up, so that he can re-enter the workforce if he must.

Vanessa said that some states, like California, give freed innocents like Erby a check that amounts to $50,000 for each year they were wrongly imprisoned. That's a start, but I don't know if it's enough.

We provide a societal safety net for businesses, we do it for families with sick kids, we do it for all sorts of people in need. The sad thing is that more people cared about Quentin, The Dog That Cheated Death, than will about Lonnie Erby.

And let's not forget the rape victims, all of whom thought they had closure because the thug who'd attacked them had been sent away. But since the thug wasn't Lonnie, that means the real rapist was never punished for those crimes and may still be walking around somewhere.

In the meantime, Lonnie is back with his family, trying to reconnect to a life and a world he hasn't known since his son was 10 years old. We should all wish him luck -- and hope the Innocence Project (which, as of today, has exonerated 136 wrongfully convicted people) runs out of clients very soon.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Face-It, Fox, and Failure

It's a toss-up for Loser Of The Week: Fox News Channel or the makers of Face-It.

Rupert Murdoch's network had a bad day in court on Friday. They were suing Al Franken over using the phrase "Fair & Balanced" in the title of his new book. They claim it's their trademark and he's violating it. On Friday, a judge looked at the lawsuit and said, "There are hard cases and there are easy cases. This is an easy case. This case is wholly without merit both factually and legally." To make matters worse, the ploy really backfired because all the publicity helped Franken's book leap to the top of the bestsellers list. On the other hand...wait, there is no other hand. Game over, you lose.

Joining Fox in the land of the futile is Visionics, the company that makes the Face-It facial-recognition software that was hooked up to 36 cameras installed in the Ybor City entertainment district of Tampa, Florida. The idea was that the technology would pick out faces from the crowd and run them through a criminal database to search for matches. The program was ill-advised from the get-go, what with its Orwellian overtones, checking people at random to see if they were crooks. What a nice assumption to make about your fellow Americans!

To say that the system didn't work would be an understatement. Take the example of Rob Milliron, who had lunch one day not knowing that the police had snapped his photo with one of the Face-It cameras to demonstrate it for the media. A woman in Tulsa, Oklahoma, saw his picture and called the cops to report that he was her ex-husband and was wanted on felony child neglect charges. The software confirmed it. But when three cops showed up at Rob's construction job site to interrogate him, it turned out the woman and the computer were wrong. He'd never been married, had no kids, and had never set foot in Oklahoma. Whoops!

Still, Tampa kept the Face-It cameras rolling for two years, until last week, when they announced they were ending the program. Why? Because in those 24 months, it led to exactly zero arrests. That's zero as in zip, zilch, zippo, nada, squat, the big goose egg. Not a single criminal was ensnared by this high-tech boondoggle.

Now Face-It must face the ugly fact that their big deal crime-fighting concept caught the same number of bad guys as my nine-year-old daughter did! And her efforts were hampered by an earlier bed time.

That didn't bother Tampa police spinmeister Joe Durkin, who said, "I wouldn't consider it a failure." You're right, Joe. It's really only a failure if you consider its complete lack of success as measured by any objective standard. Or are you just trying to be fair and balanced?

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Amendments vs. Commandments

Here's the question I haven't heard anyone else ask in the controversy of the Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama state courthouse: what harm is done by removing it?

Is there nowhere else you can find the Ten Commandments? It's not like we're talking about filling in the Grand Canyon, chipping away at Mount Rushmore, or chopping down The Arch. Between the houses of worship, libraries, and the internet, you only have about a million options.

My favorite part of the story was the people who traveled from all over the country to take part in the rallies supporting Justice Roy Moore's stubborn stand. One of them said, without a hint of irony, "The federal government has no right to tell Alabama what to do. This is a matter for the people of Alabama, and only the people of Alabama, to decide. That's why I came here from Michigan!"

What would the reaction of these self-declared warriors for religious rights have been if, instead of trying to express his beliefs with the Ten Commandments, Justice Moore has instead posted a granite monument with quotes from the Koran and the phrase, "Allah is God"? They'd have been inside with picks and sticks, taking it down in about two seconds. So much for their First Amendment argument.

On the other hand, those who say there is no place in a courthouse for religion have never spent anytime inside one. True, it's usually in a less formal presentation, something along the lines of "oh, please, God, give me one more chance and tell this jury that it's perfectly normal to drive my taxi the wrong way down the highway while wearing no clothes but covered in maple syrup, ping pong balls, and paper clips." More people find religion in court and jail than anywhere else in America -- with the possible exception of a high school classroom when a student realizes she forgot to study for the big history exam that's just been plopped on her desk. Or an NBA star being awakened in a hotel room by a call from the Eagle County sheriff's office.

Moore knew he was doing something wrong from the start. That's why he snuck the monument into the courthouse in the middle of the night. If he thought it was completely legit, he would've conducted the operation during the light of day for all to see. No, he was more like a kid who stayed out way past curfew and tried to squeeze back into the house without Mom and Dad knowing that he smelled like a carton of Marlboros and a case of Budweiser.

Now that Moore has been suspended, you can expect him to leave his post and immediately announce that he's running for higher elective office -- possibly Senator, probably Governor. And he'll win, too, because this is Alabama, the same state that was proud to serve as a launching pad for George Wallace 40 years ago when he stood in the university doorway to block two black kids from enrolling -- just long enough to achieve national prominence and eventually run for President. Unfortunately for Wallace, the electoral college wasn't located in Birmingham. Somewhere, right now, Lynyrd Skynyrd is working Moore's name into a new version of "Sweet Home Alabama."

One last thought. The Fifth Commandment, as listed on Roy's Rock, is "Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy." Keep that in mind this fall as you see all those NFL players praising God and declaring their deeply-held religious beliefs. While they work on Sundays.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Plugged In, Turned Off

Al-Qaida has allegedly taken responsibility for The Blackout. They claim, "The Americans lived a black day they will never forget. They lived a day of terror and fear...a state of chaos and confusion where looting and pillaging rampaged the cities.... The strikes were aimed at hitting the major pillar of the US economy, the Stock Exchange."

Very nice language. Also very wrong. The Stock Exchange wasn't affected because trading had finished for the day when the power went off at 4:11pm ET on Thursday. When it re-opened on Friday morning, the electricity was flowing again and everything operated normally.

As for the "looting and pillaging," that didn't happen, either. Even in Detroit, where they'll riot to celebrate the fact that it's Tuesday, there were no reports of anything out of the ordinary. Frankly, the only Americans who "lived a day of terror and fear" are kids who had to start school and, on the first day, had a teacher hit them with a pop quiz to start the new year!

While we're still not 100% sure what caused the lights to go out, I'm fairly sure that whoever wrote this al-Qaida communiqué got that wrong impression from our television networks. They all went into immediate media coverage overkill, playing up The Blackout as a huge disaster that was bringing America to its knees.

If you didn't know better -- and 80% of the nation did know better, because we still had power! -- you would have thought we were under attack and half of us were stuck in a subway or elevator. Far from it. In fact, here in the Middle Of America, the attitude was, "Okay, it's not terrorism. Now, what's for dinner?"

Even after announcing that it wasn't a 9/11 repeat, the news networks kept pounding the story to death, entirely because they're headquartered in New York. So, if it was happening to them, it must be important to all of us. Not so!!

If the blackout had affected all those other cities (Cleveland, Akron, Pittsburgh, Detroit, etc.) but not Manhattan, would there have been wall-to-wall coverage? Doubtful. Instead of the northeast, what if the lights had gone out in St. Louis, Kansas City, Des Moines, Omaha, Tulsa, New Orleans, and Memphis? We'd be lucky to have Dan Rather give it a quick mention, with some amusing aphorism attached.

As a matter of fact, Memphis did go without power for several days earlier this month. Bet you never even heard about that, because it didn't get any play outside the region. On the other hand, there's no reason you should have, because it didn't affect you any more than Times Square going dark affected us.

We were able to maintain this perspective not just because we don't care that Diane Sawyer had to walk a few blocks to work and dry her hair with a towel instead of a ConAir 3000, but also because we know what it's like to go without power for awhile. It's not unusual for thunderstorms to knock out electrical service to tens of thousands of homes here every spring and summer, with occasional ice and snow storms in the winter wreaking havoc with the power lines. Somehow, the world goes on -- without 72 hours of continuous coverage.

As for al-Qaida's claims, they're obviously bogus. Later on in the communiqué, they claim responsibility for several other recent events: the California recall circus, the Phoenix gas shortage, and Albert Pujols going on the DL in the middle of a consecutive-games hitting streak. Notice they don't take credit for "Gigli" -- there is a limit to their horror, after all.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Fans and Fanatics

There's a version of "American Idol" in Lebanon called "Superstar." Same concept, with one singer eliminated in each show, until the final superstar is chosen. The difference is the intense reaction of the viewers, particularly the fans of one Melhem Zein.

In the US version, when a singer doesn't get enough votes, the fans get a little upset. Clay Aiken's fans were so sure that their guy had been robbed when Ruben Studdard won, that they wrote letters to the FCC demanding a recount and an investigation. This made no sense, since the FCC couldn't care less who is or isn't named "American Idol." It made even less sense that thousands of North Carolinians went to an arena to watch the final episode on a big screen -- when the same show was being broadcast into their nice comfortable homes for free. These people had no connection to Clay Aiken other than coincidental geography, yet they were going nuts for a guy they knew only from a TV show.

We're used to a fanatical "American Idol" audience carrying signs with slogans like, "We love you, Ruben!" or "You rock, Clay!" or "I don't care who wins, I just want to be on TV!!" It's a little different in the Arab world, where "fanatical" takes on a whole new meaning.

When Zein lost in the "Superstar" semi-final, 150 of his fans were so enraged that they gathered outside the television studio and chanted, "With our blood and souls, we sacrifice for you Melhem!!"

Ahem. Right there are three words you do not want to hear chanted in Beirut: blood, souls, and sacrifice. Individually, they don't fill the air with a joyous feeling. Together, they send a shiver down your spine that makes you feel seconds away from death. That happened to be the reaction of the two women who were left as the finalists -- they fainted and had to be taken to the hospital.

If that's me, if I'm a finalist, and the supporters of the guy who just lost are shouting epithets involving blood, souls, and sacrifice, well, I'm outta there. That's it, thank you very much, I'll be fine without the prize, can you give me a lift to the airport, I won't have a forwarding address, forget you knew me, so long!

All for a TV show and a pop singer. A singer who none of these people were related to. A singer whose career, if he's very lucky, will last about as long as Justin Guarini's did. Then it'll be back to his old job as head busboy at the Hummus Hut.

Disclaimer: if you're an overzealous fan of Melhem Zein and happen to find this column online, please refer all correspondence (e.g. hate mail and death threats) to Ms. Paula Abdul, c/o "American Idol." My family thanks you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

A Bad Case of Ted Head

Bring me the head of Ted Williams. No, it's not connected to his body anymore.

Sports Illustrated says that the Splendid Splinter was decapitated by surgeons at Alcor Life Extension Foundation, the cryonics lab where Williams was frozen by his wacky family. Then the head was placed in a steel can while his body is suspended in a separate upright cylindrical tube.

I've always been a prove-it kind of guy, so I won't believe cryonics works until at least one popsicle person is defrosted and returned to life. Until then, this is just nonsense and a waste of money. The procedure costs about $136,000, not to mention the ongoing maintenance expenses, which are not insubstantial. Personally, I'd rather my family find something better to do with that money than to keep me on ice for a couple of centuries.

But if -- and that's a big if -- it can be done, what's the use of coming back to the land of the living if your head isn't attached to your body anymore? I don't know about you, but I use my head several times a day. It's a particularly good place to keep my brain. What assurance is there that, after I reach room temperature, they'd put my own head back on my body? How do I know it won't be Marty Feldman jamming Abby Normal's skull on my torso? Come to think of it, how do I know they wouldn't connect Marty Feldman's formerly frosty noggin to my collarbone?

SI says that Ted's heirs still owe Alcor about $110,000, which is a big enough bill to make me wonder how diligent the lab would be about things like the liquid nitrogen level, or letting the thermostat dip down a few degrees every once in awhile to put some pressure on the next of kin. The magazine reports that something has gone wrong a few times, causing the Ted Head to develop about 10 cracks (making it a Crack Head?).

Then there's the question of the missing DNA. Eight samples of Ted's genetic goo are missing. No doubt somewhere there's an evil genius trying to grow those samples into the all-time clone baseball team -- where the DH stands for Defrosted Hitter. Put them on the field behind Danny Almonte and sign 'em up for the Birdseye Little League World Series.

One more point to ponder. If the Williams kids were so keen on this technology that they had their father turned into Mr. Freeze, how come none of them has signed up to be frozen when they die?

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Terminator 4: Election Day

I was wrong. I was sure that Arnold Schwarzenegger would not run for governor of California. Tonight, to the delight of comedians and the political press, he announced that he is running.

By morning, there will be an instant poll showing support for Arnold, based entirely on name recognition, to be fairly high. No one yet knows what he stands for, other than his promise to go to Sacramento and "clean house." What's he going to do, pull a "Terminator" and show up naked in the capitol building while "Bad To The Bone" plays and he takes a leather outfit off of Gray Davis?

Until now, the number one issue that Schwarzenegger has stood for has been "my movie opens this Friday." He's always been a very effective self-promoter. On a few occasions, that promotional road has crossed my path.

Our last run-in was nearly a decade ago when he appeared on my show to promote "Junior," a movie in which he co-starred with Danny DeVito, with whom he had worked well in "Twins." The high concept behind "Junior" was that Arnold played a scientist who agreed to be the first man to carry a fetus in his belly. Ha ha. See Arnold become a softie as the baby grows inside him. Ha ha. It was lame.

Whenever Arnold is in movie hype mode, he has a one-track mind. You can't budge him off message, no matter how hard you try (sounds like a prerequisite for going into politics!). But I was always determined to see if I could squeeze an answer out of him that he hadn't given in a hundred other interviews. In this case, as we were discussing the movie, and he was feeding me the standard "dis is a funny movie" kind of lines, I asked Arnold a hypothetical question: "If biology was reversed and you could actually have a baby in real life, which woman would you want to impregnate you?"

Suffice it to say that Arnold isn't the greatest ad-libber in the world. Thinking on his feet is not his specialty. You could hear the steam coming out of his ears as his muscle-head attempted to analyze the question and form a coherent answer.

He sputtered, "I is....puh...da man would....hmmmfffft...." for about 15 seconds before he couldn't contain his frustration any longer and shouted angrily, "That's not what the movie is about!!!"

That was the last time I was asked to be part of an Arnold Schwarzenegger press tour. I had made the heinous error of going outside the lines -- a violation of movie star interview etiquette. But if Arnold thought my simple hypothetical was a tough one, wait till he sees the questions he'll get from the political press covering his run for governor. It won't all be "ET" and "Access Hollywood" lobbing him softballs.

This could be fun. Keep an eye out for the steam.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Adrian Cronauer

Adrian Cronauer, the man who the movie "Good Morning, Vietnam" was based on, talked with me today about the touring version of The Wall (Vietnam Veterans Memorial), why veterans of that war are so reticient to talk about their experiences, how vets are treated better by the public now but worse by politicians, and what it was like to see a Bob Hope USO show while in the service.

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Under Siege At The Pentagon

The whole betting-on-terrorism idea at the Pentagon -- creating a futures market to predict terrorist attacks, assassinations, and similar grotesque events -- was such a horrible and horrifying concept that, as soon as word leaked out and public outrage leaked in, the operation was shut down.

But that's not enough. Heads should roll. If this had been unveiled in the private sector, we'd hear condemnations, accusations, and repercussions from coast to coast. Or suppose some teen had done it as a joke on his website -- he'd be kicked out of school and ordered into counseling. So why isn't someone at the Pentagon's agency, DARPA, being flushed down the career toilet in public?

These are the same people who came up with Total Information Awareness, a program that would have combed government and commercial databases to develop computer files on each and every American. When that one became public knowledge, the howls of "what part of privacy don't you understand?" helped to get it canceled.

The guy at the top of this bizarre, little-known agency is former Admiral John Poindexter, a man with a murky legal past, to say the least. He and his cronies were defended yesterday by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz who said (I'm paraphrasing here), "These are imaginative people who we ask to come up with creative new plans. Sometimes they get a little too imaginative."

It reminded me of the movie "Under Siege," where Tommy Lee Jones' character takes control of the USS Missouri and tries to off-load its nuclear missiles. It turns out he was an independent contractor for the CIA, doing deep covert missions. The man who used to be his boss -- and once tried to have him killed -- is asked how such a man could be allowed to operate so dangerously with virtually no supervision. The CIA man says (I'm paraphrasing again), "Sometimes these creative, independent thinkers get a little too creative and independent."

Maybe we need to send Steven Seagal in to deal with these imaginative folks at DARPA. Certainly, someone there needs to be held accountable for the waste of time, money, and effort that is going into these insanely idiotic ideas.

Update: the day after this column appeared, John Poindexter resigned as head of DARPA.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Uday & Qusay's Photo Finish

I have no problem with the Pentagon releasing the grisly pictures of the dead Hussein Boys (am I the only one who, upon first hearing the names Uday and Qusay, thought Saddam must have named them after consulting "The Big Book of Pig Latin Baby Names" -- and that Uday would be pig latin for "dude"?).

Whether the photos will actually prove anything to Iraqi non-believers is another question. There are always people who refuse to accept the truth, regardless of the evidence. I'm not talking about being skeptical of what comes out of politician's mouths, which is healthy and should be encouraged. I'm talking about hard-line denial in the face of a ton of evidence to the contrary.

For example, a recent poll of a thousand Germans showed that almost a third of those under 30 years old believe that the US attacked itself on 9/11. Twenty percent of Germans of all ages believe that lie.

We still have a lot of morons in this country who claim the Holocaust never happened. You could take them to the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, let them meet Holocaust survivors, take them to Auschwitz and other concentration camp sites, and they'd still think you were phonying it all up.

Same thing will be true in Iraq. For some, it will be out of fear borne of decades of oppression by Saddam & Sons. For others, it will be the inability to trust any government after the lies that were shoved down their throats for so long.

Regardless, I don't see a downside to releasing the photographic evidence. Sure, they're not the prettiest pictures in the world, but we've seen worse in just about any violent R-rated movie.

There were a lot of people who were upset during the war when Al Jazeera showed Iraqi photos of dead US soldiers. They claimed it was a violation of the Geneva Convention (which I'm pretty sure Al Jazeera is not a signatory to). I wasn't one of those who objected. I wasn't happy seeing their bloodied, lifeless bodies captured on film, but I recognized it as a consequence of battle.

The problem with modern warfare is that it's too easy to forget that people are being killed. We happily watched the video-game-like images of high-tech attacks from the air, the breathless reporting of embedded correspondents, all from the comfort of our living rooms. We need the reminder that human lives are at stake here.

People die in a war. It's not pleasant, it's not puppy-dog cute. It's brutal, it's raw, and it's real. Let's not shield ourselves from reality so much that we forget that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Straight Talk, Queer Words

I won't be watching Bravo's new show, "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy" -- there's only so much reality television I can handle, and between "The Amazing Race" and "I'm With Busey," my doctor tells me I'm getting enough unscripted TV.

But what I find interesting about the Bravo show is the use of the word "queer." I thought that word had been banished from the language. Maybe not as bad as The N Word, but certainly to the point where gay people were never to be referred to that way. Queer, fag, homo, dyke -- they were all out, not in a fit of political correctness, but simply because they were patently offensive.

And yet, we now have two TV shows with "queer" in the title (the other being Showtime's "Queer As Folk") and neither of them has raised the hackles of any of the usually vocal interest groups you'd expect to scream loudly about this kind of offense.

It turns out that "queer" actually is very much like The N Word, in that it's okay for members of the group itself to use it, but not okay for anyone else. In other words, gays can refer to each other as queer, just as blacks can call each other The N Word (although in rap lyrics, the word is spelled with an -a at the end instead of -er), but if you're not gay or black, your use of those words is deemed offensive.

What made this concept so confusing to me is that in my particular minority, Jews, we'd never think of doing this in our everyday life. You'll never hear one Jew call another a "kike" or "heeb." My wife doesn't even like to hear someone referred to as "a Jew." She prefers "a Jewish person."

Maybe it's the centuries of hatred and name-calling from others that we've been forced to endure that makes us so sensitive to derogation. But if that's the case, why would another long-oppressed group like African-Americans use The N Word so casually?

That's not to say that stereotypes can't be played for laughs. Otherwise, Mel Brooks wouldn't have had a career -- and I wouldn't have been able to do a "Star Wars" radio parody two decades ago called "Return Of The Rabbi" which, ironically, only brought complaints from non-Jews.

Similarly, John Leguizamo, a comedian of Colombian ancestry, did a one-man comedy show in 1993 called "Spic-O-Rama," and no one flinched. But I have more respect for someone like George Lopez, who created a TV show about a Mexican family which does not go around referring to each other as "wetbacks" or "greaseballs."

In fact, George told me this little story (he's been a guest on my show several times). When ABC was interested in buying the show in the first place, they suggested that the family's kitchen have a tortilla maker on the counter. George told them he didn't know anyone who had one of those in their kitchen, and asked why the network wanted it there. They explained that the viewers would need something in the room that was easily identifiable as Mexican. George paused for a moment and replied, "What about the fact that the people in the room are Mexican?" He won that battle and, to his credit, steadfastly refuses to debase himself or his heritage with cheap stereotypes.

We'd never think it acceptable to do a reality show called "Jewboy Financial Corner." That would be as deplorable as Asians doing something repulsive like "Slant-Eyed Math Lessons." Or a Food Network show called "Old Black Mama's Fried Chicken and Watermelon Recipes." Or an Irishman doing "Big Dumb Mick's Drunk Again." Or even the whitest guys in the country on "Honky Hotel."

The way to avoid the continued use of odious words and concepts is for the offended group to take the lead and stop using them, too. If you're gay and don't want straight people referring to "Will & Grace" as "that queer show," then you can't either.

Instead, you should refer to it by its proper slang name, "Rick Santorum's Worst Nightmare."

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Say It Isn't Sosa!

You want to believe him. Sammy Sosa seemed like the kind of guy who achieved great things on the baseball field through pure talent and hard work. But the explanation for his corked bat at last night's game seems a little fishy.

He says it was the bat he uses for batting practice, when he wants to put a show on for the fans, and it was never intended to be used in a game.

If that's the case, shouldn't he have marked the corked bat differently? Put a big X on the end. Paint it a different color. Take out a Sharpie and write "BP ONLY!" right on the sweet spot. Something so this mistake could never happen.

I don't buy the "only for practice" excuse. Don't most players like to swing bigger lumber when they're warming up -- like the donut on the bat in the on-deck circle -- so that later, during the game, their regular bat will feel lighter and easier to use? A corked bat wouldn't give you that effect, but just the opposite.

The sad thing is that, even if he is telling the truth, everything's tainted now, including those balls he hit during batting practice, when he was "putting on a show for the fans." If I'd caught one of those pre-game balls, I'd want to know it got to me off his regular bat because of his amazing homer-hitting ability -- not because he had juiced the bat, or the ball, or moved the outfield wall in, or any other excuse. An honest ball hit off an honest bat by an honest superstar is special. Anything else isn't a show, it's a fraud. Besides, if he's only concerned about putting on a show, he should take BP with an aluminum bat, which would really make the balls fly.

I want to believe him. I'd hate to see his accomplishments tarnished, which I'm afraid they now are, through no one's fault but his.

Unless, of course, we discover that the corked bat was made by Martha Stewart.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Diane Ravitch, "The Language Police"

Warning -- this interview will make you mad.

Diane Ravitch, a professor of education and author of "The Language Police," explained on my show today how political correctness and censorship by both the left and the right has directly affected what kids are taught in our schools. Some of the things that can no longer even be mentioned in textbooks or on standardized tests: the Founding Fathers, owls, dinosaurs, oceans, yachts, Stuart Little, and Mt. Rushmore!

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

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Speaking With Forked Tongue

I'm not a piercing or tattoo kinda guy. No problem if others have them, just not me. I've never understood the appeal, and I've yet to see anyone on whom any artwork or attachment beyond earrings made them more attractive.

That doesn't mean that I'm opposed to anyone getting a tattoo, a piercing, or anything else they want on or in their body. You want to paint your ears purple, shove a number two pencil up your right nostril, and go about your daily life, that's none of my business. And it's none of the government's business, either.

Yet, the Illinois legislature is in the midst of passing a bill that would prohibit one particular type of body modification: tongue splitting. It seems that the genius polticians in Springfield have fixed every other problem in the state, and now they're getting around to this.

No one knows for sure how many Illinoisans (or Americans, for that matter) have had the procedure performed, but to those opposed to it, if it's any number higher than zero, it's too many.

One of those who had this procedure done was James Keen, a 19-year-old from Scottsville, Kentucky. He couldn't get a surgeon to agree to slit his tongue up the middle, so he went to a local body piercer, who didn't use any anesthetic but did sterilize the scalpel by heating it with a blow torch. In other words, a professional. Now James literally speaks with a forked tongue -- and a lisp.

I probably didn't have to tell you his age. You could have guessed it with a margin of error of 5 years. It takes until you're about 25 to grow those red-light brain cells that say to yourself, "Hold on there, pal, you're not going to do that with our body!" Which is why you don't hear about a lot of retirees lining up to have their tongues split.

Like tattooing, I'd guess that a lot of body piercing is done under the influence of alcohol. You party all night, pass out, wake up the next morning, go splash some water on your face, check yourself in the mirror and, "What the hell? I seem to have a serpent's head printed on my forehead and my tastebuds are occupying separate time zones!" Let's see that in a Smirnoff Ice commercial.

As stupid as this may be, we still don't need a law against it. Interestingly, the same people who push this kind of legislation are the same ones who are always screaming that we need government to be smaller and do less. "There are too many regulations! Wait, there's a kid running with scissors! Let's make a new law! And increase funding to the Department Of Intruding On Individual Rights!"

In James' case, his parents not only sanctioned the split, but coughed up the $500 for him to do it. This will not be the case in my house. I'll admit freely that my "it's no one's business but yours" attitude does not apply to anyone listed as a dependent on my tax forms. If my daughter decides in her teen years to come home with her tongue split -- on purpose -- the next stop will be the emergency room, where the sutures will fly.

Although you never know how a teenage girl will act, especially under peer pressure, I think we've given her the mindset where extreme body modification is unlikely. Several years ago, when she was about 4, we were dining at an outdoor cafe. The waitress happened to have a nostril stud, and my daughter couldn't take her eyes off it. After we had ordered and the waitress had gone to get our drinks, our little girl leaned over and asked, "Mommy, do you think it hurt to get that thing in her nose?" My wife said, "When she comes back, why don't you ask her?" A minute later, the waitress brought over our beverages, and my daughter did ask her if getting the stud was painful. The waitress, without a moment's hesitation, answered, "Yes, it did hurt. A lot!"

I tipped her twenty dollars.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Hot House

It was one of those weekends. Mom flew in to spend several days with us, including some serious grandmother-granddaughter bonding time with our nearly-nine-year-old.

The last time my mother came to stay with us was at Thanksgiving, which happened to coincide perfectly with our furnace breaking down. It was cold over that holiday weekend, and since my brother, sister-in-law, and two young nephews were staying with us, too, we really wanted the heat back on. So we called The Guy.

I remember his response as if I were paraphrasing it today. He said, "Hey, pal, we're celebrating Thanksgiving over here, too, and you'd have a better chance of forcing Ted Nugent to go vegetarian than you do of getting me in my truck to deal with your problem!" Figuring we couldn't afford the quadruple golden time he'd charge us if we pressed the matter, we instead hauled out every blanket and sweater in the house and spent the weekend bundled up.

That was six months ago. This weekend, Mom was back -- and this time the air conditioning decided to fail us.

Naturally, the A/C didn't break down until late Friday afternoon, and with temperatures in the upper 80s, and thunderstorms raising the humidity level to approximately 650%, we were soon sitting in our house stewing in a broth of our own concoction.

So we called The Guy. It was past closing time, but he agreed to come over and take a look.

It's at this point that I should mention that the unit he was coming over to look at was brand new. We had just had it installed -- at a cost of $3,000 -- less than a month ago, because the previous unit was over 20 years old and "could go any day." At the time, I didn't realize that "could go any day" is the industry-wide standard diagnosis for any unit that has been hooked up for more than eight seconds. Thus, the problem with the new one which, entirely on its own and without consulting any other appliances, decided that the hottest day thus far this year was the perfect time to go.

The Guy told us the compressor had shorted out ("short" is a technical term related to the life span of mechanical pieces in my HVAC system), and we'd need a new one. Naturally, he didn't have a new one, and since it was now Friday evening, we'd have to wait until Monday at the earliest. This wasn't good. We were sweating more than a casino host who just learned the Bill Bennett would never gamble again.

By now, my boiling point was roughly at the same level as the stifling ambient room temperature in the house, so in my frustration I could no longer form complete sentences. I was reduced to blurting out mini-phrases along the lines of "unacceptable," "three thousand dollars," and "damn hot fix air cool make."

My wife stepped in to speak in actual English with The Guy, who explained that, while he'd like to alleviate the suffering, there was just nothing he could do. My suggestion of going and getting our old unit back and re-installing it was waved off as the ranting of a lunatic. He said that, when the new compressor was available, they'd replace it at no charge.

He left, and we sat down to dinner, which would now not involve any cooking, since no one wanted to feel any heat from the stove or oven. Thankfully, my salad recipe calls for very little heat, and with some microwaved leftovers, we threw together a meal.

At the same time, we also forged a plan for the weekend. My only real contribution was, "Hotel cool get room cool sleep cool." But my wife and mother started remembering how, not that long ago, in the days before central air, we used to deal with this problem every summer by taking advantage of cooler public places. Any restaurant with a good ventilation system would do. Men would drop their traditional shopping reluctance, just to be in an air conditioned store for an hour or so. You'd go to the local movie theater not because of the title on the marquee, but because of the sign hanging below, which read, "Air Conditioned For Your Comfort." Complete with ice dripping off the lettering.

Fortunately, some massive thunderstorms rolled through the next day, and that broke the heat spell, knocking the temperature down about 20 degrees and making it comfortable again. So we got to enjoy the rest of the weekend.

On Monday, we heard from The Guy that he had to special order The Part, and it would be another day or two. The weather has remained ultra-comfortable, so that's not a problem. But I told him to order some extras, just in case.

After all, Mom will be back in a few months, and we'll probably need them. You see, I think Mom's a carrier. And I'm not just saying that to get in a cheap air conditioning brand name pun.