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

Sunday, April 30, 2006

I Have Chris Moneymaker's Money

"You're my nemesis. I just can't beat you."

That's what Chris Moneymaker said to me last night, and it was quite a compliment, coming from the man who won the 2003 World Series of Poker main event. He was in town for a personal appearance, and I had his money.

Even without him, it would have been one of the best poker games St. Louis has seen in a long time. When I heard about it late in the evening, I knew I had to be in it.

Everyone else had heard about the game, too, so I had to wait and watch for quite awhile. The action was loose and wild, as it usually is here. I finally got into the game at 1:00am, but got nothing worth playing for the first hour. Fortunately, the tide eventually turned.

Moneymaker was the stranger at the table, since most of the rest of us play together often, but we're not usually surrounded by a crowd. Last night, we were, because of him. Several times I heard onlookers say, "I bet they all want to take him out," but since this was a cash game, not a tournament, there wasn't going to be any elimination, no bounty for beating him. Still, there was no doubt he had a target on his back and we all wanted our shot.

Although this was the biggest game in the room, it was well below the kind of stakes Moneymaker said he usually plays. Another railbird kept proclaiming to anyone within earshot, "That money doesn't matter to Chris because the casino gave it to him. He’s playing with their money." I don't know what kind of fee Chris received for his appearance earlier that evening (if any), but I've never gone along with that kind of thinking. Once they hand him the money, that's his -– just like when I get a paycheck, the money no longer belongs to my boss. It's mine to win or lose, and it matters.

Moneymaker is a nice low-key guy who didn't mind posing for pictures and autographing poker chips for anyone who asked, both players and dealers. He wasn't wearing sunglasses -– none of us were -– and he wasn't trying to be intimidating at all. When we weren't in a hand, he readily answered questions about all sorts of things.

I asked him if he plays in casinos a lot, which he doesn't because there isn't one in his hometown of Nashville. Besides, he's obliged to put in a certain number of hours for the online poker site he's affiliated with, so he spends most of his time there. But he still likes playing in brick-and-mortar poker rooms, and since he doesn't get to do it all that often, the game was still fun.

Someone asked him which casinos he liked playing in, which led to us agreeing on our disdain for the Aviation Club de France, a snooty place on the Champs-Elysee that's too full of cigarette smoke and condescending European attitude -- not to mention the Parisian preference for a game we both hated called Courchevel, which is like pot-limit Omaha but with five hole cards.

He said he's cut down on his travel to tournaments at the request of his wife, but was trying to convince her to go to Vegas with him for two months this summer so he can play every event in the World Series of Poker.

Speaking of the WSOP, it's the subject of "Deal," a movie Moneymaker is heading to New Orleans this week to shoot with Burt Reynolds, Jennifer Tilly, Charles Durning, and other poker pros (including Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Laak, and Vince Van Patten). The Internet Movie Database gives this plot outline: "As an ex-gambler teaches a hot-shot college kid some things about playing cards, he finds himself pulled into the World Series of Poker, where his protege is his toughest competition." I sure hope it’s better than "Tilt," the lame poker series that ESPN aired last year.

Speaking of big tournaments, you won't see Moneymaker playing in any WPT events anytime soon. He explained that he and some other pros (e.g. Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Andy Bloch) are quarreling with the producers over the release form they must sign, which they say allows the WPT virtually unchecked exploitation of the players' names and likenesses.

So, how did I get Chris Moneymaker's money? In the course of four hours, we found ourselves in hands together only a few times. In three of them we played heads-up, and I beat him each time. My aces held up against his kings, I flopped a set of sevens to beat his pocket pair, and I bluffed him out of a pot with a 6-8 offsuit in the big blind by check-raising him on the flop with bottom pair and making him throw away his middle pair.

As Greg "Fossilman" Raymer says, beating a pro one night doesn't mean much about your relative skills, so I'd never be stupid enough to say that I'm a better player than Moneymaker. No matter how much I won last night, he'll always be one of those guys with a WSOP Main Event bracelet.

But it sure felt good when they pushed his chips towards me.


Friday, April 28, 2006

What's Spanish for Hypocrite?

When asked to comment on the Spanish version of the National Anthem -- a bogus controversy that's been ginned up by bloggers and talk radio all day long -- President Bush responded, "I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."

I guess Dubya doesn't remember all those campaign rallies, both in Texas and elsewhere, when he spoke Spanish to his audiences in an effort to prove that he's El Hombre.

The lesson? Singing the National Anthem in Spanish, bad. Pandering to voters in Spanish, good.

Adrian Cronauer

I talked to Adrian Cronauer on my show this afternoon. You know him as the guy Robin Williams played in "Good Morning Vietnam."

Now he works for the Defense Department in the Office of Missing Personnel, which continues to look for American servicemen and women who are still missing in action from World War II up through the current war in Iraq. He's in St. Louis this weekend to meet with members of families who still have someone unaccounted for, and we talked about the science and technology that's used to find them. He also explained a little bit of the history of "Good Morning Vietnam," which originated as a script he wrote for a TV sitcom.

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

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome

Here's the semi-contentious discussion I had with Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary, who came up with the Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome theory. She claims that, though not a clinical psychiatric disorder, generations of slavery caused continuing problems for generations of African-Americans. I challenged her on whether the solutions have to come from within the black community, or the blame should continue to be placed elsewhere.

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Paid Family & Medical Leave

How would you feel about paying another $100/year in payroll taxes to subsidize a new piece of legislation? It would allow all employees to take up to 12 weeks off to care for a newborn or sick child or other relative -- with pay. That takes the current Family and Medical Leave act to a new level.

To get some expertise on this, I brought my brother Seth onto my show this afternoon. He was a big shot in the Labor Department when the original FMLA became law, and now teaches labor law at New York Law School. As always, he was able to put it in simple, relatable terms.

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Jeff Cesario

Comedian Jeff Cesario returned to my show this afternoon to talk about his new concert DVD, "You Can Get A Hooker Tomorrow Night."  He joked about sports, Hollywood, marriage, and more. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Jeff has written for "The Larry Sanders Show," "On The Record with Bob Costas," "Dennis Miller Live," and hosted "Reel Classics" on ESPN Classic. 

Judge Andrew Napolitano

Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano was back on my show today to talk about his book, "Constitution in Exile" (a followup to "Constitutional Chaos").

He expressed his anger at politicians who exploit their power to usurp the rights of Americans and ignore our natural rights. I also asked him how he feels about criticism of "activist judges" and why those who claim to want "limited government" are the same ones who keep increasing the federal government and its reach. Judge Nap has made some enemies among the Republican leadership with his honest attacks on the Patriot Act, the domestic spying program, the No Child Left Behind program, and the Bush administration's attempts to overrule the states on matters like assisted suicide and medical marijuana.

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

Monday, April 24, 2006

More Movies You Might Not Know

Just added to the Movies You Might Not Know list:

  • "Quick Change," an underrated Bill Murray movie about a crew of bank robbers (including Geena Davis and Randy Quaid) who have no problem getting the money out of a New York bank, but then can't get out the city. With Jason Robards and a bunch of other actors you'll recognize.
  • "Singles," a 1992 Cameron Crowe movie with a who's-who cast of twenty-somethings (Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Matt Dillon, Bill Pullman, Eric Stoltz, Jeremy Piven, Tom Skerritt, Peter Horton) looking for love in Seattle.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sculpture Controversy

An artist created a sculpture of Adam, based on Michelangelo's work at the Sistine Chapel. The work was displayed at the Foundry Art Centre, a venue that's also available for weddings and other events. The artist became upset when he discovered that the facility was covering up the genitalia of the statue at the request of one bridal party. He removed his statue, claiming that his work was being censored.

I explained to him that this wasn't censorship, it was business. Of course, he also got a lot more publicity for his work this way than if he had left his work there with a drape around the waist.

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Greg "Fossilman" Raymer

Here's my conversation with poker champion Greg "Fossilman" Raymer about Congress trying to make online poker illegal (he made some great points about the real agenda there), plus how he chooses the tournaments he plays in, how he did so well in the 2004 and 2005 World Series of Poker, why he won't play in The Big Game at the Bellagio, and more.

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

For more poker-related posts on this site, click here.

Joel Makower on Renewable Energy

Here's my converation with Joel Makower about what it would take to begin breaking free of our oil addiction, from overcoming our current lack of strong leadership to embracing renewable energies at the individual, corporate, and governmental levels. Joel wonders why Brazil can do it -- they'll be energy independent next year thanks to a national commitment to ethanol -- so why can't the USA?

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Scott Ritter on Iran & Nukes

I invited former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter back onto my show to talk about developments in the Iran nuclear story, with their President and Deputy Nuclear Chief crowing about their ability to produced low-grade enriched uranium. As always, Ritter explained in layman's terms what's going on and why, while we certainly must continue to monitor their nuclear program, we shouldn't panic about it yet.

We also discussed new revelations about those mobile labs that the Bush administration insisted were proof of WMDs before the war (even though, as today's Washington Post story says, "US intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true").

I vividly recall Ritter explaining on my show in May, 2003 -- on the same day President Bush said, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction" -- that those trailers weren't full of weapons of any kind, but in fact were making something called "slurry." I dug up that audio and played it as part of today's conversation, which you can listen to here, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

My Episode of "House"

My personal episode of "House MD" began last Wednesday when, in the middle of my radio show, my right hand started hurting. The pain started in my thumb and, over the next two hours, radiated up through my wrist.

When I got home, my wife took one look at my swollen thumb and was convinced I'd been bitten by a tick and should go to the emergency room immediately. She got this idea from the actual episode of "House" we had watched the night before.

I already had an appointment with my physician for the next morning for a complete physical, so I decided to wait until then to see what he said about this mystery malady. By then, the pain was so intense that even putting my hand through the sleeve of a shirt made me grimace. I couldn't swing my arm when I walked because the friction from the air against my thumb was so uncomfortable.

That whole "opposable thumb" thing that sets us apart from other animals is something we take for granted. You don't realize how much you need your thumb until you can't use it.

Try pulling up your socks. Try pulling up your zipper. Try turning the key in your car ignition without using your thumb (it's even worse when it's your right thumb, because now you have to lean over and snake your left hand around the steering column!).

I couldn't use the mouse for my computer, although the keyboard was slightly manageable, as long as I remembered to hit the space bar with my left thumb -- forgetting just once was all it took to learn that lesson. Pain is a very effective reminder.

Taking a shower was no picnic, either. Once the water was running, I realized I couldn't hold the soap in my right hand, so I had to lather up as a lefty. That's fine, until it came time to soap up my left arm. Not being a professional contortionist, my left hand can't reach back to my left elbow, so this presented a dilemma -- as did holding the towel to dry my back a few minutes later.

At my doctor's office, the nurse looked at my hand, which now looked like a skin-colored oven mitt. I told her how sensitive it was to any contact, so she took my pulse and blood pressure on my left side. A few minutes later, my physician came in and started the examination.

After checking my hand out from several angles, he said, "It looks gout-ish."

Gout? Gout? That's what Ben Franklin had in his foot. Since I am neither in my eighties nor living in colonial times, I thought he was kidding. He explained that gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint, accompanied by an inflammation of the surrounding tissue.

Yep, that seemed to explain what was happening here. Then he explained that, if it was gout, there were two ways to treat it. One involved prescribing colchicine, which works like this: you take it every two hours until you throw up. In college, we did something similar, which involved several six-packs and a friend's shoes.

I wasn't sure how having my insides become my outsides was supposed to help my hand, but Dr. House wasn't ready to have me popping the pills, anyway: "If this were a weekend day, I might do that, but since it's Thursday, I don't want you to start on the medication this morning and then, while I'm driving home this afternoon listening to your show, have you vomit all over the microphone."

I agreed and asked what the other treatment option was.

He said that, since he wasn't ready to make gout his official diagnosis, he wanted me to take massive doses of ibuprofen, keep my hand iced whenever possible, and get some x-rays to make sure I hadn't fractured a bone while playing tennis. Then he took the usual blood and urine samples and sent them off to the lab.

Of course, if this were really an episode of "House," he would have had his underlings break into my house without my permission and look for mold under the kitchen sink, while accusing me of lying about how I had contracted an STD while injecting myself with human growth hormones.

Fortunately, none of that happened, so I went off to get the x-ray. Naturally, they needed my signature on some forms, which I couldn't do because I couldn't even hold a pen in my writing hand. The clerk told me to do the best I could, and I somehow grasped the pen between my third and fourth fingers to make a completely arbitrary squiggle on the dotted line. To my surprise, it didn't look that different from my usual signature.

I managed to do my show that afternoon and keep my lunch down the whole time, then went home and stuck my hand in a bag of ice while my wife logged onto WebMD.com to look up "gout."

If you're not familiar with WebMD, it's a site that gives you basic info on all sorts of diseases, medicines, etc. Then, no matter what your illness is, WebMD tells you to lose weight -- you could have a thyroid problem, appendicitis, or a stuffy nose, that's part of their solution to every medical problem. I kept hoping I didn't have gout. Not because it's a difficult thing to treat, but because it just seemed like a stupid thing for a 47-year-old guy to have.

The next morning, Dr. House phoned to report that the x-rays were negative -- no fracture, no break, no problem -- and that he'd been in a fight with Dr. Cuddy about something inappropriate he'd said to Foreman and Chase the day before.

Just kidding.

I was happy to report that the pain and swelling had gone down a little. He suggested continuing the ibuprofen until we got the lab results back, and to keep him posted. By that evening, my hand had returned to near-normal size, and Dr. House called my cell phone with the lab results.

Uric acid levels were normal, so it wasn't gout. New diagnosis: tendinitis, which meant no tennis for awhile but, with the effects wearing off, I should be good to go in a few days, and wouldn't need any radical treatments of any kind. Phew.

I put the cell phone back in my right pants pocket and realized that, hey, I had just used my right hand to put something in my right pants pocket! For the last 48 hours, that would've been impossible -- I'd resorted to wearing a jacket just so I had an extra left pocket.

Now, I'm back to using both hands at full capacity, and wondering whether I can sell my story to Fox. Maybe even work in a love scene with Dr. Cameron.

More Movies You Might Not Know

Just added to the Movies You Might Not Know list: "Twelve Chairs," another long-lost Mel Brooks classic that's just been released as part of a boxed set of his movies. Also, "Absence of Malice," starring Paul Newman and Sally Field, but with scene-stealing performances by Bob Balaban and Wilfred Brimley.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Louie Louie

This afternoon on my show, I talked to Dick Peterson, onetime member of The Kingsmen, the band that recorded the rock classic "Louie Louie." He explained why their version was so unintelligible, why J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI went after them, and how having the song banned made it more popular than ever. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Heywood Banks

Heywood Banks was back on my show and, as always, brought along his guitar to play a new song ("Tattoos"), one of his classics ("18 Wheels On A Big Rig"), and a few others. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Bill Engvall

Bill Engvall was back on my show this afternoon. He and the boys have just finished the third Blue Collar Comedy Tour movie, and he's working on his own new DVD and concerts. We talked about baseball, moving into a new house, flying with the Thunderbirds, and more.

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

Also on Harris Online...

American Idol Rejects

Here's my conversation with a Rolling Stone writer about her recent piece on some "American Idol" rejects -- not the contestants who have been voted off recently, but the ones we laughed at during the auditions shows because they were so horrible. Despite lack of talent, they're all desperate to be famous at some level, even if it's like William Hung last year. Vanessa Grigoriadis tracked some of them down, and shared their stories today.

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

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Truth About Kellie Pickler

Here's my conversation with Dave Dellaterza of Vote For The Worst, who wants you to vote for Kellie Pickler on "American Idol" tonight. He also explained some of the truth about Kellie that she probably doesn't want you to know, since her naive and innocent image turns out to be just a facade (that means it's fake, Kellie!).

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

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Junk Mail

The envelope arrived in our mailbox, addressed to my wife. Inside was a Special Invitation which read,

Because you were referred to me, I wanted to personally invite you as my VIP guest to attend the nation's #1 financial conference, featuring "5" of America's greatest financial celebrities all live and in person, including Donald Trump's 1st Place Winner of "The Apprentice," Bill Rancic.
Before reading any further, I already had three problems with that first paragraph (which I swear I've replicated verbatim):
  1. Bill Rancic is not one of "America's greatest financial celebrities." He's a guy who won a reality show and then essentially disappeared from public view. On the other hand, his appearance on that TV show did make him more famous than the other four guys appearing at this "Celebrity Conference," none of whom I've ever heard of before. I know that the word "celebrity" has already been devalued by reality TV, but when you're even less famous than that, you should be legally barred from using the word.
  2. "Because you were referred to me..." is an outright lie. I know for a fact that no one referred us to anyone affiliated with this conference because the invitation was addressed to my wife's maiden name and used only her first initial. The only place in the world she has ever appeared as that identity is in the phone book. Not exactly a referral -- more like cheap junk mail marketing.
  3. There seems to be no reason for the number five to appear in quotes in the invitation. Frankly, if you can't even print numbers correctly, I have doubts about any other numerical claims you're going to make.
The kicker is that this financial seminar will take place from 8am to 5:30pm on a Tuesday. Who has that kind of time on a weekday? Certainly no one with a job or children. If you do have that much free time, you're either already independently wealthy (in which case you probably don't need advice from the guy on "The Apprentice"), already retired (in which case you're spending your entire day trying to figure out the government's prescription drug program), or out of work (in which case you probably don't have enough money to play around with this sort of stuff).

On behalf of those of us who live a real life and couldn't be there even if we wanted to, I'll have to RSVP a big fat no -- "5" times.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Prayer Doesn't Work

A study in the American Heart Journal says that praying for someone when they're sick does absolutely no good at all -- in fact, it may be harmful. It's summarized on this site, which quotes some critics of the study, none of whom offers any evidence against it. One psychiatrist, Jon Streltzer of the University of Hawaii, says, "I don't think that science can study supernatural phenomena." That's ludicrous. As James Randi says, "Those who make extraordinary claims must provide extraordinary evidence." The scientific method is the only way to test those claims of supernatural or paranormal phenomena.