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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Upset Picks End A Tough Season

With two more losses today (Jacksonville and Seattle), my Upset Picks season comes to a miserable close, with a record of 8-12-1, far behind last's year's 75% winner. As always, it could be worse. I could be Scott Linehan.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Upset Picks, Week 17

With a season record of 8-11-1, I'm not going to make it back to .500 for the year unless I make three upset picks this weekend. Unfortunately, with all the playoff teams resting starters, there's not much that's appealing, so I'm only going with two games: take Jacksonville +6.5 at Houston and Seattle +1 @ Atlanta.

More Movies You Might Not Know

Just added to the Movies You Might Not Know list:

  • "Once" was an indie hit earlier this year, and deservedly so. It's about a street busker in Dublin and a Czech immigrant he meets on the sidewalk, who team up to create some clever rock songs, which form the soundtrack for their unique relationship. The guy is Glenn Hansard, who you may have seen in "The Commitments," and the woman is Marketa Irglova, who teamed up with him to perform some of these songs during appearances on Letterman and elsewhere. If you missed "Once" in theaters, get it on DVD.
  • "Derailed" starts out as a meet-cute romance, with Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston as people married to others who meet on a commuter train to Chicago and eventually end up in a hotel room for an affair. From there, things change quickly, and you're in the middle of a thriller. At times, Owen's adventure is reminiscent of Griffin Dunne's hellish night in "After Hours," but when it's over, the movie has redeemed itself. And any movie is enhanced by the presence of Giancarlo Esposito.
  • "Frankie and Johnny Are Married" is the story of TV director Michael Pressman ("The Practice," "Picket Fences"), who decides to stage his own production of the two-person drama "Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune," starring his wife, Lisa Chess. Unfortunately, the show keeps running into problems, particularly with Alan Rosenberg as the male lead. The movie has a documentary feel and everyone uses their real name (a bold move for Rosenberg, whose character is a major jerk). Not for everyone, but if you're into behind-the-scenes showbiz stories, you'll enjoy it.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Upset Picks Split The Difference

I thought the weather in Buffalo and the loss of Jeremy Shockey would work against the Giants, but the Bills couldn't hold them off and the spread wasn't enough to help against a 38-21 NYG victory.

On the other hand, the Eagles did the same thing to the Saints that they did to the Cowboys, so I didn't even need the spread to win that one with a 38-23 victory.

So, a split week leaves my season record at 8-11-1 going into the final week of regular season.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Polish Postcard Prank

This guy is offering a unique prank opportunity. He's going to Poland during Christmas break, and will send three postcards from there to a person you choose. He'll include personal details about the addressee, which you'll provide, which will leave them scratching their heads about who they know in Eastern Europe who has such intimate knowledge of their lives. To make it even better, one of the postcards will be a 1995 promotional piece for Mariel Hemingway's short-lived CBS series "Central Park West," and another will be from the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Medical Myths

A new report debunks some long-held medical myths:

  • People should drink at least eight glasses of water a day
  • We use only 10% of our brains
  • Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death
  • Shaving hair causes it to grow back faster, darker, or coarser
  • Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight
  • Eating turkey makes people especially drowsy
  • Mobile phones create considerable electromagnetic interference in hospitals.
Authors Rachel Vreeman and Aaron Carroll checked them out and found all of them either false or unproven.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bet They Learned Their Lesson

Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo have agreed to pay a settlement of $31.5 million for running ads for online gambling sites.

Putting aside the absurdity of the government -- here in the person of US Attorney Catherine Hanaway -- continuing to crackdown on what Americans do with their own money in their own leisure time, have these tech companies really been punished harshly? After all, in the time it took me to type this blog entry, each of them has earned more than enough to pay their portion of the fine. Sergei Brin and Larry Page, the men behind Google, probably carry that much in pocket change.

In the meantime, your government wants to remind you that gambling is bad for you. Now go out and buy more state-issued lottery tickets.

Retiring #28

The Rams retiring Marshall Faulk's #28 tonight at halftime of the Rams-Steelers game got a lot of hype ahead of time, particularly on NFL Network, which has Faulk broadcasting the game. Rich Eisen and I even talked it up on my show this afternoon.

Considering that this guy's not only a legendary running back but also an employee, how many highlight clips of Faulk in action did they show as part of this big night? I watched closely so I could get an exact count, and the total was ..... zero. Sure, Bryant Gumbel kept mentioning the honor over and over, and Bob Costas was brought in to emcee the ceremonies on a midfield platform, but wouldn't it have been nice to have NFL Films put together a five-minute montage of Marshall doing what he did so well while wearing #28? The guy played in two Super Bowls, racked up some very impressive numbers every season, and scored more touchdowns than all but three men in NFL history -- there's plenty of material for a video tribute.

Maybe there was such a montage played on the big screen at The Dome. If you were there and saw one, let me know. They should have played it for the home audience.

Update 12/21/07: Harry Hamm tells me that there was a highlights montage on the Dome video screen during halftime, and they also had tributes to Faulk throughout the game, including Dick Vermeil, Peyton Manning, and many others. But Harry also reports that at no point during the halftime ceremonies did anyone from the Rams step up to the mike to honor Faulk (considering the boos from the crowd when Costas mentioned John Shaw and Jay Zygmunt, that was probably a wise move). Still, I'm pointing my finger at the NFL Network for not showing the whole jersey-raising ceremony, including the video.

Upset Picks, Week 16

I'm going to try to double up again this weekend.

With bad weather forecast for Buffalo this weekend, Eli Manning should have a tough time moving the ball (not having Jeremy Shockey hurts, too). I'm going with the Bills +3 vs. the Giants.

Before the season, I picked the Saints to go to the Super Bowl, which is obviously not going to happen. I don't think their collapse is complete yet. On the other hand, the Eagles beat Dallas, and may be able to put up the same effort in New Orleans. Take Philadelphia +3.5.

Season record: 7-10-1.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mom Of The Year

I know there are 12 days left in 2007, but is it too early to name Lynne Spears the Mom Of The Year? What a job she's done with her daughters, Britney and Jamie Lynn. What a coincidence that her publisher has decided to delay Lynne's book on parenting. She must be so proud.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Frank Caliendo Returns

Frank Caliendo was back on my show to talk about tonight's finale of his TBS series, "Frank TV," and his upcoming appearance at The Pageant in St. Louis.

With the big numbers his TV show has been getting, I asked him whether he'll do more when the writers strike is settled, and whether he's going to continue to tour as much as he has. We also talked about the keys to his imitations of Al Pacino, President Bush, Charles Barkley, and others. And, of course, with Brett Favre being named starting quarterback for the NFL Pro Bowl team, John Madden had to make an appearance, too.

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

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fly Lie, Continued

On Friday, I quoted Michael Boyd's comments about why President Bush's big announcement about opening up military-only fly-zones to ease the holiday travel crunch would not help lessen congestion in the air and was thus little more than bogus pandering.

Today, USA Today backs that up with analysis that shows that, "Airports are crowded and hectic this time of year, but much of the perception about holiday air travel is wrong." The report shows that air travel around Christmas and New Year's didn't even crack last year's top 20 busiest days, adding, "The bottom line: taking a flight on virtually any Thursday or Friday during the summer is worse. Seats are just as packed, there are more flights, and there is a greater likelihood of being delayed, due primarily to thunderstorms and volume."

It also says that the day before Thanksgiving -- which is always referred to as "the busiest travel day of the year" -- actually ranked 36th. That doesn't include people on the roads, but it should put an end to the oft-repeated lie.

I say "should" because I see very little chance that my colleagues in the news media will bother pointing this out. Instead, they will continue spewing the traditional pablum about busy holiday travel, just as they do with "Black Friday" (which is not the busiest shopping day of the year) and "Cyber Monday" (ditto for online shopping).

So what is the busiest holiday for travel? According to USA Today, it's the Friday before Labor Day, which is still only the 14th busiest day of the year.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Upset Picks, a Double Winner

After a horrible stretch of losses, both of my Upset Picks for this weekend were winners! I liked SF +8 vs. Cincy, and the 49ers won it 20-13. This afternoon, I had Jacksonville + 4 @ Pittsburgh, and the Jaguars took it by a touchdown, 29-22.

My season record improves to 7-10-1.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fly Lie

My favorite quote of the day came from aviation consultant Michael Boyd. After President Bush announced he would open up some east-coast military-only fly zones for use by commercial flights to ease some of the Christmas crush -- as he did at Thanksgiving -- Boyd pointed out what a useless, pandering move that is, because the congestion isn't in the air, it's at the airports:

It's meaningless, because over a holiday period, there are no more airplanes in the sky than any other day. You're opening up a couple of routes north and south. Well, last time I checked, the United States goes from Maine to California, and a couple of routes north and south don't have a major effect upon the air transportation system. It looks good, it sounds good, but it plays to that argument that we'll have many more planes in the sky, many more people flying, and a lot of congestion. It's just as congested as any other day. It's crowded today at Denver, it's crowded today at Kennedy, but the demographics are different over a holiday because there are more people traveling who have the baby in the stroller and people going through security that don't understand a bottle of Old Spice is a national threat.

Student Suspended for Photos of Teacher


Logan Glover was in his language arts class at Lafayette HS on November 20th when he took out his camera and shot a few pictures of teacher Jessica Hauser during some free time. When he got home that afternoon, he posted a few of them on his Facebook page.

The photos were not lewd, and he didn't add any captions, but they still created a problem -- a couple of weeks later -- when school officials confronted Logan about the pictures and he took them off the site. Still, the school suspended him, claiming he'd caused a disruption in the classroom by taking the photos surreptitiously, and another disruption when they became the subject of discussion among students in the school.

Logan didn't take these pictures with a cell phone. He used a regular camera, which isn't covered in quite the same way under school rules. What the school district needs to put in place is a policy that says students may not use any electronic devices in class -- cell phones, beepers, pagers, cameras -- except in an emergency. In particular, cameras of any kind are problematic because you'll always have students taking pictures of exams and sharing them with friends.

The Glover family didn't like that Logan was suspended and moved to another teacher's class. Today on my show, Mark Sableman, attorney for the Glover family, explained why they have filed suit against the school district on First Amendment grounds, and what they want as a remedy. I also spoke with Kim Cranston, spokeswoman for Rockwood schools, who explained district policy and Ms. Hauser's reaction.

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

Upset Picks, Week 15

Still trying to play catch up, I'm making two picks this weekend. Take SF +8 @ Cincy and Jacksonville +4 @ Pittsburgh. Season record is a miserable 5-10-1.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another Movie You Might Not Know

Just added to the Movies You Might Not Know list: "Interview," with Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller as a journalist and actress engaged in a one-on-one interview that starts off as a disaster and gets more complicated as it goes along. He considers himself far too serious to do a puff piece on a Paris Hilton-like starlet, and she's disgusted by his lack of professionalism and complete lack of interest in her.

Buscemi, who co-wrote and directed (based on the original Dutch movie), is his usual solid self. The revelation here is that Miller has so many different notes and hits them all in what could have been simply a caricature of a tabloid target, but turns out to be so much more.

"Interview" even has an element of "Sleuth," with the two characters playing games with each other to uncover secrets, lies, and their own agendas. Very clever, very engaging, and a very apt companion piece to another movie on the list, "Living In Oblivion" (1995) which made some strong points about celebrity, moviemaking, and stardom, also with Buscemi in the lead role.

Steroids? You're Kidding!

Quick thoughts on baseball's Mitchell Report...

Has Roger Clemens announced his re-retirement yet?

In most cities, fans were just happy to hear that none of their active superstar players were named in the report. That's how St. Louisans felt when Albert Pujols wasn't listed, contrary to the rumors going around this morning. The only active Cardinals mentioned by Mitchell are Ryan Franklin and Rick Ankiel, with nothing new about them that hadn't been reported already.

Not being included doesn't mean a player is or was clean -- it only means that Mitchell didn't get any evidence about them. Surely, there are steroid-using baseball players who never met the two trainers who serve as first-person sources in the report.

In fact, the report contains a remarkable amount of previously-known material. This is what you get for $50,000,000 and 20 months of investigation? Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams got more info with a lot less money, time, and authority.

The bottom line for baseball is whether the fans will still show up in record numbers. Over the last decade, they've loved seeing the ball go over the wall, even after all the steroid allegations and "widespread use." I don't think most people will care in the long run -- to the contrary, many fans are suffering from steroid story fatigue.

James e-mails to suggest that we could put this issue to rest by adding a clause to the disclaimer on tickets: "Notice: Some of the athletes you will see today may be chemically enchanced."

Does someone owe Jose Canseco a thank-you?

I'm tired of hearing people playing the Kid Card, claiming that the use of steroids by big leaguers is why young athletes are using them, and we have to protect them. It is long past time for parents to teach their sons and daughters that, with very few exceptions, professional athletes are not role models to emulate, anymore than professional singers, movie stars, or radio personalities.

Cheryl e-mails to ask, "If you knew steroids were illegal, how stupid do you have to be to write a check for them?" I guess none of these guys know the Jerry Springer story.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More on Veterans Suicide

Todd Bowers was supposed to testify before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs this morning to talk about what can be done about the high suicide rate for soldiers and veterans. Unfortunately, the committee didn't have time for him, but I did on my show this afternoon.

Todd is the Director of Government Affairs for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who served two combat tours in Iraq. He explained the communications problems that keep many veterans from knowing of new services the VA offers, but even those don't go far enough in dealing with the mental health issues and stigma that soldiers face. The suicide rate for active-duty soldiers is now at its highest level in 26 years.

Listen, then read the testimony that Bowers had to submit in writing.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Apologize for Slavery?

Missouri State Representative TD El-Amin wants the legislature to issue a formal apology for Missouri's role in slavery.

He proposed this earlier this year and didn't get enough support from his fellow legislators -- although House Speaker Rod Jetton and four dozen others were co-signers of his bill -- but he plans to re-introduce it when the new session begins in January. El-Amin says it's not just about the apology, but to start a broader discussion of racism through the state's history up to today.

Listen, then read House Resolution 26.

Monday, December 10, 2007

David Harsanyi "Nanny State"


Today I talked with David Harsanyi about his book, "Nanny State: How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and Other Boneheaded Bureaucrats Are Turning America into a Nation of Children," in which he asks "when did we lose our right to be lazy, unhealthy, and politically incorrect?"

With mandatory seat belt laws, the FCC over-regulating content, and bans on everything from smoking at home to dodgeball at school, Harsanyi wishes the government would do less. But he also says we're at fault allowing this culture of dependence to replace personal responsibility in America, at the hands of school boards, politicians and special interest groups.

With TNT's "A Christmas Story" marathon just two weeks away, we also discussed how the Consumer Product Safety Commission restricted sales of the very Red Ryder BB gun that Ralphie wants -- a government agency telling a whole nation "you'll shoot your eye out!"

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

Friday, December 07, 2007

Drew Family Statement

Here's the statement e-mailed to me from James Briscoe, attorney for Lori Drew and her family, regarding the Megan Meier MySpace story...

This week, Prosecuting Attorney Jack Banas issued his report concerning the death of Megan Meier. His investigation included a review of all reports of law enforcement agencies involved with this case and interviews with several of the individuals involved. During this investigation, the Drew family has not commented to the media. Now that the investigation is concluded, we wish to issue this statement.

First and foremost, the Drew family mourns the death of Megan every day. They previously expressed their sympathies to the Meier family, but the Meiers have made it clear that they do not wish to speak to the Drews, and they have honored the Meier’s request.

Contrary to statements reported in various news media around the nation in recent weeks, Lori Drew did not create or direct anyone to create the Josh Evans MySpace account. Although she was aware of the account, Lori Drew never sent any messages to Megan or to anyone else using this MySpace account. The MySpace account was in place for approximately 29 days. It is undisputed that all messages sent were positive until the last 24 hours.

Lori Drew was not aware of any mean, nasty or negative comments made by anyone against Megan until after Megan took her own life. In fact, the first negative message was sent by a teenager from another residence, and several other negative comments were made by other teenagers at different locations. The negative comments that were sent by the teenage girl at the Drew’s residence occurred when Lori was not home.

Lori Drew has been a high-profile target of extreme criticism for things she did not do. This has caused considerable damage to the reputation of the Drew family, both in our community and across the nation. The avalanche of criticism forced Lori to discontinue the advertising business she has had in the St. Charles County area for the past nine years. Lori is saddened that businesses that advertised with her company have been harassed in ways that have impacted them both professionally and personally.

The Drew family is also sorry that their family, friends and neighbors have had to endure the stresses associated with the harassment directed toward the Drews.

There are many accusations that various members of the Drew family have created websites or are participating in internet blogs regarding this matter. The Drews have not and will not participate in any website or blog regarding this matter. Any internet message that purports to be a member of the Drew family is being managed by an imposter and undoubtedly is being done for the purpose of further damaging the Drew’s reputation.
After reading this statement on my show, I spoke with Briscoe about some of the still unanswered questions. Listen here.


Several listeners point out that some of this seems to be at odds with what Lori Drew told a St. Charles Sheriff's Department officer on November 25, 2006 -- read that police report here.

The St. Charles prosecutor, Jack Banas, explained on my show Monday why he is not prosecuting anyone in this case.

Con Games

I love movies about con games, from "The Sting" to "Criminal" to "Confidence" to "Matchstick Men" to "House of Games" and on and on. They're even better if the filmmakers are pulling something on us, the viewers, at the same time. First you wonder how anyone could buy the scam, and in the end, you realize that you were in on it and got fooled, too.

From time to time, I hear about a real-life ripoff that's so outrageous, so obviously bogus, so absolutely impossible, I wonder how anyone fell for it. Brent and Stacey Finley pulled off just such a con.

Brent convinced several people in Louisiana that Stacey was a CIA agent, and with her position in the government, could arrange for the use of satellites to do a scan of your body from space to discover any medical problems you didn't know about. Naturally, they'd always find something, but they were ready for the next step, too. Victims were told they could be cured -- that Stacey would have secret agents administer medicine to them while they slept. Of course, all of this high-tech health care was expensive, but they'd take a check, or you could wire the funds into their account.

Remarkably, the Finleys convinced friends, family, and strangers that this scam was for real, and hauled in over $870,000 from their marks! How's that for gullibility?

In the end, Brent and Stacey were busted, and will spend several years behind bars after paying restitution -- but give them some credit for the cleverness of the con.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Upset Pick, Week 14

Let's see if I can get out of this miserable slump this weekend. I'll start by taking Chicago + 3 at Washington. Season record 5-8-1.

Update at 10:36pm: Ugh. The Skins gain only 31 yards on the ground, but still pull off a 24-16 win. Talk about ugly. Season record now 5-9-1.

Looks like I'll have to go another round this weekend. For my second pick, I'm taking Pittsburgh +10.5 vs. New England, hoping the Steelers can keep it close.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Alex Roy, Speeding Across America


Speeding is certainly the most-broken law in this country. There are plenty of people who love putting the pedal to the metal and wish we had an American Autobahn with no speed limit. Many of them dream of being in a real-life Cannonball Run, racing across the country while eluding police.

Alex Roy has done it. In fact, if you were on I-44 in St. Louis on the morning of October 8, 2006, you might have seen him whiz by you at over 100mph. At that point, he was in the middle of an attempt to set a new record for driving across America from New York to Santa Monica. When he got to the finish line, he had done it -- in 31 hours, 4 minutes.

This afternoon on my show, Roy went into great detail about how he accomplished the feat, what equipment he had in his BMW M5, whether he ran into trouble with any cops, and how often he had to stop for gas. We also talked about his participation in road races like the Gumball Rally, and the original Cannonball Runs.

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

Roy writes more about his exploits in "The Driver: My Dangerous Pursuit Of Speed And Truth In The Outlaw Racing World."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Catching Up On The News


Four items that caught my attention recently...

1) The New York DMV has told ex-cop Arno Herwerth he has to return his "getosama" vanity plates, because someone found them offensive. Who, and why? The phrase is not lewd, obscene, derogatory, or patently offensive to anyone but Osama Bin Laden. Has he issued an objection via Al Jazeera?

2) If the new allegations about Sen. Larry Craig are false, why isn't he suing the Idaho Statesman and the men who claim to have had gay sex with him?

3) Mike Jacobson e-mails:

It seems that about once an hour or so for the last few weeks I have been hearing the same attack ad from the state Republican party against Jay Nixon. We are about a year from the election and I have not heard that he is officially running for anything. Up to the primary you would expect to hear from the other Democrats running against him, and only after that would you expect ads from the Republican candidate or party. Color me puzzled.

You're not the only one, Mike. This is going to be an ugly, brutal battle between Governor Matt Blunt and Attorney General Jay Nixon in 2008, but why the GOP has jumped on Nixon so early is beyond me. Most people aren't even paying attention to the presidential race yet, and won't lift an eye in the direction of the gubernatorial race until next summer at the earliest.
What do the Republicans have to gain with the early Nixon-bashing? Perhaps they believe that the first one to go negative gets to claim the position -- like a passenger calling shotgun on a long trip -- and hold it until everyone notices. There is certainly no love lost between these two rivals, but this seems awfully premature to me.

4) Massachusetts legislator Jay Kaufman filed a bill last week that would ban spanking, even in your home. When an interviewer asked Kaufman if he spanked his own children, the lawmaker replied, "None of your damn business." So it's nobody's business if you use corporal punishment at home, but it's the government's business if other parents use it in theirs? I'm not a spanking advocate, and have never laid a hand on my daughter, but Kaufman's attitude has set a new standard for hypocrisy.

While we're on the subject, I'm tired of people complaining that "things have gotten so bad that you can't even spank your own kid anymore." At least once a month, someone brings this up, always out of context, claiming that someone gently patted their child on the butt a single time in a Wal-Mart and the cops swooped in and took the child away.

Not true, never happened. There is no state in the US that has banned spanking, and Kaufman's bill has no chance of becoming the first. There are, however, laws that protect children from abuse, which is a whole other category. A little corporal punishment is one thing, but beating a child is quite another.

Scott Ritter on Iran and the NIE

Scott Ritter returned to my show this afternoon to talk about the National Intelligence Estimate that says Iran stopped developing a nuclear weapon 4 years ago.

Ritter, who was right on everything he told me about Iraq, has made these same points about Iran's nuclear capability for a couple of years on my show, and in his book, "Target Iran: The Truth About The White House's Plans For Regime Change," which has just come out in paperback.

Today, he rebutted President Bush's claim that the NIE doesn't change anything -- in fact, it lowers the chances of the US going to war with Iran to virtually nothing. As Ritter points out, that's not just because of this NIE report, but also because of a change in personnel inside the Bush administration.

We also discussed the role of international pressure and sanctions in achieving change in Iran and the need to continue monitoring what takes place there.

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

Is That Ride Safe?

Think your kids are safe when they get on that ride at the traveling carnival or theme park? Think again, says Elizabeth Williamson of The Washington Post.

She was on my show this afternoon to explain that those rides are rarely inspected, and some of them have abysmal safety records, but no one does anything about them. In fact, there's so little oversight that no outside agency is even allowed to inspect anything at theme parks like DisneyWorld, so there's no way of knowing about accidents or problems.

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

Alex Frankel "Punching In"


Alex Frankel worked at the Apple Store, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, The Gap, and Starbucks, as research for his book, "Punching In." Today we talked about his experiences, and the internal cultures of each of those companies -- from hiring people passionate about the product to calling employees "associates" to the odd questions you have to answer on their job applications.

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

Monday, December 03, 2007

Jack Coughlin, "Kill Zone"

Jack Coughlin was back on my show this afternoon to talk about his sniper novel, "Kill Zone." Coughlin knows a lot more about the subject than most people, as he was the top-ranked Marine sniper in his 24-year military career. The plot involves a conspiracy, an ambush, mercenaries, and an insider's perspective on the workings of the US armed forces.

We talked about why "Kill Zone" takes some shots at private military contractors and what Coughlin thinks of employees of Blackwater and other companies. Since he wrote the book with former war correspondent Don Davis, I asked him about his relationship to the reporters who he spent time with during the drive to Baghdad in 2003. He also explained why he hasn't fired a gun since retiring from the Marine Corps.

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


Previously on Harris Online...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Upset Pick Update

When I picked the Packers + 7 @ the Cowboys tonight, I didn't know three things: 1) Brett Favre would leave the game injured and not return; 2) Charles Woodson wouldn't be in the Packers secondary; and 3) the officials would make some horrible calls, including that final pass-interference call against Green Bay that was clearly not interference. Final score: Cowboys 37, Packers 27.

This is the first game I've watched at length on NFL Network, and it became quickly apparent that Bryant Gumbel is horrible as a play-by-play man. The man uses the word "appears" about every two minutes ("it appears he has the first down," "it appears we have a flag on the field," "it appears the Packers have scored a touchdown," "it appears I'm still as much of a pompous ass as I always was").

As bad as Gumbel is, that's how good Cris Collinsworth is as an analyst. He makes great points, does a very good job of explaining why things happened, and doesn't hesistate to second-guess coaches, players, and officials. He deserves to be on the #1 team on a real network working with a real broadcaster.

With my prognosticating skills in a miserable slump, let's see if I can make up for it with another Upset Pick for Sunday. The Browns are in the playoff hunt and should beat the Cardinals, so I'll take the spread to win. Make it Cleveland +1 at Arizona.

Season record: 5-7-1

Upset Pick, Week 13

I'm hoping for a great game tonight between the Packers and Cowboys. It should be close, so I'm happy to have the seven points, plus a veteran QB who knows how to win under pressure. Take Green Bay +7 at Dallas.

Season record: 5-6-1.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another Movie You Might Not Know


I'm sitting here watching a movie I'm pretty sure was not released theatrically, at least not in most American cities. It's called "Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party," and I have just added it to the Movies You Might Not Know list.

Tobolowsky is an actor whose name you don't recognize, but whose face you've seen in over 100 movies and TV shows -- in fact, as I write this, he's listed 184 times on IMdB.com -- including "Groundhog Day," in which he played Ned Ryerson, the guy who pesters Bill Murray on the sidewalk.

He's also a hell of a storyteller, which is what he does in this movie. As he celebrates his birthday, Tobolowsky shares stories from his life, his career, and his relationships. He tells how he was named one of the 100 coolest people in LA by Buzz magazine (and lost to Andy Dick). He tells how he encountered a school of dolphins while swimming in the ocean. He tells how friends reacted when he told them he was going to be a father. He tells what happened when someone slipped LSD into everyone's drinks at a party.

Then he tells what it was like playing the head Klansman in "Mississippi Burning," giving a speech in front of a crowd of extras who were really members of the Klan, and it's riveting.

As you -- and the group of friends assembled at his house -- listen to him talk, you get drawn in, and don't want him to stop. Considering Tobolowsky is pretty much the only person who speaks for 87 minutes, that's quite an accomplishment.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Whale Of A Name

Greenpeace asked online voters to help choose a name for a whale. Among the top vote-getters are Libertad, Aiko, and Mira, with less than 5% each -- but way ahead in the results column, with 66% of the votes, is Mister Splashy Pants!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fighting Truancy In Court

Judge Duane Bailey of Madison County (IL) was on my show this afternoon to talk about a new program he and his colleagues have developed for dealing with kids who don't go to school.

Explaining that "being punitive doesn't help," Bailey says this program is for hardcore truants who have missed 10% of the school year. The program offers kids an option. They either go back to school, and show improvement in their grades over a 12-week period, or take the community service option and do some manual labor. The first alternative includes assistance in the form of tutoring and discovering what's making the kid miss school in the first place, from drugs to bullying to whatever. It also involves the parents, who are often happy to have an authority figure like Bailey help them deal with this issue.

Bailey says the idea is to have the courts deal with kids this way, rather than having to deal with them later when they're arrested for petty (and often not-so-petty) crimes, beginning a lifetime relationship with the criminal justice system.

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

The Family Ombudswoman

It's sad, but I expect a big company to put me through customer service voice-tree hell when I call for help. Still, our dealings with AT&T this weekend were ridiculous.

Our latest bill came on Friday, and was approximately triple last month's bill. We have a combined bill for our home service, DSL, cell phones, and Dish Network, and it seemed that the cell phone charges were suddenly sky-high.

So I called the customer service number on our bill and got that perky automated voice that demanded my cell number and other information, then gave me several options to choose from, none of which got me through to an actual human being, until about the 9th layer of Dante's Phone Tree. That person looked up my information and said that my account was paid up in full. I countered that I had a bill in front of me that said otherwise. She said, "Well, we don't have anything like that on my screen. Maybe you should talk to Accounts Receivable."

Before I could object, she patched me through to what should have been another human being, but turned out to be another robotic phone tree voice, which informed me that a customer service representative would be "happy" to help me after a wait of six minutes. Even though I know that "happy to help" is a euphemism for "underpaid, bitter, and hoping not to have the job outsourced to India," I had no choice. I put the speaker phone on and spent the time answering my e-mail.

When a human person finally picked up the line (after, ahem, eight minutes), she told me that she couldn't help me because she only worked for AT&T Wireless, and this was a matter for the people in the Combined Billing department. Before the first of several profanities could work their way from my brain to my lips, I was back on hold, being transferred to yet another person. Fortunately, the third human came on the line relatively quickly, only to tell me that the problem was obviously in their cell phone division and that, if I'd be kind enough (!) to hold, she'd connect me to someone there who could help me. I didn't even bother suppressing my chortle.

By this point, I was convinced that I was talking to people in adjacent cubicles of the same office who had decided that, in return for being forced to work on a holiday weekend, were determined to take it out on anyone foolish enough to call and require assistance of any kind. Well, you know what happened next. The fourth person I was transferred to, from the cell phone division, told me the exact same thing the first person I had spoken to had told me ("we don't have any charges like that on our screen").

It was at this point that I slammed down the phone and asked my wife to deal with it. It's not that she's more patient than I am -- it's that I simply can't fathom how several people who work for the same company's customer service department can not only offer absolutely no service, but also have completely different information about my account and refuse to believe that my complaint is valid. Because I'm the kind of person with so much free time that I think it's hysterical to create phony scenarios with bogus billing data to see how they'll react.

My wife, on the other hand, knows these situations well. I call her our Family Ombudswoman.

She once got a case of Ragu spaghetti sauce sent to our home because they had changed the recipe of our favorite sauce. I have invoked her name with store clerks who wouldn't take back an item, telling them they had two choices: accept the return and give me a refund, or deal with my wife later, in which case they'd end up accepting the return and giving me a refund. The woman once got an entire new high-chair delivered to our doorstep because the one she'd bought in the store had a small rip in the fabric.

So I knew she could bring AT&T to its knees, or at least get an explanation of what the hell was going on with our phone bill. And she would do it by getting to the first person, and then making him stay on the line and fix this, no matter how long it took or how many supervisors had to be dragged into the conversation, without being transferred all over AT&T-land.

The end result? It took almost an hour, but she finally uncovered the truth. It turned out that AT&T hadn't billed us for our cell phone service for several months -- since I bought my iPhone and began Combined Billing. So the charges are accurate, and we really do owe the amount on our bill, contrary to what some of their own employees see on their computer screens.

That's fine. I don't mind paying for services I signed up for and use (the miscellaneous fees and taxes that are tacked on are a whole other argument), so we'll gladly pay the bill. But I know we're not alone in our frustration with this and other customer service departments. If your company writes "Question about your bill? Call this 800 number" on the invoice, then it is shameful to force your customers to go through this obstacle course of non-assistance.

After all, not everyone is married to The Family Ombudswoman.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Upset Pick Falls Under .500

NFL games are becoming like poker bad beats -- you're doing everything right and way in the lead until the last minute of play or the last card, when your opponent pulls off an improbable victory.

That's the story of my Upset Pick gone wrong today. The Broncos were up by two touchdowns with just a few minutes to play, but they made enough mistakes (like kicking right to Devin Hester, even after he'd returned a punt for a TD) to let the Bears catch up and tie them before the end of regulation, then drive down the field and kick the winning field goal.

I had the Broncos +2, they lost by 3, 37-34. My season record falls to 5-6-1.

Argh!

Marisa Tomei


Marisa Tomei is still amazingly hot.

I just saw "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead." It features terrific performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, and Albert Finney, well directed by Sidney Lumet. Since Tomei's character is married to Hoffman and having an affair with Hawke, we get to see quite a few scenes of her topless, and I have to say that, at 43 years old, she looks remarkable.

When I mentioned this to my wife, she replied, "Well, sure, she probably has her own trainer and nutritionist, not to mention some work done."

That's not the point. The point is that Marisa Tomei is still amazingly hot.

Football Giants

It is no longer permissable for anyone to refer to Eli Manning's team as "The New York Football Giants."

It has been two generations since the baseball Giants left New York for San Francisco. The only other sports teams in New York that call themselves the Giants are in youth leagues, and we know we're not watching them during NFL coverage or SportsCenter. Yes, Chris Berman is responsible for this, but even he seems to have knocked it off, or at least toned it down, while other announcers keep this ridiculous phrase alive (as Matt Vasgersian just did on Fox a few minutes ago).

Stop it. It sounds as idiotic as referring to Tony LaRussa and the St. Louis Baseball Cardinals.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

St. Louis Sports Arguments

  • Who is the best Cardinals manager of all time, Tony LaRussa or Whitey Herzog?
  • Who was more responsible for the Rams' Super Bowl victory, Dick Vermeil or Mike Martz?
  • Should Stan Musial have a better statue outside Busch Stadium?
These are some of the questions Bryan Burwell asks in his new book, "The Best St. Louis Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die Hard Fans." He was in the studio with me this afternoon to answer those questions and talk about Mizzou's chances of making the BCS Championship Game, whether Major League Baseball should use instant replay, and more.

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

James Lipton, Inside The Actor's Studio


James Lipton, host of "Inside The Actor's Studio," was on my show this afternoon, promoting his book, "Inside Inside."

We talked about the actors who have impressed him most, the actresses who don't believe they're beautiful, the episode in which Elton John wrote a song on the spot, what brings on those emotional moments with his guests, and other highlights from his show.

I didn't ask Lipton about Will Ferrell's impression of him, but we got to a couple of stories from his life that you probably don't know -- Lipton's days as a pimp in Paris, and how his wife ended up as Miss Scarlet in the board game Clue.

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

Upset Pick, Week 12

I'll try to get back over .500 this week, but I won't touch any of the Thanksgiving games. Instead, I like the Broncos to beat the Bears straight up, so I like them even more with the points. Take Denver + 2 at Chicago.

Season record: 5-5-1.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lesley Stahl's Sandwich

Several listeners have demanded that I post the audio from yesterday's show of me making fun of Lesley Stahl, because of something ludicrous in her report on "60 Minutes" about forcing fast food outlets to post calorie counts on their menu boards.

In that piece, she went into a Subway restaurant (with their head of marketing) and ordered a sandwich. It became immediately apparent that Stahl had never been in a Subway before, wasn't familiar with the concept of ordering her own sandwich, and that even the simplest arithmetic was beyond her.

I could go on and on about it here, but it's better if you just listen -- then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving Media Memo

To: All News Outlets
Fr: Media Control Central
Re: Stories That Must Be Done During Thanksgiving Week

Monday: Do's & Don'ts of Holiday Travel. Include important things that the public can't figure out on its own, like a reminder of how to pack clothes neatly in a suitcase.

Tuesday: Deep Fryer Turkey Scare Stories. Dig up video of that guy from last year who burned down his house and ruined the family get-together.

Wednesday: Live Shots From The Airport. Start this at 5am, and keep doing it until there actually is a crowd of anxious travelers lined up out the door. Do not mention that a great deal of their anxiety came from getting around the many live trucks blocking traffic outside the terminal.

Thursday: Parade. Include not just the local Thanksgiving parade, but also interviews with a few people who have to make a last minute run to the supermarket because they forgot cranberry sauce. Also report on how much more this year's average Thanksgiving meal costs, and interview the Butterball Hotline lady (who has likely been outsourced to Bangalore, India).

Friday: Busiest Shopping Day Of The Year. It doesn't matter that today is not the busiest shopping day of the year -- that's always the last Saturday before Christmas, because that's when men finally remember they have to buy something for their wife, who bought gifts for the rest of the family back around Halloween -- play up the hype, especially for your advertisers.

Saturday: Retailers Report. Based on exactly one day of shopping, but hundreds of analysts making predictions, report that retailers are having a tough holiday shopping season.

Sunday: Back To The Airport. Remind the public that if they haven't left for the airport already, they're screwed.

Monday: They're Dead. Report the number of people who died on the road during the holiday weekend, and how high gas prices didn't seem to keep Americans from traveling long distances to eat and argue with their families.

Future File (Upcoming Stories To Work On):
  • Fire hazards of Christmas trees.
  • Increased popularity of online shopping.
  • Find a Jewish family that can explain Hanukkah.

Frank Caliendo

You may have seen the promos for "Frank TV" during TBS' baseball playoffs coverage -- ten second snippets of Frank Caliendo as various famous people. "Frank TV" will debut tomorrow night, so I invited him back to my show this afternoon to talk about it.

He says he's got a "Seinfeld" parody in which he plays all four characters, and since this is Thanksgiving week, John Madden will make an appearance, too, probably with a turducken recipe. I asked Frank what impact the writers strike is having on his series, and whether he's working up impressions of any of the presidential candidates for next year (in case the show gets picked up after these five episodes).

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

No Cards For Walter Reed

Every day for the last two weeks, dozens of listeners have sent me an e-mail that's been going around the internet, asking that I please plug it on both my show and this website. As always, those who have forwarded it have done so without checking to see if it's for real.

The e-mail in question this time is the one asking people to send holiday cards to recovering soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital. It sounds like a good cause, but there's a good reason for my refusal to broadcast it: Walter Reed won't accept those cards, and they won't actually go to a soldier -- any soldier.

Here's the hospital's official statement...

Walter Reed Army Medical Center officials want to remind those individuals who want to show their appreciation through mail to include packages, letters, and holiday cards addressed to 'Any Wounded Soldier' or 'A Recovering American Soldier' that Walter Reed cannot accept these packages in support of the decision by then Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Transportation Policy in 2001. This decision was made to ensure the safety and well being of patients and staff at medical centers throughout the Department of Defense.

In addition, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer accepting "Any Service Member" or "A Recovering American Soldier" letters or packages. Mail to "Any Service Member" that is deposited into a collection box will not be delivered.

Instead of sending an “Any Wounded Soldier” letter or package to Walter Reed, please consider making a donation to one of the more than 300 nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping our troops and their families listed on the "America Supports You" website.

Cold Beer, Really Fast

This guy is going to be a millionaire.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Upset Pick, So Close

If I had made my Upset Pick on Tuesday, I would have gotten the Dolphins plus ten and a half points, which would have covered the spread in today's game. By Thursday, the line had dropped to nine and a half points, which made me a loser. Argh!

Final score: Philadelphia 17, Miami 7. My season record: 5-5-1.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Jon Macks, Still On Strike

Comedy writer Jon Macks is still on strike from "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," but he checked in on my show this afternoon, to report on how things are going on the picket line (with presidential candidate John Edwards as special guest). Since Jon doesn't have the monologue as an outlet for the jokes filling his brain, he did some riffing on Michael Jordan's divorce, Barry Bonds' indictment, Lindsay Lohan's jail stay, and more.

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

Upset Pick, Week 11

This is a week I normally would not make a pick. There's just no game that jumps right out and says "I'm the one, go with me!" However, I vowed to make an upset pick every week this season, regardless, so why not go way out on a limb?

Under normal conditions, I recommend betting against a rookie quarterback (the Patrick Ramsey Rule), and would usually stay away from the worst team in the league. But since I'm out on this limb, let's step out even further and see if a little twig will hold me up. I'm going with the Dolphins -- not to chalk up their first win of the season, but to cover the spread.

Take Miami +9.5 vs Philadelphia. Season Record: 5-4-1.

William Cohen "Dragon Fire"


William Cohen, former US Senator and Secretary of Defense, was back on my show this afternoon to talk about his novel, "Dragon Fire." We also discussed Congress' reluctance to approve more money for the war without wording about withdrawing troops, and what that will mean going forward. Then we talked about Gen. George Casey's comments that the Army is "out of balance" and stretched too thin, the IAEA's report this week on Iran's nuclear capabilities, the volatile situation in Pakistan, and more.

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

Previously on Harris Online...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sportsman's Park

Dan O'Neill, a sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch, has helped compile a book about Sportsman's Park, which was home to more major league games than any other stadium -- including 10 World Series -- before closing in 1966. All those years of both Cardinals and Browns games meant that the greats of the games passed through the place or called it home. There's even the story of the day Babe Ruth met little Billy DeWitt, who is now majority owner of the Cardinals.

Listen, then order the "Sportsman's Park" book here.

Annie Duke Testifies

The House Judiciary Committee held hearings yesterday on online gambling. Annie Duke, one of the top poker players in the world, testified brilliantly in defense of lifting the ban on poker websites (and others).

As I said last year (when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was snuck into the Port Security bill at the last minute), it's not the government's business to tell me what to do with my money, particularly when we have no limit on the number of state lottery tickets you can buy (talk about hypocrisy!).

Annie's a perfect spokeswoman for the Poker Players Alliance because she's not only a successful pro, but also a mother of four who has supported her family with poker...


Here's my conversation with Annie Duke last year.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Don't Drive On Sunday?

Patrick Rule urges you not to drive on Sunday, December 2nd. He says it's a way to protest rising gas prices -- and by parking your car that day, you're also conserving, and thereby saving some money.

That's the real bottom line question: will Americans get to the point where they're willing to make sacrifices in their own lives to help out their own bottom lines? Most of the arguments about gas prices rely on someone else making a change -- from asking the government to act somehow, to blaming environmentalists and oil companies for no new refineries coming online, to forcing auto manufacturers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles, and on and on.

Rule insists (and I agree) that it's much more a matter of personal responsibility. Will one day of no-driving force ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, and BPAmoco to their knees? Of course not. But many of my listeners like the symbolism of a no-drive day (which may tell you that not many of them have to work on Sundays!).

Ironically, with gas prices averaging $2.98/gallon in St. Louis (up from $2.09 a year ago today) and oil prices settled in at over $90/barrel, the Secretary-General of OPEC announced this morning that he sees no need to increase oil production. Well, of course he doesn't! That's the entire supply and demand concept in action. If they produce more oil, prices would go down, but while prices are high and demand isn't decreasing, they can clean up. There's very little incentive for them to act any other way.

I don't know many people who are doing a lot of excess driving. It's not like Missourians would wake up that Sunday and decide to "go for a drive," unless they had a specific destination they had to visit. Still, a message of conservation is one we're not hearing from our national or state leadership, so it has to be on us, individually, to make that choice to sacrifice. Or not.

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

Jonathan Karsh, "Kid Nation"

On my show today, I talked with Jonathan Karsh, host of the CBS reality show "Kid Nation." He's the guy who appears to run the challenges and hand out the gold stars at the town councils that end each episode. Karsh says there's a big change coming in tonight's show.

I asked him whether the kids came to the show knowing how to act because they'd seen other reality shows, and whether the cameras changed them. We discussed Laurel (the very impressive member of the town council who appeared on my show before the season began) and Taylor (the pageant queen who came off as the villain of the season).

I also asked a question my daughter -- a big fan of the show -- has been wondering about: do the $20,000 gold stars create a lot of jealousy in Bonanza City, or become an incentive for some of the kids to work harder?

CBS hasn't committed to a second season of "Kid Nation" yet, but if the writers strike goes on for a couple of months, they'll almost certainly be looking for more reality programming like this.

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


Previously on Harris Online...

Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson -- Book 3


Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson returned to my show today to talk about their third Peter Pan prequel, "Peter and The Secret of Rundoon."

We discussed everything from which of them came up with the flying camel that poops on its enemies (take a wild guess!) to how the giant snake from their book manifested itself in a real-life incident at their appearance in Miami a few weeks ago. I asked them if they owe a debt to JK Rowling for getting kids to read big plot-heavy books, and whether Disney is planning a theme park ride based on the "Peter" series.

We also talked about the all-authors rock band they're in (The Rock Bottom Remainders), Dave's presidential campaign, and how long it took Ridley to answer his daughter's question which set these books in motion.

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

Monday, November 12, 2007

Kevin Sites, In The Hot Zone


Kevin Sites has covered wars, disasters, and conflicts around the world, and has compiled some of the stories in "In The Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars."

This afternoon on my show, I talked with Sites about some of those adventures, including the infamous incident in Fallujah, where Sites videotaped a US Marine shooting an Iraqi prisoner. We discussed the fallout from that footage, the decision to air it in a censored form, and the international consequences of telling the story.

We also talked about covering the Indonesian tsunami, the role of the internet in his reporting, the impact of big-name network anchors going to disaster scenes to take over coverage of a story, and who is to blame for the lack of foreign news coverage in the American media.

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

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Upset Pick Loses Week 10

That'll teach me to pick the Lions. Fooled twice in one season. Should have gone with the Broncos, which was my original choice but, at the time, Jay Cutler's status was unknown, so I stayed away. Ah, well. Season record falls to 5-4-1.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Jon Macks, On Strike

On my show today, I talked with TV comedy writer Jon Macks, who hasn't written any jokes for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" this week because of the strike. He reported what it's been like on the picket line, talked about celebrities who have shown up to show their support for the writers, and explained the anger towards Ellen DeGeneres for continuing to produce her show during the strike. And there's the solidarity at home in Jon's family -- they all want him to get another job, quick!

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

James Gunn & Ryan Eslinger

This afternoon on my show I talked with two filmmakers who are being featured tonight at the St. Louis International Film Festival, both of whom grew up here.

One is James Gunn, who directed "Slither," wrote both "Scooby Doo" movies, and worked on "Dawn of the Dead." The other is Ryan Eslinger, whose first movie "Madness and Genius" caught the eye of Sharon Stone, who agreed to co-produce and star in his second movie, "When A Man Falls In The Forest."

I talked with Gunn about his years at Troma Films, where such classics as "Tromeo and Juliet" were made. He also gave an impassioned speech in support of the writers strike, even though it will impact him financially, as he has had to pull out of writing Ben Stiller's new project. BTW, I did not ask Gunn any questions about his wife, Jenna Fischer, as they're in the process of getting divorced.

Eslinger explained what happened when he visited Stone's home to talk to her about working together, how he financed his first film with part-time jobs at Best Buy and Wild Oats while in high school, and how far he's come since he was a ticket-taker at the AMC West Olive 16.

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

No Hugging In Schools - Another Student's View

Kyle Swanson has heard all the discussion on my show this week about the No Hugging rule in Mascoutah schools. As a student at Mascoutah Community High School, Kyle says he's going to make t-shirts that say Hug For New School Rules, and already has lots of people who want one.

When I asked if he's had problems with the district's PDA rule, Kyle told me that he and his girlfriend got in trouble for holding hands while coming down the stairs after the end of school one day a few weeks ago -- even though the school handbook specifically mentions that hand-holding is permitted. That led to a broader discussion of whether he's witnessed inappropriate public displays of affection in school, and whether any of his friends have gotten in trouble for violating the policy.

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

Thursday, November 08, 2007

John Sayles and Gary Clark Jr., "Honeydripper"


John Sayles was in my studio this afternoon to talk about his new movie, "Honeydripper," which kicks off the St. Louis International Film Festival.

"Honeydripper" is a blues bar in rural Alabama in 1950 run by Danny Glover and Charles S. Dutton, who need a big crowd on Saturday night if they want to save the business. There's lots of music, family intrigue, and Sayles says some interesting things about race in the deep south at that time. The cast includes Stacy Keach, Mary Steenburgen, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Lisa Gay Hamilton.

Gary Clark Jr. is a hot young guitarist from Austin who has a featured role in the movie. He was with Sayles this afternoon, so I stuck a Stratocaster in his hands and had him play a couple of songs live in the studio.

I also talked to Sayles about how he directs "name" actors, what led him to this story, and how he deals with actors with different styles. We also discussed his work on several Bruce Springsteen music videos and on the script for "Jurassic Park IV."

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

You can also listen separately to the songs Gary Clark Jr. performed on my show: "China Doll" and "Shotgun Man." 

Upset Pick, Week 10

Normally, I'd take Denver this week, but with Jay Cutler out, it's a no-touch game. Instead -- and I can't believe I'm saying this, because it means going with Mike Martz again -- I'm taking the Lions to beat the Cardinals. With the spread, the upset pick is riding on Detroit continuing to prove it's for real this year.

Take DET +1 at AZ. Season record: 5-3-1.

No Hugging In School - Megan Responds

Yesterday on my show, Megan Coulter got her say about the hugging incident that led to her serving two days of after-school detention in Mascoutah (IL).

The 13-year-old denied the claims of Supt. Sam McGowan and gave her version of what happened -- both the incident at the basketball game that resulted in a warning, and the hugs after school last Friday that drew the detention. She also explained that she didn't realize that the school's PDA rule applied to hugging, which she says is just a natural part of the way she was brought up. Megan says the school should be much more specific in defining what's allowed and what isn't.

She also said that, earlier yesterday, she and the other 8th-grade girls had all been brought to the school auditorium, where an administrator expressed displeasure that "someone" was making a big deal about this (of course, all the girls at the school know that "someone" is Megan).

Megan's mother, Melissa, says she's going to the next school board meeting to try to get the PDA/hugging rule changed. Based on the volume of calls and comments I've received, she may have a lot of support in the community.

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