Wednesday, October 31, 2007

E-Mail Of The Day

On my show, we're talking about the completely inappropriate Halloween costumes that are on sale and targeted at girls my daughter's age (13) and even younger. Some of them would be a better fit in a Victoria's Secret store than in the "tweens" section of our local costume shop.

A 17-year-old named Lorraine just called and said that this trend started with the movie "Mean Girls" a few years ago. She admitted that she'll be dressed up as a French maid tonight for her college boyfriend's Halloween party, even though her high school peers told her she's crazy to wear that in public.

Then there's this e-mail from John:

I made the mistake of going with my 9 year old to get a costume. She originally wanted to be a Super Model for Halloween. When I convinced her that was stupid, I agreed to take her to the local Halloween store to find a better outfit.

I was surprised at the French maids and sexy outfits in the kids section. I noticed a Pirate outfit for girls similar to Johnny Depp’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean. I did not pay 100% attention to the costume next to it called “Wild Pirate” with fishnet stockings, low cut top and short skirt. She wanted it and I bought it (like an idiot) because I did not believe it would be that bad on my kid. Wrong!

My daughter modeled it for us and I think she was even aghast at the outfit. She was excited that the boys would think the outfit was cool. I had to stand there and see her childhood explode before my eyes. My wife, of course, used the opportunity to give her (and me) a stern lecture on what is appropriate for a nine year old girl.

We allowed her to keep the outfit, but she has to wear her black gymnastic leotard under it. And the fishnet gloves will not be worn to school.

My lesson: Supermodel dress and pancake makeup does not sound so bad.
One last point. When Lorraine mentioned "Mean Girls," I said, "Oh, yeah, the Tina Fey movie, a good one." I'm sure she was thinking, "Uh, you mean the Lindsay Lohan movie, grandpa!"

Judge Andrew Napolitano "A Nation of Sheep"

Judge Andrew Napolitano was back on my show this afternoon to talk about his newly published book, "A Nation of Sheep."

In it, he rails against the Bush administration's continuing encroachment on our civil liberties (particularly the Patriot Act) and the slew of Congressmen and Senators of both parties who go along with it. They've all forgotten their oath of office -- to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States -- which Judge Nap cleverly includes in its entirety in his book.

He explained how many abuses of the Patriot Act there have been since it was passed without most members of Congress even bothering to read it, and what he says to those who claim "we're fighting against terrorists, so if it saves one American life, I don't care if the government listens to my phone calls or reads my e-mails."

We also talked about cities putting up more and more surveillance cameras, politicians and candidates pushing protesters into "free speech zones," and what Americans like you can do to stop politicians from using fear tactics to increase their governmental power.

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

Monday, October 29, 2007

Alan Zweibel

Alan Zweibel appeared on Letterman's show a couple of months ago, and was actually allowed to read from his book, "The Other Shulman." The excerpt he read was so clever and amusing that I made a note to get the book and, if I liked it, see if he'd come on my show to talk about it.

I got it, I liked it, and this afternoon, I spent an hour with him on the air. I told Zweibel I couldn't remember ever seeing an author given the opportunity to do that on a late-night show before, and he explained how the unusual booking was arranged.

After several minutes of discussing the book, its origins, and how much of it was autobiographical, I steered the conversation towards Zweibel's career as a TV comedy writer. We talked about "It's Garry Shandling's Show" (which he co-created) and the earliest years of "Saturday Night Live," where he got off to an inauspicious start by hiding behind a potted plant.

That led to the topic of Zweibel's relationship, both professional and personal, with Gilda Radner, from "SNL" through the eulogy at her funeral to his book "Bunny Bunny," which became a stage show and may become an HBO movie. In her memory, he's been a big part of Gilda's Club, a series of cancer support centers around the country. Their newest will be here in St. Louis, where Zweibel will headline a fundraiser on November 14th.

Listen, then get a copy of "The Other Shulman."

Here's Zweibel's Letterman appearance from this summer...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Another Bad One

Blew it again on the Upset Pick today. I said take the Vikings +1 vs. the Eagles. Final score: Philadelphia 23, Minnesota 16. And so, my season record falls to 4-3-1.

Could be worse. I could be Scott Linehan.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Your Tax Dollars In Action

You're an administrator at FEMA, and you're going to have a press conference about the California wildfires. You announce it to the press about 15 minutes before it's going to take place, which is not enough time for many reporters to show up. What do you do? Have FEMA staffers act like reporters and ask some nice softball questions! Al Kamen has the story.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

James Randi on NBC's "Phenomenon"

When I heard that NBC had hired Uri Geller to be a judge on its magic competition show, "Phenomenon," I knew the perfect person to review it: James Randi. He joined me this afternoon to talk about the show, give kudos to Criss Angel for the way he handled his role as a judge, and reveal a couple of things about the not-so-stupendous tricks that were performed.

By the way, words like "trick," "magic," and "magician" have been banned by NBC from use during the show -- they're playing up the supernatural garbage to a sickening extent. If they keep it up, Randi says he'll use YouTube to expose even more of the methods behind their tricks.

In the words of Toronto Star columnist Vinay Menon, "Why is Uri Geller about to appear on our television sets this evening? Shouldn't this widely discredited 'master of the paranormal' have vanished like a magician's rabbit 30 years ago?"

Speaking of which, I had Randi tell the story again of how he helped Johnny Carson show up Geller on a 1973 "Tonight Show" appearance by making sure that Geller and his cronies couldn't get access to the spoons and other props before they were used on the show. Needless to say, Geller was unable to do a thing once the cameras were rolling.

Ironically, Randi says he already knows who's going to win the competition: an Israeli guy named Guy Bavli, who will be featured on "Phenomenon" next week.

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

The biggest problem with "Phenomenon" is that it's too over-produced, in the style of so many other primetime competition shows. In this case, it comes off as both slick and cheap at the same time, much like Fox's lame attempt earlier this year to find a hot new movie director with "On The Lot."

That explains the presence of such geniuses as Carmen Electra, Rachel Hunter, and the could-he-be-more-of-a-stereotype Ross The Intern from "The Tonight Show." As my wife pointed out, they've actually found people who don't even qualify for the D-list of celebrities. It's fair to say to say they're not exactly adding a skeptical perspective to the proceedings.

It's clear that the magicians and mentalists on "Phenomenon" have worked professionally at various levels of the showbiz ladder, and they know that nothing they're doing is even remotely supernatural. It's all well-rehearsed and, in many cases, the tricks have been done better by other, more famous performers. Even Criss Angel pointed this out, when he said to the guy with the nail gun "I've done that trick with a real gun" and credited Banachek for creating one of the mentalism illusions that another contestant did.

And yet, NBC keeps promoting this as something other than magic. That's why they play up Geller's lame little tricks (as Randi points out, he only has three tricks in his entire arsenal) and allow him to spew his ludicrous mysticism. At least two of last night's performers insisted they "don't know" where their powers come from. Of course they do -- from copying more talented magicians!

Upset Pick, Week 8

I have a weakness for home underdogs, and I like the Vikings' defense. So, I'll take Minnesota +1 vs. Philadelphia in a battle of the mediocre.

Season record: 4-2-1.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

St. Lou?

"What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."
"Virginia is for lovers."
"I love New York."
"St. Louis all within reach."

Which of these slogans is not like the others?

The last one is the newest slogan for our town, unveiled with a new logo yesterday by the Convention and Visitors Commission. As soon as I saw it, I didn't like it, and neither did most of my listeners.

I have no problem with promoting our city to the rest of the country as a place to visit and bring your business. It's the graphic that bugs me. What's the "is" doing offset like that? It changes the name of our town to "St. Lou."

No one here calls it that. No one anywhere calls it that. It's like when there's a concert and the lead singer stands on stage and greets the crowd with, "How ya doin', St. Louie??" Well, we're doing fine, except that we don't call our town St. Louie. It's St. Louis. You pronounce all the letters and all three syllables, if you don't mind.

Maybe I'm sensitive to this because my name, like our town's name, ends with the -is suffix, and I don't like seeing it dropped. My nickname is not Paul Harr. This website is not called Paul Harr Is Online.

Can you imagine trying this elsewhere? "parIS the capital of france." "memphIS the home of elvIS." Now we're really debating what the definition of "is" is. Or capitalize the last two letters of Chicago and turn it into "chicaGO." Actually, that looks like you're telling a young hispanic woman to leave -- Chica, Go! -- in some sort of immigration argument.

I know what the CVC is trying to say with "St. LouIS All Within Reach" -- that St. Louis is a town you can get to from anywhere easily, that we have whatever you need, that there's lots of stuff here for you. But if that's true, why did the CVC hire a company from Kansas City to come up with the new slogan and logo? Apparently, "all within reach" doesn't include any design firms on our side of the state.

Of course, if they'd asked anyone here, they would have been told, "St. Lou IS Not What We Call Our Town."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ken Levine

Ken Levine is a very successful comedy writer, having worked with his partner David Isaacs on such sitcoms as "M*A*S*H," "Cheers," "Frasier," "The Simpsons," and others. That would be enough career for one guy, but Levine also was a Top 40 DJ in Los Angeles (using the name Beaver Cleaver) and spent a few seasons doing play-by-play baseball broadcasts for the Baltimore Orioles, among several teams -- an experience he wrote about in the very funny book, "It's Gone! No, Wait A Minute." A year ago, Levine started a blog, which quickly earned a bookmark in my browser and became a must-read destination.

Recently, Levine has been teaching other writer wannabes about the business with a seminar he calls The Sitcom Room. In connection with that, he recorded a 75-minute tele-seminar, in which he offers funny insights on the business and plenty of stories from his career. His simple explanation of how to write a farce should be mandatory for any aspiring writer.

There's no video, but you can listen to (or download) the mp3 audio here.

Amazing Race Returns

After just two episodes, CBS has already cancelled "Viva Laughlin." It didn't help that the show got very few positive reviews, and even fewer viewers.

Here's the good news: this opens up a time slot for "The Amazing Race," which will return to CBS-TV on Sunday, November 4th.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Abe Foxman of the ADL

Today I talked with Abe Foxman, who has been national director of the Anti-Defamation League for the last 20 years. We discussed his book, "The Deadliest Lies," which is a response to the writing of two professors who blame "the Israel lobby" for many things, including our involvement in Iraq. Foxman addressed that, and the embattled relationship between Israel and Iran, and I asked him why he didn't support the recent congressional resolution regarding the genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians in Turkey.

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

Bob Newhart

Legendary comedian Bob Newhart returned to my show this afternoon for a few minutes. We talked about his friendship with Johnny Carson, and he told some stories from the more than 100 times he appeared on "The Tonight Show." That led to a discussion of those rare nights when the act isn't working and he's bombing in front of an audience. To my surprise, Newhart says he still gets nervous about two hours before he does a standup concert.

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

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Andy Rooney & Jon Macks

Yes, that was Jon Macks' book "How To Be Funny" featured at the end of Andy Rooney's segment on "60 Minutes" tonight.

Upset Pick Blows It Again

I said take SF + 9 @ NYG. Final score: Giants 33, 49ers 15. Ah, well, at least I get credit for accountability, posting both my victories and losses. Season record is now 4-2-1.

It could be worse. I could be Mark Bulger's ribcage.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Jeffrey Toobin, "The Nine"

Jeffrey Toobin was back on my show to talk about his book "The Nine: Inside The Secret World of the Supreme Court." He was given extraordinary access to the justices (the ultimate "activist judges"), their clerks, and others, which led to some interesting stories.

I asked him about why Sandra Day O'Connor turned against President Bush, why she resented Samuel Alito even before he replaced her on the court, and what her relationship was with the only other woman to wear those robes, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

We discussed how the 2008 presidential election will have enormous ramifications for the court, since three of the liberal justices are likely to retire in the next few years, and whether pro-choice Rudy Giuliani would appoint pro-life justices to appease the conservatives in his party.

Toobin explained about why the justices won't allow cameras in their courtroom, whether their minds are made up before they even hear a case, and whether oral arguments or comments from their colleagues ever change their opinions.

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

E-Mail Of The Day

John Ryan writes,

Yesterday after work I went to the Scott Trade Center to pick up some hockey tickets. I made good time and got down there at 4:00. I knew there was no hockey game but figured even if there was an evening event it wouldn’t impact me. Au contraire, mon ami. My first clue that something was amiss came when I encountered some pretty heavy traffic approaching the Center. Then when I noticed the parking spaces for picking up tickets were full. And all the cars double-parked in front of the Center were yet another clue, to say nothing of the TV and radio vans with their remote antennas extended. Did the Blues just acquire Sydney Crosby? Alenander Ovechkin? Were the Blues sold again? LaRussa hired as coach? Not so much I discovered, as I came upon a giant pink bus parked on the sidewalk in front of the Center. Hannah Montana!

Instead of a quick in and out to pick up some hockey tickets, I ended up knee high in 7 and 8 year girls. There was a mom with her kids outside the center trying to buy tickets on the street. I was tempted to introduce her to the word “NO”. Inside the ticket area was wall to wall little girls, their seemingly adolescent mothers, and a handful of hapless fathers. I felt like I had just entered the Twilight Zone. One mother put a move on me for the ticket window that rivaled Karia cutting to the crease. At any rate thanks to the intervention of an usher I was able to escape, my masculinity intact, tickets in hand. As I walked away I made the mistake of counting my tickets and overheard a mom commenting on how many I had. YIPES! She thought I had Hannah Montana tickets! I picked up my pace convinced that I was about to be mugged by a hysterical Hannah Montana Mamma. Somehow I went to a hockey game and a Hannah Montana concert broke out just doesn’t have the right ring to it. What is the world coming to?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Upset Picks, Week 7

This week I'm going with San Francisco +9 at the NY Giants. The home team may win, but I don't think they're good enough to cover a spread that big.

Season record: 4-1-1

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More Movies You Might Not Know

Just added to the Movies You Might Not Know list:

"The TV Set" is Jake Kasdan's scathing satire of the television industry, starring David Duchovny as a writer/producer trying to get his sitcom pilot made and Sigourney Weaver as the network head whose vision for the show doesn't quite match his. Justine Bateman (!) co-stars as Duchovny's wife, and there are impressive cameos by Andrea Martin, Phillip Baker Hall, Jonathan Silverman as himself, and Phil Rosenthal (the man who ran "Everybody Loves Raymond") as a TV executive. For anyone who knows anything about the trials and tribulations of getting a TV show on the air, "The TV Set" will make you laugh -- even while you cringe at the hoops Duchovny has to jump through. This one played in theaters for about a day and a half, but you shouldn't miss it on DVD.

"Comedian" is Jerry Seinfeld's 2003 documentary about getting back onstage to do standup after a decade of his hit TV show. He's developing an entirely new act, which means lots of writing and lots of working the road, from small comedy clubs up to a big theater. At the same time, we see Orny Adams, a comedian who has been working the clubs for years and is desperate for his big break. Between the two of them, you see what it's like to step up to a solo microphone every night and try to make people laugh. There's also great backstage discussion among Seinfeld and fellow comedians like Colin Quinn, Dom Irrera, Ray Romano, and Jay Leno -- plus a classic scene in which Chris Rock tells Seinfeld about having seen Bill Cosby in concert, and the two of them marvel at the legend's material and stamina in putting on a show that lasted two and a half hours.

See the whole list here.

Tom Forman, "Kid Nation" Producer

I've mentioned before that "Kid Nation" is must-see TV in my house, mostly because of my 13-year-old daughter, who can see herself in many of the kids living in Bonanza City.

So today, I invited Tom Forman (executive producer of "Kid Nation") to talk about the show, the controversy he had to deal with in the months before its debut, and the reaction of the kids and parents now that they've seen how they're portrayed on the show (especially Taylor, the 10-year-old beauty queen who won't do dishes). We discussed that gulp-inducing scene a couple of weeks ago where one of the cowboy kids went out into a field to face down a bull, and whether he regrets casting kids as young as 8-year-old Jimmy, who left the show in tears to go back to his mom and dad.

I also asked Forman if he's already planning a second season of the show and, if so, where he can do it after the child-labor-law outcry following his production of this season in New Mexico.

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

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Upset Picks Win Again

I said take the Vikings +5.5 at the Bears, and Minnesota won it with a field goal at the gun, 34-31. Season record for my Upset Picks through six weeks improves to 4-1-1.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Civilian War Injuries

Today I talked with Mike Helms, a civilian counterintelligence expert who was serving alongside Army troops in Iraq when the humvee he was in hit an IED and was blown apart. Mike suffered severe injuries, inclding burns, a broken tailbone, shrapnel wounds, and tramatic brain injury.

You'd think the goverment he works for would take care of him, but you'd be wrong. Unfortunately, the military viewed him as a civilian and refused to take care of him at Walter Reed. The civilian medical insurance system told him he'd been injured on the job, and thus had to pursue worker's compensation. The bureaucrats at the Labor Department denied him care, too, saying he'd been injured at war, and it was the military's job.

On and on it has gone, for more than three years, without Mike getting the medical attention he needs. He's not alone in this quagmire, and may finally have some interest from Congress, but in the meantime, he and other federal non-military employees are trying to break through a brick wall of red tape in the hopes someone will help put them back together.

Listen to his story.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Upset Pick, Week 6

Season Record: 3-1-1

While I like Houston +6.5 vs. Jacksonville, I'm going to take Minnesota +5.5 at Chicago. The Bears' fall from the top of the heap continues, and the Vikings' defense should step up this weekend. Take them to cover.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Larry Craig's Hot Dog

Several listeners thought I was kidding about Sen. Larry Craig's favorite recipe, the Super Tuber, which involves shoving a well-buttered hot dog all the way into a potato. Eating it in a wide stance is optional.

It's for real, from a website that lists the favorite recipes of several members of Congress. Anyone know if they sell this at the snack bar near the men's room at the Minneapolis airport?

Ric Edelman, "The Lies About Money"

A few years ago, personal finance advisor Ric Edelman shocked my audience by telling you to never pay off your house, but instead keep as big a mortgage as possible. Today, Ric was back on my show to advise you to dump all your investments in retail mutual funds because of corruption and other problems in that industry over the last few years which have cost individual investors like you huge amounts of money.

That's one of the big ideas in Ric's new personal finance book, "The Lies About Money" (a great follow-up to the book I've said everyone should own, "The Truth About Money"), in which he addresses what you should do with your 401k or other investments instead of sticking them in the same old mutual funds.

I also asked Ric whether you should care that the Dow was up 120 points today, setting a new record over 14,000, on the 5th anniversary of the bull market. And we discussed whether we should be concerned about how baby boomers beginning to hit retirement age next year will have an effect on the rest of us economically.

Listen, then buy his book.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Upset Pick Week 5

It doesn't matter who the Kansas City Chiefs are playing. When they're a home underdog, they have a remarkable record of covering the spread -- going back three decades, they've failed to cover fewer than a half-dozen times. This weekend, the oddsmakers have made the Chiefs the underdogs at home vs. the Jaguars.

Take the Chiefs +2.5.

My season record thus far: 3-0-1

Monday, October 01, 2007

General Wesley Clark

General Wesley Clark was on my show this afternoon to talk about his book, "A Time To Lead: For Duty, Honor, and Country." After we got past whether he'll be Hillary Clinton's running mate next year, we got into a discussion of what he would do about Iraq, how he feels about the use of private contractors like Blackwater, what he would do about Iran if it does go nuclear, and more.

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

Here's To You, Mr. Homecoming Queen

And your Homecoming Queen is...........Aaron Zaggy!

Yes, she is a he. Aaron Zaggy is a senior at University City High School whose friends talked him into running for Homecoming Queen -- and he won. Today on my show, Aaron explained how the whole thing started, how the girls who lost to him reacted, whether he danced with the Homecoming King, and how his girlfriend reacted to the whole thing (for the record, Aaron says he's heterosexual).

Next, I asked UCity Schools spokeswoman Daphne Dorsey why the school district even allowed Aaron to pull this prank, what kind of reaction they've gotten, and whether they'll allow it to happen again next year.

This one seems simple. If there's a single position available, such as president of the student council, it's open to both genders -- but when there's a King and a Queen, the delineation is about as obvious as can be.

The UCity school district blew it, helping make Aaron the Ferris Bueller of 2007.

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