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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nothing To Fear On Halloween

There's nothing for your kids to be afraid of on Halloween. As Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids explained on my America Weekend show, none of the myths you've heard about stranger danger and poisoned candy and razor blades in apples are backed up by any evidence. Unfortunately, that won't stop the media fear mongers from propagating these falsehoods. The truth is, Halloween may be one of the safest nights of the year, because lots of kids are outside together, breathing fresh air, and getting exercise.

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

Monday, October 28, 2013

Trying To Watch The World Series

Last week, I was playing poker at the Horseshoe Hammond, near Chicago. On the walls of virtually every poker room I've played in, there are TVs that are always tuned to ESPN and the other sports channels. Every evening, there are multiple games being shown. Even in the middle of the morning, you get reruns of previous games or SportsCenter. If you play long enough late at night, you have to endure the same highlights over and over and over and over.

I was there on Wednesday, the first night of the World Series, but to my surprise, none of the TVs were tuned to Fox. I asked one of the floor supervisors if he could change the channel on the TV nearest the poker table where I was playing, and he responded that someone wanted to watch the Bulls game -- which was now on every TV in the place.

Granted, I live in St. Louis so, even though I'm not a baseball fan, I had more interest in the Cardinals-Red Sox matchup than people in the Chicago area -- for whom baseball in October long been nothing more than a pipe dream -- but choosing an inconsequential NBA pre-season game over the World Series didn't make sense. I could understand if the Bulls were in the NBA finals and I wanted to watch a Padres-Diamondbacks baseball game. But this was the World Freakin' Series, one of our nation's top sporting events.

I felt I had to rally some support, so I turned into Jack Nicholson in "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," trying to find someone else who would vote with me...

Finally, one of the other players at my table (was his name Chief?) said he had some money on the Series, so he'd like to watch it. This guy was a local, so the supervisor acquiesced and put the game on. And then the Cardinals committed error after error and blew it bigtime. I didn't mind too much, though, because my real interest was in the poker game, in which my chip stack was growing considerably.

We all have our priorities.

The Song Lou Reed Ruined

Say what you want about Lou Reed's contributions to rock and roll, but there's no doubt he ruined "Ace In The Hole" in this clip from "One Trick Pony"...

Health Care With Cookies

What HealthCare.gov would look like if designed by Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft.

In Case You Missed It

From my Twitter feed...

  • OK, I'll say it: Lou Reed was a rock legend, but the liver he got in May should have gone to someone with a longer life expectancy.
  • Tim McCarver said Sunday night, "When it comes to pitching, location doesn't matter that much." When it comes to analyzing baseball, making sense doesn't matter, either.
  • Friday was the 20th anniversary of the debut of Jon Stewart's other TV show.
  • I have no problem with anyone who wants to take me out for a free meal just to rack up double points on their credit card rewards program.
  • Interesting piece about how, in Congress, women are the only adults left -- and getting things done.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Connected Cars

Last week, car makers and broadcasters and other audio providers met in Detroit for the DASH conference to talk about connected cars. One of the organizers was radio consultant Fred Jacobs, whose company also makes apps for stations to stream their audio. He joined me on America Weekend to explain how the hardware in the car is changing to give you more content options at the touch of a button -- a revolution that radio providers have to understand or be left behind. We discussed the safety issues of in-dash screens, getting used to our cars talking back to us, and why the car companies aren't developing common standards for the interfaces.

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

Why Can't The Government Do Tech?

The problems with HealthCare.gov, the website portal for Obamacare, are not all that unusual. In fact, our government has a terrible record with websites and technology in general. That's what Clay Johnson of the Department of Better Technology told me on America Weekend, as he explained the recent history of tech failures in the federal government and the reasons behind them. I also asked him how long he thinks it will take to fix HealthCare.gov, and he's even more optimistic than the White House.

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

How Many Died In Iraq?

In the decade-long war in Iraq, we know how many members of the US military died -- 4,486 -- but the data on Iraqi civilians have always been vague. The generally accepted number has been around 100,000, but a new report says the actual death toll may be five times as large. On my America Weekend show, I talked this over with Greg Mitchell, blogger for The Nation and author of "So Wrong For So Long: How The Press and Pundits -- and the President -- Failed On Iraq." We also discussed the recent revelations of the NSA tapping the phones of foreign leaders like Germany's Angela Merkel, and whether anything will stop our surveillance-crazed government.

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

Greg Mitchell is also a co-producer of the documentary, "Following The Ninth," about Beethoven's 9th Symphony. See the trailer here.

Has Anything Changed In Bangladesh?

It's been six months since the collapse of a clothing factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killed 1,127 workers. In the aftermath, the big western retailers whose clothes are made there promised to help make factories like it safer. To see if anything has changed, I invited Theresa Haas of the Workers Rights Consortium back to my America Weekend show for an update.

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

Knuckleheads In The News® 10/27/13

Today's Knuckleheads In The News® include a dominatrix on a farm, a man who really wanted to finish his pudding, and a guy who rescued beer from a burning house. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Julie Perry, Yacht Stewardess

My wife and I spent a few days at Atlantis in the Bahamas last winter. Amid the hotel, restaurants, pools, and beaches, we also wandered through the marina, where huge private luxury yachts were docked. As people walked by, straining their necks to see who and what were inside, the yachts' crews went about their business, or stood waiting for the owners to return.

On my America Weekend show, I got a little insight into what that life is like from Julie Perry, who served as a stewardess on several of those boats for three years, an experience she writes about in "An Insider's Guide To Becoming A Yacht Stewardess." I asked her what the job was, whether it paid well, how the owners and guests treated her and the rest of the staff, how much those yachts cost, and which ports she enjoyed visiting the most (and least).

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

You can download a chapter of Julie Perry's book for free from her site.

An Umpire's View Of The World Series

With some controversy at the World Series this week, I called up 32-year veteran major league baseball umpire Dave Phillips to explain what happened and why on my America Weekend show. We discussed:
  • An ump's blown call at second base that was later reversed by his colleagues;
  • Whether an ump is obligated to point out a mistake in the interest of getting it right;
  • Whether Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester might have had something illegal in his glove (and what the umpires could have done about it);
  • What he thinks of the new instant replay rules being formulated for next year.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Eleanor Clift on ObamaCare's Website

Eleanor Clift is a longtime Washington columnist (now with The Daily Beast) and panelist on "The McLaughlin Group." She joined me today on America Weekend to discuss the problems with HealthCare.gov, whether the media and Congress are blowing them out of proportion, whether the White House should have delayed its implementation, and what it means for ObamaCare overall.

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

Now TSA's Checking You Out Before You Fly

The NY Times reported this week that the TSA is going to gather more information on you before you even get to the airport, including details in private and government databases -- all in secret and with no oversight. On my America Weekend show, I discussed this expansion of government powers and continuing invasion of our privacy with Edward Hasbrouck of the Identity Project, a program of The First Amendment Project.

He explained what the TSA is doing (despite its denials), how it claims to have the legal authority to do it (which is unclear), and how many of these decisions are made by computers with little human involvement nor accountability. He also revealed something you did not know about how the government has to give you official permission every time you fly -- the default answer is "no."

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

No More Supplements

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has banned dietary supplements from its pharmacy. That means kids won't get gingko biloba, melatonin, glucosamine, or mega-vitamins. Why? As Dr. Paul Offit (chair of the hospital's therapeutic standards committee) explained on my America Weekend show, those pills are not tested or regulated by the FDA, nor is there any scientific evidence that they help patients -- in fact, they're causing harm. Ironically, this week, the FDA proposed rules to make pet food safer, but these supplements continue to fill store shelves with no oversight.

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

Knuckleheads In The News® 10/26/13

Today's Knuckleheads In The News® include a blind date gone horribly wrong, a man smacked with a fish, and the naked truth about pre-calculus. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 10/25/13

This week's Harris Challenge includes the categories "She's Over 40 And Still Onscreen," "This Week In Sports," and "Multiple Choice Clancy." Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Woody Allen's Moose Story

Here's a rare piece of comedy history.

In 1965, Woody Allen was in England filming the dreadful Bond satire "Casino Royale," and agreed to do a half-hour TV show for a British network. At the time, he had not yet launched his career as a filmmaker, but was known for his work as a comedian who made lots of television appearances and had just released his now-classic album of standup routines. The show was essentially Woody working alone at a microphone, with one brief interlude for his friend Danny Meehan to sing a song. Then Woody returned to tell the following, one of his greatest stories (which I'm proud to say my daughter can recite verbatim).

So, how rare is this? To my knowledge, it's the only filmed record of Woody doing standup -- certainly the only one with Italian subtitles...

For the rest of this Grenada TV Woody Allen show, watch part one here and part two here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Orchestral World Series

I can't stand it when politicians make stupid public wagers over sporting events. They're always too stiff, lack creativity, and pander to local companies. No one cares about the bets except local newscasters who breathlessly report them as if they mean something.

But if there has to be a rivalry between cities, it should be treated like this one for the World Series, with the horn sections of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Boston Symphony Orchestra talking trash and then getting down to brass-ness...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

In Case You Missed It

From my Twitter feed...

  • Interesting interview with Keith Olbermann, who reveals an important lesson he learned from Elizabeth Montgomery.
  • Good luck to tech columnist supreme David Pogue as he leaves the NY Times after 13 years for a new role at Yahoo.
  • The argument that employers are cutting back full-time employees to part-time because of Obamacare is simply false.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tweet Of The Day

From Eleanor Clift, Daily Beast columnist and (still!) McLaughlin Group panelist, regarding the over-the-top coverage of problems with the HealthCare.gov website:

Get a grip, folks. It's just a web site, and it will get fixed. White House shouldn't be so defensive, it just invites media to pile on.

What Happens When A Woman Uses Axe?

When Dahlia Lithwick's 8- and 10-year-old sons learned about Axe body spray and deodorant from their 13-year-old cousin, they started applying heavy doses regularly, thus making the house smell like teen spirit fulltime. So Lithwick -- though repelled by the company's commercials -- decided to see what effect the Axe products have on others by wearing them herself for seven days:

The truth is, my experiment in smelling like an adolescent male for a week had only two really profound consequences. One, I really did grow to love the fragrance. And no. I don’t want to talk about it. But two, and distinctly more important, both my kids were so embarrassed that they stopped using it within days of my initiating the experiment. Smell you later, Axe. It turns out that there is some Freudian window in which smelling like your mom is so beyond contemplating that they wordlessly gave it up altogether.
Read her entire piece here.

As for the Axe commercials, they're nothing more than a modern-day, more-risque version of the ads that ran in the 1970s for a long-forgotten line of men's products called Hai Karate...

Joe Cipriano, "Living On Air"

Joe Cipriano is one of television's top voiceover talents. You've heard him promoting the primetime lineups of most networks (including 25 years as the "voice of Fox"), or as the announcer on game shows like "America's Got Talent" and "Deal or No Deal" or award shows like the Emmys and Grammys. You also may have heard him recently in an interview I did with Joe and Fred Melamed (one of the stars of the movie "In A World") or my conversation with Joe and Don LaFontaine in 2005. He's also the voice of more than a dozen radio stations.

Joe just sent me his book, "Living On Air," a memoir of his career, from hanging around his hometown radio station in Connecticut as a teenager, to getting his first shot at being a DJ, to working his way up from a small market to big stations in DC and LA, and then on to his current life as a TV voice for hire. It's a great read, because it's a story that's sadly scarce these days, of a young guy's obsession with radio.

Joe and I shared a passion for this business from very early on, inspired by the men (there were few women in business) who entertained us with their voices every day before and after school. Like me, Joe loved spending time in a radio studio, surrounded by records and equipment, learning from listening to the pros on the air, and experimenting with his own style. Along the way, he discovered the excitement of pleasing a large audience and how appealing his voice behind the microphone could be to listeners of the opposite sex, as well as the cruel side of the radio business, and how opportunities come from both hard work and the occasional assist from a mentor. He also reveals how being on the radio in Los Angeles puts you inside the heads of people who can change your life in ways you never imagined.

"Living On Air" will be published next week in book, e-book, and audio book formats, which you can pre-order now on his site. Joe sent it to me as a PDF file, and though I cruised through it in one night, I'd recommend you buy it in the audio book format so you can hear his story in his own professional broadcaster voice.

Considering how much he charges the networks for his talents, you'll be getting quite a bargain.

James Randi at the Amazing Meeting

Here's the keynote address James Randi gave at this summer's Amazing Meeting...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Kevin Grazier, Science Adviser for "Gravity"

As I wrote earlier this month, the movie "Gravity" it is an astounding achievement that has dominated the box office for three straight weeks (earning nearly a quarter-billion dollars thus far), and will likely do the same during awards season early next year. But how did director Alfonso Cuaron make sure the science was right? He turned to Dr. Kevin Grazier, a 15-year veteran of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who has also advised "Battlestar Galactica," "Falling Skies," and other science fiction projects.

Dr. Grazier joined me on America Weekend today to talk about his role in the script process, his reaction to other scientists who have nit-picked some of the plot points of "Gravity," and how some scientific accuracy had to be sacrificed in service of making a great movie. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

The Hidden Cost Of Fast Food Workers' Wages

A new report from the Center for Labor Research and Education at Berkeley says that the low pay of fast-food workers has an impact on every American taxpayer because they need public assistance to get by -- to the tune of billions of dollars per year. Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Center and author of the report, joined me on America Weekend to discuss the findings and explain how these corporations continuing to pay their employees the minimum-wage keeps them dependent on Medicaid, food stamps, and other services, thus creating a hidden tax on the rest of us.

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

Move Where The Jobs Are

For generations, Americans moved to where the jobs are. But recently, the migration patterns have changed, and unemployed people are staying put. Why? On my America Weekend show, I asked Tim Noah, MSNBC contributor, contributing editor for Washington Monthly, and author of "The Great Divergence: America’s Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It." He explained that two-income families, state income taxes, and an aging population aren't the answers -- it has much more to do with the cost of housing. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Prayer At Public Meetings

Next month, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Greece v. Galloway, about a small town in upstate New York that opens its public meetings with a prayer. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has been representing two residents of Greece who oppose the practice because the prayers have been overwhelmingly Christian. On my America Weekend show, senior litigation counsel Greg Lipper explained why the practice is unconstitutional (which an appeals court has upheld). Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Knuckleheads In The News® 10/20/13

Today's Knuckleheads In The News® include a smuggling cat, a winning bet, and a guy's junk in a toaster. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

In Case You Missed It

From my Twitter feed...

  • Disappointed my bid for the Titanic violin didn't win. I guess $50 was a little low, but it doesn't even come with resin for the bow!
  • I can't wait to start binge-watching the NLCS and ALCS this afternoon. Don't tell me how they end!
  • The true news story that's also a mashup of "Argo" and "Captain Phillips."

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Nursing Home Ripoffs

This week, USA Today reporter Peter Eisler published the results of his investigation onto thefts from nursing home trust funds. Those are accounts that are set up to handing the finances of seniors in those facilities, from incoming items like social security checks to outgoing items like daily expenses at the home. As he explained on my America Weekend show, he discovered that many of these trust funds are never audited, making them vulnerable to staffers who steal from them or charge their own expenses to residents' accounts -- to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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

Knuckleheads In The News® 10/19/13

Today's Knuckleheads In The News® include a bank robber's search history, a blind man's car chase, and a shirtless man's parrot. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Harris Challenge 10/18/13

This week's Harris Challenge includes categories related to tonight's NLCS game six -- "They're Not Redbirds, They're Red Movies" and "Dodge, Dodger, Dodging" -- plus two versions of my weekly topical category, "Have You Been Paying Attention?" Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

From My Twitter Feed

  • Somewhere in America, a radio talk show host is saying, "Before she was thrown out, the House stenographer was making important points."
  • Call me sentimental, but I already miss CNN's omnipresent on-screen Shutdown Countdown Clock. Good times (if you'll pardon the pun).
  • Scientists say Oreos make your brain feel better than cocaine. Bet it was hard to get lab volunteers to snort the cookies. Without milk.
  • Philosophical question: if no media outlet pointed a camera or microphone at Ted Cruz, would he make a sound?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tim Minchin, "Prejudice"

The brilliant and witty singer/songwriter takes on prejudice...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Unnecessary Part of "Captain Phillips"

"Captain Phillips" is a helluva movie, a high-seas adventure with Tom Hanks (the only cast member you'll recognize) as captain of a cargo vessel that's taken over by four Somali pirates. There are plenty of articles and reviews that will tell you as much as you want to know about the movie, but I haven't seen anyone else mention that the entire introductory sequence should have been cut.
In it, Rich Phillips (Hanks) is preparing to leave home in New England, and gets a lift to the airport from his wife (Catherine Keener). The scenes tell us nothing about the couple other than he's been doing this job -- leaving for long periods to work -- for many years, and they love each other. Once they say goodbye at the airport, we never see Keener again. Instead, director Paul Greengrass (who did A+ work in a couple of Bourne movies and "United 93") cuts to a village in Somalia, where war lords are forcing locals to get on small skiffs and head into the ocean to try to capture a cargo ship. Yes, we see the difference between Phillips' normal American life and the desperation of the Somalis, but it's unnecessary for the story, which quickly becomes compelling enough to pull us in, with riveting performances by the Somalis who play the pirates.

It seems unlikely that Keener would sign on to the movie knowing her role would be so small. How small? The photo above is the only one showing Hanks and Keener together in the movie that comes up in a Google images search. I can't help but wonder if there were other scenes shot with Keener -- at home watching the story unfold on cable news, or a tearful reunion once Phillips is rescued -- that Greengrass decided were too distracting from the rest of the story. If so, he was right, but he didn't go far enough. He should have excised the opening scenes, too.

Dan Ariely's Truth About Lying

This was one of my favorite talks at the James Randi Educational Foundation's Amazing Meeting this summer in Las Vegas. The speaker is Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University and author of "The Honest Truth About Dishonesty." He spoke about research he's done into lying and cheating and how prevalent they are. He's a terrific speaker and story teller, as you'll see...

Monday, October 14, 2013

In Case You Missed It

A sample of stories you missed if you didn't listen to my America Weekend show on Saturday and Sunday:

  • Another "psychic" is found guilty of fraud and didn't see it coming.
  • Why Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" won't be shown in movie theaters in India.
  • Donald E. Miller Jr. is dead and not dead -- at the same time, by court order.
  • A meteorologist so concerned about climate change he's sworn to never fly again.
  • Disabled kids can't cut the line at DisneyWorld because these people spoiled the privilege.
  • Shaking hands to promote sportsmanship is not recommended at Kentucky high schools.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

David Pogue, Making More Stuff

NY Times tech columnist David Pogue was back on my America Weekend show to discuss upcoming new episodes of his Nova series, "Making More Stuff," which will air on the next four Wednesdays on PBS. We talked about some remarkable coating that repel graffiti, new materials being developed under contracts with the military, his adventures on an America's Cup yacht, and the amazing qualities of eel slime. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Previously on HarrisOnline...

Kellie Gerardi Wants To Go To Mars

In May, I talked to Bas Lansdorp, the man behind a mission to send four people on a one-way trip to Mars in 2023. Today on my America Weekend show, I talked with one of the 200,000 people who have applied for a seat on that flight. Her name is Kellie Gerardi, a 24-year-old who works in the commercial space flight industry. Of course, I started by asking her why she wants to go, as well as what her family and friends (especially her boyfriend) say about the no-return trip, what skills she has that qualify her, and how she'll handle the ultimate build-your-own-environment experience.

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

The History Of Popcorn

Why do we eat popcorn at the movies, and when did that start? On my America Weekend show, I turned to an expert for answers: Andrew Smith, author of "Popped Culture: A Social History of Popcorn." I asked him how profitable popcorn is for movie theater operators, why the business took a dip in the 1950s and 1960s, whether popcorn is as popular around the world as it is in the US, and more. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Warning: the music I used to begin this segment will be impossible to get out of your head, like the shell of a popcorn kernel stuck between your teeth with no toothpicks around.

Katrina Alcorn, "Maxed Out"

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg got a lot of attention earlier this year with her book “Lean In,” which urged women to be more active in both their work and home lives. But Katrina Alcorn thinks that many women have leaned in too far and are already doing more than their share. She blogs at WorkingMomsBreak.com and is the author of “Maxed Out: American Moms On The Brink.”

Among the questions we discussed:
  • Why is managing a career and family more difficult for a woman today than in your mother’s generation?
  • Should businesses do something different?
  • Is this a matter of personal choices, or cultural forces affecting moms who work?
  • What should working moms ask for on the job?
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Knuckleheads In The News® 10/13/13

Today's Knuckleheads In The News® include a bride left behind, a hockey player stuck in the bathroom, and a car chase over a Big Mac. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Stephen Root

You may know Stephen Root from his voice work for a dozen years on “King Of The Hill,” or his work for the Coen Brothers in “No Country for Old Men” and “O Brother Where Are Thou?” or in dozens of other movies and TV shows. These days, you can hear his voice on the Dreamworks show “Dragons,” which airs Thursday nights on the Cartoon Network. On my America Weekend show, I asked Stephen about the difference between voice acting and live-action, who decides what the character will sound like, and how he juggles more than a dozen projects he's doing this year alone. We also talked about the cult classic "Office Space" (that's Root as Milton Waddams, above), HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," and whether he wants to return to a regular TV series like his years on "News Radio."

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

Why Education Reforms Fail

Patrick Welsh retired from teaching this spring after 43 years. During his tenure (no pun intended), he lived through multiple efforts to reform education, most of which failed. In our America Weekend conversation, he explained why those plans didn't work, how the system fails kids at the bottom of the economic spectrum, and why parents deserve some (but not all) of the blame.

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

Don't Fake It On Yelp!

You own a small business and want to pump up the public's perception of it, so you go to one of those consumer review sites (e.g. Yelp) and write a fake review with all sorts of wonderful things and post it under a phony name. Should that be against the law? In New York this week, regulators cracked down on 19 companies that used those deceptive practices and hit them with big fines. Will that have any effect on the businesses involved, and what about the reputations of the sites themselves, not to mention the companies that aided and abetting this online lying?

On my America Weekend show, I talked it over with David Streitfeld, who covered the story for the NY Times. We also discussed how this impact's Google's new "shared endorsements," where you may end up being used in an ad for a product that your "friends" see, but which you didn't receive any compensation for. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

The Return of SCOTUS

With the new Supreme Court session already underway, I asked USA Today correspondent Richard Wolf to join me on America Weekend to explain which cases the justices will take up in the next few months, including campaign finance, affirmative action, abortion, recess appointments, and more. I also asked him the chances of one of the justices announcing their retirement during or after this term. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Knuckleheads In The News® 10/12/13

Today's Knuckleheads In The News® include a mystery painting, a fear of puppets, and problems on the train tracks. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Calvin and Hobbes

I'm looking forward to this documentary about Calvin & Hobbes, which hits theaters next month. Here's the trailer...

Friday, October 11, 2013

Harris Challenge 10/11/13

This week's Harris Challenge includes lots of St. Louis Cardinals trivia -- as the team enters the NLCS vs. the Dodgers -- plus my weekly topical category, "Have You Been Paying Attention?" Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Today's Must-Reads

  • Phil Plait's open letter to the LA Times editors who insist on standing up for science.
  • Frank Bruni's piece about how politicians should stop comparing everything to the Holocaust and 9/11.
  • Linda Holmes on the outright sexism of "Survivor."

Bagel Quarters

I went into an Einstein's Bagels the other morning because, in the fall, they make pumpkin bagels that are delicious. When I walked in, a few people were eating at tables, but there was no one in line, so I walked right up to the clerk at the first cash register.

There was a time when, as a customer, you would talk directly to the person who would make your order, but now you have to talk to the clerk who punches some buttons on a screen, which then relays the order to another screen in front of the food preparation area, where your order is put together. I'm sure it helps with inventory control and theft-reduction, and probably works smoothly in other quick-dining places like Panera or Crazy Bowls & Wraps, but it seems a bit much in a bagel place.

Regardless, I told the clerk I wanted a pumpkin bagel with light cream cheese, cut both ways. He dutifully hit the buttons for pumpkin bagel and light cream cheese and asked me to repeat the other part. I said, "Cut it both ways, please." He looked at me as if I had started speaking Lithuanian or asked him to identify the 100th digit of pi.

"What do you mean, cut it both ways?" I explained that I wanted the bagel sliced in half, as usual, so there's a top and bottom, and also cut vertically so as to create two sandwich halves. He nodded, then scanned the screen to see where the "cut it both ways" button was. While he was doing this, the guy who would prepare my bagel was standing next to him -- if he were any closer, they'd be sharing an arm. He'd heard my order, but didn't start making it because it hadn't appeared on his screen yet.

Once the clerk found the correct button sequence, the "chef" began to make my bagel by cutting it horizontally, then vertically, and then applying the cream cheese. Wrong! He did step three before step two, but I didn't say anything. I just watched as he tried to spread some cream cheese on each quarter, but along the way he tore one of them, so he had to throw it away and start all over again with a new bagel -- which he did in the same sequence. And then, because he was spreading the cream cheese with a scoop instead of a knife, he tore the new bagel, threw it away, and picked a third one out of the basket. At one point, he glanced at me with a look that said, "I can't believe you're making me do this," as if I'd challenged him to work blindfolded with one hand tied behind his back. In Lithuanian.

Finally, he finished applying the cream cheese, put the whole thing together, stuck it in a bag and handed it to me. I checked the time and was stunned to find out it had taken fifteen minutes from the moment I entered to the time I walked out with my food. And this was not at rush hour. I was the only customer up front the entire time.

I bet that, after work that day, those two employees went home and, when their families asked, "How was work today?", they told the story of a crazy guy who had came in with the most ridiculous request. But on my side of the counter, I couldn't believe asking for a bagel to be quartered in this manner was such an unusual request in the Einstein's universe. When you order a sandwich at Subway, they cut it both ways. So does Panera.

Is it possible that I'm the only one who likes a bagel cut both ways? In fact, why isn't that the default way a bagel is prepared?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Folly Floater

Last night, with baseball on TV, a friend and I got into a discussion of odd things we'd seen in games through the years, and I brought up The Folly Floater. That was a novelty pitch thrown by Steve Hamilton of the Yankees in which he stopped his motion halfway through and launched the ball into a high arc that came straight down through the strike zone. He didn't use it often, but when he did, it befuddled batters used to fastballs, sliders, and curves.

The Folly Floater was referred to as an "Eephus Pitch," which is described on Wikipedia thusly:

An invention attributed to Rip Sewell of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1940s. According to manager Frankie Frisch, the pitch was named by outfielder Maurice Van Robays. When asked what it meant, Van Robays replied, "'Eephus ain't nothing, and that's a nothing pitch." Although the origin is not known for certain, Eephus may come from the Hebrew word "efes" (pronounced "EFF-ess"), meaning "nothing."
Naturally, I checked YouTube to see if anyone had posted footage of Hamilton throwing The Folly Floater, and found this. It's from July 24, 1970, when the Yankees played a double-header with the Cleveland Indians. The batter is Tony Horton, who fouls off The Folly Floater -- and then tells Hamilton to try another one. That doesn't work out, either. The high-energy announcer describing the action is Phil Rizzuto...

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Stephen Merchant

You may know Stephen Merchant’s work as co-writer and co-director of the original British version of "The Office" and the HBO series "Extras," as well as "An Idiot Abroad" and "Life’s Too Short." He’s won an Emmy, 2 Golden Globes, 3 BAFTAs, and 4 British Comedy Awards, and joined me on America Weekend to discuss a new series he created for HBO called “Hello Ladies,” about a very tall guy who has trouble meeting women because he’s always saying or doing the wrong thing. Among the topics we discussed:
  • his recent lip-syncing contest with Jimmy Fallon and Joseph Gordon Levitt;
  • how’s it different being single in the US compared to the UK;
  • how John Cleese and Steve Coogan inspire his comedy;
  • how being a TV star has changed his luck with women.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Impact of "Gravity"

"Gravity" had a huge box office weekend, as I knew it would. It's going to be this year's big word-of-mouth monster hit. It will be nominated for tons of awards, but its impact will go beyond selling lots of tickets and bolstering Sandra Bullock's carrer. "Gravity" will change the way movies look from now on, thanks to the incredible technology behind the special effects.

I'm reminded of the first time I saw Stanley Kubrick's 1968 masterpiece, "2001: A Space Odyssey." It looked so different that audiences were stunned. The same thing happened in 1977 when George Lucas released the first "Star Wars" movie, and in 1991 when James Cameron made "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." Though their effects may seem old school now, they were paradigm-shifters in the movie business.

I have never liked a 3-D movie until this one, never thought the glasses created any depth to the picture that my imagination couldn't already add. But I can't imagine seeing "Gravity" in 2-D. Like those above, it must be seen on as large a screen as possible, with the stupid glasses. Don't wait for it to stream to your iPad via Netflix -- the experience will not be as immersive. You have to get as lost in the picture as Bullock does in space.

"Gravity" is not perfect. Too much of the dialogue and George Clooney's delivery seem phony. There are scientific errors that distracted me from the plot. But nit-picks aside, it's an amazing cinematic accomplishment that is not only drawing audiences, but causing everyone else making a special-effects-driven movie to slap their heads in wonder.

Hail To The What?

In an interview with an Associated Press reporter Saturday morning, President Obama said he would change the name of the Washington Redskins if he owned the team to avoid offending Native Americans:

It's a typically long-winded answer, but that's fine. The problem came when this excerpt was reported as a stand-alone story, and brought comments from the idiot-sphere along the lines of "How can Obama talk about this when the country has really big problems and the government is shutdown?" and on and on and on.

Bottom line: he talked about the Redskins name because he was asked a direct question about it. That's something most of Obama's detractors never do. They'd rather obfuscate and foam at the mouth about nonsense than give a thoughtful response to a simple question. Obama knows that changing the Redskins' name isn't his decision, but he was asked for his opinion, and he gave it. That's not the same as the haters who give their opinion whether or not anyone wants it.

As for the underlying question about the name, I have struggled with this one myself.

In the 13 years I was on the air in DC, I didn't hesitate to root for the Redskins or have Mark Bradford, (the talented song parodist who contributed regularly to my morning radio show) produce weekly tunes cheering the team on to victory under the name The Redskin Rockers. A listener who owned a t-shirt company made custom Redskins shirts for me to give away on the air. I always went to see one game in person each season, watched the rest at home or a friend's house, and was in the stands when they won Super Bowls 22 and 26.

I never stopped calling the team The Redskins, as USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan has recently (listen to my conversation with her about decision), even when I began to see it as problematic.

Under legendary owner Jack Kent Cooke and current owner Dan Snyder, the team has always resisted any suggestion that its name is racist or objectionable. After Obama's comments, Lanny Davis -- who served as special counsel to President Clinton for a couple of years and is now an attorney for the Skins -- issued a statement that quoted a poll by the Annenberg Institute that said 9 out of 10 Native Americans were not bothered by the name Redskins. But that poll was done in 2004, nearly a decade ago, and attitudes about many social issues (e.g. gay marriage) have changed dramatically since then.

Davis' statement also quoted an AP poll from April of this year which showed that 80% of Americans in a national sample don't think the Redskins' name should be changed. That's irrelevant, too, because such matters should not be decided by public opinion. Only one rule should be applied: is it discriminatory and offensive?

The answer is clearly yes. No modern team would even consider having a derogatory name like Spics, Fags, Dikes, Kikes, Wops, or Niggers -- so why is Redskins acceptable? Other than Native Americans, no group of humans is emblazoned as the logo of a professional sports team. The San Diego Padres don't have a cartoonish logo of a priest in church garb, but the Cleveland Indians have one in Chief Wahoo. The Atlanta Braves encourage fans to do the Tomahawk Chop.

The Redskins claim legacy and tradition as reasons to continue using the name, but that's failing to recognize that America keeps changing. Just because you've always done it one way, doesn't mean you can't do it another way. There was a time when only white men played in the NFL, but the league eventually integrated. Which team was the last to hire black players? The Washington Redskins, in a not-so-stunning reversal of its "legacy."

Perhaps the real reason for the resistance is that the team would incur some expense in changing the name (estimates put it at $20 million, though I don't understand why it's so high), but in a town as football-crazy as Washington -- where every home game sells out and there are over 60,000 on the waiting list for season tickets, despite having only three winning seasons in this century -- the fan base would still be there. They would happily buy all-new merchandise to replace whatever they own with the Redskins logo.

Or perhaps it's simply Dan Snyder's big mouth that keeps the team from acquiescing. After all, he told a reporter to "put it in caps" when he said the name would never change as long as he owned the team. An ego as big as Snyder's might not be able to walk back from such an affirmative statement. While it's unlikely that Snyder will change his mind anytime soon, or that Roger Goodell and the NFL will pressure him to do so, there's no doubt that public sentiment continues to swing in favor of dropping the name. I agree with Brennan that, within a generation at the most, we'll look back in disbelief that the name was ever allowed to exist.

Meanwhile, around the league, the word "Redskins" is being used most often to answer one question: "Which team is going to get crushed by the Cowboys this Sunday night?"

The Bucos Stop Here

The Pittsburgh Pirates are making headlines because they're in the baseball post-season (vs. the St. Louis Cardinals) for the first time since 1979. They make for a good story, but here's what isn't good: all the sportscasters who insist on referring to the Pirates as "the Bucos."

No one uses that word in real life. It's like "lavatory" on a plane -- we call it a bathroom everywhere else (except kindergarten). I know that the word comes from "buccaneers," a nickname for pirates, but I have never heard a civilian (i.e. a non-broadcaster or non-sportswriter) say, "I'm going to watch the Cards-Bucos game." Besides, there's been an NFL team named the Buccaneers for several decades, and you'd never refer to them as the Tampa Bay Pirates. So knock it off!

Should You Buy Twitter Stock?

On Thursday, Twitter announced plans to go public with a stock offering in the near future with the ticker symbol TWTR. Friday, a lot of people thought they'd get in early and bought shares of a stock whose ticker symbol is TWTRQ. Unfortunately, that's not Twitter -- it's Tweeter, a home entertainment retailer that filed for bankruptcy in 2007 and was nothing more than a penny stock. But because so many people bought it, Tweeter's stock value rocketed to 15¢/share before the exchange halted trading. True, those who got in early and sold at the peak made a 1,400% gain, but the vast majority -- who thought they were buying Twitter -- are left holding a big bag of nothing.

But the real question is whether you should want Twitter stock in the first place. On my America Weekend show, I asked Chris Hill (host of the The Motley Fool Money Radio Show) whether investors should try to get in on Twitter's IPO, whether its lack of profits should be a concern, and how it will fare compared to the stock of other online phenomena like Facebook, Zynga, and Groupon. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Disgusting But Fascinating

Gross and disgusting things are fascinating to Valerie Curtis. She's a "disgustologist" who joined me on America weekend to discuss her book, "Don't Look, Don't Touch, Don't Eat: The Science Behind Revulsion." We talked about how being disgusted has helped us evolve as a species, whether different world cultures are disgusted by different things, and how disgust affects what we eat and wear and even who we love. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

The Uselessness of Food Expiration Dates

You go to the refrigerator for milk and notice that the date stamped on the bottle was yesterday. Do you drink it, or throw it away? Most people do the latter, which leads to far too much food being wasted, because those dates on the labels don't mean anything. That's according to research by my America Weekend guest, Emily Broad Leib, director of Harvard's Food Law and Policy Clinic. As she explained, there's no science behind expiration dates, and a big difference between "sell by" and "use by." Perhaps it's best to go back to the old smell-and-taste test before deciding whether to consume it or toss it.

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