The good thing about watching the Final Table of the World Series Of Poker Main Event: no one’s slow-playing and killing the pace.
The bad thing about watching the Final Table of the World Series Of Poker Main Event: there isn't much banter among the players -- and when there is, ESPN doesn’t let us hear them talking.
Monday, October 31, 2016
The good thing about watching the Final Table of the World Series Of Poker Main Event: no one’s slow-playing and killing the pace.
Here's the Halloween column I wrote in 2001, which is worth resurrecting every year on this day:
The excitement meter is already pinned at our house. And this is before my seven-year-old daughter goes into sugar overload from her candy bounty to come.
It’s for her sake that Halloween is a big deal at our place, and there are lots of important decisions to be made. She has her costume planned months in advance, and while always clever, never gets too exotic, expensive, or age-inappropriate (she’s too young to want to be Angelina Jolie in “Tomb Raider”).
Then, just as the calendar turns to October, she starts bugging us to go pick out the Official Harris Halloween Pumpkin. Make that plural -- this year, we also have to have a backup pumpkin, in case there’s some sort of Jack O’Lantern mishap. Gee, where’d she get that idea?
After making her big orange selections, she insisted that we carve right way, but my wife and I were able to table that discussion for awhile by explaining the concept of how fruit can go from pleasantly raw to unpleasantly rotten when left exposed for a fortnight or two.
In the meantime, we kept her busy festooning the house with a boxful of Halloween decorations. Yes, we erred slightly by allowing her to apply ghoulish stickers to the windows -- she applied all of them to the same kitchen window pane and then asked for more so the room wouldn’t look lopsided.
By the weekend before H-Day, there was no more delaying. It was time to dig into the pumpkin. Fortunately, our daughter had designed an intricate drawing of exactly what the Jack O’Lantern must look like, complete with cartoon word balloons saying “Boo!” She got these ideas from a pumpkin carving kit that my wife – in a moment of total insanity – found at a local store. One look at the renderings on the cardboard and I laughed for a half hour.
You know the way the pictures of food on a restaurant menu never look anything like the actual dish that’s served to you? The same is true of these pumpkin carving samples.
The cruel people who produce this product try to convince you that you have a chance of success by giving you little carving tools to work with. In my house, the only way the final product would come close to resembling the illustration is if they also provided a professional pumpkin carver (there must be people who specialize in that, in a world where you can making a good living forming chopped liver into a turkey shape and carving ice into giant swans).
Let’s just say we’re not good at the visual food arts. It doesn’t matter how extravagantly it’s designed -- our Jack O’Lantern will always end up with triangle eyes, a triangle nose, and a mouth with three top teeth and two bottom teeth. You can hope for Pumpkin Van Gogh, but we’ll just end up with both pumpkin ears missing. Nevertheless, once that candle was placed inside, my daughter gave us a big, satisfied smile (which I’m happy to say, contains more teeth than the Jack O’Lantern).
When it comes to trick or treating, I’m happy to say we live in a neighborhood where lots of kids are out doing the door to door routine, usually accompanied by a few Dads, including me.
Best of all, none of the Dads bothers with an intricate costume. That’s why I’m certain that none of them will be stupid enough to wear an Osama Bin Laden mask this year. Besides the waste of $95, what’s the appeal? Are you hoping to pick up some hot woman in a Taliban-approved burqa?
I’ve always been creeped out by adults who get too into their Halloween costumes. You’ll never see me dressed as Frankenstein, or Austin Powers, or Tony Soprano. Even in college, when I attended a costume-mandatory party in the girls dorm, I hated the concept so much that I just strapped a colander to my head and went as an upside-down bowl of pasta. Two things should be apparent from that story – one, alcohol was involved in my last minute costume choice, and two, I didn’t spend much time in the girls dorm after that.
Anyway, back to the food. The part that we are good at is choosing which candy we’ll give away. There’s a delicate balance to be achieved here, because you want to get something good enough that you’ll enjoy eating the leftovers (mini Mr. Goodbars, tiny Twizzlers), but not so tempting that you down them before the doorbell even rings on the 31st (orange cream filled Halloween Oreos, pulled pork sandwiches).
You also don’t want to get the reputation as The House To Avoid because you gave away the wrong thing last year. Anything from the fruit and vegetable family qualifies here, as do homemade taffy, stale candy corn, or bulk stationery. On the other hand, there’s no real risk of retribution, because the “trick” option rarely exists anymore. What’s the last time a house got egged over a bagful of zucchini sticks?
Here’s to a Happy Halloween. Lots of families need it as a distraction this year. And remember, when it comes to telling hair-raising stories, avoid the recent ugliness and stick to the classics from days of old. Tell your kid about when you invested in internet stocks. Oooh, scary!
posted at 8:03 AM
Longtime radio programmer Darryl Parks has been saying for several years that conservative talk stations will have a big problem on the day after the election: their audience will still be shrinking, old, male, and basically dying off -- and they have no one to blame but themselves.
The truth is that those stations and hosts don't have nearly as much influence as they believe they do. Of the last 6 presidential elections, the candidate they endorsed only won twice (and it was Dubya). In that time, despite the protestations, obfuscations, and pontifications of those right-wing loudmouths, Obamacare became law, same sex marriage was legalized, and marijuana is on its way to mainstream acceptance.
My only disagreement with Darryl is that those are political and cultural losses at the national level. Meanwhile, statehouses have turned much more red, abortion rights have been diminished in too many places, and the truth has become obscured by their constant amplifications of non-facts -- all of which led to Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. But he's going to lose, just like Romney, McCain, Dole, and Bush 41, all of whom were championed by those conservative talk hosts.
Worse for those radio righties and their stations is the simple problem of demographics. As Darryl writes:
America is changing and conservative talk hosts believe they can stop it. They can’t. It is no longer the world of aging, white Baby Boomers, which I’m one. Our destiny is now in the hands of the Gen X’ers and Millennials. American society reflects their believes and desires. Conservative talk radio should be reflecting and speaking with the younger generations to survive, but have mistakenly chosen to double-down with an aging demographic providing no future for the format, that if done correctly would be viable. And conservative talk radio hosts, for no other reason than he’s running as a Republican and after vilifying him during the spring primaries, are defending the indefensible comments and behavior of Donald J. Trump.Read his full piece here.
Sunday, October 30, 2016
I have been fascinated with the idea of a flying car since I was a kid, and have talked about the concept several times over the years on my radio show and this site.
The latest company to make news on the topic is Zee.Aero, a very secretive operation in Hollister, California, funded by Google co-founder Larry Page. If the picture at the top of the piece is correct, that's not a flying car. It's a small plane with vertical liftoff and landing capabilities. Others have trod this ground before.
My earliest post on this subject dates to May 27, 1999 when I wrote about Moller International's Skycar. In 2007, I spoke with that company's general manager Bruce Caulkins. In 2013, I spoke with Carl Deitrich, CEO of Terrafugia. All of them said they would have a flying car ready for consumers in "the next couple of years."
I'm still waiting.
By the way, when I dream about a flying car, I'm completely selfish. I don't envision the sky full of people commuting to work and cluttering the air space. I dream about me having a flying car, and no one else. You can stick to the roads, I'll get there by air.
I just finished reading Alyssa Rosenberg's terrific five-part Washington Post series, "Dragnets, Dirty Harrys, and Dying Hard: 100 Years Of The Police In Pop Culture." In it, she quotes many of the people who have told stories about police officers in movies and on TV, from Jack Webb to Joseph Wambaugh to David Simon. She discusses the relationships between entertainment producers and police departments, from the cooperation evident in early series to the conflicted characters in more recent works that police officials didn't like so much.
She also talks about one TV show about police that's been on the air longer than any other:
The formula for “Cops,” a reality show now in its third decade, is simple: Producers ride along with police officers and film as they respond to complaints and then pursue, arrest and process suspects. The show is often astonishingly boring: Watching officers conduct traffic stops or small-time drug arrests to break the monotony of patrol is a testament to the gap between fictional policing and the mundane truth of the actual work.That last part is remarkable -- these people who gave the producers permission to use their faces because it meant being on TV, and in America, that's still the highest status you can achieve, even if it's at one of the lowest moments of your life.
The devious genius of “Cops” is that while the show is staged by police departments, the people the police arrest sign off on their own depictions as lying, luckless incompetents who climb drunk out of car windows, try to eat large quantities of marijuana and even get stopped biking under the influence. The police get the opportunity to present themselves as dedicated and sympathetic, conducting patient questioning and offering help with drug treatment. And their targets acquiesce in the show’s depiction of their own worst moments: Creator John Langley has said that once the show took off, as many as 90 percent of those arrested on camera signed releases so that their unblurred faces could appear on screen.
A similar show has just launched on A&E called "Live PD," a weekly two-hour series that will show six police departments in action in real time. Like "Cops," it will consist of camera crews embedded with officers as they go on patrol in different US cities. The difference is that this show will air live, which means there's a lot of potential for boring television when nothing of interest is happening with any of those police officers on duty.
I'm reminded of an episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in which Mary thinks it would be good TV to put a cameraman in a patrol car with a cop to capture the excitement of a live police encounter on film. Unfortunately, nothing happens on the first night. Or the second. Or the third. Because, just as Rosenberg described most "Cops" episodes, that's what policing is like -- it isn't full of shootouts and chases and crook-catching. It's mostly driving around, answering mundane calls that don't make for good television. That's why each episode of "Cops" requires so many days of filming to end up with a single hour of usable footage.
But our perception of police work is framed more by the fiction that fills our screens, which leaves out the vast majority of the boring day-to-day business and concentrates on action and over-the-top characters.
Read Rosenberg's full piece here.
Saturday, October 29, 2016
On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- you can try to answer trivia questions in the categories Happy Halloween, Wrigley Movies, and Major League Actors. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Inferno," "Christine," and "Certain Women." We also discussed "Survivor," "Shark Tank," "Westworld," "Masters of Sex," and a really bad idea for a cop show.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News® I have stories about a topless selfie accident, a cop running a red light, and Silly String shooters. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Friday, October 28, 2016
In a conversation with Frank Palotta of CNN, Jerry Seinfeld explains how Donald Trump sees the presidency:
I'm just laughing [about] what he thinks being president is. "This company's going to do that, you're going to go over here. I can make other countries do whatever I say." It's a kid's image of being president. It's like if you were ten, and they would make you president of your house, you would start ordering the dog around not realizing no one's going to listen to you.See the full piece here.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
For the first time in many years, I haven't watched any of ESPN's coverage of the World Series Of Poker, but several people have told me about one player who got a lot of attention at the event, so I checked out a few clips of him on YouTube.
His name is Will Kassouf, an Englishman who was heavily criticized by other players and commentators for two things: taking too long to play every hand (sometimes he wouldn't even look at his cards for 15 seconds) and talking incessantly to his opponents during a heads-up situation. He does this to get the other players rattled and affect their decision-making skills. As you can see in the clip above, his antics were well beyond the annoyance threshold.
Slow-playing is a major problem in poker tournaments (and occasionally in cash games). It's one thing to pause while thinking through what you're going to do next, but too many young players take more than a reasonable amount of time, and some of them (like Kassouf) do it way too often. I encountered a table full of young idiots like this in Las Vegas this summer, and it was a miserable experience. There's no reason to tank when you have jack-four offsuit. Just throw your cards in the muck and let's move on.
As for the non-stop verbal badgering, Kassouf never called opponents names, never dissed their skills out loud, but he talked so much it was more than a distraction -- it was an irritant -- and tournament officials should have put a stop to it much earlier than on day seven. You should be allowed to play your game, and if that involves some talk that might help you get a read on your opponent, go ahead, but there has to be a line.
Players like Kassouf are not only bad for the others at the table, but bad for the game of poker itself. Television has been a great boon to the popularity of the WSOP and other tournaments, but when they get to the live Main Event final table coverage this Sunday night, if viewers tune in and see a bunch of young guys sitting around and stalling the pace of play, if even the simplest decisions chew up airtime, they're going to tune away and never come back. Worse, they may decide not to go out and play live poker in cash games and tournaments, thus reducing the player pool for all of us.
Daniel Negreanu is one of the best minds in poker and one of its most successful players. He has ranted against slow-play for years, often calling the clock on someone who's taking too long. On the latest episode of his podcast, Daniel analyzed Will Kassouf's actions and distractions, explained why tournament officials handled him incorrectly, and even spoke to Justin Pechie, another player who had the displeasure of sitting at a table with Kassouf during the WSOP.
It's worth a listen -- made even better by the conversation that follows between Daniel and his old friend Jennifer Harman, a high-stakes poker pro, who explains how she's handled sexism in poker, the Full Tilt scandal, and how she got started playing the game. Really good stuff.
In 2004, when the Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years, many Cardinals supporters stayed at Busch Stadium to applaud the Red Sox. It was noted by observers as one of the classiest displays of fan appreciation ever, a tip of the hat by the locals who know baseball history so well and respect the game so much.
With that in mind, I have asked several Cards fans this fall whether they feel the same way about the Chicago Cubs, who are trying to notch their first World Series title since 1908. The unanimous answer is no. Chicago's drought may be a decade longer than Boston's was, but St. Louis' love for the game is only exceeded by its hatred of the Cubs.
I'm not a baseball fan, so it doesn't matter to me who wins the Series, but I have two friends who were truly upset that the Cubs beat the Indians to tie it up at a game apiece last night. I asked if they ever thought they'd be rooting for Cleveland, and both said the only other time they'd done it was when they watched the movie "Major League."
posted at 9:13 AM
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Good call by the Cleveland Indians to not have Charlie Sheen throw out the first pitch at a World Series game. Yes, he played Indians pitcher Ricky Vaughn in the "Major League" movies, but he's also a serial domestic abuser, and big time sports leagues have to start paying attention to that. That's why the NY Giants dropped kicker Josh Brown, despite the NFL having done such a horrible job in this regard over the last few years. Brown and Sheen and other men like them deserve derision, not applause.
I read a news item this morning saying that 10 million people have already voted, "so they can put this whole election experience behind them." Would that it were true. They're still exposed to all the nauseating campaign commercials running nonstop on TV and radio in battleground states like Missouri. There has to be a better way.
Another story making headlines this week is that premiums for Obamacare insurance are going up an average of 25%. That makes it sound like the government is raising prices, when in fact it's the insurance companies. This is what happens when you allow private for-profit corporations to continue ripping off the public when it comes to health insurance -- they did it before Obamacare, and they're still doing it, with higher premiums and deductibles.
On election day, lots of people will want to share selfies with their ballots, but you should know that Illinois is one of 18 states where taking a selfie with your ballot is illegal (a felony!), while the law is unclear in Missouri and 12 other states. Vox has a complete list. If you vote in a booth with a curtain, and you turn the flash off, no one will be able to see you using your smartphone camera, but it's a lot harder for those of us who use touch screens or fill out the optical scan forms at a standing desk in the polling place. Of course, you're fine when you fill out your absentee ballot in private, but as soon as you post that photo on social media, your secret is out. Why is this important? I'd bet that the number of younger voters would increase if they knew they could share their ballot selfies without incriminating themselves.
As reported by Adam Liptak of the NY Times:
Alarmed by Donald J. Trump’s record of filing lawsuits to punish and silence his critics, a committee of media lawyers at the American Bar Association commissioned a report on Mr. Trump’s litigation history. The report concluded that Mr. Trump was a “libel bully” who had filed many meritless suits attacking his opponents and had never won in court.
But the bar association refused to publish the report, citing “the risk of the A.B.A. being sued by Mr. Trump.”
Monday, October 24, 2016
Barry Crimmins' name came up during my August conversation with Bobcat Goldthwait (which has become the most-downloaded audio on this site this year) because Bobcat directed a documentary, "Call Me Lucky," which revealed Barry's activism as a survivor of a pedophile priest. It also chronicled Barry's life as a standup comedian, which he's done for more than four decades.
When I lived in Hartford in the early eighties, I went to Boston fairly regularly, and saw Crimmins on stage often, along with Kevin Meaney, Steven Wright, Lenny Clarke, Denis Leary, Jimmy Tingle, and others who worked the comedy clubs in that era. Later, I had the pleasure of having many of them on my radio shows, and they always killed. I also remember a 1988 album of political comedy called "Strange Bedfellows" with sets from Crimmins, Tingle, Will Durst, and Randy Credico. It's long out of print, but they were all top-notch.
Now Barry has his first-ever TV special, thanks to Louis CK, who started doing comedy in Boston and looked up to Barry as one of the veterans who knew the scene because he ran a club in a Chinese restaurant called the Ding Ho, where he served as mentor to a generation of comedians. In an email Louis sent last night to promote Barry's special, he wrote:
Barry Crimmins was like the godfather of the whole thing. He was an intense, dark man with a full beard and glaring eyes. He was like a bear. Like a genius animal raised in the wilderness, who was educated at Oxford. He smoked cigars and drank beer and growled about Ronald Reagan. I was TERRIFIED of Barry when I was a new young comic. The general sense that was palpable when Barry was at a club, was that all these great comics looked to him. That he set the bar for creativity. There was a standard in Boston. You had to be original. You had to have an idea. You had to be creative. You had to write. That came from Barry Crimmins.Louis goes on about being part of that scene, and his friendship with Kevin Meaney, who died Friday. He also explains why he agreed to direct Barry's special, "Whatever Threatens You," which is available for download from the Louis CK website for $5.
Because without Barry, as great as the comedy was in Boston, it largely followed the character of the city itself. There was a lusty, drunk, bitter energy to every show. A lot of comics would go on stage and tell stories about getting drunk and talk about the local sports teams and about getting laid. All worthy subjects. And the drunk crowds would laugh heartily, often shout back at the stage. There was a dangerous energy to every show and you always had a feeling that if you didn't get laughs, you might get the shit beat out of you after a show. Comedians even fought each other. It was a rowdy scene. But when Barry went on stage, people listened. Every comedian in the room would face the stage and watch him and listen. He was brilliant and compelling and he was "fuckin' Smaht". And he gave a bit of that to everyone else. He was also funny as hell. His jokes were sharp. He had a wicked fast ball, like Dennis Eckersly. He would explain the truth of a global situation and lay the groundwork through a quick education of the human condition and then ignite the atmosphere with a crackling joke. You'd laugh and say "Oh my god." As a new idea would explode in your mind along with the laugh from your body.
Later in life I became good friends with Steven Wright, who is also very close to Barry. Steven told me a lot about the Ding Ho, where he started. He told me how scared he was to be a comedian, at the same time as he wanted to be one. There was so much about it that ran against his personal nature (which is part of why he's great to watch) and how all the comedians at the Ding Ho, including Barry, taught him and encouraged him. My experience starting out was the same and that idea of teaching, mentoring and passing down a creative tradition, was fostered by Barry.
I just paid for, downloaded, and watched Barry's special, and I'm glad I did. He touches briefly on his own life, but dedicates most of it to this year's presidential election (he's no fan of either candidate) and the general political environment in America today. He's still as sharp and angry and incisive and funny as ever. I strongly recommend it.
Gal Godot and Isla Fisher are two very beautiful women. Jon Hamm and Zach Galifianakis are one very beautiful man.
The four of them star in “Keeping Up With The Joneses.” Zach and Isla are Jeff and Karen, a human resources manager and an interior designer. Jon and Gal are their new neighbors, Tim and Natalie, a travel writer and a food blogger. Jeff bonds with Tim and develops a man crush, but Karen suspects they’re not what they say they are, and she’s right. They're spies, but who are they spying on?
I won’t give much away other than Hamm is at his funniest when he’s playing it completely straight, Galifiniakis plays his character much more pulled-in than his usual over-the-top scenery chewing, and Fisher and Godot are both really good, especially in a scene in the changing room of a lingerie store.
There’s also a well done car chase, a goofy bad guy played perfectly by Patton Oswalt, and solid supporting work by Matt Walsh and Kevin Dunn.
"Keeping Up With The Joneses" is nothing great, but it’s okay as escapist entertainment. I give it a 6 out of 10. And I won't be surprised when they make a sequel.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
I have become a big fan of "Adam Ruins Everything," the TruTV series hosted by Adam Conover. As a skeptic, I'm happy to have another show in the tradition of Penn and Teller's "Bullshit" and Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman's "Mythbusters." On his show, Adam debunks nonsense about everyday issues like weddings, job salaries, voting, football, malls, eyeglasses, and housing.
I missed its first season, but have caught up by binge-watching all the repeats, and am looking forward to its second season, which begins on November 15th (but set your DVR for his Election Special, October 25th). When I finally got Adam on my show, we talked about:
- how this election year may seem to be the strangest ever, but there are plenty of stories from past presidential elections to rival it;
- how he's had some of my heroes as guests, including Elizabeth Loftus (on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony) and Bruce Schneier (on the TSA's "security theater");
- which segment of his show has gotten the biggest reception from viewers;
- which topics he'll tackle in the new season.
You can catch "Adam Ruins Everything" Tuesdays at 9pm CT on TruTV, with each episode repeated during the week. You can find old episodes on the show's website and clips on YouTube. There's also an "Adam Ruins Everything" podcast.
This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" and "Keeping Up With The Joneses." We also discussed "Weiner" debuting on Showtime, an actress from "The Accountant" to keep your eye on, and casting for the upcoming young Han Solo movie.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- you can try to answer trivia about Forbes' Highest Paid Comedians, Girls On The Screen, and You Know The Music But Do You Know The Names? Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News® I have stories about fake death threats, freezers full of dead cats, and buying beer with a Blockbuster card. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Friday, October 21, 2016
Thursday, October 20, 2016
There's lots of talk today about Donald Trump, at last night's debate, refusing to say he'd accept the outcome of the election. It couldn't matter less. It won't change a single vote in this election. There are no undecided voters for whom that will be the tipping point (how there are still undecided voters less than three weeks before Election Day is an unanswerable question).
Much of the outrage in political and media circles is that Trump's "I'll keep you in suspense" answer goes against the traditional "peaceful transfer of power" following American elections. Here's the problem with those remarks: Donald Trump has no power. The "peaceful transfer" refers to the incumbent president passing the leadership baton to the newly-elected president with class and grace by packing up, moving out, and leaving a private note behind for the successor, as George HW Bush did in 1993 when he left this letter for Bill Clinton...
Losing something big is always tough. Coming out on the short end of a sports event like the Super Bowl, the World Series, or Wimbledon makes you feel like crap. So does being fired from a job or dumped from a relationship for someone else. You go through the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief, but your mental state affects only you -- in the end, the winner wins, regardless.
That's why it doesn't matter whether or not Trump accepts the results of the election. He can pout and whine and complain and shout "rigged" as often as he wants and yet, on inauguration day, Hillary Clinton will be sworn in as our new president, and Trump -- whether he personally gets to the acceptance stage or not -- will have no say in how our country moves forward. Game over.
His only role at that point will be to watch his brand be forever tarnished while his businesses implode as lots of people (disgusted by his words and actions over the last 18 months), avoid his hotels, move out of his buildings, and don't buy his trashy merchandise. He might continue to have a forum to spew his vitriol on "Fox and Friends," but no one else will pay much attention to him -- and that's the absolute worst thing that can happen to a narcissist like Trump.
I don't have many regrets in life, but one of them is that I stopped playing guitar when I was 13 years old. I had started taking lessons when I was 8 and, although my hands were too small to form many of the bar chords, I enjoyed being able to make music.
When I was 12, my guitar teacher gave me a copy of a then-brand-new album from a singer-songwriter he liked -- James Taylor. The album was "Sweet Baby James." I took it home and listened to it over and over and over, falling in love with every song, so much so that I still get a tinge of nostalgia anytime I hear any of those tracks.
During the week before my next lesson, I studied the sounds coming off that record. Since I didn't have any sheet music for the songs, I would pick up the needle and put it back down to figure out Taylor's fingering and chords, trying to keep up on my own guitar. By the time I saw my teacher again, I had a rough idea of how to play "Fire and Rain" (which has gone on to become Taylor's most famous tune), and with his help over the next month, was able to work up passable versions of every song on "Sweet Baby James."
I wish I could still do that, and that I hadn't given up on the guitar all those years ago. I never envisioned myself as a rock star, but would like to be able to strum and sing some of those tunes again. My wife still has two guitars in the house -- one of the things that attracted me to her was that she played -- but neither of us has picked one up in more than a decade. Even then, the best I could do was remember how to form a few basic chords, but couldn't play an actual song if my life depended on it.
All of this came flooding back to me when my friend Scott mentioned that he'd come across something on James Taylor's website from four years ago. It's the rock legend himself giving lessons on how to play some of his classic songs, with one camera focused on his left hand as it works the fretboard, and another inside the guitar to show the fingering of his right hand. If only I'd had tools like this when I was young enough to use them...
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
This is a wonderful conversation between two of our most knowledgeable sports journalists -- Bob Costas and Frank Deford. The occasion was a sit-down at the 92nd Street Y in New York last June to promote "I'd Know That Voice Anywhere," a collection of the essays that Deford has been doing for NPR for many years. He's had an amazing five-decade career with Sports Illustrated, HBO, and other media outlets, and is one of the smartest and most erudite practitioners of the craft of sports journalism this country has ever produced. Of course, Costas is no slouch, either...
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Last Saturday morning, I arrived at Lambert Airport for a flight to Las Vegas. After breezing through security and getting some breakfast, I arrived at the gate around 9am, an hour before boarding time.
As I sat down, I noticed that there was a bar across the hall. Since I have just marked 23 years of sobriety, I wasn't interested in a drink, but couldn't help but notice that a half a dozen guys had bellied up to have a beer. This was before flying to Vegas, where the free booze would no doubt flow into them as quickly as the cash flows out of their pockets and into a casino's blackjack coffers.
Even though I don't indulge, I have no problem with anyone else putting whatever they want into their own bodies, as long as they maintain control (don't get behind the wheel, and don't get loud and obnoxious). The last thing I need is to have to make an emergency stop in Omaha because some guy who can't handle his alcohol has gotten too rowdy and insists on running up and down the aisle wearing only his tighty-whities.
I hoped they weren't on my flight, but of course they were, probably with some Southwest free-drink coupons in their pockets to enjoy a few more cold ones on the plane. Because it's a good idea to be drunk before you start your weekend in Vegas.
It reminded me of when I took my wife and daughter to Cancun, Mexico. It takes about an hour to get from the airport to the hotel zone, and we shared a shuttle bus with about 8 other people. Once the driver had checked everyone in and secured our luggage, he opened up a cooler next to him on the front seat and offered cold beers for $2 each.
Two guys on the shuttle smiled and replied, "Hell, yes, pass 'em back!" Along the way, they easily consumed a six-pack, at ten in the morning, on the way to an all-inclusive resort where it was clear they would be loss-leaders for the hotel operator when it came to alcohol.
On that trip, as on my recent Vegas flight, all I could think was, "Pace yourself, dudes!"
posted at 12:06 AM
TV ratings for the NFL are down 10% from last season. Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal thinks one reason may be that the quality of the game has dropped:
There are a lot of football games I watch where I wonder if the teams were assembled in the stadium corridor 15 minutes before the game. There are too many offenses with only a vague familiarity with a complete pass, too many quarterbacks found on eBay, too many defenses that are defensive in name only. There are coaches who seem like as if they were hired after winning a call-in FM radio contest.One other factor he doesn't cite is the growing number of people who only watch the NFL Red Zone channel, getting just the highlights of games in-progress, without having to sit through the boring, go-nowhere plays. I know several guys who are in weekly fantasy leagues who only care about the players on the team they've created, not the team designations the NFL uses. For them, it's not about loyalty to the representatives of any single city, but to the statistics of the men who make up their personal roster. They're never going to watch a Bears-Buccaneers game in its entirety. For them, Red Zone is all they need.
I worry the great football that’s out there—and it is out there, like those virtuoso Patriots—is getting overwhelmed by the gruel. Last month, the Journal’s former NFL columnist, Kevin Clark, now at The Ringer, wrote a persuasive piece about the league’s diminishing game quality, citing, among other factors, the NFL’s current labor situation and how teams have become increasingly dependent on younger, cheaper, less capable talent.
At the same time, the product feels thinly spread, less of an event. Thursday night may be conducive to post-work margaritas but it does not appear to be conducive to high-quality football. Elsewhere, NBC’s Sunday Night Football has squished the glamour and urgency of Monday Night Football, which has started to feel like ESPN’s Leftover Turkey Sandwich Game.
Read Gay's full piece here.
A couple of years ago, I contributed a few bucks to the Kickstarter campaign for a documentary called "Magicians." The movie is finally finished and will debut in Los Angeles in a few weeks, then hopefully roll out across the country over the next few months. I haven't seen the completed film, but here's the trailer...
Monday, October 17, 2016
Chris Wallace has announced the topics he plans to ask Clinton and Trump at their final debate this Wednesday night. They include: the debt and entitlements; immigration; the economy; the Supreme Court; foreign hot spots; and fitness to be President.
In other words, absolutely nothing new -- and not one of the topics I suggested a week ago: climate change, mental health, the opioid epidemic, legalizing medical marijuana, making student loans more affordable, banks that are too big to fail, and whether NASA should get more funding for a manned Mars mission.
Instead, we're going to get the same answers (and attacks) from the candidates that they've given at the two previous debates and many times in their stump speeches. How will that help anyone or add to the national conversation?
Speaking of candidates, you probably don't know the name Evan McMullin, but there's a chance he might become our next president. Okay, it's only a miniscule shot, but if he can take Utah -- where he's polling just behind Trump and Clinton -- FiveThirtyEight says there's a long-odds possibility that he could be chosen (not elected!) for the highest office in the land.
I read recently that the private company that does the processing for TSA Pre applications has a tremendous backlog.
In case you're not familiar with it, TSA Pre is a program where fliers can move through security more quickly without having to take laptops out of carry-on luggage or remove their belts and shoes. You also pass through a regular metal-detector instead of one of the ridiculous backscatter devices that send nude photos of you to some back room.
There are some airports that don't have separate lines for TSA Pre (including LaGuardia, of course!), but for the most part it's a pretty good deal, considering it's faster than the regular line and valid for five years. To qualify, you have to pay $85, answer a questionnaire, and then submit to a background check with your fingerprints.
Although I view everything the TSA does as nothing more than security theater, because I fly a lot, I think of it as $17/year that's well spent to keep from being bogged down behind hundreds of other people.
Now, about that backlog...when I heard the news, I secretly cheered. You see, I don't want a lot of other people to sign up for TSA Pre. At the moment, it's like being in a semi-secret club. Although its population has grown in the last couple of years, it's still at a manageable size, but if millions more fliers sign up, we'll be right back to the congestion level of the non-TSA-Pre queue.
So, let me change my review of the TSA Pre program. I have now decided it is nothing but an Orwellian system of governmental surveillance and privacy invasion you should not put up with. Don't sign up for it. Don't make the backlog go away.
In fact, take the bus. I hear the lines are much shorter.
posted at 12:10 AM
Sunday, October 16, 2016
In February, I wrote about a horrible stay I had at the Flamingo in Las Vegas. It had been a decent hotel, but years of neglect have turned it into a dump.
After I said so -- in an open letter on this site to Mark Frissora, CEO of parent company Caesars Entertainment -- I received an apology via email from one of his customer relations people, Christine, who offered me two free nights at Caesars Palace to make up for my bad experience at the Flamingo.
Last week, I finally took her up on it, and am happy to report that things went much better. Caesars Palace is a huge, well-run resort -- even if it insists on not using an apostrophe in its name. Although it's not as super-high-quality as Bellagio and The Wynn, I had a very nice room, did several laps in one of CP's beautiful pools, and had dozens of dining options (including Beijing Noodle #9, where I had a meal of hand-pulled noodles that was delicious).
Suffice it to say, the company did right by me, and I owe it to them to say so publicly.
Like many people, I was surprised the Nobel Prize For Literature went to Bob Dylan -- not because his lyrics don't qualify as literature (they do, as much as any other poetry that's not set to music), but because I didn't know the Nobel committee gave out lifetime achievement awards. The legend of Dylan lives in the music he made in the sixties and seventies, not so much since then.
Then again, these are the people who gave Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize just for getting elected.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed Ben Affleck in "The Accountant." We also discussed the TruTV series "Adam Ruins Everything," the new Christopher Guest Netflix movie "Mascots," and why "The Amazing Race" isn't on CBS this fall. I also finally got around to reviewing Tom Hanks in "A Hologram For The King" and the Seth Rogen animated raunch-fest "Sausage Party."
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- you'll hear trivia questions about Chuck Berry Turning 90, Dead But Still Making Money, and Have You Been Paying Attention? Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News® I have stories about a long-distance pizza delivery, a day off for kidnapping, and a vacuum kaboom. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Last night, Jeff Greenfield asked on Twitter, "Has Trump nailed down Bill Cosby's endorsement yet?"
This is a presidential candidate we're talking about -- a man who has bragged that, by virtue of his celebrity, he can sexually assault women with impunity. Then he's shocked when some of his victims come forward. His supporters claim these women can't be telling the truth because if Trump has groped and kissed them without consent, they would have made a stink about it right away. To say that is to not understand what it's like to be a victim of sexual assault, particularly by a powerful man.
Several of the victims came forward this week after seeing Trump say during Sunday's debate that he has never sexually assaulted any women. They know differently. Making their names and stories public is not an easy thing to do. They will be vilified and trolled and have their lives made hellish by Trump supporters. But if other victims are emboldened by these first few, their numbers could quickly grow from seven women (as of this morning) to many more, just as it did with Cosby and with Trump's pal and adviser Roger Ailes.
Trump is making noises about suing the New York Times and the other media outlets that have reported the claims. However, Trump's lawyers must know there's no chance those cases would ever get to court, mostly because libel laws are on the papers' side, but even worse, if he even begins legal proceedings against them, the Times and others would invoke the legal discovery process, which would put Trump's entire sexual history under a microscope and open the floodgates even further. When Trump's attorneys wrote a letter to the Times demanding a retraction, the paper's assistant general counsel replied with a brilliant letter of his own that virtually dares Trump to sue.
Where Trump's legal threats could have some impact is on the women themselves, making them victims yet again. His pockets aren't as deep as he claims, but they are deep enough to underwrite campaigns of intimidation against not just those who have come forward, but other women who have been subjected to Trump's disgusting actions.
There's another Trump issue that isn't getting as much attention as the sexual assaults, but should. For weeks, he has been going around telling his followers that the polls -- which show his numbers dropping, even in formerly-solid red states like Utah -- are rigged. Of course, when the exact same pollsters showed results in his favor earlier this year during the GOP primaries, he proclaimed them as "totally true" (for a laugh read this Onion piece in which Trump claims his own personality is rigged against him). He is also warning his cult that if he loses the election, it will be because the polls were rigged, and to ensure that doesn't happen, he wants his listeners to go to the polls and "monitor" the proceedings.
As CNN's Brian Stelter has pointed out, this is dangerous. I can easily foresee violence at some polling places as Trumpsters get in the faces of Hillary supporters, especially people of color. They'll have confrontations with election officials warning them away from electioneering in the polling place -- or stand outside the entrances with their barely-concealed weapons, hovering in a threatening manner to dissuade anyone who doesn't support him from voting for her.
Election officials, media outlets, and local police departments will have to keep an eye out for such incidents -- and hopefully they won't be like the motorcycle cops in San Antonio who face discipline for wearing Trump's "Make America Great Again" hats while on duty. Imagine how intimidated a Latino or African-American would be if they saw that at the polling place on election day.
What's ironic about this is that Trumpsters believe his boy-who-cried-wolf garbage about polls and the election being rigged -- as well as all of his other evidence-free claims -- but dismiss the women coming forward about his sexual assaults on them, despite their assertions being made more believable by his own words.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
The story of the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner in 1831 has never been told onscreen. Nate Parker has never directed a feature film before -- let alone one that he produced, wrote, and stars in. None of those facts gets in the way of one helluva movie.
"Birth Of A Nation" takes place in pre-Civil-War Virginia as Nat grows up as a slave, picking cotton in the fields owned by Samuel Turner. Along the way he learns to read, studies the bible, and becomes a preacher to his fellow slaves. As Samuel's plantation falls on hard times, he loans Nat out to other slave owners to preach lessons about obedience, to keep calm the humans being exploited for profit. Nat has no choice but to go along despite his revulsion at the unspeakable acts he witnesses -- the aftermath of one of them, the gang-rape of Nat's wife Cherry, is so horrific that the audience in the theater let out a very loud gasp. Nat's disgust and discontent grows until he rallies other slaves to join him in striking back at their white oppressors in a bloody rebellion.
For a rookie, Parker proves himself to a remarkably talented director. The scenery looks beautiful, the performances strike just the right tone, and the supporting cast of Armie Hammer, Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis, Aja Naomi King, Penelope Ann Miller -- and Jackie Earle Haley as a brutal slave-catcher -- are all very good.
He named the movie after the 1915 racist KKK propaganda film by DW Griffith, co-opting its title in hopes of aligning it with a different tale. Neither of them is truly about the birth of America, but mark ugly signposts in our history.
I give "Birth Of A Nation" an 8.5 out of 10.
Monday, October 10, 2016
Let's be honest. Hillary Clinton lost the debate last night -- not because Trump was so good, but because she didn't put him away. She should have been more prepared to answer his onslaught of lies and deception with more pointed remarks, which her campaign staff should have worked up ahead of time.
For instance, on the disgusting remarks he made in 2005 that came to light in the Washington Post on Friday, Clinton should have pressed Trump by discussing how many women in America have to deal with men who talk like that and create hostile work environments. She should have even named Trump's friend and adviser Roger Ailes, who was booted from Fox News for exactly those reasons.
She should have said that by dismissing it as merely "locker room talk," Trump was sending a message to men and boys across the country that it's okay the utter those horrible things if there are no women around. She should have asked the mothers of America, a demographic she still needs to court, how they would feel knowing their daughters were being described in such offensive terms. Several elected GOP officials who have condemned Trump over those remarks invoked their own daughters, so why didn't Clinton?
She should have asked Trump why he doesn't come out and tell men not to act as boorishly as he did -- something he can't do himself. Finally, she should have pointed out that NBC has suspended Billy Bush from the "Today" show because he was involved in that 2005 conversation with Trump, and ask him, "Don't you think a candidate for president of the United States should be held to an even higher standard than a morning TV personality?"
Since Trump is still vulnerable on this issue, she could have done a callback to it later, when Trump said he hadn't talked to Mike Pence about Syria, and disagreed with him: "Wow, you just threw your own running mate under the bus, and as we all discovered this weekend, when you're on the bus, things can get pretty ugly."
When Trump objected to Clinton calling his followers deplorable, she should have brought up all the white supremacists who support him -- and whose remarks he retweets! -- as well as those who have threatened journalists who were only doing their jobs in reporting on his misdeeds. Then, ask why he hasn't denounced any of them.
Trump keeps bringing up Hillary's 3+ decades of public service, claiming she hasn't done anything. Yes, she did list many of her accomplishments in rebuttal, but she needed to finish it off with a shot across his bow: "Yes, I have spent most of my adult life in public service trying to help others, unlike you, who have spent your entire life only helping yourself."
Here's another example. When Trump claimed that over-regulation is killing our energy industry, Clinton should have replied, "Yeah, I hear Exxon-Mobil only made 40 billion dollars last year."
These are the sorts of lines that, when delivered and timed well, are guaranteed to be replayed ad nauseum on every TV newscast for several days. Clinton needs that kind of reinforcement from free media, instead of relying on her campaign team to turn it into a hopes-to-go-viral commercial pushed onto YouTube.
One last thing, and it's not about Clinton's lack of clever rejoinders amidst Trump's barrage of allegations and overheated rhetoric from his standard stump speech.
It's about what I hope to see -- and not see -- in the third debate. We don't need any more questions about emails, tax returns, Syria, and Russia. Both candidates have worn those topics out, and unless there are new revelations, they aren't likely to have anything new to say if you ask them again. Instead, I wish the moderator of Clinton-Trump 3 would ask them about things that have yet to be discussed but are important matters our country must face: climate change, mental health, the opioid epidemic, legalizing medical marijuana, making student loans more affordable, banks that are too big to fail, and whether NASA should get more funding for a manned Mars mission.
Unfortunately, with Chris Wallace set to referee the final showdown, I fear that those questions -- and many others that should be discussed -- will be left unasked. Instead, it'll be another round of the nonsense wars, and Clinton will need to have some better ammunition ready to fire.
I have no patience for deniers -- those who claim the Holocaust never happened, that climate change isn't real, that the US government toppled the Twin Towers -- and no interest in engaging in any kind of conversation with them, let alone a debate. I know that I can never change their twisted minds, that logic plays no part in their conclusions, and that they have more regard for opinions than facts.
Professor Deborah Lipstadt felt the same way. In 1993, she wrote "Denying The Holocaust," in which she said that another author, David Irving, had distorted facts and evidence to legitimize his Holocaust denial. He tried to confront her and challenge her to a debate, but she declined. In 1996, Irving sued Lipstadt and her publisher in a British court for libel. The problem for Lipstadt was that, in England, the libel burden is on the defendant, not the plaintiff. In other words, there was no presumption of innocence on her part -- she had to prove that he was, in fact, a liar and distorter of the truth.
That's the basis of "Denial," a terrific film starring Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt, a brilliant woman faced with what seems an impossible task, horrified at the idea of having to litigate the truths of the Holocaust in court. Fortunately, her publisher, Penguin UK, puts together an impressive team of solicitors and barristers (in the British legal system, solicitors prepare the case and barristers argue it in court, complete with those ridiculous wigs that should have disappeared long before the 21st century).
As good as Weisz's performance is as Lipstadt, "Denial" steps up a few notches every time Tom Wilkinson is on screen. One of our most reliable actors, Wilkinson has never been better than he is as Richard Rampton, the barrister who takes Irving apart in court by using his own words against him. Andrew Scott is also good as Anthony Julius, the solicitor who leads the team in devising the legal strategy and doing an enormous amount of research. Timothy Spall plays Irving as the over-confident, slimy demagogue denier he was.
While the courtroom scenes make for the most fireworks in "Denial," there are also some very good moments regarding the strategy that went into the case, including Lipstadt's horror at being told by Julius why he won't allow any Holocaust survivors to testify. There's also some subtle commentary on the media's desire for headlines and sound bites, rather than focusing on the truth at the heart of the matter. But the movie belongs to the characters so vividly portrayed by Weisz, Wilkinson, and Spall, who deserve nominations for their performances, and directed by Mick Jackson ("Temple Grandin," "My Bodyguard," "LA Story"), from a script by David Hare based on Lipstadt's book, "History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier."
"Denial" is one of the best movies I've seen this year. I give it a 9 out of 10.
Sunday, October 09, 2016
Playing a drunk character onstage or in a movie can be difficult. For an amateur, it means staggering around, slurring your words, and acting goofy. A professional has to avoid those stereotypes and realize there are several different levels of drunk: 1) slightly buzzed after a couple of drinks; 2) acting irresponsibly after too many drinks; 3) on the verge of falling-down or blacking-out after losing track of how many drinks; 4) appearing somewhat normal and able to make it through the day while totally smashed; 5) seriously alcoholic and apparent to everyone.
Emily Blunt is not an alcoholic, but she plays one as Rachel, the title character who lives somewhere in the 4-5 range of drunk, in "The Girl On The Train," a mystery thriller based on the huge best-seller by Paula Hawkins. Blunt is a very talented actress, and she gets the drunk right. Her Rachel is pretty much blotto all the time, but tries her best to disguise it, drinking vodka from a plastic water bottle she carries as she commutes into and out of New York City, living in a fuzzy world somewhere between reality and absolute confusion.
On the train, Rachel stares out the window at the houses passing by, particularly those in a neighborhood she used to live in. Rachel is still psychologically devastated by the dissolution of her marriage to Tom (Justin Theroux) who still lives in her old house with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby. She can't help but look to see what's going on for a few seconds in each direction each day. Rachel is also taken with the couple that lives two doors down -- Scott and Megan (Haley Bennett), the latter of whom is frequently on the deck of her house overlooking the train tracks.
We see all of this through Rachel's booze-riddled disorientation, and the setup takes a little bit too long before we get to the actual mystery. That starts rolling when, shortly after Rachel sees Megan kissing a man who is definitely not her husband, she goes missing. That sets off a mystery that Rachel investigates -- or is she involved? Alison Janney plays a police detective trying to unravel the foggy memories and lies. The cast also includes Laura Prepon and Lisa Kudrow as the kind of characters inserted solely to advance the exposition of the plot so that the audience can follow the twists and turns.
Interesting side note: before Kudrow was cast, her character's name was Monica. But then director Tate Taylor ("The Help," "Get On Up") realized that having women named Rachel and Monica, with one of them played by an ex-star of "Friends," would be too distracting for his movie. He wisely renamed Kudrow's character Martha (a much nicer name!).
As I said, "The Girl On The Train" is pretty slow going for the first 45 minutes or so, but then plot details are revealed (which I won't spoil) that help pick up the pace and it races towards a satisfying conclusion. It has been compared to "Gone Girl," and they do have a couple of things in common: they're both about suburban wives who suddenly go missing, and they both refer to their lead characters as "girl" when, in the 21st century, she should really be called a "woman."
My wife, who read the book and thus knew what was coming, walked out happy. I didn't read the book, but felt satisfied on the way out, too. I'm giving "The Girl On The Train" an 8 out of 10.
Saturday, October 08, 2016
Todd Robbins returned to my show today to talk about the second season of "True Nightmares," the show he hosts on Investigation Discovery (ID).
It includes dramatic re-creations of real stories about grave robbers, mysterious murders, and other dark and twisted crimes -- and Todd is interwoven into all of them. We discussed the production of the show, the kind of stories he likes to tell, and whether any of the actors have ever been too freaked out to do an episode.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Denial," "The Girl On The Train," and "Birth Of A Nation." We also discussed the next movie from Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg ("Patriots Day"), the upcoming all-female "Ocean's 8," and more.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- you'll hear trivia questions about Famous Debate Moments, Old-A-Palooza, and The Crazy Clown Category. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News® I have stories about a house in the middle of the road, a Facebook profile mistake, and a lottery ticket scam attempt. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Friday, October 07, 2016
Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald, who has done terrific work reporting on Trump -- and also suffers from epilepsy -- on How Donald Trump Supporters Attack Journalists:
After my article about how Trump’s business interests would create a conflict of unprecedented proportions, I received a tweet from someone with the twitter handle “Mike's Deplorable AF.” Like many Trump supporters, he has chosen to identify himself as deplorable to mock the label once used by Clinton to describe the racists, neo-Nazis, homophobes and like who have crawled out of the sewer to cheer for the Republican nominee. Mike, however, is indeed deplorable.Read Eichenwald's full piece here.
In his tweet, which has since been deleted, Mike made mention of my seizures and included a small video. It contained images of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character that has been identified by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate symbol. I was carrying my iPad, looking at the still image on the video and, without thinking, touched the PLAY button.
The video was some sort of strobe light, with flashing circles and images of Pepe flying toward the screen. It’s what’s called epileptogenic—something that triggers seizures. Fortunately, since I was standing, I simply dropped my iPad to the ground the second I realized what Mike had done. It landed face down on the bathroom floor.
The deplorables are real. The deplorables are dangerous.
While doing promotion for his new National Geographic series, David Letterman talked with Dave Itzkoff of the NY Times about how he would have handled Donald Trump a little differently than Jimmy Fallon did:
If I had a show, I would have gone right after him. I would have said something like, “Hey, nice to see you. Now, let me ask you: what gives you the right to make fun of a human who is less fortunate, physically, than you are?” And maybe that’s where it would have ended. Because I don’t know anything about politics. I don’t know anything about trade agreements. I don’t know anything about China devaluing the yuan. But if you see somebody who’s not behaving like any other human you’ve known, that means something. They need an appointment with a psychiatrist. They need a diagnosis and they need a prescription.Read more from Letterman on Trump here.
This is the funniest thing I've seen in a long time. Impressionist Jim Meskimen nails 19 celebrity impressions in two and a half minutes -- and they're perfect. Caveat: I made the mistake of taking a drink of water a few seconds into this and almost did a spit-take all over my laptop...
Thursday, October 06, 2016
I've seen several articles over the course of the presidential campaign referring to "Donald Trump's movement." Unless they're referring to his bowels and the crap he spews verbally every day, they couldn't be more wrong.
There is no movement. If there were a movement, we'd see others following his path into office, but Trump is only about Trump. What they call a movement is nothing more than the demagoguery, exploitation, and ego of a man who desperately needs attention and validation.
He is an extension of the coarsening of public dialogue, in the footsteps of loudmouth political talk radio and TV hosts. Rather than the leader of a movement, think of him as the country's most famous internet troll.
1) October seems much quieter in St. Louis this year. Maybe it's because the Cardinals aren't in the playoffs and the Rams aren't in the time zone.
2) Joe Veix is amazed so many people want the Olive Garden Pasta Pass, and asks how much pasta can you eat before you die?
3) Great minds think alike. In my review of "Deepwater Horizon," I wrote:
The cast also includes Kate Hudson as the wife of Mark Wahlberg's character. But like Sienna Miller in "American Sniper" and Laura Linney in "Sully," she only gets to be the worried-spouse-on-the-phone, bringing exactly nothing to the script or story line. It's as if someone at the studio said, "But there's no love interest" and "We get too many complaints about a lack of roles for actresses over 40," so they wedged one in.Now Rebecca Keegan has written a piece for the LA Times entitled "Why are so many gifted actresses relegated to 'wife on the phone' roles in heroic male movies?"
posted at 10:50 AM
Tuesday, October 04, 2016
Much was made this weekend of Vin Scully's retirement after 67 years as the broadcast voice of the Dodgers. He was certainly the best to ever do that job and deserves every accolade written and spoken about him. Unfortunately, not enough attention was given to the retirement of another veteran sports broadcaster -- Dick Enberg.
He's been the voice of the San Diego Padres for seven years, but before that, he spent six decades behind the microphone and in front of the camera, doing play-by-play for baseball, football, basketball, tennis, and golf (he hosted three game shows, too), winning 13 Emmys and a slew of other awards along the way. In fact, Enberg and Curt Gowdy are the only two announcers to receive broadcasting awards from each of the Halls of Fame in professional baseball, basketball, and football.
I had the honor of talking with Enberg several times, and he was as good a guest as he was a host. Here's the audio of one of those conversations, along with what I wrote after watching him call a great match at the US Open.
Before he broadcast his final Padres game Sunday afternoon, the team honored the 81-year-old Enberg in a pregame ceremony, complete with his trademark phrase, "Oh, My!" carved into the outfield grass...
Monday, October 03, 2016
"SNL" got big numbers with its season premiere, which featured Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton debating Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump. McKinnon was great, as always, and Baldwin was fine, but I'm surprised Lorne Michaels made the decision not to have Darrell Hammond do the debate when he already has one of the best Trump imitations on TV -- better than Baldwin's, certainly.
While clever, I didn't think the sketch was any more biting than what the other late-nighters (Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers) had already said about the debate. In essence, it was merely a replay of the lowlights of the real-life confrontation, with nothing new to say about it. I also agree with these comments by TV critic David Zurawik on CNN's "Reliable Sources" yesterday:
"In 2008, late-night comedy and particularly 'SNL' was saying the things mainstream journalism could not say -- that Sarah Palin was one of the dopiest, goofiest-looking candidates we ever had. And, oh, by the way, she will probably be dangerous and a disgrace to us if she's elected. We could not say that. They could. It was liberating." But this year, "everybody, from editorial writers to people on the campaign trail, are saying all the things about Trump that were sort of revealed in Baldwin's satirical take on him. And that's a big change in the media."As for the revelations over the weekend that Trump lost over $900 million in 1995 and was able to use that loss carryover to not pay taxes for the next 18 years, why is anyone surprised? The tax laws are written to protect the rich, with loopholes galore that have been tailored to situations exactly like this one. Trump and his accounting team merely took advantage of the IRS regulations in place at the time. The blame should be placed squarely at the feet of the members of Congress who drafted those laws in the first place. That's how our corrupt system works -- even though there are 435 people sent to Capitol Hill supposedly to work for us, in reality, they do the bidding of the thousands of lobbyists who work on behalf of corporations and the wealthy in return for the funds that allow them to run their campaigns and line their pockets.
So, when Trump says he was smart to not pay taxes, he's legally correct. But morally, that's a helluva message to send to American voters, particularly the middle class: "I know how to manipulate the crooked system so that I don't have to underwrite America's needs, while you suckers pay for everything. I even know how to get tax breaks so you're supporting me and my businesses!"
It's that kind of welfare for the rich that must be fixed, but anyone who thinks a billionaire narcissist like Trump has any interest in adjusting the tax laws to be less favorable to himself and others like him is a fool.
"Deepwater Horizon" was the name of the BP/TransOcean deep sea oil drilling platform that failed on April 20, 2010, killing 11 men and covering the Gulf Of Mexico in millions of gallons of oil.
The film based on those events is directed by Peter Berg, who made both the TV and movie versions of "Friday Night Lights," but was also responsible for the completely unnecessary big screen adaptation of the board game "Battleship." A few years ago, Berg made "Lone Survivor," starring Mark Wahlberg as, well, the only soldier to survive an attack -- it was the first movie in a long time that needed a spoiler alert for its own title. Now he and Wahlberg have teamed up to tell another based-on-real-events story.
For "Deepwater Horizon," Berg couldn't get permission from any of the oil companies (especially BP) to shoot onboard an existing deep sea rig, so he built one of his own -- a scale model that looks great on the screen and allowed him to make much of the movie with practical effects, rather than green screen CGI. So, when the rig starts to blow (and it blows up real good), it looks realistic as hell.
The problem is that there's no drama in "Deepwater Horizon." We know it’s going to blow, we know most of the crew got off the rig. Sure, we knew what happened in "Sully," too, but that adventure had the conflict of the NTSB investigation, while "Deepwater Horizon" ends before we see anything similar. There's also nothing about the after-effects of the spill on the environment or the businesses that were ruined along the gulf coast -- just a few slides of the men who died and the BP execs who were charged with manslaughter (charges that were later dropped).
Another problem with "Deepwater Horizon" is understanding what actually went wrong. You see things bubbling and rumbling under water, but you're not really clear what happens down there or up top, where the crew works. There's lots of technical deep-sea drilling terminology, but it doesn’t make sense because there's no one to explain it in layman's language. It's clear that Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, and Gina Rodriguez are the heroes and John Malkovich is the villain -- he's the evil BP man who makes bad decisions that may have led to the ultimate problems, and Malkovich plays him with a Cajun accent so heavy I wasn't even sure it was him at first.
The cast also includes Kate Hudson as the wife of Mark Wahlberg's character. But like Sienna Miller in "American Sniper" and Laura Linney in "Sully," she only gets to be the worried-spouse-on-the-phone, bringing exactly nothing to the script or story line. It's as if someone at the studio said, "But there's no love interest" and "We get too many complaints about a lack of roles for actresses over 40," so they wedged one in.
As a movie, "Deepwater Horizon" isn't a giant oil spill of a disaster, it's just another run-of-the-mill action film. It doesn't enlighten you on how things went so wrong, but it does have solid performances and big explosive scenes.
I give it a 6 out of 10.