Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis Mondays and Fridays, 3-6pm CT

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Adam Savage, "Brain Candy Live"


For 10 years and 282 episodes, Adam Savage co-hosted “Mythbusters” on the Discovery Channel. He left that show in 2016, but you can still find him at Tested.com and on his new tour with Michael Stevens, doing a stage show called Brain Candy Live, which comes to the Peabody in St. Louis December 6th.

When Adam returned to my radio show, he explained the Brain Candy Live concept and what he's been up to in his maker studio lately. We also discussed the new MythBusters (Bryan Louden and Jon Lung, who debuted last week on the Science Channel) and Adam's memories (in his final season on "Mythbusters") of seeing the Earth from a unique vantage point, some 70,000 feet up in a U-2 plane.

I also told Adam about my idea for a new series, which I proposed on this site two years ago:
I'm a little surprised they haven't produced a "Mythbusters" spinoff yet. I envision something that's a cross between the 1973 NBC series "The Magician" (in which Bill Bixby played an illusionist who uses his talents to help people in trouble) and the 1986 movie "F/X" (with Bryan Brown as a special effects/makeup artist who helps fake a mob hit). In my suggested show, you'd have a couple of guys like Adam and Jamie, who are experts in building devices and effects, solve a client's problem each week, in a procedural format like "CSI" or "The Blacklist." There would be plenty of room for stunts and science to co-exist -- with the occasional explosion, of course.
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Previously on Harris Online...

Jessica Meir, NASA Astronaut

Since I grew up with the American space program, I have long been fascinated by the men and women who get to sit atop those huge rockets and be thrust beyond Earth's atmosphere. That's why I was happy to see "A Year In Space," the PBS documentary which is running this month. It's about Scott Kelly, the astronaut who spent 340 consecutive days on the International Space Station, and the effects on his body of such a prolonged period of weightlessness.

Its companion piece, "Beyond A Year In Space" (which you can watch aboves) features my guest, Dr. Jessica Meir, one of the new class of astronauts who may one day go on a mission to Mars. She graduated from training two years ago, and although she hasn't left Earth yet, she's been very involved behind the scenes while waiting for her first opportunity to launch.

In our conversation, I asked if she's prepping for a Mars mission, or if it's more likely NASA will return to the moon first. As a physiologist who has studied animals in extreme environments, I asked what life will be like for humans on Mars, and how much of a threat solar radiation is as it bombards everything outside Earth's atmosphere (even inside the ISS). We also talked about NASA's new Orion capsule and rocket (which will mean we no longer have to be dependent on the Russian space program to get us up and down), her experience as an Aquanaut, and what it was like to visit the Apollo mission control room with Jim Lovell, who orbited the moon in Apollo 8 and lived through the Apollo 13 mishap, too.

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Rick Newman Explains Bitcoin


Rick Newman of Yahoo Finance has been writing about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies lately, so I asked him to return to my radio show to explain them in layman's terms. Considering how the value of these financial instruments has skyrocketed in their short lives, their story seems unreal, yet there are lots of people jumping on the bandwagon and buying their own fractional shares.

If you don't even know what Bitcoin is, my conversation with Rick might stimulate your interest. Full disclosure: Rick owns some Bitcoin, but I do not. Yet.

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

Previously on Harris Online...

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving Media Memo

I wrote this in 2007...


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Future File (Upcoming Stories To Work On):

  • Fire hazards of Christmas trees.
  • Increased popularity of online shopping.
  • Find a Jewish family that can explain Hanukkah.

On My Monday Radio Show


I'll be back on KTRS today for my regular 3-6pm CT show. Among my guests will be:
I hope you'll listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com.

Movie Review: "Wonder"


In "Wonder," Jacob Tremblay (so good with Brie Larson in “Room”) is Auggie, a boy born with facial deformities. He has been homeschooled by his mother, Julia Roberts, but now she and dad Owen Wilson have decided it's time for him to be mainstreamed into a real school, for fifth grade.

That may sound like "Wonder" is just a younger version of the 1994 movie "Mask," which starred Eric Stoltz, Cher, and Sam Elliott. The difference is that movie was about a blue-collar family in a small California town, and this one is about an upper-class family in New York City.

At school, Auggie encounters exactly the kind of bullying and ignorant avoid-the-guy-with-the-weird-face attitudes you would expect, but he manages to trudge through it, and eventually makes friends. One of the aspects of this movie that works so well is telling it from more than just Auggie’s vantage point. We learn about his sister, Via, as she struggles with some social issues in high school, while also recognizing that, at home, her parents have spent most of the last 10 years taking care of her brother at her expense. We see things from the perspective of Jack, a boy who may or may not turn out to be Auggie’s best friend at school, and Miranda, Via's longtime friend. Oh, and there is a cute dog, too.

Tremblay is very good as Auggie, and you are never aware of the make up that has turned him into this character. He's sweet and smart, so you are rooting for him from the first moment you see him on screen. It is good to see Roberts' big, wide smile again, and Wilson is, well, Wilson. The cast also includes Mandy Patinkin as the principal of Auggie's school, and a very short appearance by Sonia Braga.

Unfortunately, "Wonder" ends on a cheap, sentimental finale that felt tacked on. There are other storylines that seem designed expressly -- and try to hard -- to tug at your heartstrings. Still, the rest of it is very family friendly, and I think a lot of adults -- and especially kids -- will enjoy seeing this story.

I give "Wonder" a 7 out of 10.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Money Shot


Much was made of the photo last week of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife, Louise Linton, holding up a sheet of new $1 bills. It was said to be proof of their arrogance and love of money. After all, he's an ex-Goldman Sachs banker and movie producer, and they live in a big mansion. Okay, fine, but the criticism was still off base when it came to the photo op.

In that cabinet position, Mnuchin's signature now appears on American currency, alongside that of US Treasurer Jovita Carranza. You have to admit how cool it is to look down at money and see your own name and handwriting. If that were me, I'd do exactly what he did -- go to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and take a picture with some newly-printed cash that hasn't gone through the cutting device yet. And, yes, I'd invite my wife to come over and be in the shot with me.

This isn't some privilege of the super-wealthy. You can buy your own sheet of uncut currency online or at the Bureau's gift shop after you've taken the tour (worth the trip next time you're in DC -- bring the kids). That's exactly what I did 30+ years ago when I wanted something unique as a gift for my father-in-law. He loved it and put it up on the wall of his office, framed. I can only imagine how much cooler that would have been if the money had my name on it.

By the way, there's another photo you probably didn't see from the same day last week, from a different perspective. It shows both Mnuchin and Carranza showing off the brand new uncut currency, and there's nothing evil about it.

Credit: those photos were taken by Jacquelyn Martin of the Associated Press, who provides some background here.

Movie Review, "Justice League"


I'm not a comic-book-superhero kind of guy. I don't know the difference between the Marvel characters and the DC characters. I don't get excited when there's some new movie in their universes. That said, I occasionally see movies like this, knowing that I'm not going to be as excited about them as the vast majority of the audience is. I go in with low expectations, though there have been times when I've walked out satisfied, such as the first Christopher Reeve "Superman," the first Michael Keaton "Batman," the first Tobey Maguire "Spider-Man," and the first Gal Gadot "Wonder Woman." They each charmed me in different ways.

That brings us to "Justice League," in which DC brings six of its superheroes together: Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gadot), Superman (Henry Cavill), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Aquaman (Jason Mamoa). The latter three are new to the screen, which means we have to go through mini-origin stories of those characters. Of them, Miller is the only one worth watching, as he provides some much-needed comic relief, while Mamoa just comes off as the buffest surfer of all time reciting incredibly stupid lines. As for Fisher, he's hampered by a character that's under-written and as confusing as he is confused.

Wonder Woman is undeniably the star of the movie, and Gal Godot has proven her worth. Her standalone movie, released nine months ago, is one of the biggest earners of the year, and "Justice League" works best whenever she's on screen. However, I hated the way the camera occasionally panned up her body to show us how great she looks -- that's the difference between having Zack Snyder direct your movie and having Patty Jenkins behind the scenes. Arguably the most popular actress in the world, Gadot now has the power to ensure she isn't treated that way by directors in the future, just as she's refused to reprise the role if producer Brett Ratner (who's been accused of multiple sexually inappropriate incidents with other actresses) is anywhere near the project.

Ironically, Affleck is better as Bruce Wayne than he is as Batman. For some reason, when he's in the cape and cowl, he uses a gruff deep voice (which is then electronically enhanced). Perhaps it's to make him sound bigger and tougher, but it didn't work in the previous chapters, and still doesn't. He does have one good line: when Mamoa asks what his superpower is, Affleck replies, "I'm rich."

Considering that its predecessors were all too dark and serious, I was happy to see more humorous moments like that in "Justice League," as well as some good rapport between Batman and Wonder Woman and The Flash. The supporting cast includes JK Simmons, who I usually like, but seems out of place as Commissioner Gordon, since I still associate him with the Spider-Man universe, in which he has played newspaper editor Jonah Jameson several times.

Unfortunately for "Justice League," its villain, Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), is quite possibly the worst movie villain I have ever seen. He's some kind of horned demon, or a demon with a horned hat or something. Whatever he is, Steppenwolf is, of course, bent on the destruction of mankind and blah blah blah. He's boring, the CGI is terrible, and the flying mosquitoes around him only reminded me of the flying monkeys in "The Wizard of Oz." The movie is also burdened with the idiotic decision to kill Superman in its previous chapter, but I won't spoil how it's handled (except to say it's not well done).

Remember, though, my expectations for these movies aren’t high, and I'm more than willing to just sit back and see if they entertain me at all. Despite the above objections, "Justice League" mostly did. Maybe the series can go forward now with this group of six central superheroes, forget about any more origin stories, and rely more on character interaction than CGI mayhem.

I give "Justice League" a 5 out of 10.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Andy Friendly, "Willing To Be Lucky"


What do Richard Pryor, Tom Snyder, Johnny Carson, Roseanne, and Dick Cavett have in common? They all worked with my guest, Andy Friendly, who spent over forty years writing, producing, directing, and overseeing television shows and movies as an executive, creating content for NBC, CBS, ABC, Discovery, PBS, King World, Paramount, MGM, and others. Now he has written about his career in a new book called, “Willing To Be Lucky: Adventures In Life and Television.”

We started off talking about Tom Snyder, a towering TV personality whose work I enjoyed for many years as host of the "Tomorrow" show on NBC. Then we moved on to "Good Night and Good Luck," the movie George Clooney directed and starred in as Andy's father, legendary CBS news producer Fred Friendly, opposite David Straitharn as Edward R. Murrow.

I could easily have talked with Andy for several hours about his remarkable life, but we only had time at the end for a great story about a crisis involving a white pinstriped suit Richard Pryor insisted on wearing onstage for his third concert movie, "Here and Now," which Andy produced.

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Showbiz Show 11/17/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I reviewed the new movies "Justice League" and "Wonder."

Then we discussed the Al Franken harassment story, Ben Affleck's comments on the charges against him, Universal entering "Get Out" as a comedy for the Golden Gloves, CBS making a sitcom out of "Stripes," and Amazon doing a "Lord Of The Rings" TV series.

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

Harris Challenge 11/17/17

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun that you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include Who You Calling Turkey?, Thanks For Guessing, Where Was That? Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 11/17/17


This collection of Knuckleheads In The News® stories includes a couple fighting on a plane, a really distracted driver, and homemade license plates. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, November 17, 2017

As I Tweeted

  • Today marked the last day of existence for a company known as CBS Radio, which has been swallowed up by another radio company called Entercom. That means CBS will not have a third opportunity to hire me, get great ratings with my show, then fire me nonetheless. Too bad.

On My Friday Radio Show


I'll be back on KTRS today for my regular 3-6pm CT show (listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com).

In the first hour, I'll talk with Andy Friendly about his book, "Willing To Be Lucky: Adventures In Life and Television."

In the second hour, Max and I will review the new movies "Justice League" and "Wonder," plus other showbiz stuff.

In the third hour, you'll get a chance to test your topical trivia knowledge with my Harris Challenge, and I'll have another batch of Knuckleheads In The News®, too.