Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis every Friday, 3-6pm CT

Friday, June 23, 2017

KTRS Friday


I'll be back on my 3-6pm CT show on KTRS today.

In the first hour, I'll talk with Finn Murphy about his book, "The Long Haul: A Trucker's Tales Of Life On The Road."

In the second hour, Max and I will review "Transformers: The Last Knight," plus other movie/showbiz news.

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

You can listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How Does USA Today Stay In Business?


While staying in a hotel earlier this week, I picked up a free copy of USA Today in the lobby. Browsing through it, I couldn't help but wonder how this newspaper stays in business.

When USA Today launched in 1982, it was a big deal. Here was a truly national daily newspaper, full of color and eye-popping graphics, with tiny stories and factoids that instantly made it every radio personality's must-read prep sheet. But over the years, and certainly with the advent of the world wide web, USA Today became less and less important. Oh, sure, it's still available in thousands of hotels worldwide -- where it's free, so no revenue flows back to Gannett, its publisher, for those copies -- but I can't imagine anyone plunking down the cover price of $2/issue to pick one up at a newsstand, not to mention $225/year for home delivery. Not in an era when you can get all of its content for free (no firewall) on its website.

Sure, with all those free copies distributed in every state, USAT can boast about its reach and readership to potential advertisers, but there are a lot fewer of the latter today. The whole paper, still broken up into four sections, is only 28 pages long. Of those, there were only a total of 3 pages of ads on Monday -- including one full page, several mini-ads in its "Marketplace" listings, a one-third page legal notice, and a small sponsorship of its national weather map.

By the way, in the digital age, why are newspapers still printing weather maps and forecasts? Is there anyone who uses USA Today as a resource for that information, which is much more easily accessible on any smartphone? Just because it looked amazing in 1982 doesn't mean you still have to do it in 2017. Along the same lines, why are any newspapers still printing charts full of closing stock prices? That is literally yesterday's data, no longer relevant as soon as the market opens today -- and also available instantly, with more news about each company, on any digital device.

The entire newspaper business has been in upheaval for more than a decade, as readers found information available for free online instead, which led to advertisers jumping off the sinking ship of print. But while paper subscriptions continue to drop, some -- including the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post -- have been smart about increasing their digital sides, where more people are paying for full access.

USA Today has made efforts along those lines, but I don't know how successful they've been. All I know is that the paper-and-ink edition of The Nation's Newspaper seems much less pertinent than ever.

Previously on Harris Online...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Kelly File

Despite a lot of hype, Megyn Kelly's interview with Alex Jones drew only 3.5 million viewers Sunday night. That's less than a rerun of "America's Funniest Home Videos," which I didn't even know was still on the air (how many videos can there be of a father being hit in the balls by a plastic bat swung by his 4-year-old son?). That episode of Kelly's show is the lowest-rated of the three that she's done thus far, so the execs at NBC can't be happy.

They're learning an important lesson they should already have known -- there's a difference between a TV star and a cable news star. Kelly was successful at Fox News Channel because the standard for success (and truth, and sexual harassment) is much lower there than it is in the big-time TV universe. It's like when Katie Couric was hired away from NBC's "Today" show to anchor the "CBS Evening News." The latter hoped that all her viewers from the former would follow her, but they didn't because the two dayparts demand different skills and exist in separate and non-parallel universes. When it turned out that she wasn't the draw they expected her to be, Couric was yanked by CBS and replaced by Scott Pelley -- who has now been similarly dragged from the anchor chair after five years of so-so ratings and will be replaced by, oh, who knows.

Meanwhile, Kelly's former channel-mate Bill O'Reilly is making noise about how he's going to return to the public eye -- via a streaming show on his website. That's yet another universe, one with a much smaller potential audience. Of course, O'Reilly is full of so much hubris that he's sure the millions of fans that tuned in to his FNC show will now find him on the internet. Yeah, good luck with that, Bill. I think you're going to be sorely disappointed. Just ask Glenn Beck, who discovered his influence had essentially disappeared when he ran off to the online-only world to not make his fortune.

Back to Megyn Kelly. Those NBC execs who signed her to a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract -- but can't love her Sunday night ratings -- must be wringing their hands over the new daytime show she'll debut this fall, taking over one of the later hours of "The Today Show." Though no announcement has been made of exactly what that show will be (news-intensive, celebrity-guest-driven, or yet another Oprah imitation?), the network has to be a little worried that Kelly will follow the daytime disaster route already forged by other TV stars who tried to spread their wings but couldn't overcome the gravity of the Nielsen ratings. Besides Couric (who failed in that daypart, too), the list includes Anderson Cooper, Jane Pauley, Meredith Viera, Jeff Probst, Queen Latifah, Wayne Brady, and Megan Mullaly.

Whether this Megyn can find success at NBC is still an unknown. But she's not off to a very good start.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Best Thing I've Read Today

Katrina Vanden Heuvel on the media's malpractice on Trump:

One of the great ironies of the political moment is that President Trump’s sworn enemy has become, if not exactly an ally, an enabler of his agenda. For all of Trump’s griping about “fake news,” the mainstream media’s prevailing focus on palace intrigue and White House scandals has come at the expense of substantive policy coverage, allowing Trump and the Republican Party to advance harmful, hugely unpopular policies without the scrutiny they deserve.
She goes on to list several policy issues that aren't getting the attention they should, including climate change denial, unravelling Wall Street reforms, and health care:
Recent polls have identified health care as Americans’ No. 1 concern, but it has not been treated that way in the media. Since the House’s initial failure to pass a bill this spring, coverage of the issue has dwindled, with the exception of a brief spike when Republicans hastily pushed through a bill in May. Now, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) secretly maneuvers to gut the Affordable Care Act — without holding hearings or releasing any legislative details to the public — many in the mainstream media have responded with a collective yawn. Even as reports of McConnell’s machinations emerged last week, The Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times each determined, for two consecutive days, that the rising likelihood of a bill passing did not warrant a front-page story.

At the same time, the wall-to-wall coverage of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s bumbling testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee was just the latest example of the media’s myopic obsession with all things Russia. While the investigations into Trump’s campaign and the president’s possible obstruction of justice are clearly newsworthy, they have denied oxygen to other issues that have a far greater impact on Americans’ daily lives.
Read Vanden Heuvel's full piece here.

Broadway Weekend


I spent the weekend celebrating my mother's 93rd birthday with her, and my wife and daughter in New York City. While there, we took in three Broadway shows of different genres: a feel-good musical about 9/11, a farce where everything goes wrong, and a Noel Coward play starring Kevin Kline.

The best of the three was "Come From Away," which was nominated for (but didn't win) the Tony for Best Musical. It's about the little Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland, where the population nearly doubled for a few days because of the 9/11/01 attacks. That day, when US airspace was closed, 38 planes were diverted to the Gander airport, where the locals opened their homes, schools, and businesses to help out the 7,000 stranded passengers and crew. The musical uses some of the real names and stories of those who were there.

"Come From Away" has a cast of 12 who play both the Gander locals and the plane people, telling their stories and experiences in song -- a score that's performed live by a band of six terrific musicians who are off to the sides of the stage. As the actors (many of whom have been with the show since its first run in La Jolla in 2015) switch between dozens of roles, the chemistry never suffers, and the characters come to life: the town mayor, an American Airlines pilot, a teacher, a gay couple, a cop, an SPCA worker, a Muslim man who is eyed warily, and many others.

The music is vibrant, the tales are gripping, the performances are so good that we joined the rest of the audience in leaping to our feet for the curtain calls (including a several-minute-long jam session by the band, which takes center stage for the finale). "Come From Away," which Ben Brantley called a "portrait of heroic hospitality," is the best musical I've seen since "Fun Home." This is a show that will not only have a long run on Broadway, but will no doubt be performed by road companies, regional theaters, and even high school/college drama departments for a long time to come.

Our second show was "The Play That Goes Wrong," an out-and-out farce. The show's basic conceit is that an amateur theater company is putting on a classic British mystery, "The Murder At Haversham Manor." In the tradition of such shows as "What The Butler Saw" and "Noises Off," "The Play That Goes Wrong" thrives on what my wife describes as The Three S's That Make A Farce Work -- slapstick, spit-takes, and slamming. Over the course of the play, the set falls apart, props are misplaced, actors forget their lines, the tech crew misses cues, and the corpse crawls off the stage only to return later.

"The Play That Goes Wrong" was written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields of Mischief Theatre Company, a group that reminds me of The Reduced Shakespeare Company, in that they have also written and performed similarly farcical prodcutions (e.g. "Peter Pan Goes Wrong," "The Nativity Goes Wrong," and "The Comedy About A Bank Robbery"). A show like this demands perfect timing, both verbal and physical, which the cast pulls off brilliantly. It helps that most of them have been with the production since it first appeared in London in 2014.

Finally, we saw Kevin Kline in his Tony-winning performance in "Present Laughter," a 1939 Noel Coward play (in which Coward originally played the lead). It is a drawing-room comedy, also British, but without any slapstick or spit-takes. This time, the comedy comes from the spoken word and the interaction between stage star Garry Essendine (Kline), his domestic staff, his long-suffering secretary, his business partners, his ex-wife, and his young ingenue lover.

Kline is onstage for the vast majority of the play, and gives a riveting performance in which every line reading and movement is just right for the character. He's so confident up there that he doesn't even mind turning his back on the audience a few times to allow the focus of attention to drift to his co-stars. Among them, the always-solid Kate Burton is best as his ex-wife. Interestingly, she played the ingenue in a 1982 production of the show, but now is the separated-but-not-completely Mrs. Essendine. Meanwhile, the young woman cast as the ingenue this time (Tedra Millan in her Broadway debut) looks strikingly similar to a young Phoebe Cates, who grew up to become Mrs. Kevin Kline. That brings a tinge of oddness to their scenes together.

So, three shows, three successes, and a great family celebration with Mom -- that's a pretty good weekend.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Movie Review: 47 Meters Down


In "47 Meters Down," Mandy Moore and Claire Holt play sisters on vacation at a resort in Mexico. They meet a couple of cute locals who convince them to go on an adventure (too bad they didn't see "Snatched," a cautionary tale about that). They agree to get on a boat captained by Matthew Modine, who will take them out into the part of the ocean that great white sharks call home. There, they'll get into a shark cage wearing scuba gear and be lowered into the water for an up-close-and-personal view of the sharks and other fish in their native habitat.

The two guys go first, and come up reporting on the amazing sights they've seen. Then Claire (who's been on several dives and is comfortable underwater) and Mandy (who has never been in scuba gear and is scared out of her mind) get in the cage, which is lowered five meters under the water. Sure enough, the sharks come by because the boat crew has been chumming the water, and the women get a good look at the beasts. But then, something goes wrong with the winch holding up the cage, which drops all the way to the ocean floor, 47 meters down.

That's the setup for the suspense that's supposed to come from whether the two sisters will be able to be rescued, or rescue themselves, before the air in their tanks runs out. Unfortunately, with everything that follows taking place down there, we're left in a murky underwater scenario with serious lighting issues (I can't even find a still photo from the production that's bright enough to put at the top of this page!). There might have been a lot of tension if we could see the sharks in the distance coming for them, but we only get to see the animals when they're right on top of our heroines. While that does create a couple of jump scares, it's not enough to sustain the tension for the final hour.

Then there's the problem of the ending. Writer/director Johannes Roberts must have felt his story wasn't grabbing the audience enough, because he threw in a dumb twist in the last 5 minutes that was completely unnecessary. The audience that I saw the movie with actually laughed when it was over. It wasn't giggling as a release a bunch of built-up tension -- it was laughing at how stupid the end of the movie was.

Last year, I gave an 8 out of 10 to "The Shallows," a movie in which surfer Blake Lively has to avoid being eaten by a great white shark, which was one of my Best Of 2016. Its story was much more compelling and the suspense seemed a lot more real compared to "47 Meters Down" which, despite running a mere 89 minutes, isn't in the same league.

By the way, the original distributor of "47 Meters Down" must have known it was a dud, because it was destined to skip theaters and go right to video last August before another studio bought the rights and held it for a year before its theatrical release this summer. The delay didn't make it any better.

I give "47 Meters Down" a 4.7 out of 10, which seems appropriate for its title.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day

Here's a piece I wrote for Father's Day in 2000...

Father’s Day. A day to be proud to be a father, and to remember our own Dads. And to realize that, contrary to what we always believed would happen, there’s a part of us that is turning into a part of him.

Every man who has kids has gone through this. One day, you’re the son, hearing your father saying, “As long as you live in my house, you’ll live by my rules.” The next day you’re grown up with a kid of your own, and you suddenly hear that same voice saying that same phrase – only now it’s in your house, and it’s coming out of your head! You realize that, horror of horrors, you’re channeling your own father!

I asked the listeners of my show to contribute some of their favorite Dad Sayings. It’s amazing how universal they are.

“Don’t make me turn this car around!” Great threat, Dad. We’re 200 miles from home and I’m sure my brother and I will be peaceful and cooperative all the way back. Alternate version: “Don’t make me stop this car,” which is the title of a memoir by Al Roker of NBC’s “Today Show.” Yeah, go ahead, Dad, pull over and stop the car. That will get us there faster.

“This is not a restaurant, you’ll eat what’s on the table.” Lots of these sayings have to do with food, because dinner table battles are not generation-proof. Nowhere in America has any kid ever eaten brussels sprouts warm, but millions of us have sat there after everything else was cleared away, looking at those ugly orbs of yuck that we either had to swallow or look at for the rest of our lives. Alternate version: “You don’t have to like it, you just have to eat it.”

“Don’t leave food on your plate. There are children starving in China (or India, or the third world nation of your choice).” Dad, can you explain to me again how my eating this liver will help them? Logically, shouldn’t I purposely leave some leftovers, which you and Mom can box up and send overseas through some United Nations program? We could use those same boxes they give us at the Chinese restaurant, where I noticed that you didn’t finish everything on your plate!

“Just think of the broccoli as little trees.” I love broccoli now, as an adult, and can’t understand why my daughter won’t try it, even though it was always a fight to get me to eat it as a kid. My Dad actually used this tree analogy on me, and to this day I don’t get it. What made him think that I was ever in the mood to chomp down on a tiny tree to begin with? Climb a tree, plant a tree, chop down a tree, carve my initials into a tree -- these I was interested in, but not eating one. What’s for dinner tomorrow night, bonsai bushes?

Also from the world of botany, “Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know.” Of course not, Dad. It grows on broccoli!

“This family is not a democracy.” We knew this all too well. When something of vital importance came up, there was only one vote that mattered, and it was Mom’s. Which explains why Dad was always saying, “What did your mother say? If it’s all right with Mom, then it’s all right with me.” Usual kid response, delivered in overly dramatic whine as if the world will end if you don’t get what you want: “But Dad, I really want it!” Usual parental reply: “Well, people in hell want ice water.” Go ahead, think up a rebuttal for that one.

“Life is not fair.” A lesson that Dad learned all too well through his many years toiling away in the workplace. This may have been the most important concept ever passed on from one generation of workers to the next.

“This is going to hurt me a lot more than it’s going to hurt you.” Dad as disciplinarian. Afterwards, the big difference between us was that he was able to sit down comfortably.

“You’ll understand why I’m doing this when you grow up and have kids of your own.” One listener says her father told her that she might not understand all of his jokes while she was a little girl, but when she grew up to be 65 years old, she’d get them all. She grew up expecting that, on her 65th birthday, she’d wake up laughing hysterically as all those jokes finally made sense to her. That is, until I pointed out that her father probably was a long way from 65 himself when he told her that.

“Don’t stand in front of the television – you’re not made of glass, you know!” Alternate version: “You make a better door than a window.”

“Close that door! We’re not paying to air condition the outside!” Dads have a great temperature sense, and it wasn’t confined to the front door, either. “Close the refrigerator door! You’ll attract penguins!” I always loved that one.

“If (your friend) jumped off the (highest local structure), would you jump, too?” This one has faded in recent years as that whole bungee-jumping fad got popular.

Here’s a really philosophical one that I hadn’t heard until a listener told me that her father used to say it to her: “You can lose your car, you can lose your house, you can lose your freedom, but you can never lose your education. And with your education, you can get it all back.” I’m going to try to remember that one so I can say it to my daughter, over and over again.

If you don’t understand any of this, you will someday when you’re a parent. In the meantime, go ask your mother.

Happy Father’s Day!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Dave Weigel, "The Show That Never Ends"


Here's my conversation with Dave Weigel about his book, "The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock." That's the term applied to bands like Yes, ELP, the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson, and more that rose to fame in the 1970s. Among the topics we discussed:
  • Why it took so long for Yes to finally be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame;
  • Which band gets credit for kick-starting the progressive rock era;
  • Whether bands of that genre refer to themselves as "progressive rock";
  • The importance of album cover art;
  • Whether progressive rock could have existed without the synthesizer;
  • Why there weren't more women creating prog rock.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Showbiz Show 6/16/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, guest critic Jim Batts and I reviewed the new movies "Rough Night," "47 Meters Down," "Cars 3," and "Band Aid" -- plus some other showbiz news.

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

Harris Challenge 6/16/17

This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- includes categories about Movie Dads, First Ladies, and more topical trivia. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 6/16/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about psychics who didn't see it coming, an impatient chicken nuggets consumer, and a double speeding ticket. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, June 16, 2017

As I Tweeted

With the Amazon/Whole Foods deal, Prime members can now have bananas delivered to your house in 1 hour. But they still cost $14 each.

KTRS Friday


I'll be back on my 3-6pm CT show on KTRS today.

In the first hour, I'll talk with Dave Weigel about his book, "The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock."

In the second hour, guest movie critic Jim Batts and I will review "47 Meters Down," "Cars 3," "Rough Night," and "Band Aid."

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

You can listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Stop With The Hitting

According to Forbes, boxer Floyd Mayweather's net worth is over $340 million. He'll reportedly make another $100 million from his just-announced fight against Conor McGregor later this summer. But why would he ever want to be punched in the face again? How much money does a guy need?

This excerpt from a story in The Express gives you a clue:

Despite earning an eye-watering amount of cash, Mayweather has faced a number of financial difficulties in recent years. The Richest reported that the boxer has defaulted on a number of loans and claimed that he owed the IRS nearly $6.1 million in back taxes. A report from financial advisor Tony Robbins in February claimed Mayweather spends $75 million every year. Rapper 50 Cent, Mayweather’s former business partner, said of the boxer’s financial mentality: “It’s fight, get the money, spend the money, fight. If he stops fighting, the money machine stops, the cash flow stops, his income stops — his financial world comes to a grinding halt.”
I'm reminded of the recent stories about Johnny Depp -- who also finds himself in financial straits because his cash outflow was so much bigger than his inflow -- and any number of lottery winners who end up filing for bankruptcy because they mishandled their sudden wealth.

You could easily blame some of this on the lack of financial education in America, but people with as much money as Mayweather probably have lots of people giving them advice, some of which no doubt lines their own pockets. It's easier to talk someone into a risky investment than to say, "You don't have to live in poverty, but you have enough money to provide for you and your family for generations if you do it right -- and no one will ever hit you in the head again." Of course, Mayweather may like the hits -- not receiving them, but doling them out.

I remember the years when Mike Tyson was in his prime and his boxing matches rarely lasted more than a few minutes, with his opponent inevitably ending up on the mat with a stunned look on his face. The ring doctor would check the loser for a concussion and ask, "Do you know where you are?" The answer would come back something like, "Thursday." Yet, there were still idiots all over the place who claimed they'd be happy to get into the ring with Tyson for a couple of rounds for a million dollar payday. The risk of having their gray matter turned into oatmeal didn't mean anything as long as they got a big check.

As for me, being punched, in the head or anywhere else, is not part of my life. It hasn't been since I was 7 or 8 and getting the crap beat out of me by the neighborhood bully on a regular basis. Since then, I've neither thrown nor been the victim of anyone else's flying fists.

I said that on my radio show once and a listener called in and challenged me, saying he didn't believe me, that it was impossible that I'd gone this long without being in a brawl. I could tell from his tone that he was the kind of guy who would easily get dragged into a fight, but I'm just not that kind of guy.

I'm more of a 100% poultry person. As an adult, I've never wanted to hit someone. More importantly, I've never wanted to be hit by someone. I'm not going to fight you just because you bumped into me accidentally, or cut in line ahead of me, or called me a name. After 40 years in the radio business, there's absolutely nothing you can say about me that I haven't heard at least once.

Moreover, unlike my phone-friend, I don't frequent places where incidents like this are likely to happen. I stopped drinking more than two decades ago, so I'm rarely in a bar. In fact, I'm unlikely to patronize any place where anyone gets particularly rowdy.

Don't get me wrong. I'll defend my wife and daughter against any physical threats, and I'll happily engage in any kind of verbal sparring you like, but once temperatures start to rise and there's a risk things could turn physical, I'm done. You win. Congratulations. I'll be leaving now. Fight cancelled.

For me, rule number one of fight club is no fighting. And I don't have Mayweather money.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

My Field Of Dreams

Here's a piece I wrote on April 30, 2001...

My daughter played her first baseball game yesterday.

She’s almost 7 years old, so the full skill set is still in development, just as with all of the kids at her age. They’re still trying to master which way to hold the glove, when to run on the bases, how to get the ball from one player to another.

They work on this skill a lot. In practice before the game, a simple game of "catch" with one of the other kids quickly becomes a game of "go get the ball" for both of them. For some reason, it’s a little harder aiming at a target your own size than it is tossing it back and forth with Dad in the yard. But they’ll get better the more they do it, and we'll keep practicing each day at home.

They’re still working on some of the basics of the game, like knowing where and how to play your position. There has been some improvement since the first practice, when the batter hit a slow grounder between shortstop and third base. Neither of the players in those positions was paying any attention, distracted by a plane flying overhead, so they were completely unaware that the ball had rolled by them. But some of the other kids noticed, and they all started running for the ball. It was eventually picked up somewhere in left field by the first baseman, who threw it back towards the infield, where it bounced, rolled, and hit the shortstop -- who was now finally looking towards home plate -- in the back of the leg.

As much trouble as a simple grounder can be, a pop fly is trauma-inducing. At this level, a ball hit in the air is more harrowing than hail falling on a new car dealer’s lot.

Some of these kids have obviously watched the pros play, because they’re all set to imitate the big leaguers. Ask them to toss you the ball, and they have to go into a full pitcher’s windup. I swear one of the kids stepped into the batter’s box, tapped home plate, and then used the bat to smack her sneakers as if she were knocking mud out of her cleats.

Every team has specialists. The kid whose head is too small for the batting helmet, which falls off whenever he runs. The kid who comes to bat and points to the outfield in Ruthian style as he takes the first of three mighty swings, none of which comes close to the actual pitch. The kid who can field the ball cleanly but refuses to throw it, insisting instead on chasing every runner personally.

My daughter has shown a special aptitude for groundskeeping. That patch of grass gets worked over by her feet more than the hardwood floor at a flamenco dance class -- all while wearing the sneakers with the heels that light up every time she takes a step. She’s the first pyrotechnic grass grooming gal.

Meanwhile, in the parents’ bleachers, we’re shouting the usual phrases of encouragement: "good swing," "nice try," "way to go," "you look cute in that catcher’s mask." Any batted ball that gets past the pitcher is enough to start a standing ovation. One father threw in a "good eye" to his at-bat son, who was surprised to hear that the ball had even been pitched.

Fortunately, we don’t have any adults who get overly excited -- no bleacher rage, yet. No one has shown the tendency to run on the field and scream at the 13 year old umpire just for having the temerity to call their son out on a close play at second base. Frankly, we’re all just happy that the runner and the fielder remembered to move towards second base in the first place.

None of this matters, of course, as long as they’re having fun, and there were a lot of smiles on their faces yesterday. They have no idea what the score is, how many outs there are, what inning it is, or whose turn it is to bat. And they couldn’t care less, as long as they get to play and wear the uniform.

Ah, the uniform. The highlight of my daughter’s day was putting on the hat, the pants, the socks, and -- how cool is this? -- the shirt with her own name and number on the back. Talk about your ear-to-ear smile.

After the game, on the way home, I commiserated with her over a strikeout in her final at-bat. I told her that when I was 8 and started playing Little League ball -- there were no leagues for 6 and 7 year olds then --I struck out a lot, too. Lots of kids did, and always have. But, I told her, as the season goes along, you’ll get better and better.

She thought about this for a moment and then turned to me with a big smile and asked, philosophically, "Dad, can I sleep in my uniform tonight?"

Yes, because you obviously have your eye on the ball.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Adam West

With the death of the iconic TV "Batman" at age 88, this seems like the perfect Picture Of The Day...

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Alan Alda Improvises With Scientists


Here's my conversation with Alan Alda, who you may know from his 11 years on "M*A*S*H," or his 11 years on "Scientific American Frontiers," or his movies "The Seduction of Joe Tynan" and "Sweet Liberty," or his Oscar-nominated role in "The Aviator." He now runs the Alan Alda Center For Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, and writes about that experience in his new book, "If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?"

Among the questions I asked him:
  • When did you discover that scientists were having trouble communicating?
  • When you started the Center, were scientists reticent to play theater games?
  • What do you mean when you say in the book that you made a mistake by being too over-prepared on the early episodes of "Scientific American Frontiers"?
  • You write about using visual cues to help you listen in a conversation — does doing this via phone make it harder?
  • Why is it important to training doctors to have more empathy?
  • Did helping scientists improvise to communicate better help you as an actor?
  • Are any of the scientists you’ve worked with good enough at improvising to go to Second City?
  • What is The Flame Challenge?
We also talked about why Alda hasn't directed a movie since 1990, a writer's revenge on "M*A*S*H," and his relationship with George Plimpton while making "Paper Lion" in 1968.

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

Showbiz Show 6/9/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, guest critic Jim Batts and I reviewed the new movies "The Mummy," "I, Daniel Blake," "My Cousin Rachel," and "It Comes At Night." I also shared my belated review of "Wonder Woman" and some other showbiz news.

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

Harris Challenge 6/9/17

This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- includes categories about Alan Alda, Guys Named Tony Who Won Awards, and more topical trivia. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 6/9/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about a peacock in a liquor store, a ride to Hooters, and motor oil in your pants. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, June 09, 2017

KTRS Friday


I'll be back on my 3-6pm CT show on KTRS today.

In the first hour, I'll talk with Alan Alda about his new book, "If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?"

In the second hour, guest movie critic Jim Batts and I will review "The Mummy," "It Comes At Night," "My Cousin Rachel," and "I, Daniel Blake" -- plus a few words on the country's #1 movie, "Wonder Woman."

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

You can listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com.

Movie Review: Wonder Woman


Not being a fan of comic books or most of the movies based on them, I don't know the difference between the Marvel universe and the DC universe. I don't know which superhero belongs to which company, or how they interact with the other superheroes under that corporate umbrella.

I also don't know anything about Greek mythology. Whenever it comes up as a category on "Jeopardy," I can randomly name a few, but have no idea what their powers were. If you asked me who Hippolyta was, I would have guessed it was one of the health care forms I filled out at my last doctor's visit. I also tend to confuse the Greek gods and goddesses with their Roman counterparts, and frankly lump all of them into the same category as all other invisible non-existent paranormal characters of any culture.

So, when I walked into "Wonder Woman," I was a blank slate, except for knowing that Lynda Carter played her in the campy 1970s TV incarnation (after a failed TV movie with Cathy Lee Crosby in the title role), and that the movie was going to be an origin story which might help me understand the character.

Here's what I learned. Diana was a young girl who lived on an island that contained no men, only strong, beautiful women who were called amazons even before Jeff Bezos was born. Diana had been molded from clay by Zeus, or at least that's what she'd been told. It's the kind of story you tell your kid when you don't want her to know the truth (e.g. "no, your favorite dog didn't die, we sent it off to live on a farm a couple of hours from here that you can never visit"). I think Diana's mother, played by Connie Nielsen, snuck off behind the mountain with Zeus one afternoon and nine months later had a little Wonder Baby -- but what do I know?

Unlike all the other females on the island, Diana grows older, and along the way, she's trained to be a warrior by her aunt Robin Wright (imagine Clair Underwood from "House Of Cards" with a sword and headgear). Then one day, a plane bursts through the shield that has kept Amazon Island from the world's view and crashes into the ocean. Diana, who has matured into Gal Gadot, dives into the water and saves the pilot, Chris Pine. Knowing less about the outside world than I do about quantum physics, she's shocked to hear that elsewhere on Earth, there is a raging "war to end all wars" (they were so naive a hundred years ago). After a battle on the beach with the German navy, whose guns and mortars stand no chance against women warriors on horseback with bows and arrows, Diana decides to leave the island to end the war.

At that point, if I'm Chris Pine, I tell her I'm going to stay behind on this beautiful non-dystopian island full of amazing amazons and live a happy life for a couple more decades. But Chris feels more of a sense of duty to save the world than I do, so he takes Diana to London where there's not only a war to fight, but a bed to lie down in together (I refer you to every episode of the original "Star Trek" in which Captain Kirk is asked by an alien woman, "Kiss? What is kiss?").

This is where the film bogs down for a while, as we're introduced to some British bureaucrats and an evil German general, whose sidekick, Dr. Poison, is developing a chemical weapon that will wipe out pretty much everyone. She also gives the general some other chemical formulation to inhale that makes him super strong. Chris Pine is determined to stop them and recruits three misfits for his team who are also supposed to provide some comic relief (ha! comic!), but fall flat.

At this point, it seems like we're headed for a showdown between Wonder Woman and General Enhancement, with Chris Pine and his buddies along for the ride, but then comes The Twist. I won't spoil the last 20 minutes of good-versus-evil for you, other than to say I would not have guessed that one actor could steal every scene in which he appears in both the summer's biggest action movie and the TV series "Fargo."

I liked Gal Gadot last year opposite Jon Hamm in "Keeping Up With The Joneses," but she's even better as "Wonder Woman," and it's good to finally see a female role model as the lead character in a superhero movie. Director Patty Jenkins does a very good job with the action sequences and gets good performances out of the cast. Unfortunately, the battle royale at the end of the movie is beyond ridiculous, and the whole film is too long at two hours and twenty-one minutes (less if you don't stick around for the endless credits, which do not include any scenes from the inevitable "Wonder Woman 2").

I give "Wonder Woman" a 6.5 out of 10 because I enjoyed most of what I saw -- even if, after seeing it, I would still fail a test on either the DC universe or Greek mythology.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Worth A Link

  • If you state at this for more than 5 seconds, you're going to need a glass of milk.

Democrats' Timeline On James Comey

I have to be careful what I say about this in open session, but here we go...

While nothing former FBI Director James Comey said today on Capitol Hill will change anything about Trump's presidency, one moment stood out. It was when Comey was asked why he started writing extensive notes after his very first meeting with then-President-Elect Trump, and then all subsequent meetings, as well. Comey replied, "Because I thought he might lie."

Nailed it!

However, today's proceedings, which were expected to include such huge bombshells that multiple networks carried the hearing simultaneously, didn't provide any such ammunition. The ball now sits in the hands of special prosecutor Bob Mueller, and we'll see if he can uncover anything new and definitive.

Still, for Democratic loyalists -- who detest Trump so much they were sure he'd be removed from office by January 30th -- the last 9 months (has it only been that long?), have provided a roller-coaster of emotions:

  • Last fall: James Comey is responsible for Hillary losing the election. He has to go!
  • This spring: James Comey is gone because Trump fired him. That's obstruction of justice!
  • Yesterday: When James Comey testifies tomorrow, he's going to bring down the whole Trump administration!
  • Today: Okay, not so much.

Random Thoughts, TV Edition

I like comedian Jim Jefferies a lot. I saw him at The Pageant last year on the tour that became his Netflix special "Freedumb." He offers sharp insight on a lot of issues and writes his material well. That said, I was disappointed by the first episode of his new Comedy Central series. We don't need yet another topical TV comedy show with a guy behind a desk with a fake microphone on it, doing jokes about the week's political news interspersed with clips of Trump absurdities and remotes dripping with irony. We already get enough of that from John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, James Corden, and Samantha Bee (the only one without a desk). Jefferies has plenty of his own opinions to express, but he's allowed himself to be sucked into the same vortex as all the rest, rather than creating something truly new and interesting.

Speaking of late night hosts, Stephen Colbert has to stop interacting with his bandleader, Jon Batiste. Colbert keeps expecting him to be able to banter a la Paul Shaffer or (in a non-musical vein) Andy Richter. Batiste may be a good musician, but he has no comedy chops whatsoever. It's as if Colbert is trying to have a catch, but the wall he's throwing the ball against is made of molasses.

I made a big mistake with "House Of Cards." As soon as the new season was released, I downloaded it to my iPad so I could watch it while flying to and from LA last weekend. I managed to get seven episodes into it before the plot started seeming very familiar. That's when I realized that I hadn't downloaded season five -- I was re-watching season four, which I binge-viewed a year ago. Why did it take me so long to catch on? Because I'm an idiot. So, I deleted all of that and downloaded the new season, which I'm now five episodes into. I bet no one has this problem with "Fuller House."

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Maddow Is The New O'Reilly

With Bill O'Reilly out of the picture, Rachel Maddow has become the most-watched personality in primetime cable news, but she's done it without me. I used to tune into her on occasion, but I always felt like I'd stumbled into a college course where the professor was going into deep analysis of something obscure that I should have gathered background information on, but since I hadn't done any of the assigned reading, I was simply sitting through a lecture that didn't address my need to have the biggest news stories of the day explained in terms I can understand.

So, I don't watch Maddow. But then, I don't watch any of her MSNBC colleagues or her FNC or CNN competitors, either. For that matter, I consume very little TV news, other than the "your world in ninety seconds" montage that Charlie Rose introduces at the top of "CBS This Morning."

That said, I'm glad that MSNBC is beating Fox News Channel in primetime because it means that more people are getting a center-left perspective on what's going on. Or at least what's going on according to cable news, which is not the same thing as what's really going on.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Random Thoughts, LA Edition

Observations from a weekend in Los Angeles...

I don't know how anyone can afford to live there. You can't get most places without a car, and gas is twice as expensive as in St. Louis -- $4.39/gallon. Sure, you could sell your car and get around via Lyft or Uber, but how are those drivers making any money when fuel charges are so high and they're always caught in traffic jams?

I spent some time playing poker at the Commerce Casino, which I've visited many times before. Saturday afternoon, I had my back tortured by one of the massage therapists roving the room and working on players at the tables. I say "tortured" because, despite costing half what their counterparts in Las Vegas charge, I always forget how much more aggressively physical these women are. They're almost all short Asian women who stand up on a stool, then lean over and shove their elbows deep enough into my shoulders to hit lung. I didn't complain for the first few minutes, then remembered that I was paying for what's supposed to be a relaxing and pleasurable experience. At that point, I struggled to overcome the language barrier and get her to understand that she doesn't have to treat me like a spy withholding state secrets. Fortunately, she eased up and was very effective at removing a couple of knots below my shoulder blades.

Speaking of Asians, there are a lot of Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, and Japanese employed at The Commerce, including almost all of the poker dealers, each of whom has an Anglo name on their badge, probably an attempt to make it easier for Caucasians to talk to them. I never knew there were so many women named Wendy, Angela, and Tanya immigrating from that part of the world.

Interestingly, those names don't appear on the badges of the dealers in the portion of the Commerce where Asian players sit in very large numbers at table games like Baccarat and Pai Gow Poker. I wandered through that area on my final evening just to do some people-watching and observe the activity, even though I don't know how to play either of those games. As if they weren't confusing enough, I came upon one that involved cards, dice, and tiles (!). The table was packed and thousands of dollars were being pushed around on each hand (if that's what it's called). I watched for 20 minutes and left with no more knowledge of the game than when I started.

Elsewhere in the City of Angels, I went out for a walk in West Hollywood and passed a car wash that looked exactly like the one in the 1976 movie "Car Wash." I didn't see Ivan Dixon, Melanie Mayron, or Franklin Ajaye anywhere. Next door, I stopped in a convenience store for a bottle of water. At the register, the clerk told me it was $1.05 with tax. As usual, I had no change in my pocket, so I handed him a five dollar bill, dreading the large number of coins I was about to receive in return. Apparently he didn't want to deal with them, either. To my pleasant surprise, he gave me back four dollar bills.

That's how you keep customers happy. And it didn't hurt my back one bit.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Oh, No, Not The N-Word!

I see that Bill Maher has apologized for dropping the n-word on HBO Friday night. This from a guy:

  • who didn't use the word as an epithet directed at anyone (context matters!);
  • whose "Real Time" airs on a premium network with no commercials and thus no sponsors to pressure;
  • who has an audience that probably doesn't include many African-Americans;
  • who has never felt the need to apologize for his anti-Muslim rants (granted they were slur-free).
Considering how Maher chastises his liberal audience for being too soft on some matters, why is he -- the former host of a show called "Politically Incorrect" -- now bowing to the free speech police? Did HBO make him issue the apology? If so, why?

Perhaps it's because of the predictable outpouring of overreaction from every corner of the internet, including some calling for HBO to fire Maher. I'll bet that less than 5% of those whiners saw the show when it aired Friday night, which -- of course -- didn't keep them from joining in the ginned-up social media outrage. HBO says it has edited the controversial segment out of future airings. As his employer and distributor, it has every right to do that, but Maher shouldn't lose his job over this -- unless there's proof he hurls that epithet at African-American employees and others regularly, like a racial Bill O'Reilly.

I'm a free speech absolutist who believes there is no such thing as a "bad word." I taught my daughter that when she was young, and despite my frequent use around the house of words I can't say on the radio, she seems to have grown up as a fine human being. As for whether Maher's utterance was offensive, that's a wholly subjective decision each of us have to make, but there's no constitutional guarantee against hearing words that sting your personal sensibilities.

As with anything else on television, radio, or the internet, if you don't like the content -- for whatever reason -- stop consuming it. So, if you're thin-skinned enough to be offended by anyone's use of the n-word, don't watch Maher. And by all means, avoid Dave Chappelle's latest Netflix special.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Friday, June 02, 2017

Neil deGrasse Tyson vs. A Barista

Do you really want to argue with Dr. Tyson about the whipped cream you forgot to put on his hot cocoa?


Previously on Harris Online...

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Best Thing I've Read Today

Kavin Senapathy is irked by the proliferation of products with the ridiculous Non-GMO Project sticker, which is ruining her shopping experience:

As a critical thinker and champion of social and environmental justice, seeing the butterfly seal everywhere I shop -- from the pretzel crackers my kids love to whole grain bread -- irks me to no end. For one, I like to make purchasing and parenting decisions based on facts, not fear and hype, but Non-GMO Project promotes common evidence-scarce myths about genetic engineering. “There is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs,” the Non-GMO Project website states. It’s an easily debunked statement. Indeed, the consensus of non cherry-picked data and major scientific bodies around the world is vast and unambiguous, all pointing to genetic engineering being no riskier, and sometimes less risky than so-called non-GMO breeding techniques. The organizations that claim danger from GMOs have a tendency to promote anti-vaccine sentiment and even conspiracy theories, as I recently discussed. That such wrongheadedness is emblazoned all over the American food supply is a testament to the alternative facts era....

Products carrying the Non-GMO Project butterfly range from mundane to ridiculous, and include cereals, chips, water, sea salt, and even cat litter. While it may be amusing to poke fun at Non-GMO Project verified salt (there are no organisms or genes to “modify” in salt) and cat litter (the joke tells itself), the proliferation of the butterfly label is far from just harmless marketing. Fear and opposition to genetic engineering have a tangible impact, with anti-GMO rhetoric and marketing contributing to consumer fear and rejection, which influences policy, and leads to overly burdensome and ideological rather than science-based regulations keeping real solutions from farmers' fields.

Given the challenges we face to feed an ever-growing population while combating climate change and striving to produce food efficiently with minimal use of land and other resources, the Non-GMO Project’s vilification of safe technologies that can reduce food waste, reduce carbon emissions, and help fight food insecurity and malnutrition if we would only let it, is indefensible.
Read Senapathy's full piece here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How Do You Spell Map?

Google mapped out the most popular “how do you spell ___?” searches in each state. Here are the results. But, wait, people don’t know how to spell Nanny? Sense? Banana? Angel? And what the hell is Nintey?


[click to enlarge]

I'm Dying Up Here


Showtime has a new series starting Sunday called "I'm Dying Up Here." It's based on William Knoedelseder's 2006 non-fiction book about the Los Angeles comedy scene in the late 1970s, particularly at the Comedy Store, where young comics like Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Walker, Robin Williams, Tom Dreeson, and dozens of other standups were trying to get noticed.

The TV show is based at Goldie's, a club run by a woman very much like Mitzi Shore, who ran The Comedy Store. She's played by Melissa Leo -- in an Emmy-worthy performance -- as not just a businesswoman but also the gatekeeper and mentor for the young comedians working on her stages and hanging around her bar. Ari Graynor really stands out as Cassie, the sole woman among the core group of comics, who's trying to emulate Elayne Boosler, the breakout female comedian of the era.

The show not only references Boosler and her contemporaries, but has actors playing Richard Pryor, Sonny Bono, Wolfman Jack (then the host of NBC's "Midnight Special"), and other real people from that time. Thanks to executive producer Jim Carrey, it gets the tone right, from the comics who spend hours at the club every night just to get a few minutes of stage time to work on their material, to the need for day jobs to create income since Mitzi/Goldie didn't pay them, to the desperate hope to be discovered on Johnny Carson's show (he's played by Dylan Baker) and given a sitcom a la Freddie Prinze.

The show does have a slight problem with actors-playing-standups syndrome, but it's not as pronounced as it was in other projects like "The Comedian" and "Punchline." Part of the explanation may be the presence of Carrey and a few other comics who were part of that scene in the late seventies and eighties (including Dom Irrera, Cathy Ladman, and Rick Overton), as well as "Daily Show" regular Al Madrigal.

But it's Leo that steals every scene she's in and makes "I'm Dying Up Here" well worth your time.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Frank Deford

Sorry to hear of the death this weekend of Frank Deford. He was the most literate sportswriter I ever read -- or heard. I first discovered Deford's work in the pages of Sports Illustrated, then in The National (the first national daily sports newspaper), then for years in his weekly commentaries on NPR's Morning Edition, a job he gave up just a few weeks ago. He was unique, erudite, often caustically funny, and one helluva storyteller.

I'm happy to say I had two opportunities to interview Deford, first in 2007 when he published "The Entitled," a tale of modern baseball, and again in 2012, when he wrote his memoir, "Over Time." Listen to those conversations and you'll get a sense of how special Frank Deford was.

Picture Of The Day


[Thanks to Barbara Davies for sending the link]

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Gregg Allman

Upon hearing of the death of Gregg Allman yesterday, my mind flashed back to when I first heard his music.

I was in high school, and The Allman Brothers Band's "Ramblin' Man" was suddenly everywhere on the radio. I went out and bought the album, "Brothers and Sisters," and listened to it over and over, discovering that the single had been written and sung by Dickey Betts, but other tracks featured the growly, bluesy voice that belonged to Gregg. I saved up some money so I could buy two other Allman Brothers albums, "Eat A Peach" and "Live at the Fillmore East." The latter blew me away with its extended jams -- I had never heard a non-classical piece as long as their live version of "Whipping Post" -- and through it all, there was the sound of Gregg's Hammond organ and raspy vocals.

By the time I started my commercial radio career a few years later, other Southern Rock bands had started achieving success, too, from Charlie Daniels to Marshall Tucker to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Like the Allman Brothers, they all got tons of play on album-oriented-rock stations, but to my ear, Gregg's band always seemed head and shoulders above the rest.

In April, 1979, I finally got a chance to see the Allman Brothers live. It was at the Palladium in New York City, on a night when Delbert McClinton opened the show, and John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd showed up in full Blues Brothers attire and sang "Hey, Bartender" with the band. The concert remains one of the best I've ever seen, so I asked Gregg about it when he guested on my radio show in 1997 (click here to read the full transcript of that conversation, complete with the revelation that he'd wanted to be a dental surgeon when he was young).

I had a few other opportunities to talk with Gregg over the years and discuss his early days (when his band was called The Allman Joys), the death of his brother Duane, his alcoholism, and his 4-year marriage to Cher. I was always baffled by that connection. It seemed as odd as Audra McDonald marrying Snoop Dogg, or Gene Simmons marrying Anne Murray, or Joan Jett marrying Michael Bolton. Of course, his personal life was none of my business, but I was disappointed by his professional output during those years, including the couple's album "Two The Hard Way," still considered the dregs of both of their careers.

Today, I'm pushing the lowlights of his life out of the way to remember Gregg Allman's highlights and the great music he leaves behind. Time to go listen to "Live At The Fillmore East" again.

Previously on Harris Online...

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Sgt. Pepper At 50


Today marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (it came out in the US a week later), so I invited Slate pop critic Jack Hamilton to join me in discussing that landmark album. I asked him:
  • Why do you say it "was a musical masterpiece that doubled as a masterpiece of timing"?
  • Why didn't "Sgt. Pepper" include two songs that were recorded during the same sessions?
  • How did "Sgt. Pepper" influence other artists like Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder and Otis Redding?
  • Does the re-release, including a re-mix by George Martin's song Giles, really sound that different?
  • If it's a concept album, why doesn't it maintain Paul McCartney's original concept throughout?
  • Could The Beatles have made "Sgt. Pepper" without drugs?
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Showbiz Show 5/26/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I reviewed the new movies "Baywatch" and "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," plus a couple of streaming TV recommendations and news about sequels you probably won't watch.

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

Harris Challenge 5/26/17

This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- includes categories about Roger Moore, the "Sgt. Pepper's" album cover, and more topical trivia. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 5/26/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about a student terrorist award, a monkey in a purse, and a man's pants on fire. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, May 26, 2017

I'm Just Asking

A question for all the conservative politicians and media loudmouths criticizing Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs for going to the hospital and telling cops about his assault by Montana Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte (who won the election yesterday, by the way): Would you just take it if a random person body-slammed you to the ground at work? Do you expect me to believe you would react the same way if a Fox News reporter (say, Jesse Watters) was treated the same way by a Democrat politician?

I call bullshit.

I know we've entered the age of macho preening and inconsiderate behavior towards everyone now that Agent Orange is in the White House (e.g. the video of him shoving his way to the front of the NATO pack for a photo opportunity yesterday), but once you start endorsing physical attacks on reporters who are just doing their jobs, how soon do you announce it's okay to punch someone in the nose because they said something you disagreed with?

Are we on the verge of sanctioning physical attacks a la "The Purge"? Can you now tackle and pummel a waiter because he didn't bring ranch dressing with your chicken wings? Cold-cock the woman in front of you at the supermarket checkout line because she has a full cart? Ice-pick anyone who dares ask you a question about public policy at a constituent town hall?

It comes down to this: must the entire course of our civil society be reduced to yet another WWE match, or will we have loftier standards for public behavior by our public officials?

I think we should reach higher -- somewhere around the level of civility we teach our kindergarten-age kids.

KTRS Friday


I'll be back on my 3-6pm CT show on KTRS today.

In the first hour, I'll talk about the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album with Slate pop critic Jack Hamilton.

In the second hour, Max and I will review the new "Baywatch" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, along with a bunch of TV news.

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

You can listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Picture Of The Day

Will Durst explains what it's like to be a political comedian in the age of Trump...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Same Old Grief Response

Why must we hear from American politicians whenever there's a terrorist attack somewhere else? After the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert this week, it was one thing to hear from the mayor of Manchester or the British Prime Minister, but who cares what Paul Ryan or Nancy Pelosi has to say about it? For that matter, why even quote President Trump when he calls the attackers "evil losers." Wow, those are the words of a statesman. Or a talk radio caller.

How does that help?

I know the reason we get those quotes is that media outlets have correspondents with connections to politicians, so they are the first people they think of asking for comments about pretty much anything that happens. It could be a bombing at a concert in England or an earthquake in Venezuela. In any circumstance, the politicians don't have much more to offer on the subject than your average Facebook user who posts "my thoughts are with the people of...."

We can knock that off, too. It's nothing more than an attempt to show your followers that you're a compassionate person, but it's literally the least you can do after events like this. It would be different if you knew someone involved, or had some clues as to who the culprits were, or the horror happened in your own town.

Worse are the people who feel compelled to report they took their own daughter to see Ariana Grande when she was in their city, so they have a connection to the victims' families. No, you don't. Your child is alive and well, while theirs is maimed or dead. Despite what you may believe from your social media addiction, not everything is about you.

I also get annoyed at the authorities who ramp up the alert status after one of these mass killings. If it was a suicide bomber then, by definition, the suspect is dead and thus unlikely to commit another grievous act. If there are others like him, they will simply wait until you lower your alert status as they plan their next attack. These things don't usually coincide with anything in particular -- that's why they're called random attacks.

Finally, I'm still confused as to what attackers like this hope to accomplish. Are they trying to achieve some sort of policy change? If so, when has that ever worked? Can you name a single random mass murder in recent years that made the situation better for those who sided with the killer? What gains were realized after this year's insidious incidents in Paris, London, and Stockholm? How about from the shootings in Orlando, San Bernadino, or Charleston?

Is the only goal to kill as many people as possible? That's just psychopathic behavior, and you'll never be able to stop someone motivated by that, regardless of your alert status or the number of faux grieving Facebook posts.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Movie Review: The Lovers


In "The Lovers," Debra Winger and Tracy Letts star as a long-married couple, both of whom are having affairs on the side with lovers who want the married couple to get a divorce and start a new life with them. Once Winger and Letts agree that their marriage is coming to an end, they rediscover each other sexually and pretty soon they’re lying to their lovers to make excuses to skip dates with them so they can hop in the sack at home. But that doesn’t last because once out of bed, they still have nothing to say to each other.

I'll admit that I still resent Tracy Letts for writing “August: Osage County,” another boring family-fighting story, and this did nothing to change my mind about him. I was excited to see Winger on screen again, because I’ve always liked her, but she’s stuck in a story about four people I wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with -- make that six unlikeable people, if you count their son and his girlfriend, who show up two-thirds of the way through the story. None of them has anything interesting to offer, and much of the movie is buried under a way-too-intense violin score that often obliterates everything we’re supposed to be watching.

I give “The Lovers” a 4 out of 10.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Stop Talking Impeachment

Trump haters who are convinced he'll be impeached any day now are fooling themselves. They might even believe that if it happened, the presidency would revert to Clinton as the runner-up. Nope. You lose Trump, you gain Mike Pence, and you're not going to like his policies one bit. Yes, he's more mentally stable than Orange Man, but Pence remains an ultra-conservative who would turn back the clock on pretty much every progressive policy advancement of the last eight years.

But back to the impeachment question.

What makes you think that Republicans in the House -- who have not only gone along with Trump on most of his nonsense thus far, but are trying to push him further along their right-ward path -- would vote in favor of articles of impeachment? Remember that, as of today, there's been no proof that Trump surpassed the constitutional standard of "high crimes and misdemeanors," which isn't the same as "not having your act together, obnoxious tweeting, and continuously embarrassing the country." Even if that unlikely scenario was to play out on the House, you'd still have a GOP-dominated Senate that would have to vote to convict him, an event so rare it has never happened in American history.

In other words, you can stop holding your breath.

On the other hand, I am amused that it's now right-wingers in government who are being accused of, and condemned for, having ties to Russia. It wasn't that long ago in the American timeline that left-wingers were being accused of being communists and socialists and having connections to the leadership in Moscow. That begat an ugly period that included thousands of lives destroyed, many by mere implication, with blacklists, HUAC hearings, McCarthyism, etc.

Let us never allow that type of virus to infect our nation again, from either side.

Movie Review: Chuck


"Chuck" is the based-on-truth story of Chuck Wepner, who was plucked from obscurity in 1975 to have his 15 minutes of fame. At the time, Wepner was a liquor salesman and the best heavyweight boxer in New Jersey, where he was known as The Bayonne Bleeder for his face's tendency to gush buckets of blood whenever he got hit in the ring.

After Muhammad Ali beat George Foreman in the Rumble In The Jungle, promoter Don King decided Ali's next fight should be against a white guy, and Wepner was the only Caucasian in the top ten (he was ranked 8th in the world at the time). Wepner went fifteen rounds in the ring with Ali, losing in the end, but gaining a measure of fame he'd only dreamed of. He became the real life inspiration for "Rocky" (remember, Balboa lost to Apollo Creed in the first one) and rode his fame as hard as he could. Unfortunately, cocaine got in the way, as did Wepner's undisciplined lifestyle.

"Chuck" does a very good job of telling this story. Liev Schreiber is excellent as Wepner, as is Elizabeth Moss as his long-suffering wife Phyllis, who is supportive until he starts cheating on her. Naomi Watts is almost unrecognizable as a bartender who defines “sassy” that Chuck falls for. There's also good supporting work by Ron Perlman as Wepner’s manager, Jim Gaffigan (with a lot of padding) as Chuck’s best friend John who joins him in various escapades, and Michael Rapaport as Chuck’s brother. Pooch Hall doesn't have much to do as Ali, but he's fine.

The boxing scenes are well shot, everyone gets the Jersey accent right, and the special effects guy makes sure lots of blood flows every time The Bleeder gets hit. There are even scenes with Stallone (Morgan Spector) happy to see Chuck and allowing him to audition to be in "Rocky 2."

My only complaint is "Chuck" relies on voiceover to fill in the exposition a little bit too often, but it's not a fatal flaw. As a boxing biopic, this is not as good as "The Fighter," but better than last year's failures of the genre, "Bleed For This" and "Hands Of Stone."

I give "Chuck" a solid 7 out of 10.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Andy Dehnart's Reality Show Update


Andy Dehnart, who writes about reality TV shows on his site, Reality Blurred, was back on my show to talk the renewal of "The Amazing Race," the upcoming finale of "Survivor: Game Changers," changes coming to "Shark Tank," a spinoff of "The Bachelor," and some suggestions for reality shows to watch this summer.

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

Showbiz Show 5/19/17


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, guest critic Jim Batts and I reviewed "Alien: Covenant," "Chuck," "Everything Everything," and "The Lovers" -- plus some other movie/showbiz news.

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

Harris Challenge 5/19/17

This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- includes categories Where Was That?, Showbiz Week, and Have You Been Paying Attention? Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 5/19/17


On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about an asphalt workaround, a rattlesnake kiss, and coffee with rats. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.