Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Grant Tinker

Legendary television executive Grant Tinker, who has died at 90, may have been responsible for ushering more great shows onto the air than anyone else.

In the 1970s, he ran MTM Enterprises, which produced "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (and its spinoffs, "Rhoda," "Phyllis," and "Lou Grant"), "The Bob Newhart Show," "WKRP In Cincinnati," "Hill Street Blues," "St. Elsewhere." While chairman of NBC in the 1980s -- along with programming genius Brandon Tartikoff -- Tinker not only saved the network but put it in first place in both the ratings and the Emmys with "The Cosby Show," "Cheers," "Taxi," "Miami Vice," "Golden Girls," and "Family Ties."

In an appreciation of Tinker, Ken Levine writes:
For me his greatest achievement was how much of a mensch he was. As a leader he was kind, thoughtful, smart, and treated everyone with respect. His philosophy was to hire the best people (like Allan Burns and James L. Brooks for "The Mary Tyler Moore Show") and let them do their thing. Instead of injecting his own creative input (i.e. “notes”) he took on the role of protector – standing up for his writers against the networks, shielding them from unwanted interference. There’s no one like that today. Not even close.

MTM was Camelot for writers in the ‘70s. It’s where all TV writers wanted to work. When David Isaacs and I were starting out, MTM was our brass ring.
Not everything Tinker did was a smash hit. In 1988, my wife and I both worked on the nationally-syndicated "USA Today: The TV Show," which was co-produced by Gannett and Tinker's company. It had four anchors (one for each color-coded section of the newspaper): Edie Magnus, Bill Macatee, Robin Young, and Boyd Matson. It was a ratings disaster that had the disadvantage of terrible time slots in major markets -- and was downgraded from there. Towards the end, we joked that it was nothing more than "USA Today: The TV Guide Listing."

I don't know how much direct involvement Tinker had in that project, but I bet he didn't include it on his work history. It was merely a minor smudge on an otherwise sterling career. By the way, it's not on our resumes, either.

The Vegas Squeeze

In June, I wrote about MGM/Mirage beginning to charge for parking at its properties on the Las Vegas Strip (Bellagio, Aria, Mirage, etc), regardless of whether you park your own car or turn it over to a valet:
That's going to kill business for the rental car companies and the valet parking guys, who have been making a good living for a long time at many of the big Strip properties. I know many people who used to tip two or three dollars, but with the $18 charge, they're pissed off and more likely to tip just a buck, so in the end, the corporation makes more, but the little guy running around in the garage takes home less.

I used to rent a car often when I visited Vegas because it turned out to be cheaper than taking taxis everywhere. But with Lyft (and Uber) making it less expensive to move from place to place, and most of my poker action at Bellagio or Aria -- and no desire to pay those parking fees -- I see no reason to have a rental car in Vegas any more.
I predicted at the time that other Vegas casino companies would probably follow suit and, sure enough, Caesars Entertainment has just announced it will do the same starting next month at 8 of its 9 Vegas venues (The Rio is the exception).

Why are they doing this? Because you're not gambling enough in Las Vegas anymore. The truth is that, with casinos all over the country, you don't have to go all the way to Nevada to play blackjack, slots, or poker. So when tourists go there -- and they still do, in droves -- they spend their time and money doing other things instead of gambling (eating, going to shows, riding the ferris wheel, walking up and down the strip).

With the casinos no longer the huge revenue-generators they once were, the property owners had to devise other ways to squeeze dollars out of your pocket. Thus the mandatory "resort fee" which covers wi-fi in your room, the hotel pool and gym, and other things you may not use but will still find added to your bill "for your convenience."

That's also why there haven't been cheap buffets or meals anyplace on the strip for several years. They figure if they can't get you at the tables where you gamble, they'll get you at the tables where you eat.

And now, in the parking spots, too.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Johnnie Johnson, Rock Legend

Today, eleven years after his death, Johnnie Johnson received the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony at the National Blues Museum in St. Louis. That made me dig into my archives to find this interview I did with Johnnie on June 29, 1999, nine days before he turned 75 years old. We were joined by Travis Fitzpatrick, who wrote Johnnie's biography, "The Father Of Rock And Roll," and -- along with Gene Ackmann of Butch Wax And The Hollywoods -- was instrumental in getting a petition signed that got Johnnie into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

When Johnnie was inducted in 2001, he was called "one of the unsung heroes of rock and roll." You may not know his name, but you know Johnnie's work because he played piano on almost all of Chuck Berry's hits -- in fact, he's the one "Johnny B. Goode" is about. His page on the RRHOF website says:
Berry’s rocking hillbilly style melded with Johnson’s jazz-tinged blues and boogie. Many of Chuck Berry’s rock and roll classics - including “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “School Days” and “Roll Over Beethoven” - came about during impromptu rehearsals when Berry would show up with lyrics and ask Johnson to play some music behind it. “Just me, Chuck and the piano” is how Johnson put it. Johnson and Berry traveled to Chicago in 1955, where they recorded “Maybellene,” the first of many Chuck Berry hits that featured Johnson on piano. In fact, Berry wrote “Johnny B. Goode” as a tribute to Johnson, who often kept playing piano long after a show ended, sitting in with jazz bands and anyone who would have him. “I would play anytime, anywhere, with anybody,” he has said. Referring to his disappearing acts, Berry would look at him and say, “Why can’t you just be good, Johnny?”

Johnson remained with Berry until 1973. It was nothing personal, he said of his departure. I was just tired and, plus, I was scared to fly. Over time, there was a growing recognition that Johnson’s musical contributions to Berry’s songs were essential to their success. The humble, overlooked pianist finally received some long-overdue attention in the Chuck Berry film documentary Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll, wherein Keith Richards and others testified to the importance of Johnson’s piano stylings. Ironically, Johnson at the time was working as a bus driver in St. Louis. The intervention of Richards and others and the attention brought to him by the film returned Johnson to the world of music.
For Johnnie's visit to my show, I arranged to have an electric piano in the studio so he could play, much to the delight of a crowd of people who jammed in with us -- along with dozens outside observing through the studio windows -- to listen to him. Sitting three feet away, I was fascinated by his left hand, playing those boogie-woogie bass lines that helped launch a musical genre so many decades ago.

In our conversation, Johnnie shared stories about how he and Chuck wrote some of rock's seminal songs -- which Johnnie never got songwriting credit or royalties for -- as well as working with Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Gregg Allman, Bob Weir, and others.

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

Previously on Harris Online...

The Hurry Up And Wait Trip

Here's a piece I wrote in 1999...

The holiday travel season is here. If you’re lucky enough to be staying home, let’s enjoy the wonder and excitement of a virtual trip instead. Our theme: Hurry Up And Wait.

Come on, come on, we have to get going! Our flight is in two hours, and we don’t know what traffic’s going to be like.

Okay, whew, we made it to the airport in record time. Now let’s get in line to check our bags. Great, it looks like only about a hundred people ahead of us.

I wish this line would move faster. Next time, let’s only do carry-on.

Where’s the gate? Oh, gotta go through security first.

Oh, good, they have the x-ray machine set to “super-sensitive,” so that the foil wrapper on my chewing gum makes it beep. This is good, because we want to be sure that no one has anything that can be used as a weapon to hijack the plane with. Of course, once we’re on board our cross-country flight, they’ll give us real silverware with our meal. But no one would ever think of using a knife or fork as a weapon.

Okay, we’re through security. Let’s get to the gate, because the flight’s in an hour.

I’m getting impatient sitting here at the gate. I sure wish they’d start the boarding process already.

Here we go. Wait, that’s not my row they’re calling. Might as well get in line anyway.

Come on, what’s taking so long? Row 14 wants to get on board!

Down the jetway we go. Let me quickly check in with the crew in the cockpit. Hi! Anyone in here so depressed they’re thinking of taking us all down with you? Okay, just checking.

Let’s find our seats and jam those bags in the overhead compartment. Better grab one of those oh-so-fluffy pillows, too. They’re about as cushy as two wadded-up Kleenex.

Is it possible the airline has actually moved these rows closer together? My kneecap is touching the spleen of the passenger in front of me. Mighty comfortable. No, mister, don’t recline, whatever you do!!!

Everyone’s on board, our tray tables are up, and we understand about the oxygen-dispensing margarine cup with the dry-cleaning bag attached. Let’s go!!

Finally, we’re leaving the gate, we’re taxiing, hey, we’re headed for the runway, and we’re taking off. Now I can sit back and relax.

The flight attendant has just announced that they’ve turned off the seat belt sign and we’re free to roam about the cabin. That’s good, because there’s plenty of room to roam. I like to work up a good sweat making that walk up and down the aisle. Sometimes I have enough stamina to make it all the way up to the first class curtain, which is now electrified so no one in coach can trespass.

Fifteen minutes have passed and not one word yet about a drink. I’m getting thirsty.

Here comes the beverage cart. I can see it ten rows away. What should I get? Can’t they move any faster?

Ahh, that was refreshing. Now I’m hungry.

We’re an hour into the flight, and I am incredibly bored. Maybe I should have paid the five bucks for the headphones, even if they are showing an Adam Sandler movie.

I have read everything in sight, including the “fasten seat belt” sign in German. I particularly enjoyed the airline magazine’s fascinating photo spread on houses of the rich and famous in Des Moines.

Does anyone ever actually purchase anything from that inflight shopping catalog? Who needs a putting green alarm clock cuff link? And what the hell is a tongue scraper?

Hey, look, you can get realtime stock quotes on the in-seat airphone, and it’s only $3.99 for the first eight seconds and $12 for every second after that. Now day traders can lose all their money while they fly! I wonder how this airline’s stock is doing?

Here comes the meal cart. I’m surprisingly hungry. Do I want beef or chicken?

Wait a minute, all they’re doing is handing out plastic lunch bags. Well, a sandwich is better than nothing, and it’s been a long time since I filled up on two whole Lorna Doones.

Now I’m thirsty again. Where’s the beverage cart? Oh, it’s behind the eleven people in the aisle waiting to dispose of their earlier beverage in the lavatory.

Lavatory. There’s a word you never hear anyone use in conversation. As in, “I’m sorry sir, the lavatory is occupied.” Must have been named by the same person who decided that my seat cushion can be used as a flotation device. Too bad it can’t be used as a comfortable place to sit for three hours.

Okay, I’m done with my snack. Come take this trash away.

Hurray, we’re almost there! That sounds like the landing gear coming down. Through the window I think I can looks like...yes, it’s several non-descript buildings and a community of cul de sacs. Just like I remember it.

That was a nice smooth landing, and right on time, too. I guess they don’t include the ten minutes it takes to taxi to the gate as part of their official schedule.

There’s the two bell signal, so everybody up! We have to stand here in the aisle for several minutes before we can deplane, deplane!

Finally, we’re headed up the jetway and into the terminal. What a relief. No more exasperation, no more “hurry up and wait.” We’re done.

Now where’s baggage claim? I’m sure our bags will be the first ones out.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Movie Review: Nocturnal Animals

Here's another title that will show up on my Worst Movies Of 2016 list: "Nocturnal Animals." It's a shame because it stars Amy Adams, whose work I generally love, including "Arrival," which came out just a few weeks ago and will sit at the other end of the spectrum on my Best Movies Of 2016 list (my full review of "Arrival" is here).

Writer/director Tom Ford, who may be responsible for some good stuff in the world of fashion design (I would have no way of knowing), has produced some very bad stuff in "Nocturnal Animals." It starts out with one of the most visually disturbing sequences of the year -- a bunch of very overweight women dancing completely naked. I'm not fat-shaming these women. It's just that, for the same reason no one wants to see my nude body shaking all around, I didn't need to see them. It's a jarring start to a movie that made me less than hopeful about what was to follow.

Adams plays wealthy art gallery owner Susan Morrow, who is unhappy with her life, particularly because her husband (Armie Hammer) seems completely uninterested in her. Then one day, one of her servants brings her a package that's just been delivered. Inside is a manuscript by her first husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Susan sits down to read the manuscript -- which is pretty much all Adams gets to do for the remainder of the film, unfortunately -- while we see its story played out onscreen. Interestingly (and that's the only time I'll use that word while discussing "Nocturnal Animals"), because we're seeing the story as Susan is reading it, we see her casting for the characters within. For example, the husband in the manuscript (Tony) is also played by Gyllenhaal, while his wife is played by Isla Fisher, who looks just like Adams.

As the manuscript's plot develops, we see Tony, his wife, and daughter driving on a two-lane road through the Texas night. They are run off the road by three thugs who take the mother, daughter, and their car and, after beating the crap out of Tony, leave him in the middle of nowhere. He eventually finds his way to a farmhouse, where he uses the phone to call the cops. Now we meet detective Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) who, in working the case, discovers that Tony's wife and daughter were raped and murdered.

While this action-driven story is playing out, Ford takes us back a couple of times to Susan's staid life, which is monumentally boring by comparison. And there's the problem with "Nocturnal Animals." We have no interest in Susan and her rich arsty-fartsy life and domestic problems. Cutting away from Gyllenhaal and Shannon to show us more of that is a waste of time. That said, the story-within-the-story is pretty formulaic in and of itself, and Ford never makes us care about anyone, fictional or otherwise.

From beginning to end, I didn't like a single thing about "Nocturnal Animals." When you can make a movie this bad with talented people like Adams, Gyllenhaal, and Shannon (plus Laura Linney and Michael Sheen in very small roles), you've simply blown an opportunity.

I give it a 1 on a scale of 10.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Movie Review: Rules Don't Apply

Warren Beatty knows how to make movies. From "Bonnie and Clyde" to "Shampoo" to "Heaven Can Wait" to "Reds" to "Bugsy," he proved his abilities as an actor, director, producer, and writer. Of course, he also stumbled with "Ishtar," "Love Affair," and "Bulworth," but no one hits a home run every time.

Now he's back with the first movie in which he's appeared in 15 years and directed in 18 years, "Rules Don't Apply." It's another telling of part of the life of Howard Hughes -- which was already done so well by Martin Scorcese, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the Oscar-winning Cate Blanchett in 2004's "The Aviator." There's also the Hughes-adjacent classic 1980's "Melvin and Howard," with Paul LeMat, Mary Steenburgen, and Jason Robards.

The Hughes legend still looms large in Hollywood because he was such a big part of that town for several decades, producing classics like the original "Scarface" and "The Front Page," and later owning the RKO movie studio. He was simultaneously a big shot in the aviation industry, a defense contractor, and a notorious eccentric.

Beatty plays Hughes during this period, yet the movie centers more on a young woman named Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), who was brought to Hollywood by Hughes along with two dozen other aspiring actresses. Like the others, Hughes sets Mabrey up in her own bungalow, promising her a screen test. Mabrey's mother (Annette Bening) comes along, but leaves in frustration when it remains unclear exactly what her daughter's deal with Hughes is going to be.

Meanwhile, Hughes assigns one of his drivers, Frank Forbes, to chauffeur Mabrey around town. He's played by Alden Ehrenreich, who I first noticed last year in "Hail, Caesar!" Ehrenreich's star has been on the rise since then -- he's been signed to play young Han Solo in one of the upcoming "Star Wars" prequels.

Mabrey and Forbes take an instant liking to each other, but in sexually repressive 1958, their relationship remains chaste while their chemistry makes for interesting repartee. Besides, Forbes is forbidden by Hughes to date any of his "contract girls," a fact he's reminded of constantly by Levar Mathis (Matthew Broderick), another driver who's also a close confidant of Hughes.

Then there's Beatty's portrayal of Hughes himself. Many of his scenes are shot in dark rooms, where light and shadow give him a deceptive curtain of secrecy. As Hughes becomes more eccentric -- he was more than your average OCD germaphobe -- and refuses to be around most people, he relies more and more on Forbes and Mathis, even as he keeps his business associates at bay. It's all played very strangely because that's the kind of guy Hughes was, but Beatty's version comes off more as a straight-up weirdo with a litany of odd demands.

One directing choice of Beatty's that I found odd was the constant use of smash-cuts. There are a large number of scenes that last just a few seconds before we go somewhere else abruptly. It's jarring, but I guess that's what you get when you need four editors to cut a movie (which also lists 18 producers in the credits!).

The supporting cast of "Rules Don't Apply" is pretty impressive: Candice Bergen, Martin Sheen, Paul Sorvino, Haley Bennett, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Oliver Platt, Alec Baldwin, Steve Coogan, and even Dabney Coleman show up -- sometimes for just a scene, sometimes for more.

"Rules Don't Apply" isn't nearly as good as "The Aviator," and I don't think we really needed another telling of the Howard Hughes story, but it's fine as passing entertainment. In the Warren Beatty filmography, it's way better than "Ishtar" and "Bulworth," but not anywhere near the greatness of his earlier work. I give it a 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Driver Mode

I read an article this week saying that federal regulators want smartphone makers to add a "driver mode" to block certain apps that could distract you when you're behind the wheel. Considering the increasing number of accidents blamed on distracted driving, it sounds like a good idea at first. After all, your phone already knows when and where you're moving, so why not have a feature that limits what you can do once you're going over, say, ten miles-per-hour?

Here's the problem. Such a limitation would also affect the passengers, whose distraction would have no impact on accident rates. Think of the kids in the back seat who want to use their phones or tablets while a parent takes them to soccer practice, or on a long vacation trip. Why should their internet access be constricted? What about people like my daughter, who doesn't have a car but gets around by bus and train? What about all those people being driven around by Uber and Lyft?

So, unless "driver mode" is an option a la "airplane mode," such regulations would be more of a burden than a solution.

Picture Of The Day

I won't be on KTRS this afternoon because: 1) the station's carrying a Mizzou football game; and 2) my colleagues and I didn't want to work the day after Thanksgiving anyway. So instead, enjoy this Jonathan Edwards classic that popped into my head for some reason...

Thursday, November 24, 2016

This Used To Be A Holiday

Re-posting a piece I wrote four years ago...

A minority grows larger today, though its members would prefer that it didn't. They are the Americans who are forced to work on Thanksgiving.

There was a time when this was our only national day off from work. The only businesses that remained open were those that were already operating around the clock every day (radio and TV stations, gas stations) or restaurants that served Thanksgiving meals to others or those providing essential services (police, fire, hospitals, airlines and airports, NFL teams). Retailers, with the exception of some convenience stores, kept their doors locked.

But not any more. In yet another case of creeping corporate greed, more and more department stores and other outlets will begin their Black Friday sales tonight, forcing their employees to go to work while the clock still says Holiday. The irony is that these companies wouldn't open their doors and make people work if the customers didn't come streaming in, which they will. They'll claim that they're just meeting the demands of the American consumer, but it's a demand that didn't exist until they created it.

The media, which benefits from all the extra advertising, will play its role as always, sending reporters to the stores for live shots to report on the crowd that showed up to try to get a flat screen television for a buck and a half. At some point, they'll mention that the new Black Friday That Starts Thursday is the busiest shopping day of the year -- a factoid that has never actually been true (that honor goes to the Saturday before Christmas, when male members of the human species simultaneously realize they still haven't bought something for their significant other).

I'm not advocating for a law that bans these stores from doing business whenever they want. I'm opposed to blue laws of any kind. I'm just sorry to have lost the only truly American day off, the one we all got to participate in. Plenty of people don't celebrate Christmas and far too many companies are open on federal holidays like Presidents Day or Martin Luther King Day. Even Labor Day doesn't count as a break from work for many American laborers.

Couldn't we have just one 24-hour period where the country got to stay home?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

David Bromberg

Three months ago, I posted video of David Bromberg, who I first saw in concert 40 years ago. Shortly after that entry on this site, my friend Bob told me that Bromberg was coming to St. Louis, so we got tickets and went. I'm glad we did.

Bromberg is now 71 years old, but his singing and playing sound just as good as they did decades ago, with his unique mix of blues, folk, rock, and bluegrass. He's still recording, writing, and interpreting the work of others. In fact, this tour is to promote a new album called "The Blues, The Whole Blues, and Nothing But The Blues."

Bromberg did not disappoint. He switched from electric to acoustic guitar easily, threw in some slide work, wove several stories into the set, and played for about 90 minutes. I only knew two of the tunes -- "New Lee Highway Blues" and an extended version of his classic "Sharon" -- but enjoyed all the rest because he's such a pro. On the way out, Bob told me that this was much better than when he saw Bromberg put on a lackluster show a couple of years ago. The night we went was anything but.

Bromberg appeared with his four-piece backup band at The Duck Room, a hallowed St. Louis institution in the basement of Blueberry Hill. It's the place Chuck Berry played every month -- well into his eighties. It's not a huge room (capacity 340), but was only half full for Bromberg, so we got seats not far from the stage. I do have two minor complaints about the Duck Room and its patrons.

One is that there's a bar in the back -- only about 20 yards from the stage -- where several people congregated during the show and held conversations loudly enough to be heard over the band. It was as if they were at their own social gathering and didn't care that the 150 others in the room were there to hear the veteran musicians perform. This would be fine if it were a neighborhood bar where some cover band was playing and you didn't have to pay to get in, but we had all forked over $30 at the door and wanted to hear Bromberg, not a bunch of muddled voice from the rear of the room. We couldn't hear exactly what they were saying because there were three or four of these conversations going on simultaneously, but it was quite distracting. It reminded me of people who insist on standing up during a concert despite the fact that everyone around and behind them remains seated with the offender blocking their view. I'm almost certain Bromberg noticed from the stage, but was too classy to say anything.

My other complaint is about the onstage backlighting in the Duck Room. When we arrived, I noticed a series of bright blue and red lights at the top of the wall behind the bandstand pointed straight out. Surely those will be turned off when Bromberg starts to perform, I figured. I was wrong. They stayed on through the entire show, and the klieg lights in front were not bright enough to counteract those behind, so it was like watching a couple of the musicians in silhouette. That's why the picture of Bromberg above is not from the Duck Room, but another venue -- where you could see his entire face.

I've ranted before about venues and performers that insist on shining lights on their audience, not realizing that they're blinding us in the same way you would if you walked up to someone in a dark room and shined a flashlight in their eyes. I was going to call this a trend, but it's been going on so long that it's become the industry standard. Nevertheless, it should stop. If you're the lighting designer for any venue or act, your job is to make the stage look great, not burn my corneas.

As for Bromberg, his career goes back even another decade before I first saw him. It was interrupted in 1980, when he stepped away from performing for 22 years to work on his other passion -- making high quality violins, a business he still runs out of his Delaware shop. I don't know how often he'll return to St. Louis, but I'm really glad I got to catch him this time around and don't plan on waiting another forty years to see him again.

That is, if I can see him without having my eyeballs seared by the backlights.

Picture Of The Day

That's President Obama giving the Presidential Medal Of Freedom to Tom Hanks, Bruce Springsteen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill and Melinda Gates, Ellen DeGeneres, Lorne Michaels, Robert Redford, Diana Ross, Robert DeNiro, Frank Gehry, Maya Lin, Cicely Tyson, Vin Scully, Michael Jordan, and others.

What makes this special to me is not the famous people I just named, who are being lauded yet again for their careers in entertainment or sports or philanthropy. It's the people like Margaret Hamilton -- not the actress who played The Wicked Witch in "The Wizard Of Oz," but the groundbreaking computer scientist who developed onboard flight software for the Apollo 11 moon mission and many others. She represents the people you've never heard of, the unsung heroes who did things no one had done before, who set new paths that led to our future. You can see in their eyes how special this recognition is, even if they're not the celebrities who earn the most applause (and money).

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Best Thing I've Read Today

Ken Levine on the non-stop shouting (and low ratings) of daytime cable sports shows...

A thousand hours a week are devoted on these various cable shows to which backup quarterback the Dallas Cowboys should call on first. They’re still arguing over last year’s NBA Finals. They almost get into fist fights over whether Corey Kluber should throw a slider on a 2-1 count.

It’s madness. And mind-numbing. And complete bullshit. These “experts” are wrong more often than they’re right. And even when they’re right, who cares? The instrument has not been devised that can measure my indifference over Ohio State’s road schedule.

And yet these ads proclaim these shows on FS1 (and ESPN) as must-see TV. There are 276 of these daytime cable sports talk shows. On a recent Monday (where they had the previous weekend of NFL to analyze along with that night’s MNF game, the baseball playoffs, and previewing the start of the NBA season) 269 of these shows were beaten in the ratings by GUNSMOKE on TV LAND. What does that tell you?

Virginia Was Only For Some Lovers

Yesterday, I reviewed "Loving," a movie about a couple whose case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled that interracial marriage could not be outlawed anywhere in the United States. It reminded me of a column I wrote three years ago about the battle we had in that same state that, while never a federal case, exposed the ludicrousness of blue laws...

When we moved to Virginia in 1986 so I could host a morning show on WCXR/Washington, we didn't have a place to live and Martha didn't have a job yet. The station put us up in a hotel for a couple of weeks, and while I went to work, she went to find a nice apartment for us.

On the second day, she told me to meet her to look at a place in a nice complex of mid-rise apartment buildings about a ten minute drive from the studios. When I got there, she had an odd look on her face. She asked me sarcastically, "You know that the state slogan here is Virginia Is For Lovers? Apparently, it doesn't apply to us."

She'd been talking with the rental agent, who had learned that we weren't married, and refused to rent us a one-bedroom apartment. The agent said it wasn't his decision, but due to a Virginia state law which made it illegal for consenting adults of different genders to cohabitate. We had never heard of anything so ridiculous, especially since we'd been living together for 3 years and never had a problem getting a place, even as we moved to 3 different states -- Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania.

As a joke, I asked with a smirk, "Can you rent us a two-bedroom apartment?" The rental agent didn't smile or pause before responding, "Sure, but it'll be $10/month more." Martha asked, "Are you kidding?" He replied, "No. And we have one vacant right now. Wanna see it?"

We did, we liked it, and we moved in a few days later. No one said a word about us having two bedrooms but only one bed. As long as the landlord could feign ignorance of our sleeping geography, we weren't breaking the law -- a law that had been passed 100 years earlier, probably by the same kind of people who scream about wanting "smaller government" while insisting on the state sticking its nose into our bedrooms today.

However, that wasn't the only obstacle we had to overcome to rent that apartment. To prove that we weren't "living in sin," the landlord required us both to have a paycheck, even though my income easily covered the expense. Martha explained that she hadn't had time to even look for a job yet, because we agreed we needed a place to live first. The agent apologized, but said that was the rule.

We really liked this apartment, so while I went back to the hotel to prepare for the next day's show, she drove to a nearby Chesapeake Bagel Bakery, which had a Help Wanted sign in the window. She went in, spoke to the manager, and was hired on the spot. Martha told him we were trying to lease an apartment, and would it be okay if the rental agent called him to verify her employment. The manager agreed, so she went back to the apartment complex office, told him she'd been hired, and sat there while he called the manager. With the confirmation, we were finally allowed to sign the lease.

That's when Martha drove back to the bagel place and quit. Without ever working there. Show me an obstacle, I'll show you a woman who can figure out a way around it.

By the way, Virginia's 19th-century ban on cohabitation was finally repealed in 2013, thanks to legislation introduced by state senator Adam Ebbin (who represented Alexandria, where we used to live). It seems an easy argument to make, since census data shows over 140,000 Virginians were cohabitating at the time. But I'll bet that somewhere in the Commonwealth, there was a lobbyist for the two-bedroom-apartment industry who rose up to oppose repeal of the statute.

Hey, ten bucks a month per lease can add up!

Movie Review: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

We have another entry on my Worst Movies Of 2016 list -- "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk."

It’s 2004, and soldier Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) is home in Texas after a tour of duty with Bravo Company in Iraq that included a traumatic experience in which one of their own (Vin Diesel) was killed. Now he and the other members of Bravo have been invited to be part of the halftime show of a Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving with Destiny’s Child (you never see the faces of Beyonce or the other two, because they’re always shot from behind -- they would never have agreed to appear in this dreck).

The soldiers are being exploited by the NFL and the Pentagon to send the message that the war is worth it. That's an interesting theme that should be explored more, but director Ang Lee keeps getting distracted from that premise.

We're introduced to Kristen Stewart, who gives the only decent performance in the movie as Billy’s sister, who opposes the war and doesn’t want him going back to Iraq while she's battling cancer. At the football game, he meets a Cowboys cheerleader named Faison, who’s attracted to him. Unfortunately, she's played by Makenzie Leigh, the worst actress I’ve seen on screen since Martha Gehman, who played Bryan Brown’s assistant in "F/X" thirty years ago.

Steve Martin’s in there, too, horribly miscast with a bad Texas accent as the owner of the Cowboys (he's not Jerry Jones, he's "Norman Oglesby"). At the same time, there’s an agent (Chris Tucker) who’s trying to get Bravo Company's story turned into a movie. Part of the problem is that the incident in Iraq isn't particularly about heroism or a lesson about war. It's just a bunch of guys involved in a firefight where one of them died.

There's a lot of hype about Ang Lee shooting this movie at 120 frames-per-second, which was supposed to add some hyper-realism to what we see. However, the only cities with theaters that can project a film at that speed are in New York and Los Angeles, so all of the rest of us can only see it at the usual 24 frames-per-second. Thus, it's impossible for me to judge if the high-speed filming experiment was worth it, but that technical difference couldn't possibly improve the quality of the movie's plot, which is terrible. Moreover, the expense of shooting in the 120fps format meant that Lee couldn't do many takes, and it's obvious that in some of these scenes he had to settle for less-than-perfect versions -- although, again, shooting them over and over to perfection wouldn't have mattered in a film this bad.

Ironically, if this were a true story, the guys in Bravo Company would not be happy with the movie that’s been made about them. "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" fails as satire, fails as drama, fails as spectacle, and adds up to one of the worst films of the year.

I give it a more-than-generous 2 out of 10.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Random Thoughts

  • Wehrenberg, the movie theater company based in St. Louis, announced today that it has been sold to Marcus, another family-owned exhibitor based in Milwaukee. Marcus says it plans to keep the Wehrenberg name on its theaters here. I hope it will also keep the iconic Wehrenberg pre-movie intro trailer with the company's name echoing from left to right.
  • Rams head coach Jeff Fisher is now tied for second place with Tom Landry for most losses in an NFL career. The difference is it took Landry 416 games to get to 162 losses (with 250 wins, including two Super Bowl victories with the Cowboys), while Fisher lost that many in 336 games (with 173 wins, including no Super Bowls). I can hear the Los Angeles fans abandoning their newly-returned franchise already, while lots of St. Louisans join me in laughing out loud.

Movie Review: Loving

In "Loving," Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton play Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple whose marriage led to a landmark Supreme Court decision.

The movie starts in 1958, when they were a young couple in love in rural Virginia. They decided to get married and went up to Washington, DC, to have a civil ceremony, but when they returned home, they were awakened in the middle of the night by the sheriff and two deputies who arrested the Lovings for breaking the state’s Racial Integrity Act. The crime, which had been on the books since 1924, was called "miscegenation" and was illegal in 24 states at the time.

The judge gave them a choice — they could go to prison or leave Virginia and not return for at least 25 years. They moved to Washington, where they stayed for a few years, but didn’t like it and wanted to go home. As the Kennedy administration and the Civil Rights Movement became intertwined, Mildred wrote a letter to Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, who decided the White House couldn’t get involved, but the ACLU could.

The next thing she knew, Mildred got a call from a rookie attorney named Bernard Cohen who, with the help of another young lawyer named Philip Hirschkop, represented the Lovings pro bono to fight the case. They pushed it out of Virginia state courts and into the federal judiciary, where the matter eventually went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in the Lovings' favor, thus overturning all the miscegenation laws in 1967. That decision was as important in 1967 as the gay marriage ruling in 2015 — it said the government has no business telling people who they can fall in love with and marry.

Negga and Edgerton are very good as the Lovings, who were quiet people without much education, but loved each other very much, and that comes through in their dignified performances. Writer/director Jeff Nichols made the right choice in focusing on the couple, not on the legal proceedings.

"Loving" is one of the best movies of the year. I give it an 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Rock Of Aging

In 1965, Roger Daltrey sang, "Hope I die before I get old." Ironically, he's still singing it at 72 -- but is rock and roll still alive? In a NY Times op-ed, Bill Flanagan says:
We have to face it — rock has grown old. Nothing brings out the indignation of a certain kind of rock ’n’ roll fan like the suggestion that the music of Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and other iconoclasts has aged with its audience. It’s like telling people they are someday going to die — it may be true, but no one wants to hear it, and anyway, why spoil the party?

Rock’s core audience was born in the 1950s and ’60s, and its life span has kept expanding. Sixty years after Elvis appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” rock concerts are raking in more money than ever.

At the Desert Trip festival in Indio, Calif., last month, about 150,000 tickets were sold for two weekends of shows featuring six legends of 1960s rock — Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, the Who and Roger Waters — in one place.

The headliners were born in the 1940s. The audience was all ages. There were wrinkled hippies and young families. There were college-age backpackers, white-haired fanny-packers and sleepy-eyed six-packers. Many of them had not been old enough to see the Beatles or go to Woodstock, but they were right on time to enjoy (depending on the price of their ticket) comfortable seats, wine vendors and chef-prepared cuisine, and plenty of decent restrooms. I was a long way from sleeping in the mud at Watkins Glen in 1973, waiting for the Band, the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers, and grateful for the improvement.

But growing record sales? Not so much. The record business has evaporated for everyone not named Adele. Top 40 radio, which has always been for teenagers, is mostly devoted to post-rock pop and hip-hop. In 2016, rock is not teenage music.
That helps explain why there aren't many rock radio stations anymore. In most cities, there are Oldies or Classic Hits or Classic Rock stations, but nowhere to turn to discover new rock and roll. In St. Louis, there are two -- KSHE (which has been in the format for almost 50 years but plays a minuscule amount of new stuff) and KPNT (which leans alternative and does well with a younger demo). But look at the largest media market in the US -- New York -- and you won't find a single commercial FM station devoted to exposing its listeners to new rock and roll.

I worked in what-was-then-called Album Oriented Rock stations at various times in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. We thrived on introducing listeners to new bands, while still giving them a steady base of Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. It was exciting to get requests for tunes we'd only just started to play, and to see those acts break out, whether they fizzled after an album or two or went on to long careers like U2. When one of our core artists -- Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, Van Halen, Tom Petty -- released anything new, we pounded it and promoted it and played it to death. We'd even track through the whole thing at midnight as our Featured Album, thus allowing thousands of listeners with cassette recorders to make a copy for themselves.

While there are still rock bands creating new material, today's music fans are drawn in much larger numbers to hip-hop or modern Top 40 screechers. My daughter, who was brought up in a rock and roll household, isn't exposed to new music via the radio because she doesn't even own one. She hears about a song or a band from friends via word of mouth or social media, then downloads it from iTunes or YouTube. Others in her demographic spend more time with Spotify and Pandora than anything broadcast.

So yes, the average rock and roll fan has aged measurably -- as we get older we still prefer the music we grew up with -- because there's not enough compelling music to influence a new generation of fans and, ironically, fewer places for them to hear it.

Read Flanagan's full piece here.

Best Thing I've Read Today

Jack Shafer says "Stop Being Trump's Twitter Fool"...

By this time you’d expect that people would have figured out when Donald Trump is yanking their chain and pay him the same mind they do phone calls tagged “Out of Area” by Caller ID. But, no. Like Pavlov’s dog, too many of us leap to object or correct the president-elect whenever he composes a deliberately provocative tweet, as he did this morning, commenting on the somber and vaguely lecturing treatment vice-president elect Mike Pence earned from the cast last night at a performance of Hamilton....

Haven’t any of these people raised children? Don’t they know about bait and switch? Have none of them been paying attention to Trump’s Twitter strategy for the past 17 months? For anybody who has read a half-dozen of Trump’s tweets, the pattern is obvious. He compiles these tweets precisely in order to elicit strident protest. It doesn’t matter to Trump that the cast of Hamilton was polite and respectful to Pence. It doesn’t matter that being rude to office holders is an inalienable right—hell, a responsibility!—of all Americans. To Trump’s followers the content of any one of his rebukes matters less than whom it’s directed at—New York liberals and their fellow travelers in this instance.
Read Shafer's full piece here.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Kathleen Madigan, "Bothering Jesus"

I am a big fan of Kathleen Madigan, having seen her perform many times and watched her career grow over 25 years in comedy. She has done four CDs, two DVDs, two HBO specials, two USO tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, three Comedy Central specials, five CMT “Salute to the Troops” specials with Ron White, and a Netflix special called “Madigan Again.”

Now she has a new standup special for Netflix, “Bothering Jesus,” and I was happy to have her back on my show to talk about it. Among the topics we touched on:
  • What it's like making comedy specials for Netflix.
  • What audiences in other cities think of her hometown (St. Louis) in the post-Ferguson era.
  • Why she refused to go on a cruise with Lewis Black.
  • How Lewis is handling the election of Donald Trump.
  • What it was like doing an episode of "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" with Jerry Seinfeld.
  • Whether family members have ever told her a story but added, “You can’t talk about this on stage!"
  • The response she's gotten from Catholics about one of her bits in the special.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Previously on Harris Online...

Joe Buck, "Lucky Bastard"

Joe Buck has done play-by-play for 19 World Series, several Super Bowls, and NFL games every Sunday, winning multiple Sports Emmy awards along the way. Now he's written about his life in "Lucky Bastard: My Life, My Dad, And The Things I'm Not Allowed To Say On TV."

Among the things he discussed on my show:
  • Why his Twitter page says “I love all teams EXCEPT yours.” 
  • Having grown up in Busch Stadium, how hard was it to say "The Cubs Win The World Series"? 
  • What’s different technically for him when calling a game compared to 10-20 years ago. 
  • What he learned about the job of play-by-play man from watching his father, Jack Buck, in the booth.
  • Did he ever have an Albert Brooks sweating-so-much-it’s-noticeable moment on the air?
  • How many beers did Mike Shannon consume during games they broadcast together?
  • He's done some play-by-play for the Fox series “Pitch” — does he think a woman will make it to the majors soon?
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Previously on Harris Online...

Showbiz Show 11/18/16

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them," "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," and "Loving." Spoiler alert: one of them will be on my Worst Movies Of 2016 list next month.

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

Harris Challenge 11/18/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the topical trivia categories include Not Getting A Medal, Men Named Buck, and Showbiz Week. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 11/18/16

On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories of a stolen police car, burglars vs. bees, and a painful hospital visit. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Reel Spoilers: Arrival

I'm a guest on the new Reel Spoilers podcast, helping Tom, Joe and Kevin review the sci-fi movie "Arrival." You can listen to it here, but be aware, the show is named Reel Spoilers for a reason!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Picture Of The Day

Jon Stewart with Charlie Rose on "CBS This Morning" today, discussing the state of America now that it has elected Donald Trump as our 45th President...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Best Thing I've Read Today

Kurt Eichenwald -- who did tremendous reporting this year on Donald Trump, his campaign, and his suspicious business practices -- has a piece in Newsweek on the myths Democrats swallowed that cost them the presidential election. One of those myths is that, based on a poll done early in the summer, Bernie Sanders would have defeated Trump. As Eichenwald explains, that was because the Republicans hadn't focused any of their attacks and opposition research on Sanders, but if they had...

I have seen the opposition book assembled by Republicans for Sanders, and it was brutal. The Republicans would have torn him apart. And while Sanders supporters might delude themselves into believing that they could have defended him against all of this, there is a name for politicians who play defense all the time: losers.

Here are a few tastes of what was in store for Sanders, straight out of the Republican playbook: He thinks rape is A-OK. In 1972, when he was 31, Sanders wrote a fictitious essay in which he described a woman enjoying being raped by three men. Yes, there is an explanation for it—a long, complicated one, just like the one that would make clear why the Clinton emails story was nonsense. And we all know how well that worked out.

Then there’s the fact that Sanders was on unemployment until his mid-30s, and that he stole electricity from a neighbor after failing to pay his bills, and that he co-sponsored a bill to ship Vermont’s nuclear waste to a poor Hispanic community in Texas, where it could be dumped. You can just see the words “environmental racist” on Republican billboards. And if you can’t, I already did. They were in the Republican opposition research book as a proposal on how to frame the nuclear waste issue.

Also on the list: Sanders violated campaign finance laws, criticized Clinton for supporting the 1994 crime bill that he voted for, and he voted against the Amber Alert system. His pitch for universal health care would have been used against him too, since it was tried in his home state of Vermont and collapsed due to excessive costs. Worst of all, the Republicans also had video of Sanders at a 1985 rally thrown by the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua where half a million people chanted, “Here, there, everywhere/the Yankee will die,’’ while President Daniel Ortega condemned “state terrorism” by America. Sanders said, on camera, supporting the Sandinistas was “patriotic.”

The Republicans had at least four other damning Sanders videos (I don’t know what they showed), and the opposition research folder was almost 2-feet thick. (The section calling him a communist with connections to Castro alone would have cost him Florida.) In other words, the belief that Sanders would have walked into the White House based on polls taken before anyone really attacked him is a delusion built on a scaffolding of political ignorance.
Eichenwald also debunks the claims by Sanders supporters -- based on emails revealed by Wikileaks -- that the Democratic National Committee stifled his candidacy in favor of Clinton's. Read the full piece here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Movie Review: Moonlight

"Moonlight" is the first movie I’ve seen about the coming of age of a young gay black man. It is told in three chapters of his life, played by 3 different actors -- Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes.

As a young boy, he’s known as “Little,” a shy, scrawny kid who lives in the projects in Miami with a crackhead mother (Naomie Harris). He’s bullied by other kids until he's discovered by a local drug dealer (Mahershala Ali from “House Of Cards”), who lets the boy spend the night at his house. Though Little goes home the next day, the drug dealer and his girlfriend become his surrogate parents, teaching him to swim in the ocean and letting him spend the night when mom is too whacked on crack.

As a teenager, the boy is known as Chiron, and is still bullied by bigger, tougher classmates. Only one childhood friend, Kevin, sticks by him, and one night they sit on a deserted beach to share a joint and a physical encounter. But the next day, Kevin turns against him at the urging of some homophobic bullies.

In the movie’s third chapter, Chiron — now known as Black — is living in Atlanta. He makes money dealing drugs, but has no one in his life until he gets a surprise phone call from a repentant Kevin. They get together again in the final scene.

That's really all there is to the story, and writer/director Barry Jenkins takes too long in each chapter to tell it. The performances are all good, and the plot is groundbreaking in that we haven’t seen a main character like this in a movie before, but I never really cared about Little/Chiron/Black -- and that's a flaw in any movie, regardless of his race or sexual orientation.

"Moonlight" is getting a lot of Oscar buzz and raves from other critics, but I only give it 5/10.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Best Thing I've Read Today

My brother Seth, the former US Deputy Secretary Of Labor, has compiled a list of how Democrats should respond to Trump's labor policies -- those they should support (e.g. infrastructure, child care, retirement security) and those they should oppose (e.g. discrimination, union busting, attacks on labor standards).

Movie Review: Arrival

"Arrival" is the best sci-fi movie of the year, not just for the terrific performances by Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, but because it's rooted in the science part of science-fiction.

Adams plays Louise, a linguist and university professor whose services are called upon by Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) after egg-shaped alien vessels -- referred to as "shells" -- appear over 12 places on Earth. There's one in Montana, another in China, a third over Russia -- there's even one hovering over the Indian Ocean, where I assume the aliens have joined the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. I'm glad they didn't appear over heavily populated cities, as in so many other alien-attack movies, so we don't get the inevitable traffic jam shot and the cab flipping up in the air in an explosion.

In fact, "Arrival" isn't about explosions and attacks with the military facing off against the aliens in a special effects battle a la "Independence Day." It's more about human curiosity and the scientists tasked with figuring out what the aliens want. To achieve that, Louise is teamed with theoretical physicist Ian (Jeremy Renner) to figure out a way to communicate with the aliens and determine why they've come to Earth. Louise and Ian are simultaneously exhilarated and wary, thrilled at the prospect of discovery, but not sure if their lives are in danger. Still, they agree, but demand to get as close as possible to the shells -- and the aliens inside.

Director Denis Villeneuve, who made "Prisoners" (which I loved) and "Sicario" (which I didn't), helps us understand where the science leads while keeping the relationships (between Louise and Ian, and with the aliens) uppermost in his storytelling. There's a wonderful scene when the scientists, accompanied by some military personnel, get to go inside the shell to interact with the aliens, and Renner's face silently shows his sense of wonder as he reaches his gloved hand out to touch the exterior of this alien vessel. Beautiful.

I'm also glad that Villeneuve didn't design the aliens to look like us. From "The Day The Earth Stood Still" to "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind" to "ET," to name just three examples, movie aliens are always bipeds with long arms and large almond-shaped eyes. Even the crazy people who claim to have been snatched and dragged off to a UFO claim their alien abductors look remarkably like humans. This, despite the fact that there are thousands of other lifeforms on our own planet that look nothing like us. Ever seen a tree? A jellyfish? A duck? What makes us think beings from elsewhere in the universe would have evolved into the same shapes as us?

I won't spoil much more about the plot, but will admit that it took me awhile to figure out the ending, which is almost as confusing as the final 15 minutes of “2001." I'll just say that you shouldn't assume that aliens necessarily live by the same rules we do when it comes to gravity, time, and other concepts.

I wonder if others who see "Arrival" will be as confused as I was when walking out of the theater, and if that will hurt word of mouth. That would be a shame, because it got off to a good start at the box office, according to Vulture:
In its first weekend, Arrival earned $24 million, good for third place behind Doctor Strange and Trolls, each of which held their positions from last week. Making that number even more impressive is the fact that Arrival debuted in just 2,317 locations, or about 60 percent of the theaters that Doctor Strange played in last week; its $10,358 per-theater average is the highest of any live-action wide release this year that isn't part a pre-existing franchise. (Are there any others, you might ask? A few!)

As Mark Harris pointed out in The Ringer's state-of-Hollywood essay, there seems room for a smart space movie every fall, with Arrival following in the proud tradition of Gravity (2013), Interstellar (2014), and The Martian (2015). Arrival couldn't replicate the openings of those films, all of which were huge hits, but at a $47 million budget, it also cost less than half of any them.
Even with my confusion at the ending -- which has been cleared up by my friend Tom O'Toole in a genuine "Aha!" moment -- I still enjoyed "Arrival" very much. It's especially satisfying to see a science-fiction movie that's wholly original and doesn't sacrifice or cheapen the science for the sake of the fiction.

On my KTRS show Friday, I originally gave "Arrival" a 7.5 out of 10, but after thinking about it some more and discussing it with others who have seen it, my admiration has grown, so I'm now giving it an 8.5.

Dave Chappelle Follow-Up

Yesterday, in my post about Dave Chappelle's "SNL" monologue, I predicted that NBC would edit out certain words before it was broadcast on the West Coast. I haven't seen confirmation of that anywhere, but at least one affiliate in the Eastern time zone censored Chappelle's monologue. According to Variety, the control room operator at WRAL/Raleigh, which airs "SNL" on a ten-second delay, hit the dump button several times -- but didn't do a very good job of it and missed a few of the words they probably didn't want to get through.

As I wrote earlier this year when CBS similarly censored a single word from a live Steven Colbert show, this wasn't a case of worrying about trouble with the FCC, because both broadcasts air during the "safe harbor" hours. Besides, even outside of the "safe harbor," NBC would have been okay because none of the words Chapelle said are on the FCC's semi-official banned language list. However, any TV or radio station or network has every right to cut out any content it feels violates its own standards.

Incidentally, the video I posted was from the official NBC "SNL" YouTube feed -- and is as uncensored here as it was when the network broadcast it live on Saturday night. Same with this one, another clever skit about the election outcome, with a guest appearance by Chris Rock...

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dave Chapelle on SNL

Dave Chappelle returned to TV last night to host "Saturday Night Live" and opened with the strongest monologue anyone has performed on that show in a very long time. It was topical and a bit profane (I'm sure they had to edit for the west coast feed), but it was very funny...

In Case You Missed Them

Here are a bunch of stories I mentioned on my radio show Friday...

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Careful What You Wish For

Note to liberals hoping Trump is impeached: you do realize that means President Mike Pence, don't you?

Curt Menefee, "Losing Isn't Everything"

Here's my conversation with Fox NFL Sunday host Curt Menefee about his book, "Losing Isn't Everything:The Untold Stories and Hidden Lessons Behind the Toughest Losses in Sports History."

After we discussed a few things about his Sunday pregame show, he shared stories about some of the athletes he profiled in the book, from Bill Buckner to Rodney Harrison to Pete Carroll to Mary Decker, all of whom went through very public losses and low points. He explained how they rebounded or, in some cases, couldn't deal with those setbacks for a long time.

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

Showbiz Show 11/11/16

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Arrival" and "Moonlight," then discussed a movie that's being written off by its studio before it's even released, the death of actor Robert Vaughn, and a possible "Big Bang Theory" spinoff.

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

Harris Challenge 11/11/16

It's a special Veterans Day edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- with categories about Musical Veterans, Celebrity Veterans, and more. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 11/11/16

On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories of a shoplifter stopped by Spiderman, an amorous couple in a car, and a woman attacked by her salad dressing. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Worth A Listen

Sorry to hear of the death of Robert Vaughn from acute leukemia at 83. In addition to being the last surviving member of the original "Magnificent Seven," he was so good in the TV series "Man From UNCLE" and "Hustle" and movies like "Towering Inferno,""Bullitt," and even "Superman 3."

Scott Feinberg of the Hollywood Reporter recently did a great podcast with Vaughn about his six-decade acting career, how he was the first celebrity to come out publicly against the Vietnam War, and his soon-to-be-released final movie, "Gold Star." If you give it a listen, you'll recognize his voice instantly.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

As I Tweeted

  • Since the Secret Service wouldn't even let Obama have an Internet-connected phone, will Trump be forced to stay off Twitter? Sad!
  • Bad news for gun stores: no one will be scaring Americans into buying more weapons because the government is going to take theirs away.

To What End?

Last night in several American cities, thousands of people took to the street to protest Donald Trump being elected president. To what end? What are they hoping to accomplish?

If this was just an exercise in blowing off steam while getting together with other pissed-off Americans, okay, but the election results will not change. While there's nothing wrong with peaceful assembly to air your grievances (in fact, the right to do so is enshrined in the First Amendment), you can't change the fact that Trump gathered more electoral college delegates than Clinton did. He's going to be our 45th President, no matter how many nights you march.

I also wonder how many of those in the streets last night didn't even bother to vote. If you're one of them, you have no one to blame but yourself. As for those who turned their anger into vandalism or violence, you're doing nothing to help your cause.

Remember how horrified you were when That Guy You Hate said he might not accept the outcome of the election? Do you own a mirror?

Your street theater reminds me of the protestors -- on both sides -- who show up outside the Supreme Court whenever there's a big decision to be made (Obergefell v. Hodges, Roe v. Wade, etc.). They shout and make speeches and carry signs, but they have no impact on the justices' decisions. All they're doing is creating a spectacle for the TV cameras.

Ask yourself how you'd have felt if McCain supporters had protested en masse outside Obama's home the night after his historic election in 2008. How did you feel when you saw Obama haters wearing shirts and carrying signs saying, "Not My President"? True, many Americans -- including Trump -- have denied Obama's legitimacy as president for the last eight years, but if you denounced that, you shouldn't be using the same tactics against the man who will replace him.

That would be like Democrats in the Senate now turning into obstructionists and acting like Mitch McConnell by declaring that you'll never work with the opposition to get anything done and pledging to filibuster every bill that comes through Congress. If you detested your opponents for not doing their constitutional duty, you'll look nothing less than hypocritical when you do the same.

Instead of taking to the street, upset Americans need to figure out how to fix the problem, and that amounts to one simple bottom line: get more people to vote for your candidates next time. Instead of moving to Canada, move to a swing state. Instead of complaining about voter suppression, spend the next four years getting more people registered to vote instead of waiting until the last minute. Find another candidate who will get women, African-Americans, and Latinos to choose her/him -- particularly in the Congressional elections coming up in two years. Change the legislature, change the laws (or at least stop bad bills from being sent to President Trump's desk).

Those of us who lived through the 1960s remember how valuable protest can be. Marches against the Vietnam War helped end it. The civil rights era still echoes with voices that changed America. The same can be said for the beginnings of the feminist movement and gay rights. None of those victories were easily won, but they were all fought for an attainable goal.

If last night's protests invigorate Democrats and Independents to effect positive change through the ballot box next time, then they're worthwhile. But if they were just a downtown temper tantrum, they help no one.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

It's Mourning In America

Random thoughts on the night the presidency became an entry-level position...

Donald Trump was right about one thing: we were tired of winning, so we're all going to lose for the foreseeable future.

Donald Trump is the first US President to have no governmental or military experience. Even the new Governor of Missouri, Eric Greitens, who had never held public office, was a Navy SEAL.

Don't tell me this is the end of the Republican Party. They not only control all three branches of the federal government, but also the vast majority of statehouses. Their agenda now rules.

But it is the end of the Clintons. It's also the end of Bernie Sanders, who returns to being a Senator with no standing.

I wonder how much Joe Biden wishes he'd run.

Who do Dems have in the pipeline for 2020? I don't mean to start talking about the next presidential election already, but is there anyone who can rise to the top in the next couple of years to potentially lead that party going forward? Or are they hoping that Trump screws up the country so much that they can take back Congress in 2018?

Speaking of Congress, I don't buy that Trump's election is proof that Americans wanted change in Washington -- just check the number of incumbents of both parties who will be returning to the Senate and House. There was no draining of the swamp.

Clinton lost Florida by less than 3%. If the people who decided to vote for Gary Johnson had chosen her, she'd be our next president. Congratulations, protest voters. How many of you voted for Nader in 2000?

This marks the sixth time in the last seven presidential elections that more Americans have voted for the Democratic candidate than for the Republican. Let's restart the arguments about the electoral college, since Clinton won the popular vote, but don't hold your breath that it will change because the people in charge have no interest in changing it.

Don't give me this nonsense about "the country has to come together behind our new president." Not going to happen. When did the country come together behind Obama? There is nothing United about the States Of America.

Republicans proved one thing yesterday: it doesn't matter what you say or do, who you insult or attack, whether you're supported by David Duke and the KKK. They'll still vote for you to protect their greater political needs, including the Supreme Court.

Speaking of SCOTUS, my friend Joel Makower tweeted, "Here’s a toast and a prayer for the good health and long life of Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer." It'll be interesting to see if the Democrats, who were hoping to win the Senate, use the same obstructionist tactics with Trump that Mitch McConnell et al did with Obama -- not just for legislation, but using the power of the filibuster to deny him any Supreme Court nominees (not to mention other federal court judges).

This is not a good day for pollsters and pundits, who all got this election wrong. And don't tell me they had it within the margin of error. When you woke up yesterday, they all said Hillary was going to win. And yet, as they did last night, the broadcast and cable news outlets will be filled with the same experts who have been proven wrong, because they have no accountability.

It's also not a good day for: anyone who has any investments in the stock market anywhere in the world, Obamacare, NAFTA, civil rights, gay rights, banking regulations like Dodd-Frank, the Iran nuclear deal, climate change scientists, and most of the First Amendment.

It is a good day for weed. California, Massachusetts, and Nevada have legalized recreational marijuana, while Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas have passed medical marijuana measures. We're still waiting for the final tallies in Maine, Montana, and Arizona.

It's also a good day for minimum wage increases and assisted suicide, both of which added more states. Oregon elected the first LGBT Governor in history, Kate Brown. Small victories, but they're something to cheer for progressives.

America voting for change is nothing new. Since 1952, no party has held the White House for more than 8 consecutive years except 1980-92.

Nothing has been said in this presidential campaign about Mike Pence's extreme homophobia. This is a guy who believes in gay conversion, who would re-ban same-sex marriage, and wants businesses to be able to discriminate against customers based on their sexual orientation. The fact that he's our new Vice President may be the only reason to hope that Donald Trump serves his entire term as president.

Trump will be the first president who refused to put his investments into a blind trust. He has said that he would turn them over to his sons and daughters, which means he will still be able to make political decisions that enrich himself and his family, a pure conflict of interest.

Vladimir Putin sent Trump congratulations by telegram. There are still telegrams in the 21st century? #hackingwesternunion

I wonder how long it will take for the people who voted for Trump to realize how gullible they have been. Amidst all the boorish behavior, misogyny, racist remarks, and personal attacks, they have chosen a leader who will do nothing to help middle class, will cut taxes on the rich in yet another real-life proof that trickle-down economics don't work, will give them more government intervention in their lives (not less), and will not be able to bring manufacturing back to the US. I bet he won't even have his own products made in the USA. One of these days, they might wake up to realize they've been lied to for all these years by conservative talk show hosts, Fox News, right-wing websites, and everyone else who has ginned up fear and conspiracy theories and fact-free nonsense.

Speaking of which, I can't tell you how happy I am to not have a daily radio show on which I'd have to talk about all of this over and over hour after hour with listeners and callers.

Meanwhile, I think I hear Mexico building that wall after all -- to keep Americans out.

Enjoy your new global recession.

Added at 11:23am CT...Raw numbers to remember: Obama got 65.9 million votes in 2012 while Romney got 60.9 million. As of 11am today, Clinton has 59.3 million, Trump has 59.1 million. Bottom line: Trump didn't move the needle, but Democrats and Obama supporters didn't show up and vote for Clinton, to the tune of 6.6 million missed opportunities.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Polling Place Report

Just voted. At 11am, there were a hundred people in line (or as we used to say in New York, on line), most of whom used the touch screens. It seemed like a lot more women than past elections. Total time, entrance to exit: about 45 minutes.

Seems like a good time to review the piece I wrote years ago on Making Voting Easier.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Random Thoughts

This picture made me smile today. It's the gravesite of suffragette Susan B. Anthony, where people have been adding their "I Voted" stickers. Demand is so high that the cemetery will stay open extra hours on Election Day to accommodate crowds who -- 110 years after her death and 94 years after women won the right to vote -- want to celebrate casting their ballots for America's first female president.

Kudos to Brian Stelter of CNN and Jim Rutenberg of the NY Times for writing about the plague of fake news sites. Stelter has approached it as a consumer advocate, warning that you should double- and triple-check any "news" you see or hear before you believe it. Rutenberg writes about the challenge of real news outlets overcoming the threat of fake news sites, lamenting that on Facebook, most readers can't tell the difference between stories reported and vetted by actual journalists versus those that have been made up to advance someone's agenda. It's a troubling trend at a time when we need truth-tellers and fact-checkers more than ever.

If you knew nothing about America but came here as an English-speaking tourist who watched and listened to the political ads running non-stop on TV and radio, you'd have to conclude that all the people running for public office are the lowest scum in the country. Spot after spot decries that this candidate is "bad for Missouri," that one is "bad for America," and another one is "bad for the Milky Way." You hear allegations of all sorts that would be the basis of defamation suits in any other context, paid for by either a candidate's campaign or some dark-money political action committee. I'd bet there isn't a single race in the USA that doesn't include these kinds of negative attacks -- and then politicians wonder why so many Americans don't like or trust them.

It Only Took Eight Games

When the Rams left St. Louis, I wondered how long it would take for their new fans in Los Angeles to realize what a crappy team they were getting. The answer: exactly eight games.

After getting off to a 3-1 start, the Rams have lost 4 in a row and can barely manage to put any points on the board. That explains today's headline in the Post-Dispatch: "LA honeymoon is over as fans shower Rams with boos."

In other words, Southern California has been Kroenke'd.