Ben and Joel are joined by a stellar panel to discuss the books they would give as gifts this Christmas. Guests in this episode include Rick Henderson, editor of the John Locke Foundation's Carolina Journal; Pia Lopez, editorial writer for the Sacramento Bee (and Ben's weekly sparring partner in the Bee's "Head to Head" column, where they discussed books on Dec. 8); and Sam Karnick, editor of The American Culture and director of research at The Heartland Institute.
Music heard in this podcast:
• "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," Joseph Spence
• "Gabriel's Message," Sting
• "Little Drummer Boy," Los Straitjackets
• "O Little Town of Bethlehem," Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra
• "Must Be Santa," Bob Dylan
• "A Holly Jolly Christmas," Burl Ives
Books discussed in this podcast:
Some of my favorite records are collections of out-takes, b-sides, and other tracks that never quite made it onto albums. When carelessly curated (I'm looking at YOU, Anthology I, II, and III) they do little more gather cutting-room floor material for completists. But when assembled with care (or sometimes just luck) they can reveal something about an artist that their carefully-cultivated albums fail to. And since I haven't created a "Five Perfect" post in several years, I thought this would be a good time.
Honorable mentions: Black Market Clash, Still In Hollywood, side two of the cassette of Standing on a Beach, Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death, and Tom Waits' three-disc Orphans collection.
All Internet lists exist to prompt arguments, spark controversies, share a bit of knowledge, and generate lots of links. Ken Denmead -- a.k.a. GeekDad at Wired -- has contributed the best and the worst of the new decade with his "100 Quotes Every Geek Should Know," a document that at once delights and appalls. I mean, he includes Roy Batty's last three words in Blade Runner but not the immortal lines that precede them? Seriously? And he will rue the day he chose a couple of pedestrian lines from Real Genius.
I would note, too, that not all of Denmead's selections are from sci-fi or fantasy films. There are even a couple of song lyrics. Fine. But with such a broad criteria, where's Apocalypse Now? No, not the obvious one. Any self-respecting geek ought to know you can't land on one-quarter or three-eighths of Venus. That's dialectic physics!
The comments on the piece are lively and there are some excellent suggestions. (And it's really not such a bad list... I guess. De gustibus non est disputandum and all that.) One I would have liked to have seen from the endlessly quotable Army of Darkness: "It's a trap, get an axe!" I use that one all the time.
Well... what say you?
Our friends at Lake Superior State University have released this year's list of 15 overused words and phrases that should be banished from our beleaguered public discourse. Although it's difficult to argue with the vast majority of the school's picks, last year's list was notable for including "monkey," which drove Dr. Zaius into a poo-throwing frenzy. Nevertheless, Lake Superior has established a pretty good track record over 35 years, and the 2009 list features only one word -- app -- with which I would quibble.
The 2009 lexicographical legion of dishonor features:
• Shovel-ready: "A relatively new term already overused by media and politicians."
• Transparent/transparency: "In reality, political transparency is more invisible than obvious!"
• Czar: "First it was a 'drug czar' [banished in 1990]. This year gave us a 'car czar.' What's next? A 'banished words czar'?"
• Tweet (and all variations): "Pointless…yet has somehow managed to take the nation by storm. I'm tired of hearing about celebrity X's new tweet, and how great of a tweeter he or she is."
• App: "Is there an 'app' for making this annoying word go away? Why can't we just call them 'programs' again?"
• Sexting: "Any dangerous new trend that also happens to have a clever mash-up of words, involves teens, and gets television talk show hosts interested must be banished."
• Friend (as verb): "'Befriend' is much more pleasant to the human ear and a perfectly useful word in the dictionary."
• Teachable moment: "What might otherwise be known as 'a lesson.'"
• In these economic times: "Overused and redundant. Aren't ALL times 'these economic times'?"
• Stimulus: "It is no longer a grant, it's stimulus money, stimulus checks, etc."
• Toxic assets: "Whatever happened to simply 'bad stocks,' 'debts,' or 'loans'?"
• Too big to fail: "Just for the record, nothing's too big to fail unless the government lets it."
• Bromance: "Have we really reached the point where being friends has to be described in a pseudo-romantic context? Just stop it already!" (Not soon enough for me!)
• Chillaxin': "It should receive bonus points for its ability to exhort the opposite reaction from the receiver."
• Obama (as prefix or root): "Obamanomics, Obamanation, Obamafication, Obamacare, Obamalicious, Obamaland... We say Obamanough already."
Any other nominees?
Never use these hackneyed phrases. Ever. Unless you are dead.
• Pick your brain
• Throw it against the wall and see what sticks
• Sweat equity
• It's not rocket science
• The ball's in your court
• Drill down
• I, personally
• Quite unique (and its compatriots "very unique," "really unique" and "most unique")
• Past history
• Urgent (and its frequent companion "crisis")
You could probably conjure 10 or 20 or 100 more, easily. But those make for a good start.
(Hat tip: Imad Naffa on Twitter.)
In response to some provocation by the Phlegms, The Telegraph of London offers "10 reasons to dislike the Belgians." But, really, all they had to do was post this...
Update: Bob Dylan's playlist, which XM Radio aired as an episode of his late, great Theme Time Radio Hour three years ago, is pretty good, too.
Reason has an easy quiz to help you eliminate any doubts.
Near the end of each of the last 34 years, Lake Superior State University has put out a "List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness." This year's list of the Frightful Fifteen:
... and ...
Monkey? Monkey! MONKEY!!!!! DAMM YOU! DAMN YOU ALL TO HELLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!
According to this AP story:
"Monkey" was on the list because of what some see as its rampant use as a suffix. "Especially on the Internet, many people seem to think they can make any boring name sound more attractive just by adding the word 'monkey' to it," wrote Roger Landman of Sommerville, Mass.
What a shock! Folks at Lake Superior State University decide what words are out. Well, sounds like a bunch of ass-monkeys to me. Or idiot-monkeys. Or ass-munching-idiot monkeys. How about monkey as a prefix? They're a bunch of monkey-asses, with heads full of monkey-poo.
Speaking of poo ... THIS WILL NOT STAND! SOUND THE ALARM! ALL MONKEYS ... REPORT TO THE ARMORY!
In my house, it's the first door on the right in the hallway. There's a night light.
A friend of this site, Alan Dix, posted a fun game on his Facebook page. Seems tailor made for us Monkeys.
Here's my contribution:
In the 1930s, in Germany and America alike, the ability to sway the masses through oratory was often the key to power.
—Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg.
Dirty Harry hips us to Paste Magazine's list of the Top 40 TV theme songs of all time. Let's just be blunt: Paste Magazine has some things to answer for. Not a bad list, for sure. It's just not quite right.
After perusing the list, here is Dr. Zaius' Top 5:
No. 1 (No. 3 on Paste's list): Sanford & Son: This is the best TV theme song of all time. So funky. Soooooo fuuuuunnkkkky! Nice job, Quincy Jones. It has a special place in the family's heart because Mrs. Z and I would sing the song to our 19-year-old cat. Murphy, by those days, grumbled and quacked. Did not meow. Hard not to think of Fred Sanford when looking at Old Murph, God bless his soul. Every time he walked by, one of us would sing: Waah Na Waa Na! Waah Na Waa Na Waahna Waah! ...
No. 2 (No. 8 on Paste's list) Hawaii Five-O: A respectable showing, I guess. It's Top 10. Don't know how it's not Top 3, though, or even No. 1. Morton Stevens' composition is not only catchy, it's complex. A thing of driving beauty.
No. 4 (No. 1 on Paste's list) Cheers: Hard to argue with this being in the Top 5 All Time. Who can't relate to this song? It's really helped by the montage of old photos and paintings of more than a century of people finding comfort in going to a place "where everyone knows your name." We all have a place like that. Mine is a place called J. Brian's in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
No. 5 (Unlisted by Paste) CHiPs: This is listed because Paste made a glaring omission. This disco-themed classic doesn't warrant even an honorable mention? Please. If you are now between the ages of 35 and 40 and didn't ride around on your bike as a kid with a buddy and pretend to be Ponch and John, you were a loser. There. I said it. Deal. Same goes for pretending to be the Duke Boys. CHiPs made the drudgery of pulling over drunk drivers and catching speeders look cool. By the way, the Dallas theme and the Charlie's Angels theme are two other keepers that should have been on Paste's list. (Side note: My wife's brother held a tape recorder next to the TV when the song came on so he could have it to play and be inspired to greatness any time he wanted. And, let me interject ... No. You're a dork!).
Some other notes:
Welcome Back Kotter. Should be higher than just No. 29, but perhaps that's just my New York-born bias seeping in.
Barney Miller. That funky bass line deserves Top 20 treatment, not relegated to No. 27
Laverne & Shirley ... "never heard the word, impossible." A fave of Mrs. Z, comes in on No. 25 on Paste.
The Simpsons. Way too good to be only No. 20. I played percussion in my college's marching, symphonic and basketball pep bands. The director thought it would be a great thing to get hip with the kids and put The Simpson's theme in our repertoire. Yeah. It took dozens of very talented musicians a month to play it with a semblance of competence in front of a crowd. Elfman's composition is manicially sick!
Star Trek: The Next Generation is No. 14. I think a bit high, since it's derivative of the original theme. The Muppet Show, slightly below ST:TNG, is better.
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air at No. 11? An atrocity. It's a barely new riff of Smith's "Parents Just Don't Understand" pop-rap hit. And ... oh ... it sucks.
No. 10: John Williams' NBC Olympic Fanfare. A great composition. Beautiful. Not a "theme song" per se. Should not be on the list, no matter how much mileage NBC has gotten out of it.
Little House on the Prairie, though it went from a discoesque original theme to something more ... settler ... was good in both versions.
My mother sent me a presidential preference quiz. It obviously has an error rate of 12 percent, since it says I have a 12 percent affinity for Barack Obama. Umm ... no. Anyway, this is what the quiz said of me when I was done:
Your Issue Profile: 12% Obama, 88% McCain
The results are in, and John McCain is definitely your choice.
You're probably not surprised. It's possible you've had your eye on McCain for years.
Popular or not, you will likely stick by McCain. For you, it's a matter of principle.
McCain the underdog? Methinks this quiz is a bit out of date.
Regardless, I like the idea that it identifies me as a man of princple. So there's that.
Here's the quiz. Take it, return and report results.
A few things you might want to know about John McCain's running mate:
More -- a lot more -- at palinfacts.com.
Update: Also here. (Keep refreshing the page.)
This year's incoming college freshman class was born in 1990. They missed the 1980s, Reagan, the Cold War, Miami Vice and parachute pants entirely! The Beloit College mindset list "is... not deliberately designed to make readers feel really old," but how could it not? Among the bits that are likely to throw you into a week-long funk:
You may remember him from such hits as Christmas Ape and Christmas Ape Goes to Summer Camp, but how well do you remember Troy McClure's other projects? Can you tell which of the following titles come from the filmography of Springfield's favorite screen icon and which are the real-life dregs of IMDb?
Mrs. Zaius and I guessed correctly 10 out of 15 times.
I defy any living person to take this challenge just once...
The study of geography, of course, is the basis for a sound understanding of history. Nevertheless, I curse Jonah Goldberg for alerting me to this from the Corner, thus ruining my evening and several evenings to come.
I'm a techie down to the marrow, so I have a lot of toys/tools that I use at home and on the road. I joke about my "Bat utility belt" laden with various communication and entertainment devices. But there are five gadgets I treasure above the others. Five things that give me the shakes when they're on the blink or otherwise unavailable.
1. iPod - So much more than just an expensive Walkman, my iPod makes travel tolerable, and along with its corresponding iTunes software has completely transformed the way I listen to music.
2. TiVo - As much as my iPod changed the way I listen to music, the same can be said about the transformation in my television consumption based on the arrival of my first TiVo about four years ago. I have plenty of complaints about TiVo's failure to advance during that time, but it still beats pretty much all of the competitors with which I've interacted.
3. MacBook - I've always hated Windows, but until I got my first Mac (a last-generation Titanium PowerBook loaded with OS X 10.2) I wasn't a Mac fan, either (big thanks to Monkey Brad and Father-in-Law Ron.) Now I can't live without it. My company-issued laptop is a perfectly functional IBM/Lenovo unit, but it was worth it to me to spend my own money on a first-generation MacBook and a copy of Parallels Desktop. I almost never even boot my company-owned machine.
4. Line 6 Variax guitar - I play guitar at church, and the different songs often call for very different guitars. Sometimes, it's even ideal to use an acoustic guitar during the verse and an electric during the chorus. My Variax, along with the complimentary Pod XT Live lets me do just that. While an expert might be able to tell the sonic difference from the "real thing" in a side-by-side comparison, when I'm "in the mix" with a full band playing music in church it is very much "close enough" and the convenience of switching on-the-fly far outweighs the modest sonic inferiority.
5. CPAP - I've always felt tired, but I never realized HOW constantly exhausted I was until I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea and received a CPAP machine about 18 months ago. The first time I went on a business trip WITHOUT my CPAP I appreciated it even more.
Oh, Mitch Berg, you have sucked me in once again:
[I moved it all to page two because it was so long - keep reading]
1. Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.
"Brazil" and "Star Wars" definitely. Possibly "Beetlejuice." I'm pretty sure I've watched "A Bug's Life" at least 10 times with my kids, and I still enjoy it.
2. Name a movie that youve seen multiple times in the theater.
Several! The first three I listed above I saw at least five times in the theater. I also saw "Some Kind Of Wonderful" about 5-6 times in the theater. Not proud of that...
What else? "Blade Runner", all of the "Lord of the Rings" and "Indiana Jones" movies. Oh, "Pulp Fiction" about 5 times. The list goes on and on. Before I had kids, I would routinely see movies several times in the theater.
3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie.
Nowdays? Johnny Depp, Ewan MacGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Cate Blanchett. But I'm more influenced by directors. I will watch anything made by Steven Soderbergh, Wes Anderson, or Paul Thomas Anderson.
4. Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie.
Tim Matheson, Emilio Estevez, Martin Lawrence, Wanda Sykes. Al Gore.
5. Name a movie that you can and do quote from.
Mitch said, "Casablanca, This Is Spinal Tap, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian all jump to mind." All of those, definitely. And also "Sideways," "Weird Science," "The Princess Bride," and "Almost Famous."
6. Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs
I don't care for movie musicals. The closest would be Pink Floyd's "The Wall."
7. Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with
Definitely "The Wall" and also "Stop Making Sense."
8. Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.
I always recommend "Brazil" and "Chinatown."
9. Name a movie that you own.
At last count I have around 300 movies on DVD. I tend to buy movies rather than renting. Back in my VHS days my prized possessions were "Athens, GA Inside/Out" and "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead." I have both on DVD now, although someone borrowed my copy of R&GaD and never gave it back.
10. Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.
Mitch mentioned Dwight Yoakam, and I definitely agree there. For an ex-model, I think Uma Thurman can act well, and I admire her willingness to show her ugly feet in extreme close-up.
11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?
I know I saw "The Untouchables" at the Scottsdale Drive-In. I'm not sure if I've seen anything else.
12. Ever made out in a movie?
13. Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just havent yet gotten around to it.
I am ashamed never to have watched "Animal House."
14. Ever walked out of a movie?
Only once: I walked out less than two hours into "Reds." Awful, awful, awful.
15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.
I don't think I've cried at a movie since I was a child. I really don't cry, ever. Drives my wife BANANAS.
Yes, please. With salt and butter and a big Diet Coke (not Diet Pepsi) and either Hot Tamales or Jordan Almonds. Remember when Harkins Theatres sold Jordan Almonds? Those were the days.
17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?
Less and less. Kids and work make it difficult. Maybe 3-4 times per year at the most.
18. Whats the last movie you saw in the theater?
"Casino Royale." That was loads of fun.
19. Whats your favorite/preferred genre of movie?
Anarchist porn. Too specific? It's probably easier to say what I don't like: Mainstream comedy, action, and romance. If it's quirky in some way, I'll probably like it.
20. Whats the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
"Robin Hood" (the Disney cartoon) at the Elks Theater in Prescott, AZ.
21. What movie do you wish you had never seen?
"Beaches" (saw it with a girlfriend) is a very unpleasant memory. There's a reason it's the stereotypical chick-flick. And I was profoundly disappointed with "Intolerable Cruelty" - because everyone involved should have known better.
22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?
I like a lot of weird movies. "Pi" and "Bliss" and "Liquid Sky" all fall into the "weird and enjoyable" category for me.
23. What is the scariest movie youve seen?
The one that had the longest spooky half-life was Kubrick's "The Shining." Most recently, I watched "The Ring" alone in a hotel room. That was an interesting night.
Oh, and "Arachnophobia" scared the crap out of me. I hate spiders! The friend that went with me spent the whole movie laughing at me curled up in my chair.
24. What is the funniest movie youve seen?
Hard to say. At the time, I probably laughed harder and longer in the original "Hot Shots" than any other movie.
Well, H.L. has called me out. My last quiz wasn't "nearly snobby enough." Fine, then. It's still all rock and roll, but I'll throw some snobby at you:
1. Best ZTT and/or Trevor Horn-produced album.
2. Best album by a band with a former Bauhaus member.
3. Best all-covers album by a single band.
4. Best album by a group local to the town you were born/raised.
5. Best album from the Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven family.
6. Best album featuring Robert Fripp where Fripp was not a part of the band.
7. Best album featuring former member(s) of King Crimson.
8. Best Smiths 12" Single.
9. Best cover version of a Smiths song.
10. Best album featuring Johnny Marr OTHER than a Smiths album.
Monkey RobbL's answers:
1. Propaganda - A Secret Wish [runner up: (Who's Afraid Of) The Art Of Noise]
2. Tones On Tail - "Pop"
3. Trip Shakespeare - Volt [runner up: Siouxsie and the Banshees - Through The Looking Glass]
4. Gin Blossoms - New Miserable Experience
5. Camper Van Beethoven - Key Lime Pie [runner up: Monks of Doom - Meridian]
6. David Sylvian - Gone To Earth
7. Bruford - Feels Good To Me
8. Panic (b/w "Vicar In A Tutu" and "The Draize Train")
9. The Dream Academy - "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" [runners-up: Bobby Bare, Jr. - "What Difference Does It Make" and Mikael Erentxun - "Esta Luz Nunca Se Apagara (There Is A Light That Never Goes Out)"]
10. Kirsty MacColl - Kite