Jesse Thorn guests on an episode in which we decide which celebs will narrate our autobiographies, call out the elements of pop culture we think have jumped the shark and discover which member of the team is secretly into pool porn.
With Oliver Wang, Wynter Mitchell, and Margaret Wappler and Jesse Thorn. Show notes
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Ara and her mom Julia enjoy spending quality mother-daughter bonding time together while canning all sorts of foods, from apple sauce to jams and chutneys. Ara has brought the case against her mother that their health protocols are not up to snuff, insisting they should follow USDA safety manuals, books, and internet advice to make sure their canned goods are 100% safe. Julia says Ara's detailed demands are driving her nuts, and they should continue to rely on the tried-and-true methods that have always done them well.
This culinary clash falls outside the realm of Judge John Hodgman's area of expertise, and the good judge defers to the encyclopedic knowledge of Food Network personality Alton Brown! You probably know Alton from his show Good Eats, and he also serves as the host of Iron Chef America.
Will Ara's meticulous methods rule the day, or does mother truly know best? In this food fight pitting mother against daughter, only Judge John Hodgman can settle the score!
Lindsay and John are a married couple locked in a bridal brouhaha, having been invited to a pair of weddings that fall on the same day. John wants to go to his childhood friend's wedding by himself, leaving Lindsay free to attend her cousin's ceremony. But Lindsay believes they need to pick one and show up together.
Will the Judge find in favor of family or friendship? And will these lovebirds stick together, or fly solo? Find out the answers to all this and more on an all-new Judge John Hodgman.
Bobby and Katie are dating and like many young couples are at odds over towels. But unlike most domesticated disputes of the household variety, these towels serve a higher, almost divine purpose. To their fans, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a place amongst the heavens - the most memorable play in Steelers history is called the Immaculate Reception! Just as the many religions of the world have their own iconography, so too does Steeler Nation in the form of the “Terrible Towel.”
Bobby has become a Steelers fan within the past year and a half he’s been dating Katie. Bobby purchased a towel (the proceeds go towards an autism charity) and feels that once it’s yours and the money has gone on the charity, you are free to do what you want with it. He also asserts that his love for the Pittsburgh Steelers is no less than those ordained from birth.
Katie, being born into the Steeler family, has the utmost respect and pride for the Towel. She offers that the towel is more than a foam finger or a pom-pom, and that the towel and the history of the franchise are one in the same. Its disrespect in any way is an affront to the team and the charity it supports.
So, should the towel be treated as a weaving of fabrics meant to absorb liquids or as a sacred object of one of football’s most historic franchises? Only one man has the secular fortitude to decide on the next Judge John Hodgman!
Blair and her sister Lisa both travel frequently for business and pleasure (occasionally together). Blair always brings a carry-on instead of checking a bag, since her trips are usually of a shorter duration, perhaps two to three days. She is 5'1" and sometimes needs assistance getting her bag into the overhead bin. A helpful person usually offers their services; if not, Blair is not opposed to asking for help from a fellow passenger.
Lisa feels that if a person does not have the ability to handle their own carry-on bag and get into the compartment without assistance, they have the option of, and should choose to, check their baggage.
So, who is free to carry on and who won't help you move along? Only one man can decide, but be careful!- contents in the overhead bin may have shifted during the flight- on the next Judge John Hodgman!
Pop Quiz: The super-pocalypse is imminent --the zombies have already crawled out of their graves and infiltrated the capitol. Volcanic earthquakes have devoured the coastal cities in flames and you realize you’re no longer safe in your home. Where do you go?
Carrie and her husband Phillip are at odds like billionaires and the 99%. The dispute of whether or not to Occupy Wal-Mart is at such a fever-pitch the four horseman are breaking a sweat. Phillip has a military background and believes that the most logical plan is to take control of a nearby Wal-Mart which is fully stocked with food, ammunition and has cold storage. It’s also easily defensible.
Carrie, on the other hand, feels that a more holistic approach to fleeing the locust swarm is the answer. She posits that Wal-Mart on Black Friday is already like the rapture and that the best medicine is to stay away. With abundant farmland and plenty of Natural Resources nearby, a return to nature will provide a safe haven.
Should they batten down the hatches and roll back the prices or live off the valley in the shadow of death? Only one brave man (who’s actually written a book about just this sort of thing) can decide! Judge-ment-Day John Hodgman
Chris and Emily bring a case against their friend, Pat. Pat has asked to stay at one of their small apartments while visiting their area. He says he's willing to sleep on the couch. They say that he has a good-paying job, they have a small apartment, and he shouldn't have put them in the awkward position of turning him down.
Is it appropriate to ask to crash on the couch when you could reasonably afford a hotel?
Jesse and Jessica are used to squaring off against one another when they play online word games on their smartphones. In this episode of Judge John Hodgman their rivalry spills into the courtroom as they litigate their literary license. Please use JUSTICE in a sentence!
A few months ago, Jessica made a last ditch effort to play her turn and plugged in a few letters. Surprisingly, the game accepted and points were awarded.
Jesse felt that without full knowledge of the word's spelling or its meaning, simply plugging in letters at random is "spamming" and therefore cheating.
Jessica ascertains that any word accepted by the game and not ill-gotten through outside help is perfectly legal and that "letter crunching" is just a way to play in the brave new world of on-line gaming.
Who's playing fair game, who's making it up and where CAN I play this Q? Only one man can decide, Justice of the Game-Piece, Judge John Hodgman.
Julienne and Emily are neighbors, co-workers and romantically involved. They both have a live/work spaces set in urban surroundings that needed a little touch of flora.
Julienne wants to add the Mexican Daisy which she prefers because of its scent and simple beauty. Emily, not fond of the daisy or its odor at all, has refused to come over to Julienne's if the daisy is planted.
Will Julienne need to create a daisy-free habitat? Will Emily have to wake up and smell the flowers? It's the war of the roses that only one man can decide!
John Hodgman's new book of fake trivia and world knowledge, THAT IS ALL, is now available in bookstores (that are still around) and online retailers. To find out when he may be visiting a city near you, see Areas of My Expertise.
Since you are a wonderful, loyal and intellectually curious audience, many listeners wrote in promoting a variety of interesting theories. The first, and likely the most commonly held, suggests that the "word" slowly seeped into our lexicon whilst we absorbed countless indistinguishable impressions of legendary Dracula performer Bela Lugosi. Nathaniel Reha promoted this theory, lifting a quote from the Straight Dope boards: “Actually, thinking about it a sec, I’m hearing a hundred-odd bad impersonations of Bela Lugosi in my head, doing the “I vant to suck your blood!” line. Blood, in the bad accent, becomes ‘bluh’ (with a shortened, almost silent, d or t sound at the end of the word), which just becomes the one readily identifiable word when you think of someone’s bad Hungarian/Transylvanian vampire-speak.” Though listener John McGlothlin notes “[I]f your letter-writer-inner was convinced that ‘bluh’ did not originate in strict canon, that would rule out it stemming directly from Lugosi’s accent in the 1930’s Dracula film.”
Which leads to our second theory. Several listeners suggested that the phrase first appeared in a 1952 Bela Lugosi film called "My Son the Vampire". Jamie McCormick wrote: “The earliest occurrence I can find of a Dracula character making the sound is from 'My Son, The Vampire', a 1953 musical satire starring Lugosi in essence mocking the franchise he himself created. Nosferatu, in company with the other early silent Dracula films, makes no reference to the sound, nor does Lugosi make the sound in his early and serious-minded Dracula films. Note especially the last line of the film's title track – “He wants Bluuuuuuuuuuud!”
Jamie also provided links to the film for those who want to verify this theory. You can find the full film on You Tube or on Netflix; but Jamie also astutely notes that only the Netflix version has the song "My Son, the Vampire" rolling over the credits. Why?
I did some further research. Actually, that title song provides a rather interesting clue. As listener John McGlothlin noted, “[A]round . . . 1964, Allan Sherman put out a comedy song titled “My Son, the Vampire” which opens with “blood!” being screamed in a strange way that sounds rather ‘bluh’ like.” This Allan Sherman tune is the title song of the movie in some (but not all) versions of the film. According to IMDB , the film's original title was “Vampire Over London”, (this is the version available on You Tube), but it was apparently retitled "My Son, the Vampire" for its 1963 American re-release (six years after Bela Lugosi's death) to cash in on the success of Allan Sherman's album, "My Son, the Folksinger". Indeed, there is an American trailer for the film that prominently features Mr. Sherman:
I also discovered that Rhino released an EP of Sherman’s work in 2005 that includes “My Son, The Vampire”. So for 99 cents you can nab the song from itunes and consider the audio evidence yourself. (Although, truthfully, you hear him utter the critical word during the few seconds of the song's free preview).
A third theory, promoted by multiple listeners, claims that the sound was first uttered by comedian Gabe Dell. Kevin Harris first advanced this theory without any video or audio evidence; but listener Cayman Unterborn did all of the heavy lifting for him by providing an extensive defense of Dell as the source of the original parody. First, he provided this explanation from Svenghoolie (who he identifies as a venerable Chicago Horror Icon): “. . . Bela, as Dracula, never said ‘Bleh!’ It was indeed an imitator – back in the days of the old Steve Allen TV show; one of his stock players, Gabriel Dell (who had, at one time, been a ‘Dead End Kid’ in movies – and may have even worked with Bela in a cut-rate Monogram movie) was playing Dracula – and did the ‘bleh!’ thing (or, do you spell it ‘blah!’) From there on, it was history. So many Drac and/or Bela impersonators have done that now that most people assume that Bela actually did that . . .” Unterborn also found a CD that appears to feature a 1963 recording of Gabriel Dell doing his Dracula character (not on the Steve Allen show) and he also points out that you can download audio of the relevant Steve Allen Show episodes where Dell performs as Dracula, but it's going to cost. In terms of putting these performances on the correct spot in our "bleh!" timeline, I discovered that, according to IMDB, Dell performed this character on Steve Allen's Plymouth Show in 1957 (episode 2.35) and again in 1959 (episode 5.3). So that puts it after the original release of "Vampire Over London", but before the re-release of that film with the Allan Sherman title song.
Finally, two listeners suggested a connection to comedian Lenny Bruce. John McGlothin (who, along with Adam Pracht, tried to maximize his chances of winning by providing support for three of these theories) notes that “[I]n the 1960s, Lenny Bruce did a parody of Dracula as a Yiddish man, and the Eastern European accent may have made blood sound a bit like “bluh.” But McGlothin did not provide links to any video or audio which verifies Bruce’s performance or its place in this timeline. This theory does, however, have the backing of reference librarian Emily Menchal who states that there is support for the Lenny Bruce theory in David Skal’s book The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror.
That concludes my dutiful summary of the wonderful answers you uncovered.
So who's right? Only one man can judge the true winner of this contest! And we await his verdict.