Judge John Hodgman

New Hodgman Print & T-Shirt!

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Are you a Deranged Millionaire?

Have a hard-to-shop-for Deranged Millionaire on your Christmas list this year?

Whatever the case may be stuff some silk-lined stockings with the Hodgman print or t-shirt this holiday season from the MaxFun Store.

T-shirt $20 (pre-order)
Poster $14

Judge John Hodgman Episode 43: Triple Word Scorn

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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.

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Judge John Hodgman Episode 40: The Abuse of Flower Power

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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!

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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.

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On the History and Origin of Dracula's Use of the Bizarre Expletive "Bleh!"

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On this week’s episode of Judge John Hodgman, His Honor set a task for devoted listeners. As your Halloween homework, he asked you to research the origin of Dracula’s use of the term “Bleh!”

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.

Judge John Hodgman Episode 39: Slash-Friction

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While Bryan was compiling a comprehensive list of the top 100 horror movies the issue arose of what shared characteristics all the movies in the genre must have.

Bryan says that the content is king and what matters most is what takes place with the characters themselves. His friend Jay, whose help was enlisted for the compilation, maintains that it’s the director’s intent for audience reaction that holds sway.

Who will be tricked and who gets treated on this thriller of a case for Judge John Hodgman!

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John Hodgman's new book of fake trivia and world knowledge, THAT IS ALL, can now be pre-ordered for its release on 11/1/11. To find out when he may be visiting a city near you, see Areas of My Expertise.

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Judge John Hodgman Episode 37: Panta-lunacy

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Judge John Hodgman Episode 37: Panta-lunacy

In today’s case, the court will decide the statute of limitations and proper etiquette of the lost-and-found box. Seth and Stephen are both friends and colleagues currently performing together in a play on Broadway. During their rehearsal time, Seth noticed a pair of linen trousers retired to the lost-and-found box for four months. When he finally decides the fate of the pants should be covering Seth’s legs and not the wasting away in the lost-and-found, Stephen raised a claim the pants were in fact his and should be returned to the rightful owner.
Is there a set precedence for the lost-and-found box? Finders Keepers? Losers Weepers? We’ll find out!

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John Hodgman's new book of fake trivia and world knowledge, THAT IS ALL, can now be pre-ordered for its release on 11/1/11. To find out when he may be visiting a city near you, see Areas of My Expertise.

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Mark Your Calendar for John Hodgman's The End is Nigh Tour

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John Hodgman's eagerly-awaited Final Book of Complete World Knowledge, "That is All", will be released on 11/1/11. According to the author's website, it will contain a "dark, apocalyptic vision" and "the very last information you need to know before the coming global superpocalypse called RAGNAROK, plus some information on WINE and SPORTS."

So if you are interested in surviving RAGNAROK with wit, intelligence and style, I would strongly suggest that you pre-order this intriguing compendium.

And if, after reading this treatise, you have further questions, you may direct them to the author at the times and venues set forth below during what Mr. Hodgman is ominously referring to as "THE END IS NIGH TOUR".

Mark your calendars now. And don't say we didn't warn you.

  • Brooklyn: Tuesday, November 1st at The Bell House
  • Chicago, IL: Wednesday, November 2nd at Second City
  • St. Louis, MO: Tuesday, November 3rd at Mad Art Gallery, Subterranean Books
  • Los Angeles, CA: Friday, November 4th at Largo, Book Soup
  • Portland, OR: Sunday, November 6th at Bagdad Theater, Powell's
  • Seattle, WA: Monday November 7th at Town Hall, Elliott Bay
  • Austin, TX: Tuesday, November 8th at Book People
  • Durham, NC: Wednesday, November 9th at Durham Armory, Regulator Bookshop
  • Asheville, NC: Friday, November 11th at Venue TK, Malaprop's
  • New York, NY: Monday, November 14th at Barnes & Noble, Union Square
  • Boston, MA: Tuesday, November 15th at Coolidge Theater, Brookline Booksmith
(Please note: Due to the sensitive nature of these events, tickets are not yet available for sale at many venues. I will post links to appropriate ticket vendors as soon as they have adequately prepared themselves).

George Plimpton's Video Falconry

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Someone just posted this commercial they found for George Plimpton's Video Falconry over in the forum. Absolutely amazing. If someone could find and port the game, though... that would be truly spectacular. As alluded to by Judge John Hodgman in episode 22 of the show.

EDIT!

New Grounds have found and ported George Plimpton's Video Falconry! And there is much rejoicing!

Judge John Hodgman Ep. 10: The Cone-Tractual Dispute

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The manufacture of a food truck awning leads to a Portland-infused nightmare. Judge John Hodgman decides what the best compensation is for 40 hours of sewing, and teaches us what's really important: friendship.

To view the evidence in this case, click here.

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Judge John Hodgman Episode 9: The Parenthetical Petition

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Judge John Hodgman decides the case of a couple who disagree: do parentheses have a place in fiction?

Recorded live at The Talent Show in Brooklyn with guest bailiff Elna Baker.

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