Judge John Hodgman Episode 219: Axed and Answered

Monte Belmonte

Jen brings the case against her boyfriend Adrian. Adrian has his heart set on buying and displaying an "artisanal axe" in their home. He says it would be a beautiful and practical item to own. Jen says it breaks her rule against having weapons in the home, and opens them up to other beautiful but dangerous items -- what's next, decorative swords??

Who's right? Who's wrong? Only one man can decide.

Danny Lewin named this week's case via the Judge John Hodgman Facebook page. Thanks, Danny!

If you want to be part of a nicer place on the internet, like Judge John Hodgman on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @Hodgman, Bailiff Jesse @JesseThorn.

You can also follow our fantastic Summer Bailiff Monte Belmonte and listen to him on WRSI 93.9 The River!



Submitted by Adrian

Exhibit A: "This is my dream axe."

Exhibit B: A photo of their living space, including the mantel where the axe would likely be placed.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Rick Moranis and Booker T. Jones

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Rick Moranis
Booker T. Jones
Carolyn Kellogg

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Rick Moranis on Growing Up Jewish, Canadian Comedy, and Quitting Show Business

Rick Moranis's big glasses and nerdy goofball humor appeared in some of the biggest Hollywood comedies of the 80s and 90s. In just a few years, he starred in Ghostbusters, Spaceballs, and Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Those movies filled theaters, sold tons of merchandise, and made Moranis a star. And then, at the peak of this fame, Moranis decided to retire. His wife passed away in 1991, and Moranis decided to become a full-time stay-at-home dad.

Nearly a decade after pretty much signing out of show business, Moranis returned in 2005 with a Grammy-winning album of original music, "Agoraphobic Cowboy." And now Moranis has released his second album, My Mother's Brisket and Other Love Songs, a collection of comedic music inspired by Moranis's Jewish upbringing in Toronto.

Moranis talks to Jesse about his first job selling hockey programs in the nosebleed section, SCTV and the ironic outcome of his famous nose-thumbing at Canadian content laws, and his decision to be a stay-at-home father.

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Related interviews:
Mel Brooks
Catherine O'Hara
Joe Flaherty

Carolyn Kellogg Recommends "The Unknowns" and "Hothouse"

Carolyn Kellogg, book critic and staff writer for the LA Times, joins us to recommend two new books to put on the top of your summer reading list.

First, she recommends The Unknowns by Gabriel Roth. This debut novel set in 2002 follows a Silicon Valley millionaire whose brain betrays him whenever he tries to do the right thing. Parties, ecstasy, sex -- and that's just the first few pages.

Kellogg's next pick is Boris Kachka's Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America's Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Kachka, a veteran New York Magazine journalist, delves into the juicy history of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, the publishing house of Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, Philip Roth, and Jonathan Franzen. The book focuses on the personal lives of founder Roger Straus and editor Robert Giroux and provides an insider's look at the secret, ferocious world of publishing.

Read more of Carolyn's writing on books, authors, and publishing at the LA Times' blog Jacket Copy.

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Comedy: Doug Benson on Taken 2 and a Missed Opportunity

What if the folks behind the second "Taken" movie had just given a little more thought to tying the series together? Comedian Doug Benson considers the Taken series, with Liam Neeson, in this clip from his new album, Gateway Doug.

Doug Benson hosts a weekly podcast, Doug Loves Movies, and hosts the ongoing live series, Doug Benson's Movie Interruptions.

Booker T. Jones: Master Of Memphis Soul

Whether he was touring with Otis Redding, backing countless soul stars in the Stax studio, or composing his own instrumental hits like "Green Onions," Booker T. Jones, along with his band The MG's, defined the sound of southern sixties' soul.

Born in Memphis in 1944, Jones was gigging around town before he had entered high school. By college, he was a seasoned session musician and multi-instrumentalist with a hit single to his name. And by 1968, when Stax Records came under new ownership, he had played on over 600 Stax records, including "Try A Little Tenderness" and "These Arms Of Mine".

Perhaps even more impressively, Jones hasn't stopped. He continues to team up with some of the biggest names in jazz, soul, rock, and classical music and, at nearly 70 years old, he has no plans of letting up anytime soon.

Jones tells us stories about the first time Otis Redding sat down next to him at a piano, producing "Ain't No Sunshine" with the (as-yet-unknown) singer-songwriter Bill Withers, and Jones' plans to continue making all kinds of music.

Jones' new album, Sound The Alarm, is out now.

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Related interview:
Bill Withers

The Outshot: "Paranoia" by Chance the Rapper

The Outshot: Paranoia by Chance The Rapper

Jesse recommends "Paranoia," a track off Chance The Rapper's free mixtape Acid Rap. It's a song about an entire part of our country that feels ignored. It's Chance's appeal for human connection.

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Judge John Hodgman Episode 55: Battle Royale


Rachel and Leeman are American citizens who moved to Canada for school and work. Having lived in Toronto for some time now, the couple have planted their roots in Canadian soil and plan to make the city their home for the foreseeable future. They've already become permanent Canadian residents, and enjoy the primary benefits of being Canadian (universal health care, foremost). Rachel believes they should go all the way and become citizens so that they may vote, run for office, and fully commit to life in the Great White North. Leeman takes issue with the Canadian Oath of Citizenship, however, particularly the idea of pledging allegiance to the British monarchy.

Should they stand on guard for thee united as a family, or is Leeman correct in rebelling against the crown? In this royal rumble, only one man can decide!


Canadian House of Pizza & Garbage Jingle


On this week's episode of Judge John Hodgman, The Pizza Pauper, our litigants discussed the very unusual restaurant chain The Canadian House of Pizza & Garbage.

Listener Eric Schumiller started thinking about some cassettes he'd seen on in a shoebox on his neighbors curb. He ran out, grabbed them, and ran to his cassette deck. He found just what he thought he'd remembered seeing - the circa 1980s jingle for CHoPaG.

He generously digitized it for us, and you can hear it above or download it here.

Lyrics below:

Canadian House of Pizza and Garbage,
A place of convenience and value for all.
Maison Canadienne de la Pizza et les Ordures,
Un lieu de commodité et de valeur pour tous le monde.

[spoken]: At Canadian House of Pizza and Garbage, turn garbage into gold! So don't refuse our refuse, or deny our detritus. Only $5 for a pop and a slice, or maybe much, MUCH more!

Canadian House of Pizza and Garbage,
Ontario's stripmall paradise.
Abandon your pride, and come inside,
You might find a motorcycle under your slice...under your slice!

Buddy Cole Gets His Own Bar


I really enjoyed getting the chance to talk with Scott Thompson about his amazing character Buddy Cole earlier this week. I agree that you could hardly have a sharper, smarter character than Buddy.

"Maybe that's why God's such a homophobe and Satan's so sexy..."

Samantha Bee: Daily Show Correspondent and Author of I Know I Am But What Are You: Interview on The Sound of Young America

Samantha Bee

Samantha Bee is the Daily Show's longest-tenured correspondent, having joined the program in 2003. She's also the author of a new memoir, I Know I Am But What Are You?

Bee grew up in an unusual tripartite family, splitting time between a matronly grandmother, a conservative, re-married father and a bohemian, Wiccan mother. She met her husband, the Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones, while working in a Sailor Moon-themed stage show at the Canadian National Exposition.

She talked with us from New York City.

The Trailer Park Boys: Interview on the Sound of Young America

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The Trailer Park Boys

Ricky, Julian and Bubbles are the stars of the Canadian documentary-style sitcom The Trailer Park Boys. For years, the show has tracked their charming inability to make anything of themselves. The second film based on the series, Countdown to Liquor Day, marks the end of the show. It was just released in Canada. Viewers in the US can see the show on Direct TV's The 101 Network Thursday nights.

The Trailer Park Boys creator Mike Clattenburg

Mike Clattenburg

Mike Clattenburg is the creator of the Canadian sitcom The Trailer Park Boys. It follows two friends, the scheming Julian (left) and the bumbling Ricky (right), as they plan petty crimes, grow dope, drink, and seek counsel from their wise (but possibly developmentally disabled) neighbor Bubbles (center). It's a surprisingly sweet and spectacularly profane look at life in the maritime provinces of Canada.

Interview: Charles Spearin of The Happiness Project


Charles Spearin is a member of Do Make Say Think and Broken Social Scene, whose first solo project was released in February under the moniker The Happiness Project. To construct the album, Spearin interviewed his Toronto neighbors on the subject of happiness, then built melodies around fragments of their speech. Spearin recently spoke with Chris Bowman about community, life, and the likelihood that your neighbors are as amazing as his.

You could say this project was inspired by silence. Can you explain how The Happiness Project began?

Well there are a few different origins to the project that kind of came together nicely into one neat package. My father’s a Buddhist, and I was raised with Buddhism in my house and in my early twenties I started doing meditation retreats. In the practice of meditation there’s a lot of emphasis on reflection and awareness of your breath and that kind of thing. And in coming back home you really start to notice a lot of things you wouldn’t normally notice. And one of the things, in this case, would be the melody of speech. When people talk they’re so concerned with getting the meaning across that they don’t pay attention to the sound of their voice, unless they’re a radio announcer or something.

The main theme of the record is happiness, but you’re also making a statement about community. What made you turn to your neighbors?

Well, my neighbors are right there. That was one of the convenient things about the neighborhood. You know, I have two little kids now, and when you have kids the neighborhood becomes very significant. You live in it, it’s your home, it’s their world and I started to appreciate just how fortunate we are to have this community. It’s very mixed, it’s very healthy, and everybody looks out for each other. It’s downtown but it’s still safe. In a way I wanted to do a musical sketch of the community. So combining the thoughts of doing music on speech with the idea of doing a musical sketch of the neighborhood was putting two and two together and bringing my neighbors over to talk about happiness and life and listen to their voice for musical cadence.

Were you aware of how inspiring they were ahead of time?

Well, no. They’re just ordinary people. I think when you bring people into your home and give them a comfortable place and give them a chance to open up and be even a little bit philosophical a lot of people have a lot of wise things to say. It’s amazing, you never know what your neighbors are going to say, you never know who they are unless you encourage this kind of communication. Which really kind of amazed me. At first I was just using them to some degree as guinea pigs to just get the melody of their voice. But they kept saying the most wonderful things. So I shifted the focus a little bit.

It’s a shame you had to use such small snippets. I’m sure the rest of the interviews were peppered with other wise words.

Yeah, there were some great moments. Mrs. Morris had a great talk about her grandmother living to be 126 years old in Jamaica. She’s got lots of great stories.

At a recent live performance you mentioned (jokingly) that you had decided to become an expert on happiness and that you were reading Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. Do you think at some base level there is a universal formula for happiness?

Certainly in Buddhism there’s a universal formula for suffering. That’s, basically, thinking about yourself. Become self absorbed and you’ll become miserable. So the natural opposite of that is to think about others and you’ll be happy. Or let go of your idea of self then you’re more likely to find happiness. That’s part of The Happiness Project as well. If you’re listening to the world, you’re less likely to be self-absorbed.

You admitted to being unfair to one of your subjects, Marissa, by asking this question. So I’m going to play the role of you and ask, what quality do you think is the most important quality in life?

That’s a hard question. That’s a bastard question actually. I can’t believe she got through it. (After a long deliberating pause) I can’t believe she answered it so quickly! It doesn’t take much to feel lucky, you know? Maybe that’s the important quality I’m looking for. Appreciation. Being able to appreciate the life that you have without struggling to find something else.

The Happiness Project is available now on Arts & Crafts. You can hear the beautiful music Spearin created here.

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