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Your Rules

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When I need some clarity of vision in my life, I have a friend I like to turn to. His name is Mr. Andrew WK, and he is a great, great man.

Don't be stupid, be a schmahtee

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Chicago, go to Hodgman's party.

(And get there early, last year they had to turn people away.)

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "I Love Movies"

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Some time ago on JJGO!, Jordan explained the distinction between "movie guys" and other enthusiastic filmgoers with a representative quote: "Films? I don't know about films. I like movies. And I love 'em!" The line perfectly encapsulates the mindset of the movie guy; none has ever or will ever render it more keenly or concisely. With his podcast I Love Movies [iTunes link], Doug Benson hybridizes two personas: he's first and foremost a comedian, but he's also a movie guy.

As the Hard 'N Phirm-performed opening theme states, Doug hates candy wrappers, screaming babies, sticky seats with fifty ads and popcorn kernels in his teeth, but there's still not one that he won't see. Why? Because Doug loves movies. A pleasing coincidence; your Podthinker, who has many times before made his film geek credentials clear and present, also loves movies. Unfortunately, I Love Movies' subject matter is not primarily to do with the legitimate cinema — this ain't no Battleship Pretension, in other words. As the guest list including the likes of Jimmy Pardo [MP3], Paul F. Tompkins [MP3], Patton Oswalt [MP3] and David Cross [MP3] should reveal, it's pretty much a pure comedy show. (The fact that it's recorded live at the UCB Theatre before the legendary Comedy Death-Ray is also something of a tip-off.)

While your Podthinker stumbled into the world of podcasting with the film geek thing already going, he has also, as would anyone who spends more than a few minutes in this neck of woods, accrued a considerable amount of comedy geekery purely by osmosis, and so finds plenty of recognizable personalities in I Love Movies' lineup of usual suspects. For anyone firmly entrenched in the realm of podcast comedy, the program is like a perpetual family reunion. Hey, it's Graham Ellwood! [MP3] Oh boy, Matt Besser! [MP3] Why, it's Jimmy Dore and Todd Glass of Comedy and Everything Else! [MP3]

And since the subject has been raised, there's no point in shying away from a confrontation with, after comedy and film, I Love Movies' third — or maybe first, but at least second — prong: weed. This is no surprise for anyone even casually acquainted with Benson's material or his documentary Super High Me. This is relevant to Dore and Glass' appearance on the show because it utterly decimates it. (At least one hopes they were high out of their minds at the time; that would be the charitable explanation. Then again, perhaps an altered consciousness prevented Dore from launching into a rant about how the mainstream media silences Noam Chomsky's voice, as he did on a recent episode of the aforementioned Battleship; for that I'm grateful.)

So the show's priorities are, roughly, as follows: (1) comedy, (2) Mary Jane and (3) movies. Brittle, whiny film weenies such as your Podthinker will have to get over the fact that The Dark Knight represents the pinnacle of filmic art on this podcast, but once that's gotten past, there are a number of kernels of rich, sweet hilarity to be found, and not the kind of kernels you've got to be past baked to enjoy, either. Listening to David Cross' riffs while bench pressing, for instance was almost certainly a bad idea. And even that Dore/Glass debacle contains a geniunely gut-busting joke from Benson about, yes, a talking dog. And even if one dislikes the comedy, the killer bud and the flicks, there's still the rousing rounds of "Leonard Maltin" Benson plays with his guests: someone whips out a Leonard Maltin Movie Guide, picks and entry and rattles off the names of cast members from bottom billing to top. Whoever guesses the title first wins. A stoner's game, to be sure, but one everybody can enjoy.

Vital stats:
Format: live movie-flavored comedy
Running since: unclear
Duration: ~3om
Frequency: was monthly, now twice monthly
Archive available on iTunes: most

[Podthinker Colin Marshall loves movies, but mostly Ozu movies. Get him at colinjmarshall at gmail, suggest podcasts for Podthoughts here or submit your own podcast for the next by-Max-Funsters column here.]

Podcast: The College Years: The Dangerous Streets

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The College Years is a look deep into the vaults of The Sound of Young America. Take a journey with us every week as we post a new program or two from our salad days.

Holy guacamole it's been a while since the likes of The College Years has rolled around. This program, hosted by Jordan and Jesse this week, has Joshua Piven (author of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook and As Luck Would Have It) and referee Jingy of Kaiju Big Battel. Also in this episode: Jim Real's Would You Rather?, Hang It Up/Keep It Up, and the historic first mention of The New Sincerity. This one's a keeper, folks.

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Podcast: JJGo Ep 77: Striker to the Line

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Jesse and Jordan are joined by comedian and author Nick Adams, try out some old timey baseball lingo, and name a clan.

ACTION ITEMS:
* Ideas for new projects for the show.
* Ask an old man what he's carrying in his pockets. Then call and tell us what he says. Be gentle to the old man.

CONTINUING ACTION ITEMS:

* Review the show on iTunes.
* Do you have a dispute Judge John Hodgman can solve on a future broadcast? Email it to us! Put Judge John in the subject line.
* Have personal questions for Jesse and Jordan? Call 206-984-4FUN and tell us what they are!
* Would you like to play Would You Rather with us on a future episode? Email us or give us a call at 206-984-4FUN.

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Our theme music: "Love You" by The Free Design, courtesy of The Free Design and Light in the Attic Records

Calexico's Joey Burns on The Sound of Young America

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Show: 
Bullseye

Joey Burns is the lead singer of Calexico, a Tucson, Arizona based band that blends a Southwestern, USA sound with a traditional Mexican feel, all the while retaining their indie credibility. They have collaborated many times with Sam Beam of Iron and Wine and were featured on the soundtrack for the Bob Dylan bio-pic, "I'm Not There." Their newest release is "Carried to Dust."

Download Joey's live songs individually in high-quality format (direct MP3 links):
Man Made Lake
Red Blooms
Two Silver Trees (special unaired bonus)

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If you enjoyed this show, try these:
Steve Albini
The Hold Steady
Nellie McKay

Inside NPR in New York City

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A look inside NPR's New York bureau, with your tour guide Mike Pesca.

Mike Pesca for President of Radio, that's what I say. Or at least for having his own sports show.

MAKE IT HAPPEN, PUBLIC RADIO.

Podcast: JJGo Ep 76: Chick Positive Attitude

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Jesse and Jordan are joined by the author Nick "The King of All Books" Hornby, name two different horses, and discuss how Jordan needs to be kinder.

ACTION ITEMS:
* Ideas for new projects for the show.
* Jesse and Jordan now want to re-name things that need better names. Any suggestions are welcome except ones that Jesse and Jordan came up with the name for already.

CONTINUING ACTION ITEMS:

* Review the show on iTunes.
* Do you have a dispute Judge John Hodgman can solve on a future broadcast? Email it to us! Put Judge John in the subject line.
* Have personal questions for Jesse and Jordan? Call 206-984-4FUN and tell us what they are!
* Would you like to play Would You Rather with us on a future episode? Email us or give us a call at 206-984-4FUN.

Call 206-984-4FUN to share your thoughts on these ACTION ITEMS.

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Our theme music: "Love You" by The Free Design, courtesy of The Free Design and Light in the Attic Records

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "The New York Review of Books Podcast"

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Under the monocle in this week's Podthoughts is not a long-established podcast but a brand new venture. There are perils to early examination — the format or aesthetic of the program might not yet be fully formed, for instance — but none can deny the excitement of approaching a show still working through its experimental stages. The interest is heightened when, like the podcast in question today, it's a product of a journalistic institution as august as the New York Review of Books.

Since its June debut, The New York Review of Books Podcast [iTunes link] has provided a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Things started out strong with two early conversational 'casts on exquisitely fascinating subjects: Edmund White on the life of filmmaker Marguerite Duras [MP3] (nicely connected with his recent NYRB piece, "In Love with Duras") and the delightfully-voiced Times Literary Supplement classics editor Mary Beard on Roman jokes [MP3]. Ultra-solid stuff, especially for a program then only two or three episodes old, which makes it all the more a shame that the conversations are so short. Only twenty minutes spent on the life and work of Duras? Really? Really, now?

Length issues aside, there's been a reasonable serving of tasty meat on the NYRB Podcast's bones these last four months. True, it's difficult to make a conversation with Oliver Sacks uninteresting, so it's no surprise that his appearance [MP3] discussing his newly-paperbacked Musicophilia is a lot of fun. And as far as Edward Mendelson talking about [MP3] and reading from [MP3] the poetry of Frank O'Hara, I'm buyin' what he's sellin'. If he could report that this podcast delivers material of this caliber each and every week, your Podthinker would be a happy Podthinker indeed.

Alas, he cannot. There is a problem with the NYRB Podcast; unsurprisingly, it's the same problem the New York Review of Books has in print, writ small and much more aurally. Evidently, the editorial board of the magazine will not rest until a certain number of otherwise pleasing articles are dragged into the unseemly muck of political territory. Your podthinker has, in other venues, repeatedly reached the conclusion that when it comes to the place of politics in art, it doesn't have one. The Review believes differently; in fact, it appears convinced that, even when grand political speculation is inappropriate — which, roughly 99.9% of the time, it is — well, by gum, they're going to hold the upper lips stiff and engage in it anyway.

This ethos engenders such groan-inducing installments of the podcast as Darryl Pickney on the loathsome proposition of someone voting for John McCain [MP3], something about Iraq [MP3] and Michael Chabon phoning in from the Democratic national convention (yes, really) [MP3]. This tendency gives a sour aftertaste to what's otherwise a lively, fascinating cultural podcast. (Side note: the political episodes tend to be hosted by one Hugh Eakin, who sounds eerily like a slightly more weenieish Ira Glass. Separation at birth cannot be ruled out.)

Nevertheless, this Podthinker's official verdict is, thus far, a cautiously favorable one. Assuming it can beat down its own political tics, the NYRB Podcast — and, let's face it, the NYRB — could really make something more of itself. The conversation about reading between Pico Iyer, Daniel Mendelsohn and the inimitable James Wood [MP3], for instance, is one of the best hours of podcasting in years. Stay tuned.

Vital stats:
Format: cultural/political variety
Running since: June 2008
Duration: 10m-1h15m
Frequency: erratic
Archive available on iTunes: all

[Podthinker Colin Marshall keeps his art in this jar, and his politics in this one. Get him at colinjmarshall at gmail, suggest podcasts for Podthoughts here or submit your own podcast for the next by-Max-Funsters column here.]

Time Out for Earnestness

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I actively avoid politics in public. I am a deeply politically engaged person, but I think The Sound of Young America and Jordan, Jesse Go! aren't the venue for my opinions. I occasionally hear from someone who thinks Jordan and I don't care about political or social issues, because we don't engage them on the show, or that I don't care because I rarely book explicitly political artists on The Sound. That's not the case, but I think there are others who cover that territory better than I, and I would rather offer a big tent than alienate folks who may not share my political values.

So, fair warning: I am about to be personal, political and earnest. You are welcome to ignore me if you so choose, and please understand that these views don't have to do with the editorial perspective of this blog, or my shows. Just me, personally. I also understand that reasonable people can disagree.

That said...

This is a presidential election year, and there has rightly been a lot of focus on presidential politics. Here in California, however, there is an issue which for me, personally, supersedes the presidential election: Proposition 8.

California Proposition 8 would amend the state's constitution to eliminate same-sex couples' recently affirmed constitutional right to marry.

One of the most important roles of our state and federal constitutions is to protect the rights of minorities. In a democracy, the majority rules, but on rare occasion, that majority can trample the rights and freedoms of a group which is smaller in number. One of the few things that can stand in the way of the trampling are the rights guaranteed to all in the central documents that guide our civil society. Maybe the majority didn't care for Brown v. Board of Education in the mid 1950s, but the constitution of our country guaranteed certain inalienable rights, and they didn't just guarantee them if the majority happened to agree.

When the state supreme court of California decided earlier this year that same sex couples had the same right to marriage as any other couple, it was a watershed decision that illustrated why we grant certain rights to all people, not just majorities. It was a decision that said, "these people, whether they are a majority or not, deserve equality." Proposition 8 takes the remarkable step of re-writing our state constitution to explicitly eliminate the rights of a minority. From my perspective, this is unconscionable.

This isn't just an abstract issue. Two of the couples who've been closest to me, family-wise, in my life, are same-sex. My aunt Gail and her partner Deb have been together for more than 20 years. They share an really amazing, vibrant love, and I'm so proud to have Deb as an Aunt. My own parents were married only briefly, and I've always seen Gail and Deb as a model of long-term romantic love. They respect and honor each other, love each other deeply, and are deeply committed to each other.

My mother's best friend, Eric, has been with his partner, Steve for twenty years. In fact, about two months ago, they got married on their 20th anniversary, with my mother serving as a maid of honor. Like my aunts, Eric and Steve are as committed as a couple could be. Steve's health has been poor for many years, and Eric has stood by him steadfastly. They appreciate each others greatest qualities and accept each others greatest failings. Their bond is as strong as any, and again, it is a model to me of how love can really work.

I got married recently, and I almost cried a few times thinking of my family members who could now share this right with me, because the supreme court of my state had affirmed it. Now, though, I'm terrified that it will be taken away.

If your church does not perform or honor same-sex marriages, I disagree, but I also respect its right to make that choice. I can understand that some people are members of faiths which considered homosexuality a sin. I disagree, but I believe it is their right to make that choice. The religious component of a marriage, whatever it may be for a given couple, should not be determined or proscribed by the state.

But let's be clear: we're not talking about what goes on in churches. We're talking about the law. Same sex couples deserve the same rights under the law as you or I. The right to marry in their own church, or in a courthouse or by some other non-religious officiant. The right to live, legally, as a married couple, with all the benefits and responsibilities that go with that.

All same-sex couples in are asking for is equality. They don't want to make anyone else gay. They don't want to do anything to my straight marriage. They just want to live as equals under the law.

When two of my wife's closest friends, Anna and Abby, were married a year ago in Massachusetts, one of the maids of honor made a toast to all the same-sex couples who couldn't share in the right Anna and Abby were enjoying by virtue of geography. I was thinking of my own state then, and that toast was the first thing I thought of when the court asserted that same-sex marriage was legal in my state. I was so happy for my family and friends who could marry, and I was so excited about the future. Now, all of that is gravely threatened.

If you agree, and live in California, I urge you to vote. Vote now, if you can, vote on election day, just vote. Your vote matters, and the race is very close.

Whether or not you live in California, you can help. Take action with No on 8, or with the Human Rights Campaign. Give, even a little bit, to help spread the word about what this measure is really about: using our state constitution, for the first time, to enshrine a denial of human rights.

Okay, I hope you'll forgive this digression into painful earnestness. It's my last word on the election. More comedy videos and stuff soon, I promise.

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