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Parental Interlude

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There's nothing more boring than having to watch home movies of children who (probably) aren't yours. I understand! But here's a tiny glimpse of life at our home, as my wife and I give our son his first bath:

(via Cynical-C)

Book: Ilf and Petrov's American Road Trip

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If time machines weren't so expensive, I'd rent one out for an hour just to send Jesse back in time to interview the authors of this book.

In 1935, Pravda sent two Soviet writers to New York with enough money to rent a Ford and enough time—two months—to drive to California and back. In words and pictures, they report back to the Motherland:

The sidewalks are empty. Instead, the road is full of automobiles. At first, we found this circumstance striking. Then we quickly got used to it. Even in Washington, there are almost no pedestrians. It's impossible to say whether they're sitting at home or hidden away in their automobiles. ... There are exactly as many pedestrians as absolutely necessary to contradict the unbidden but persistent impression that the entire population of the city has perished. You see the same pavement, the same automobiles, and the same billboards.

So much for "small town charm." At the same time, though, the two are stunned by the unvarnished kindness of the locals:

About a week later ... we had our first automotive incident. In America it's called an accident. We almost landed in a ditch. ... The very first car to go by (it was a truck) stopped and out came a man with a rope in his hands. Without saying a word, he tied one end of the rope to the truck and the other end to our car and within a minute he had pulled it out onto the road. All the drivers who passed us while this event was taking place stopped and asked whether we needed help. ... Our rescuer wished us a pleasant journey and left. He didn't even want to hear out our thanks.

Ilf and Petrov collected tons of little vignettes like this. Cowboys and other bygones share the book with still-fresh observations about us Americans (we're naïve, not so curious, but pretty nice).

When, in a fit of Christmas shopping desperation, you remember this book and buy it for your stepbrother, and from then on he thinks you're The Cool Step-, you don't have to thank me.

Please welcome You Look Nice Today.

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I'm headed to San Francisco to get married, and I'll be away from the computer for the next two weeks.

HOWEVER...

I have found a crew of yukaluks to fill my shoes.

Adam Lisagor, Merlin Mann and Scott Simpson are the hosts of You Look Nice Today, my favorite new podcast. They are also accomplished bloggers in their own rights, particularly Merlin, whose 43 Folders has become the industry standard for productivity sites. I am only too happy to turn the keys of the MaxFunFerrari over to them for the next two weeks.

ENJOY!

In the Air with Ricky Gervais and Louis CK

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Five amazing minutes on a tiny jet, starring the flight's only passengers: Ricky Gervais and Louis CK. The flight into New York is smooth and relaxed. But as the ride from New York grows more and more turbulent, Louis conducts a master class in coping with stress.

Watch in iTunes or download the NSFW (language) video here.

There should be some kind of UNESCO Comic Heritage Preservation Mandate forbidding these two to fly together in the first place.

Bad News

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OK, this is awkward. The transoceanic cable linking You Look Nice Today HQ with the Lower 48 has been on the fritz lately, and we misheard our original assignment. We thought we had been tapped for a hot fortnight of Spanish dessert blogging over at MaximumFlan.es. Please forgive us if posting is light as we get up to speed on this new project.

NOTE: we're still going to try to find a way to work in the recipe for Mrs. Mann's Famous Southern Smoked Flan-B-Que.

We kid, of course. In fact the only thing the three of us have in common, aside from poor eyesight and a tendency to over-share, is our love of all things Maximum Fun. Our 9 all-time favorites, from the majestic archive:

Merlin's Picks:

  1. Street Comedy Pioneer Mal Sharpe
  2. 70s TV Legend Marty Krofft
  3. Best Buddies John Hodgman and Jonathan Coulton

Adam's Faves:

  1. American Nerd Author Benjamin Nugent
  2. Comedian and Actor Patton Oswalt
  3. Comedy Team Tim & Eric

Scott Loves:

  1. RadioLab's Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich
  2. Jordan, Jesse GO!: The Race for the White House
  3. Kasper Hauser: Blaine Cardoza

(Photo: Neven Mrgan, "Upskirt")

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "The Bat Segundo Show"

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First, three overarching questions: why isn't this show huge? Why isn't it in the pantheon of podcasts to which everyone insists you must listen? Why isn't its creator a big star?

The Bat Segundo Show [iTunes link] is an interview program where "young roving correspondent" Ed Champion, creator of the litblog whose current iteration is called Reluctant Habits, roams New York with a portable recording studio and converses with authors of all stripes. He talks to them in diners, in lobbies, in apartments, wherever. Champion's pure hustling ability impresses me; he not only keeps tabs on where authors will turn up in the city, but also goes to them, lugging recording gear all the way, which on the subway must be no mean logistical feat.

A focus on literary fiction means that the show's guests tend to be writers of it. Some favorites include Cynthia Ozick (who seems like such a delightful old lady) [MP3], Nam Le (whose sheer coolness convinced me to read his work) [MP3], William T. Vollman (the intensity of whose writing and life is matched only by the laid-backness of his demeanor) [MP3, first appearance] [MP3, second appearance], and John Updike (who probably needs no parenthetical detail) [MP3].

And since it's the Max Funsters I serve, I'd be remiss in not highlighting a few of the Maximum Fun-y ("Maximum Funny"?) Segundo guests as well: you've got your Amy Sedaris [MP3], your Neal Pollack [MP3], your Austin Grossman [MP3], your George Saunders [MP3], your David Hajdu [MP3], and your Grandmaster Flash [MP3].

Plus, there are the wild cards: eccentric filmmaker David Lynch [MP3], world's best documentarian Errol Morris [MP3], semi-relevant but entertainingly outspoken Senator Mike Gravel [MP3], and crackpots like Naomi Klein [MP3] and Nicholson Baker (who became one so gradually, I didn't even notice) [MP3].

But enough with the linking; how's the podcast itself? When introducing The Bat Segundo Show to friends, I always find myself using the construction "As soon as you get used to x, you'll like it", where x is almost any element of the program. The host, for instance. Champion asks detailed, probing, observation-laden questions — that, unlike those of certain very-long-time public radio interviewers who shall remain nameless, indicate he's actually read the book in question — and sometimes takes his guests to the mat when he disagrees — which indicates that he, unlike some very-long-time public radio interviewers who shall remain nameless, knows that conversation is a two-player game. But he does this sincere questioning with oddly insincere-sounding inflection, the kind you usually only use while nudging your interlocutor in the ribs; he's a cross between Bookworm's Michael Silverblatt and a deep-cable game show host.

For another instance, well, you're probably wondering why it's called The Bat Segundo Show. Until recently, almost every interview was introduced by the titular character, a washed-up, tequila-swilling radio DJ played by none other than Champion himself, doing a voice simultaneously sleazy, bombastic, and somewhat effete. He'd introduce the "young roving correspondent" only after first being introduced himself (in what one iTunes reviewer called a "Spanish shouting theme tune that almost defies the listener to keep listening despite its glass-shards-in-the-eardrums assault") and giving a short monologue about his recent activities, such as being arrested for masturbating in a video store or desperately trying to arrange a tryst with his ex-wife. Yeah.

So that's hugely divisive, which might explain the character's recent "disappearance". I've heard that Champion has pitched the show not-quite-successfully to radio stations, and while I'm not totally against Bat Segundo himself — hell, I just friended his Facebook page the other day — I wouldn't be surprised if he's what's been holding the program back. In his absence, other goofy (though, admittedly, well-produced) introductions have occupied his stead, but they still feel a tad out of place. This might be a case where less is more; some people get by just fine with "Welcome to the broadcast."

But my point is this: Ed Champion should be on public radio. He finds stellar guests, and his interviewing skills are on the top tier of the podcasting world. For me The Bat Segundo Show comes second only to The Sound when I've got the interview podcast jones. And since the show has been in a spot of trouble lately, it needs your fandom. That is, if it's the sort of thing of which you're a fan.

I will now do the program the ultimate honor of making it a drinking game:

  • When Bat Segundo references a sexual misadventure, drink
  • When Champion starts an interview with the word "okay", drink
  • When a guest breaks down and admits they "don't understand the question", drink
  • When Champion bases a question on an assumption about the author's intention and the author flatly denies having that intention, drink
  • When you hear a cement truck, a cop car, gunfire, or a Top 40 song in the background, drink
  • When Champion bases an entire question on a single written word, drink
  • When a waiter comes to the table and diverts the guest from the interview, drink
  • When a guest shows surprise at the fact that Champion has done, like, research, drink

Vital stats:
Format: cultural interviews
Running since: October 2004
Duration: 30m to 1h15m
Frequency: slightly more than weekly, but may go monthly

[Freelance Podthinker Colin Marshall accepts all his 419 scams at colinjmarshall at gmail. Discuss Podthoughts here, or submit your podcast for the next by-Max-Funsters column here.]

Podcast: JJGo Ep 69: The Might Mississip'

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Jesse, Jordan and guest Adam Lisagor from You Look Nice Today talk with Max Livingstone of The Big River Show about floating down the Mississippi, about Jesse's panic over his upcoming nuptials, and much much more.

ACTION ITEMS:
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Podcast: TSOYA Classic: Dog Days

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Demetri Martin
Show: 
Bullseye

We continue our journey into The Sound of Young America's vast audio archive with this program from The Sound of Young America Classics.

H. Jon Benjamin has an unmistakable voice. You might recognize him as the voice of Ben on the animated show Dr. Katz, or coach John McGuirk from Home Movies. He's also written for shows such as Late Night with Conan O'Brien and Human Giant among others. What you don't know, is what he does with the proceeds. Demetri Martin is a stand up comedian and and also a former writer for Late Night. Dimitri, a Yale graduate, explains why he decided to drop out of NYU law school and how he found the path to comedy.

Merlin Mann is the world champion NPR complainer.

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Seriously: there is no one who is better at complaining about public radio than Merlin Mann.

I mean seriously.

The man drops a bomb like this about twice a week.

Edit: it seems that Merlin has taken this post as some sort of challenge, because he's spewing out bon mots at the rate of a million a minute right now.

Here's a few:

"Prairie Home Companion: a gentle amble through 2 hrs of reminders why most Americans despise poems, theater, and harmonizing in fifths."

"Next 'On the Media:' Bob kicks his slippers at the web for 10 minutes. Because he's definitely not terrified of it. Edited. By. Brook."

"Later, on All Things Considered, Robert Siegel talks with a water fountain about how bear markets impact the silent objects we drink from."

"Up next on Morning Edition, our new 112-part series from producer, Jay Allison: 'Old Black Ladies Cry While Someone Fingerpicks a Guitar.'"

Big Boi f. MJB - Something's Gotta Give

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Big Boi's wearing Outkast logos that say "Big Boi" instead? That's serious.

Solid record, too.

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