TRANSCRIPT Judge John Hodgman Ep. 464: Garbagemas Eve

Time to clear the docket: grocery delivery, the shower curtain, garbage day, video games, and apologies to pets.

Podcast: Judge John Hodgman

Episode number: 464

Transcript

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[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse thorn

Welcome to the Judge John Hodgman podcast. I'm Bailiff Jesse Thorn. We're in chambers this week, clearing the docket. And with me is real judge... and fake doctor, Judge John Hodgman.

john hodgman

That's true; I'm not allowed to practice fake medicine anymore. They figured out I was fake. [Jesse laughs.] Uh, here's—hey! By the way, here's to all of the real doctors out there. And nurses. And health professionals.

jesse

Yeah.

john

Who are—and all the helpers who are helping, and all the grocery workers and delivery people, and everyone who's gotta be out there in the world, rather than sealed hermetically in your fake Internet court chambers like me. I'm here in Brooklyn, New York, as always, where... [chuckles] today, Jesse, it started with sun, turned into—I don't wanna use the word "apocalyptic." Getting tossed around a lot these days. [Jesse laughs quietly, John stifles laughter.] But very heavy rain and lightning storm. Then beautiful sunshine again. Then another heavy rain and lightning storm. And now it is one of the most gorgeous spring days I've ever peered out at through the curtains during a global lockdown. And you're at home, right?

jesse

Yeah, I'm—I'm in Chez Thorn.

john

Yeah.

jesse

As it is known to no one.

john

[Chuckling] Mm-hm.

jesse

I spent my morning—it's been actually—we have not yet had spring here in Los Angeles.

john

Right.

jesse

But it just seems like it's coming over the mountain right now.

john

Yeah.

jesse

So we have a very beautiful day today. It'll get hot later this week, but we have a beautiful day today, and I took my dog for a—my dog Sissy for a very long walk, uh, so that I wouldn't have a panic attack! [Both laugh.]

john

That's the thing about—you—there was a lot of snow up in Maine, I heard from my neighbors, in April. Here it's been cold and gloomy. And today was just such—like, it—it's unnerving to watch the ecosystem go through the mood swings that I am going through. Do you know? And— [Both laugh.] And yet it feels comforting! Like, even the atmosphere is going like "Yeah, I don't know what to do either these days. Sometime—you know? Like, ugh. It's like, I'm lucky I woke up today." Said the atmosphere. [Stifles laughter.] "Have some lightning."

jesse

My friend Dan Kennedy—writer and, uh, Moth podcaster Dan Kennedy—

john

Yeah!

jesse

—said something the other day that I have taken to heart. Which is an old AA saying, aphorism—or at least 12-step aphorism.

john

Right.

jesse

Which is "Move a muscle, change a feeling." So when I'm having bad feelings, which I have had many times—

john

Sure.

jesse

—I am trying to turn those into physical actions, so I can release some of that juice. And it is—it helps a lot! It helps a lot.

john

And just one muscle will do it, huh? Just move one muscle?

jesse

[Laughs.] Yeah. I mean basically, yeah! Just—the idea—it's about isolation, right?

john

Mm-hm.

jesse

You—any physical trainer will tell this. So I'm working on my latissimus dorsi right now.

john

[Laughs.] Alright. Yeah. What's that muscle in—in real human talk, Jesse? Remember, I'm a fake doctor.

jesse

The lat.

john

The lat.

jesse

That's the lat.

john

Yeah. I'm working on an involuntary muscle. I'm working on 100% 24/7 deployment of the twitch above my right eye. That's the one I'm working on.

jesse

[Laughing] Yeah! I been twitching, too!

john

Yeah. Lot of—lot of twitches.

jesse

Is this what being a Twitch streamer is?

john

That's exactly what it is. No, we're podcasters!

jesse

Yeah.

john

And this podcast is called Judge John Hodgman. And the good news is, first of all, my jeans still fit.

jesse

[Inaudible.]

john

Second of all, I managed to get a couple of diet Cokes. From the world. Third of all, we're here back with you to dispense some Internet justice, clearing the docket! Why don't we get started?

jesse

Here's something from Emilia about grocery delivery services.

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Emilia: Hi, Judge! So, my mom has started ordering groceries to be delivered to her house due to COVID-19. She is older and has pre-existing conditions, so it's understandable that she would be scared to go grocery shopping. On the other hand, my Aunt Diane and I have been talking, and it just sort of feels elitist to have your groceries delivered to you. So in that case, should people who don't have pre-existing conditions be switching to grocery delivery? Or should they be going to the grocery store and possibly risk spreading their germs around? Let me know. Thank you, and wishing you all the best. Emilia.

john

This is the horns of a dilemma! We're stuck on the horns of the dilemma. And boy, I hope someone Purell'ed those horns. 'Cause I... [Jesse laughs.] Jesse, what is your foraging system these days? We'll set—let's set aside the ethics of this question. And instead just—I'm just curious. What's your foraging situation these days?

jesse

I'm doing all the grocery shopping for my family.

john

Wow.

jesse

Because I'm the biggest! And the best able to weather the roving gangs. [Both laugh.] You know, the public health advice has been, if possible, to shop every two weeks. I think with my family of five, I—that's—that is not very manageable, especially for fresh food.

john

Right.

jesse

So what I have been doing is going to the Pasadena farmers market once a week.

john

Yep.

jesse

That's my Saturday morning activity. The line takes a while, because it is very spaced, and they are having limited interactions within the market itself. But, you know, I cover up and bring my hand sanitizer, and take care of business, fill a couple big bags with fresh food.

john

Yeah.

jesse

And then I have been trying to do the regular grocery store as infrequently as possible. So I would say, um, somewhere between—somewhere around every other week, I'm going to the regular grocery store. And then to the extent that I have needed—if we plan badly and run out of milk or some other child necessity that is like a basic—

john

Right.

jesse

—there is a convenience store near my house, and there is also a—what they call a mother's nutrition center.

john

Oh!

jesse

Which is—sells groceries that are convenient for people who have food vouchers, but also sells groceries to the public. And they have a really good kind of, um, "they bring you the food" system.

john

Mm-hm.

jesse

For—just for basics. You know?

john

Yeah.

jesse

Just breakfast cereal, milk, bread, things like that. So I've gone there once or twice to fill in in an emergency. But, um, yeah. The general answer is once a week at the farmers market, every other week at the grocery store, and then I've probably been to a convenience store or the mother's nutrition center three times in total.

john

Yeah. I mean, I think the general message from the court of Judge John Hodgman is... do the best you can. We're—we're all— [Both laugh.] You know. We're all under an extreme amount of... of mental load, if we're lucky enough to be under zero viral load so far. But of course what you pointed out, Jesse, in jest, is like—you know, your being the largest one so you can hold your own against the roving, you know, Mad Max gangs—there is a feeling, right, of... of apocalypse, you know? To empty streets? In—whether it's in Los Angeles or in New York, and stay-at-home orders, it's very hard to take in without making reference to... the only frame of reference with have to this sort of thing, which is popular culture! And the problem with popular culture is—and specifically zombie popular culture—it has trained us all to think of ourselves as the heroes of the story, A. B, as the uninfected. Who C, must avoid the infected—the zombies—at all costs! And that means barricading yourself in your house, or dressing up like a samurai, or doing what it takes. Get—bugging out and getting outta town, or doing what it takes to protect yourself and your family. But the situation here isn't that we are all protecting ourselves from roving gangs of zombies. We are the gang of zombies! We don't know how this thing works! And lots and lots of people have it who don't show any symptoms, who may never show any symptoms. And they have to watch, and we have to watch, where we rove. That's what this is all about. That's what all the staying at home is all about. We got—we can't be roving around like packs of zombies, biting people! Our job is to not zombie-bite other people. Not just to not get bit. Now, I think what you're doing sounds very super responsible, Jesse. And you're covering up, and you're minimizing contact, 'cause that's how this thing spreads. I think what your mom, Emilia, is doing, is absolutely appropriate. You know, I shout-out to all of the volunteers and services, and workers! Who are bringing groceries to people who are immunocompromised, or have pre-existing conditions, or are simply elderly, who simply can't—you know, can't afford, literally, to go out shopping. That's absolutely right.

john

And as far as you as an individual, as an asymptomatic person who doesn't necessarily have a pre-existing condition, you know, I—I think that the job here is to lessen the load. On hospitals, on essential workers, on the people you're living with. That is to say, make sure you shower and do your dishes, and go easy on confusing dad jokes. Don't ask for the Kung Pao chicken all the time, like— [Jesse laughs quietly.] —go—take it—reduce the mental load. As the French comic artist Emma puts it. And I think that going out to the farmers market or to the grocery store, and following the guidelines that they are asking of you—because it's in their interest to keep everyone healthy, especially their workers—that's helping in the way you're asking to be helped. Right? Because that allows the delivery people, who are essential workers, to make more and frequent deliveries to the people who cannot afford to go out into this world. But when you go out, go out responsibly. Cover up. Right? Wash your hands, put on your face mask, because you don't know what you might be coughing or spreading around. Keep your distance—really keep your distance. Go easy on the jogging. I mean, I know everyone needs to have fitness in the world, but you know... like, walking through Prospect Park, there—the—it's not just joggers, it's also bikers and inline skaters and walkers, and everybody kinda forgets, when you're in a beautiful spring park, that, you know, you can't really be going over and huffing and puffing near people. You have to get out of the way. And then do the best you can to get what you want! And the other thing I would just advise... under these circumstances specifically only... we all know that the best way you're getting a ripe tomato is to lick all of them, and then take—take the one that tastes the best. [Jesse laughs, John stifles laughter.] That's probably not a good idea.

jesse

I've had people in my family who have been homebound.

john

Yeah.

jesse

And needed groceries to be delivered to them in order to be responsible, both—you know. Both because in some cases they couldn't leave the house physically, but also because if they were ill they did not want to leave the house, for obvious reasons, because they wanted to be responsible to others as well. And I think probably as a general guideline, if you are able to leave the house to get your groceries, and able to do it as infrequently as possible, you know—

john

Yeah.

jesse

—every other week or so, please do that.

john

Yeah!

jesse

If you're not, don't feel bad about it!

john

Exactly! Do your very best, bearing in mind to lessen the load on others. Don't lick the tomatoes. And Emilia, I think you're doing great.

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[Three gavel bangs.]

john

And by the way, Jesse Thorn, speaking of delivery of food... you're doing a wonderful fundraiser for Meals on Wheels on social media, correct?

jesse

Yeah! We've had—we've raised some thousands of dollars for Meals on Wheels.

john

And I know that our friend Ayelet Waldman has organized a thing in the East Bay called East Bay FeedER, which has a GoFundMe, and what they're doing is buying—they are buying meals from local restaurants in the East Bay, and then delivering it themselves. They're volunteers, right? So they're putting themselves in this. And then delivering it to healthcare workers in the East Bay. And here in New York, there is an organization called Invisible Hands—that is started by Liam, one of my wife's former students—that is taking all of these college students who came back to New York with nothing to do, and training them in stringent, you know, sanitary practices. And they're just going shopping for elderly people and other immunocompromised people. There might be something like this, Emilia, in your neighborhood, that you might want to spread the word about! At the very least. There's a lot of good work being done during these hard times.

jesse

Here's something from Courtney!

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Courtney: Hi, Judge Hodgman. My partner likes to keep the shower curtain closed at all times. It looks nicer, and reduces mildew build-up.

john

Now, finally we're getting to something important!

jesse

I know.

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Courtney: I sometimes get irrationally anxious that someone may be hiding behind the curtain. When I inevitably pull back the curtain to alleviate my anxieties, I first need to overcome a surge of adrenaline akin to the expectation of a jump-scare in a horror film. My partner doesn't take this anxiety seriously, and continues to close the curtain even when it is dry. Should I work through this admittedly irrational fear? Or can people just fear what they fear?

john

Hmm!

jesse

I don't know that those are the two choices, John.

john

[Laughs.] Well, how would you identify the choices?

jesse

Well, I think there are a couple of issues at play here. One is I think it seems clear to me that Courtney's fear really interferes with her life, and is much more important than the desire for... to not look at the tub.

john

You think it's more important than mildew build-up? [Jesse laughs.] Wait a minute, are you saying that—[laughs].

jesse

I guess—do they have their exhaust fan directly over the shower, and so the idea is that it—it... sucks the steam out better if it's not having to suck from the whole bathroom? Is that the theory?

john

I don't even know what the words you're saying are—I think what the— [Jesse sighs.] Courtney's partner likes to keep the shower curtain closed so that it dries, rather than having it—

jesse

Oh, sure!

john

—after being wet, left—you know, if you take a shower and then push the curtain aside, and it just lays against itself in a pleated fashion, I can tell you from personal experience, mildew builds up there. And it's gross! But I hear what you're saying. Like, you know, in a devoted romantic partnership—even in a devoted non-romantic roommateship—someone's feelings are more important than mildew.

jesse

I would say that that said, it—Courtney should work through this irrational anxiety. And not out of obligation to her partner, but because it will improve her life. And this is exactly the kind of thing that... cognitive behavioral therapy is good at. [Laughs.] I mean, it's good at a lot of different things! You know? But, uh, focused cognitive behavioral therapy, or even its—simply its principles—could really transform this part of her life. And from what she's describing, a real surge of adrenaline every time she's using the bathroom, it would for me be worth it to do that work. But I don't think that she needs to do that for her partner, but rather because it would improve her life.

john

Sure! I mean, this is a challenging time to seek therapy. There's a lot of teletherapy options out there. But equally so, Courtney, you can rest assured, now more than any other time, there's probably not an extra person in your apartment. [Laughs.] But I get it! Courtney, I wanna—I wanna say this: I feel you on this. Bathrooms are scary. And I'm a man who is about to turn... [unhappy sounds]... 49 years old. And I would say it is only within the past two years that I've gotten over the conviction that if I am not out of the bathroom by the time the flushing stops, I will be possessed by the devil. [Jesse laughs.] Conviction. Absolute conviction. After the flushing, I would go back in, wash my hands. But I'm like—this goes back to all—you know, the—my whole preteen Exorcist terror period—terror of being possessed by the devil. And I still feel it! Like, it's really hard to get over these things! I absolutely sympathize, Courtney. But I think you're gonna be okay. I think you will be glad if you work on this a little bit. And I think, Courtney's partner, you will be glad if you are supportive of Courtney's work here! I hope you are not diminishing of her feelings, even though it is—it is not likely that there is a scary person in the shower.

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[Three gavel bangs.]

john

Now, Courtney. If you will, please... honor my judgment, and please step away from the podcast. Turn it off for a second. 'Cause I have a message just from your partner about how your partner can support you. Courtney's partner... as soon as this is all over, and we kinda go back to normal and we can be together again, email me your address. We're gonna have a fun time. I'm gonna—

jesse

[Laughing] No!!!

john

No, this is gonna help! I'm gonna—[laughs]. I'll come over to your apartment. And the next time Courtney's getting ready to have a shower, I will hide in there. And I'll go "Surprise! I'll have the Kung Pao chicken!" And that'll be great! Don't you think, Jesse? That'll get her—that'll get her over it. Don't you think? [Beat.]

jesse

I don't—I don't know if that's what a therapist would recommend. [John laughs quietly.] That's why—that's why I think it might be worth seeking a professional's opinion.

john

Well, as—[laughs].

jesse

Or maybe reading a book.

john

Well, alright. It's a race. [Jesse laughs.] It's a—Courtney, it's a race! [Both laugh.] Do the best you can, given the circumstances, to do a little research into cognitive behavioral therapy... or, get ready for a surprise from your Judge John Hodgman. You never know where I might turn up!

jesse

[Stifles laughter.] Let's take a quick break. More items on the docket coming up in just a minute on the Judge John Hodgman podcast.

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[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

The Judge John Hodgman podcast is, now more than ever, supported by all of the members of MaximumFun.org. All the folks who've gone to MaximumFun.org/join, to kick our shows a few bucks every month. We're very grateful to everybody who has stuck with us through these tough times, and to everybody who started a new membership in these tough times. It has kept our lights on. We're very grateful to you. We're also supported this week by our friends at Babbel! Babbel is an app for your telephone, and other platforms, that you can use to help learn a new language in just 10 to 15 minutes a day.

john

Yeah! You know, so, Jesse, I live—as you do—in a multilingual city. And I've—have some Spanish. But I've really been meaning to build it up again for years. And I have to say, I've been working with Babbel, and it's—really makes it easy to dust off the old telarañas of the brain—the cobwebs, the telarañas, of the brains—and get back into it. And I'm having a lot of fun! So whether it's Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, they got 'em! Babbel is designed to quickly get you speaking your new language within weeks with daily 10-to-15–minute lessons. They teach real life conversations. You're not learning words and phrases out of context. You learn through interactive dialogues! You learn incredible words, like "telarañas"! Cobwebs. ...No, I had to look that one up myself. Babbel is interested in getting you out there— [Both laugh.] —talking using normal words, like "hello" and "thank you" and "I don't understand" and "please repeat." [Stifles laughter.] And their speech recognition technology helps you to improve your pronunciation and accent, as well. And Jesse, can I also add one other thing?

jesse

Yeah?

john

Babbel has some podcasts associated with it, language instruction podcasts. And in their Spanish-language suite of podcasts, they have one for more advanced students, and it's all in Spanish. But they also have one called A Zero to A Hero podcast, in which Héctor, a Spanish teacher, teaches Catriona, a Scottish woman, to speak Spanish. And I've—I never knew how much I needed to hear a woman with a Scottish accent learn to speak Spanish. It's incre—it's an incredible podcast! [Both laugh.]

jesse

[Sounding out Spanish vowels with a Scottish accent] Ah! Eh! Ee! Oh! Ooh!

john

[Laughing] Fantastic! So, right now, Babbel is offering our listeners three months free. That's three months free with a purchase of a three-month subscription with promo code "Hodgman"!

jesse

Go to Babbel.com and use the promo code "Hodgman" on your free three-month subscription.

john

That's B-A-B-B-E-L.com, promo code "Hodgman." H-O-D-G-M-A-N. Babbel! Language... for life!

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[Three gavel bangs.]

promo

Music: Fun, cheerful music. Kirk Hamilton: Video games! Jason Schreier: Video games! Maddy Myers: Video games! You like 'em? Jason: Maybe you wish you had more time for them? Kirk: Maybe you wanna know the best ones to play? Jason: Maybe you wanna know what happens to Mario when he dies? [Someone chuckles.] Maddy: In that case, you should check out Triple Click! It's a brand new podcast about video games. Jason: A podcast about video games?! But I don't have time for that!

promo

Kirk: Sure you do. Once a week, kick back as three video game experts give you everything from critical takes on the hottest new releases— Jason: —to scoops, interviews, and explanations about how video games work— Maddy: —to fascinating and sometimes weird stories about the games we love. Kirk: Triple Click is hosted by me, Kirk Hamilton. Jason: Me, Jason Schreier. Maddy: And me, Maddy Myers. Kirk: You can find Triple Click wherever you get your podcasts, and listen at MaximumFun.org. Maddy: Bye! [Music finishes.]

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[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

Welcome back to the Judge John Hodgman podcast. We're clearing the docket this week. We've got something from Jessica. She asks:

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Jessica: What day is garbage day?

john

Tuesday. Why?

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Jessica: I believe that it's the day the sanitation workers come around our neighborhood and pick up our garbage and recycling. My husband says it's the day prior, when we put out our garbage and recycling containers. His logic is that it's the day we are actively engaged in garbage pickup. My logic is that his idea doesn't make sense, because garbage day is the day the garbage is picked up, and words have meanings, and we can't just dissolve into anarchy. Thank you!

jesse

I like the idea of, uh—in what appears to be, uh, a—[laughs] heterosexual marriage, that it's the wife that is—that is ending with the flourish "Words have meanings; we can't dissolve into anarchy!" That's fun.

john

[Laughs.] Yeah. That's an, uh—that's an unusual twist.

jesse

[Laughs.] I can only assume she's jabbing the air with a pointed finger.

john

[Laughs.] Uhhh, first of all, can I just say, I'm so glad garbage is being collected. [Laughing] Thanks!

jesse

Yeah. [Relieved laugh/sigh.] Thank you, sanitation workers. God bless you.

john

Thank you sanitation workers! God or whatever bless you, exactly! I don't—you know, Jesse, for me, this is a—I have a feeling on this. But it's mostly a feeling. Because I live in a multi-unit condominium apartment building. And we have a garbage room, where we can take our garbage any day, night, dawn, gloaming, twilight, whenever we feel like it. It's a remarkable thing. And Baron, our superintendent, on the appropriate days, packs it all up and puts it out all on the street. Thank you, Baron. So for me, there—I think Tuesday is garbage day on our block. That is to say, the day it is collected. What's the—what would you call garbage day in your neighborhood? [Beat.]

jesse

[Quietly] I would call it the day that it's collected—

john

Yeah.

jesse

—because words have meanings, and we can't just dissolve into anarchy.

john

Yeah! The night before has a special name! Garbage night.

jesse

Garbage Eve?

john

Garbagemas Eve! [Jesse laughs quietly.] Celebrate it! Honor it! But—and also honor the sanitation workers. You pack that stuff up the night before, and you put it out on the street. It doesn't disappear, Jessica's husband. People come and get it for you! Honor them! Best Garbagemas ever!

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

[Stifles laughter.] Here's something from Joshua.

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Joshua: Hello, Your Honor. I want to buy a Nintendo Switch for the family, especially during this pandemic. We have a seven-year-old, a five-year-old, and a two-year-old. And while I don't want my kids playing inappropriate games, I do think it's semi-important for my older two to at least start to familiarize themselves with modern games, so they don't get left behind by their peers. My wife is firmly opposed to this idea. She thinks it's a waste of time and money. Help!

john

[Stifles laughter.] Left behi—I saw "left behind," I'm like "Left behind... in the Rapture?" That's where my mind is going.

jesse

Yeah. [Laughs.] "Oh, they're only gonna be playing—" [laughs]. What is that Nintendo game called? Bible Wars or something? [Both laugh.]

john

There was—[stifles laughter] there was—there was a Left Behind–branded video game! Based on the popular 1990s series of Rapture-themed, uh, commercial thriller novels. But I never played it.

jesse

Wow! Really? The one I was thinking of was called Bible Adventures for the Nintendo.

john

Was that for the Nintendo?

jesse

Nintendo Entertainment System, the NES.

john

Yeah, yeah. The NES. What—do you have a—now, look. You have three children, kind of in this age range.

jesse

Yeah.

john

Do you have a video game system in your home?

jesse

[Laughing] John, I have three.

john

One for each!

jesse

Here's how it happened, John.

john

Alright.

jesse

Because I don't want people to think that I'm the kind of guy that goes out and buys three video game systems.

john

It takes me by surprise that you would spend worthy tweed-and-ascot money on video games. But then, you're—I'm always surprised by people's hobbies! So please, tell me.

jesse

Well, I bought—I have had, for many years, an Xbox.

john

Right.

jesse

And then one time on Jordan, Jesse, Go!, my comedy podcast with my friend Jordan, I was complaining about how everyone was talking about playing Spider-Man, but they don't have Spider-Man on Xbox.

john

Right.

jesse

And somebody that works at Sony—

john

No.

jesse

—went into their, like, pressroom—

john

No!

jesse

—and found a PlayStation, and mailed it to me.

john

What?!

jesse

Which is the only time that something like that has really worked out, except for—well, one time the—a guy who runs social media for Can You Handlebar mustache wax—

john

Uh-huh.

jesse

—sent me a box of mustache wax. [John exhales forcefully.] It's very nice mustache wax.

john

That's incredible. Well, you don't need it right now.

jesse

I don't.

john

'Cause you're clean-shaven.

jesse

It—well, I'm—I'm getting back there.

john

Yeah.

jesse

But I don't need it yet. Uh—

john

And then?

jesse

And then—so, for some time, I had this PlayStation that I only used to play baseball and Spider-Man, because they also don't have baseball on the Xbox.

john

No.

jesse

So then, my friend Jordan Morris texted me, at the start of Safer-at-Home. And he said "Hey, I have a Nintendo Wii U. Do you want that for your kids?"

john

Right.

jesse

And I said "Uh, I don't know!" and he said "It has Zelda on it," and I was like "Yep! I do want it!" [Both laugh.] Because I wanted to play Zelda. Another game that they don't have on Xbox. [Laughs.] And so he brought me this Wii U, and the Wii U is actually—my kids don't really play on the—my oldest is eight, and they don't really play on the, uh, Xbox or PlayStation. We've got a couple of sort of puzzle games. But it's just, you know, the games that are maybe content-wise appropriate for them are not really developmentally beneficial to them?

john

Right.

jesse

I would say? They're mostly kind of, uh, hyperactive, uh, reaction-time games, you know? Jump-jump-jump-jump. Slash-slash-slash.

john

Right.

jesse

And they tend to be—even the ones that like, don't show blood or whatever, they tend to be violent in theme.

john

Right.

jesse

But for the Nintendo Wii U, which is a semi-failed game system that came out between the Wii and the Switch, the—it has like a motion controller and stuff.

john

Yeah.

jesse

And you can get like—and I got a few—sort of like, exercise games and dance games and stuff. Which, uh, sometimes is actually useful for the kids. But I'm generally, frankly—I'm more likely to side with the mom here. I don't think they need to worry about getting left behind.

john

No.

jesse

And I don't think, generally speaking, that—while I like video games and am not opposed to them—[stifling laughter] I don't think they're a priority, for brain development or whatever. Like, there are certainly video games that are good for brain development, but—

john

So—yeah.

jesse

But mostly for older kids, and... you know. I mean, I think there will be a point where you won't be able to stem the tide. That's my general parenting philosophy, is...

john

Right.

jesse

Only buckle when you have to buckle. [Laughs.] Don't advance-buckle.

john

Here's the thing, Joshua. As you know, I am a parent of two human children. They are teens. And they've had video games in their lives all their lives. Our friend Jonathan Coulton is a parent to two slightly younger children, and they have had video games in their lives available to them all their lives. And on tablets, and on consoles, etc. And our friend John Roderick, of Maximum Fun's own Friendly Fire podcast, is a parent of one child! A younger child, a daughter. And he was very concerned about this issue of bringing video games and screens in general into his daughter's life. He felt that, you know, while there is value and fun there, these are essentially dopamine-producing mechanisms. And he would make the point that there are great brains—[chuckles] that evolved in our world before there were video games. Uh, Nikola Tesla! Is one. Grace Hopper is another. Lots and lots of them! Lots and lots of people got smart without—with—

jesse

I think it's just the two that you said.

john

No—nope! [Laughs.] Many, many more!

jesse

I think it's just two.

john

Many, many more got smart and learned hand-eye coordination before video games hit the scene. And he was very struck about this, and he said to Jonathan—I remember 'cause John Roderick told me this story—he said to Jonathan, "How are you not concerned? About what screens, this relatively new technology, is... will do to your kids, and their emotional and functional development?" And Coulton said to Roderick "Well, that's—they said the same thing about television. I want my kids to grow up in the world. This is the world. We don't know what it will do. But we've never known, and I want them to be a part of this world, and technology is—is an—is an—a remarkable tool, and whether you like it or not, it's here!" And John Roderick was like "Yeah, I guess you're right." Well... guess what? Jonathan Coulton's kids have grown up happy and healthy. So far. One of 'em likes this stuff more than the other does. But they are wonderful full human beings with a lot of fun and engagement. My children have grown up having played a lot of Wii games back before the Wii U, when it was just the Wii. Including old-school Animal Crossing, which is now sweeping the nation and the planet. And yet, I would ask, now that we are Safer-at-Home all together all the time, that you—Jesse—call your friend at PlayStation... and ask them to please come and take away the PlayStation in my house. [Both laugh.] If PlayStation can giveth, may they also please taketh away? Because we live in a open-concept apartment, where the living room and the dining room and the kitchen are all the same, and basically also part of the—of all three bedrooms.

jesse

Wait, did you say the—the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen? I think what you meant to say was the gaming parlor!

john

[Laughs.] That's right. From the moment my son wakes up, until distance learning has to start, and then as soon as that's done he's back at it, it is pure... Apex Legends I think is the thing now. Talking with his friends, whatever. And it is taking over the whole apartment! And I'm not against video games. I love games. I wish I had time to play games. They are a legit form, a meaningful form, of storytelling. It's how my son engages with story. But here is what staying at home has taught me. We all need to do the best we can, we all need to be kind to each other, Apex Legends is an important way for 14-year-old boys to socialize during social distancing. But it's not as good as... walking around together? In the—in the world? Which I hope we can get back to? And open-concept living was a horrible, horrible idea. People need rooms. People need privacy. So— [Both laugh.]

jesse

Ultimately—[laughs] ultimately your beef here is with home-flipping television series.

john

Yes! And I'm glad and surprised to say that I am friends with the Property Brothers, but we need to have a talk about this! People need rooms! [Jesse laughs.] And walls! But also... my point is this, Joshua. When you bring this into your house, it's all over. This will never go away. It will stay with you for the rest of your child-rearing. So it's an important decision, and one not to take lightly. We're all doing our best, and we all do the best we can, but... at this point, you have this unusual opportunity. Right? Where the peer pressure outside your house isn't as strong as it would be as if those kids were going to school and going over and playing with each other. Playing with other kids' house. Seeing video games. Coming home saying "I want this! I want this! I want this!" While I think it's a definite parenting life-hack, and sometimes life-saving hack, to deploy a fun wholesome game that the—that a Nintendo system might provide, so that you get a little bit of a break, you also have a real advantage right now to help your kids build a lifelong love of reading, and enjoying non–video game content. 'Cause we know that as soon as everything gets normal again, that's gonna be a part of their lives. The decision is yours to make, Joshua. But I agree wholeheartedly with my bailiff and yours, Jesse Thorn. You are making this argument in bad faith. You are in no way concerned with your children's development. You want a Nintendo Switch for yourself, so you can play Animal Crossing just like everybody else. [Stifles laughter.] Admit that, and then you and your partner can have a conversation about this. But don't come to me, trying to get me to say this is gonna help a two-year-old's development and social cohesion with their peer groups or whatever. You just wanna play Animal Crossing! You wanna build an island, and rule it. Like an animal. I wouldn't if I were you, Joshua. But whatever you do, do it in good faith.

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jesse

Let's take a break! When we come back, we'll hear a case about apologies.

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jesse

Judge Hodgman, we're taking a quick break from the episode. You have been doing your Instagram Live show...

john

Yeah.

jesse

...every day! [John laughs quietly.] Every week day!

john

Week day. And I do it—Get Your Pets is my daily weekday talk show where I interview, pretty much at random, people's cats and dogs and other pets live on Instagram. Usually in the afternoon. I've talked about it before. I do it only on the week days, mostly so I remember what a weekend is? And everyone else? [Both laugh.] And it's free, and I would never charge for it. It's just some emotional support animal therapy for everybody, including and especially me. I've made a lot of new friends. I got to meet the pets of many former litigants. What's up, Big B? What's up, Professor Pre-Washed Truffles in Portland? And if you wanna join us, it would be great. I announce the time that I'm gonna be recording it every morning on my Instagram account. Which feeds to my Twitter and my Facebooks and everything else. But I'm at Instagram.com/johnhodgman. And you can go there and follow me if you want to be alerted as to whenever I go live. I'd also like to point out that we are closing in on the end of I, Podius! My podcast with Elliott Kalan about the great BBC historical Rome miniseries, I, Claudius. Episode, uh, XI—that's "eleven" to you and me—just dropped on Monday. Next up is episode XII, that's "twelve." That covers the end of the I, Claudius miniseries. Will there be a special bonus episode after that? Hmm, I wonder! Please subscribe and find out. It's free! And of course if you hate free things... you can always go to MaximumFun.org/join to help us keep the pod-lights on. Thank you for your support, if you've been able to keep it up. We really appreciate it! But, uh, it's hard times for everyone. So do your best. Jesse, what's going on with you?

jesse

Yeah! Well, as our listeners know, I not only co-host this show. I'm also the co-host of Jordan, Jesse, Go!, another comedy show from Maximum Fun. The one from the bosom of which this show leapt many years ago, Jordan, Jesse, Go! And... we have a special guest on Jordan, Jesse, Go! this week. It's our friend... John Hodgman! Yes, that's right! We recorded this episode, uh, before the troubles of the world began. So it is a "troubles of the world"–free episode that we had intended to be an episode for the MaxFunDrive, but since we postponed the MaxFunDrive, here it is for you now! So if you've always thought about trying to check out Jordan, Jesse, Go! or something, and you thought—you need a little kick in the butt to do it, well, now's your chance! 'Cause here—now your real hero, John Hodgman, is the guest on this week's program.

john

I really enjoyed recording this episode with you, because it's always fun to visit with you and Jordan. And also, this was the genesis of the only subreddit that I've ever created. It is a subreddit on the subject of extinct hockey. [Jesse laughs quietly.] Listen to the birthplace of the extinct hockey subreddit on Jordan, Jesse, Go! this week, then check in with the subreddit Extinct_Hockey, and see just how many extinct hockey fans there are out there. It's amazing.

jesse

All you gotta do is take your phone outta your pocket right now and search in that podcast app for Jordan, Jesse, Go! and hit subscribe. Uh, you're gonna love it! I think! [John laughs quietly.] Uh, let's get back to the docket.

john

I know!

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jesse

Welcome back to the Judge John Hodgman podcast. We're clearing the docket this week, and here is something from Brian.

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Brian: I'm seeking an injunction against my wife Courtney. When our four-year-old son mistreats our dog Brick, she will correct our son and then insist that he apologize to Brick. While he should of course be corrected, I argue that an apology to an animal is the phoniest of all phony apologies.

john

[John and maybe Jesse laugh quietly.]

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Brian: An apology is meant to soothe the offended, not to punish the offender. Dogs don't understand regret, or most human emotions. Please order her to cease.

jesse

I like that the dog is named Brick.

john

I was just gonna say the same thing!

jesse

I hope they have a cat named Looper.

john

[Cracks up.] [Sing-song] The films of Rian Johnson!

jesse

[Laughs.] The hamsters are the Brothers Bloom?

john

Yeah, that's right. [Both laugh quietly.] Aaand, uh, what other kinds of pets are there? I should know, I've been interviewing a bunch of 'em.

jesse

Well, there's a—one final Jedi. [Laughs.]

john

There's one last Jedi. [Laughs.] And then there's Knives Out! The parakeet! [Jesse laughs.] [Imitating a parakeet] "Knives Out! Knives Out!" [Regular voice] That's scary! Never mind. Don't do that. [Laughs.] Uh, yeah. I think we can all agree Brick is a great name for a dog, but I think, Jesse, we'll probably agree that, uh, Brian is wrong in every possible way here. [Both laugh.] For—I—as you know, Jesse Thorn, because you've been a delightful guest, or I should say your dogs Coco and Sissy have been delightful guests on my shelter-at-home times side-hustle, Get Your Pets—my weekday daily talk show on Instagram Live with people's cats and dogs and other pets... I—I started this thing—I used to do it a little bit last year just for funs, but then I started—once everyone had to start staying at home, I was like "I wanna see some pets. It will make me feel better to see some pets. And I bet it would help some other people to feel sort of less alone if they get to see other people's pets." So... this is a plug. I'll plug it. I'm not making any money off it, so it's fair to plug. FTP. Every afternoon, pretty much, on a week day, I'll set up an Instagram Live and interview all these incredible cats and dogs and snakes and parakeets, and everything else. And I've learned a lot about all of these pet-havers all over the world. Public healthcare workers in Cape Town, park rangers in Ireland, teachers in Hawaiʻi, all over the place. And I've learned a lot about animals, too. Particularly dogs, which I've never—I've never owned a dog. And I understand more about dogs, and their behaviors, and their quirks, and how when they are anxious they will yawn and lick themselves. Such as when a stranger from the Internet is talking at them, asking about how their day has been, and that's why that's happening all the time. But one thing I've definitely learned about dogs is, uh, they are very, very, very, VERY sensitive to human emotions. They get it! They are wildly empathetic creatures! Who absolutely understand regret, for sure! [Chuckles.] And I think also sympathy and kindness. So don't say, Brian, that they don't understand human emotions. Don't think that dogs don't understand human emotions just because maybe you don't, Brian.

john

Even if the dogs of the world were not the wildly empathetic emotionally sensitive creatures they are, but instead the borderline sociopaths you think they are, and maybe are yourself, Brian... apology-modeling is good! Apology is not meant to simply soothe the offended! It is meant to punish the offender! It is to humiliate in the greatest sense! To force humility upon the offender, and to reset the relationship. And phony apologies are a part of this, too. Phony apologies ease friction in close quarters. By phony apologies I don't mean completely insincere apologies, but apologies you give even though you think maybe you were still right. You apologize to someone because you know it's the right thing to do. Phony apologies are almost as important as sincere apologies. And in that spirit, Brian, let me say this to you: I'm sorry. I'm sorry for suggesting that you might be a sociopath. Is that a real apology, or a phony one? You'll never know. [Jesse laughs.] But yeah! Apologize to your dogs! Brian, I order you to apologize to Brick! Say "I'm sorry I thought you didn't understand human emotion," and be nice about it. Don't do it the way I did, like, real yelly. Or he'll bite 'cha.

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jesse

We have an update from Jeremy and Allison, from the dispute "And Baby Makes Plea." (And Baby Makes Three.) Which we heard with our friend Nick Offerman as expert witness. So the two of them couldn't figure out how to make room in their home for their new baby while also maintaining a guest room and keeping Jeremy's workshop space. Allison writes: "Over about three months, Jeremy cleaned out and re-organized his work room to make a guest room for my parents, turned that stack of mahogany into a gorgeous dining table, tore out the dog run in the back yard, leveled and re-sodded the yard, and helped me transform the Hodge Podge Lodge into a viable nursery. However—"

john

So first—let me break in here for—first of all, Jesse, to clarify the Hodge Podge Lodge is what they were going to name what would become the nursery. And second of all, Jesse—

jesse

At the time it was—yeah, a pile of discarded stuff from their house.

john

Right. [Stifles laughter.] And second of all, Jesse, just again to break in, I apologize... in the past three months, have you made any dining room tables? [Both stifle laughter.]

jesse

I have not made any dining room tables recently.

john

Tear—did you re-sod anything? A yard? Or even a patch of grass?

jesse

My son and I planted some sunflower seeds—

john

Well, you—

jesse

[laughing] but that's as far as far as we've gotten.

john

You know what? You're—

jesse

They also may have been, uh, ranch-flavored.

john

[Cracks up.] Were they David's brands, or Bigs sunflower seeds?

jesse

Oh, David's all the way.

john

Yeah.

jesse

I'm a ball player.

john

Yeah! Well, I think that's a good thing. You did more than I did in the past three months, at least in the sodding and building department. For people who are just doing their best, good job, Jeremy! Alright, go on with the letter.

jesse

"However, my mother would like to complain that I made her sound, quote, 'like a decrepit old woman,' un-quote, on the podcast. In fact, she slept just fine on the air mattress when she came for the baby's birth." So I think we can stipulate she's not decrepit.

john

Yeah.

jesse

And can—is capable of sleeping on an air mattress, though, uh, there is no need to make anyone sleep on an air mattress in a situation where air mattress–sleeping is not necessary.

john

True enough. Settled law.

jesse

"We welcomed our son into the world in July."

john

Awww.

jesse

"He's nine months old now, and an absolute love. We're grateful for him every day. Meanwhile, Jeremy's Mustang is coming along nicely—" [John laughs.] And she started a side hobby drawing cartoons. These people are too productive!

john

I—yeah, I forgot about the Mustang hobby, too! Wow!

jesse

I'm—I have to be frank. This is—this is too—this is embarrassing me. Previously I was just able to attribute it to like, "They have more rooms than I do because they live in a different part of the country."

john

Yeah, a different style of living.

jesse

Where you can just have rooms.

john

Yeah.

jesse

But now I'm—now I'm out. Now I'm against them. This table's too pretty.

john

[Laughs.] Yeah, you can see the—

jesse

It's a really nice-looking table.

john

You can see the picture of this table[laughs] on our Instagram, at Instagram.com/judgejohnhodgman, as well as on the show page at MaximumFun.org. As well as some yet-to-be-finished, but beautiful, Judge John Hodgman–themed needlework to be hung in the Hodge Podge Lodge! And Jesse, I've checked out Allison's comics. And they're very cute and charming! And you can check those out at KickFeetComics on Instagram. K-I-C-K—we'll put a link into the show page. KickFeetComics on Instagram. Glad it's going well for you all there! I look forward to coming to the Hodge Podge Lodge and hiding behind your shower curtain as soon as possible.

jesse

[Laughs.] The docket's clear. That's it for another episode of Judge John Hodgman. Our producer is Jennifer Marmor. Follow us on Twitter at @JesseThorn and at @hodgman. We're on Instagram at @judgejohnhodgman. Make sure to hashtag your Judge John Hodgman Tweets #JJHo, and check out the Maximum Fun subreddit to discuss this episode. You can submit your cases at MaximumFun.org/jjho, or email hodgman@maximumfun.org. We'll talk to you next time on the Judge John Hodgman podcast.

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About the show

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