TRANSCRIPT Judge John Hodgman Ep. 488: The Doctorow Doctrine

Clearing the docket with Cory Doctorow! The internet bill, operating system updates, pajamas on planes, acapella gospel music, navigation, spoilers, and more!

Podcast: Judge John Hodgman

Episode number: 488

Guests: Cory Doctorow

Transcript

sound effect

[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... Brooklyn's own— [John snorts.] —Judge John Hodgman.

john hodgman

Brookline and Brooklyn's own. Also also unnamed town in Maine that sounds like that! I only live in certain places, Jesse. Don't ask me why I'm drawn to them. I like a place where the line is delineated by a brook. Or any body of water, actually! [Laughs.] Don't like it—if there's no river, I'm not there. Anyway, here I am. And guess what, Jesse Thorn? I'm not gonna keep talking, because we've got an incredible guest to join us in our, uh—our trademark mix, as we determined before we started recording. Our trademark mix of camaraderie and pettiness. Please welcome, Jesse Thorn and listeners, to Judge John Hodgman, the incredible Cory Doctorow! Hi, Cory!

cory doctorow

Hi John, Hi Jesse, Hi Jennifer! It's so great to be here!

john

It's great to have you! Folks, if you don't know who Cory Doctorow is, you've—you've done some things wrong in your life, but it's fine! Cory is... an author. An electronic freedom frontiersman. A digital rights activist! A really fun, smart, and funny guy. He was one of the editorial team at Boing Boing for a long, long time. Boing Boing, one of the Judge John Hodgman favorite, favorite websites. And you may remember Cory Doctorow as the author of one of the very nicest reviews I've ever gotten for anything I've ever written, in his review of Vacationland and Medallion Status! Two books that I wrote. So this is, as Spy Magazine used to call, "Logrolling in our Time"— [John and someone else laugh quietly.] —but it is genuine affection with which we—and appreciation, with which we ask Cory to join us today! Cory's the author of a whole bunch of novels. You should read them all. He's got one that just came out yesterday called Attack Surface, which is part three in the Little Brother series. Is that correct, Cory?

cory

It is correct-ish! It is the third Little Brother book, but it's a standalone novel for adults. So you can read it even if you haven't read the other two, but you should read the other two.

john

Cool. And what is it all about, the Attack Surface?

cory

So Attack Surface, like Little Brother, is a techno thriller. And what sets it apart from most of the rest of the genre is that instead of treating computers as, like, metaphors, the way that novelists and congress does—

john

[Stifling laughter] Mm-hm. [Jesse laughs quietly.]

cory

—it treats computers as actual things that have capabilities and limitations, and finds the storylines that are latent in there. And it's a book about a young woman who's spent her whole life being a surveillance contractor. She starts off working in the DHS on domestic surveillance. Becomes a beltway bandit and ends up in a forward operations base in Iraq, where she's spying on insurgents. Then she's in the former Soviet Union spying on pro-democracy activists. And she has to confront what her life's work is. The whole time she's been trying to make herself out to be a good person by finding compromises, none of which are very good or sustainable, like, you know, teaching the people she's spying on how to avoid the surveillance in secret.

john

Uh-huh.

cory

This is not the kind of thing your bosses are gonna like. So she ends up back in San Francisco, in her hometown, where her childhood best friend is now a Black Lives Matter activist. And she is being surveilled by the very same cyber weapons that this character Masha Maximow has spent her whole life building. And she has to figure out what it means to have talked herself into doing something not so great. And then to come back and confront your moral legacy, and how you can be better.

jesse

John, just to—let me help you out here, just for context on what Cory said. San Francisco is a city on the western coast of the United States.

john

Oh.

jesse

It sits on a—it sits on a peninsula that protects a beautiful bay called the San Francisco Bay.

john

Yeah, I always thought that that was just a novelistic metaphor, like a computer, but you're saying it's a real thing?

jesse

No, a lot of people think that it was invented for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

john

Yeah. That's what I thought.

jesse

But no, it's a real city, yeah.

cory

Yeah, known for such notable foodstuffs as, uh, cylinders of rice and hot meat in a tortilla, and also rice.

jesse

Mm-hm. [John laughs, Jesse stifles laughter.] Wow. Cory is coming out guns blazing against the San Francisco burrito! He's shooting directly for me heart! [Cory laughs.] Luckily, your bullet bounced off of the It's-It that I always keep in my breast pocket. [John and Cory laugh.]

john

Attack Surface—so, you know, Cory, you've made your life talking about, thinking about, writing about both in fiction and nonfiction, about non-metaphoric computers. Their capabilities, their limitations. Their scary capabilities, their thankful limitations. And this sounds like a really fun thriller about someone having to reckon with the fact that they didn't do great stuff all the time, and how do they make amends? Which is something that we deal with a lot in society right now.

cory

Oh, yeah! And—

john

And here. On the Judge John Hodgman podcast.

cory

And to be clear, the capabilities aren't just the scary ones, right? Like, part of the story of this book, and the story of my career, and the story of how we think about computers, is balancing the liberatory power of computers with their power to control and manipulate us. And, you know, this is someone who said, "Well, we'll probably never be able to make computers into a force for liberation, so I'll just work on making them a force for control," who's meeting her childhood friend, who's made computers the center of how she plans to liberate her city and her society from reaction and oppression, and who is running up against the ways that computers can be used for control and manipulation.

john

So Attack Surface is available as of yesterday, if you're listening on release day of Judge John Hodgman. Anywhere books are... sold, loaned, traded on the Internet. And as an audiobook as well, right?

cory

Yeah, there's a really great audiobook. I don't allow DRM on any of my work, because that is, uh, a centerpiece of my doctrine.

john

And that's digital rights management.

cory

That's right.

john

For tho—for, you know—we've got a lot of smart 13-year-olds who listen to this who know what you're talking about, but their parents are currently going, "What the—huh?"

cory

Yeah.

jesse

And the doctrine in question is the Doctorow Doctrine?

cory

The Doctorow Doctrine. It's, uh—it's pajamas on airplanes, no DRM, uh, coffee in AeroPresses. Those are the three central tenets.

john

We'll get to pajamas on airplanes in a second, but—

cory

I know. Oh, I know.

john

But explain to the dum-dums like me what "DRM" means and why it's bad, and why you don't—why it's not part of the Doctorow Doctrine doctoral program at Dr. Doctorow's university.

cory

My parents are Dr. and Dr. Doctorow.

john

Oh no. [Laughs.]

cory

So DRM is the stuff that stops you from using technology the way you want. Like, you know, watching a European DVD in your DVD player. Something you may remember from your video store days, John.

john

Right.

cory

And it—it doesn't work very well. Like, all of the audiobooks sold on Audible, which is the largest audiobook store in the world—it's owned by Amazon. They control more than 90% of the market. And all of their audiobooks are sold with DRM, and if you wanna remove it, you just type, "How do I remove DRM from an Audible book?" into a search engine. So it's clearly not helping us. But thanks to an American law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that's been in place since 1998, it's a felony to remove it. It's a five-year prison sentence and a $500,000 fine for a first offense. So you have this technology that doesn't stop piracy at all, but does make it illegal for you, my customer for my work, to take your audiobook to a non-Amazon player or reader or platform, unless Amazon authorizes it. And you have to ask yourself, how is this possibly good for me?! Now of course this has also, like, expanded into other domains. So, you know, the fact that if it's digital you can put DRM on it means that you have companies like Medtronic, who make the biggest ventilator—you know, workhorse ventilator—they use DRM to stop independent hospital technicians from fixing their own ventilators.

john

Oh.

cory

And it's a felony to do that.

john

Why would that even be timely to talk about right now?

cory

Yeah! Yeah, exactly. [Laughs.] Uh, notice to people in the future, ventilators are timely. So all of that to say that this a really toxic dynamic. And the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit I've worked for for nearly 20 years now, we're actually suing the US government to overturn this law so that you can break DRM if you have a legitimate reason to do it. But in the meantime, Macmillan—my lovely publishers who are very good to me—quite reasonably said, "Hey. You don't wanna sell your audiobook in the marketplace that is 90% of our sales, so we're just not gonna give you any money for the rights, but you can keep 'em if you want." Which was a very reasonable thing for them to do, and I don't want anyone to think I'm down on them for this. And I was like, "I'll keep 'em." So I hired my friend Amber Benson, who lives here in Southern California with me—

john

Oh, you mean the actor!

cory

The actor, Tara from Buffy. Also the novelist. She's an amazing novelist. And we went to Skyboat Media, which is one of the powerhouse audiobook studios, also pretty close to us here in North Hollywood. And we got my sound editor John Taylor Williams to edit it. And then to prove that it could be a success commercially without Amazon, I put it up for sale as a Kickstarter pre-sale.

john

Yeah.

cory

And we just—as we're recording this a few days before it's going live, we closed the Kickstarter at about $270,000.

john

Oh, congratulations! That's very good!

cory

Yeah, it was really good! It's a record-breaking Kickstarter. My hope is that this might convince publishers and authors—bestselling authors, authors who know how to reach a big audience—that they can make more money by doing a different kind of Audible exclusive. The kind that is exclusive of Audible. 'Cause I'm gonna sell this everywhere except Audible afterwards.

jesse

Now, Cory. Uh, we release Judge John Hodgman as a .Zune file. Um—

cory

Oh, good!

john

I'm so mad at you, Jesse. I was just—I was just getting up to a Zune joke! [Cory and Jesse laugh.] You got there first. You win. You win!

cory

It's—I don't—I wanna know why I can't get it in .MIDI format. [Jesse and/or John laughs quietly.]

john

Well, Cory Doctorow, author, digital privacy activist, thank you so much for joining us today, via Zoom, so that we can peer into your home. [Stifles laughter.]

cory

[Laughing] Yeah, well—

john

And record your facial data for some database probably owned by a foreign government as we speak. So, thank you.

cory

I don't know why you needed my social security number for me to appear, but I'm sure that the fact that you wanna put it in the episode title will work out fine for me.

john

And also, you did mention wearing pajamas on airplanes, a precedent in the Judge John Hodgman courtroom being that that is, uh, not allowable. You're gonna make a counterargument to that a little later on in the podcast. But right now we've got a lot of justice to clear off this docket. Jesse, let's get going.

jesse

Here's something from Spencer: "My housemate Josh refuses to contribute to the Internet bill, because he claims it's a luxury which he does not require, since he uses his phone's unlimited data plan. I maintain Internet is a communal utility, available to everyone in the house, regardless of how much they choose to use it. It's not about the money to me, but as the one responsible for collecting, it feels wrong and uncomfortable to ask everyone else to bow to his cheapness. Besides myself, I've spoken with two more of the six total occupants. They agree he should contribute his share."

john

Cory, what is your impression?

cory

I struggled with this one. 'Cause at first I was like, "Well, if he's really not using the Internet, why should he contribute?"

john

Mm-hm.

cory

But then I thought, "What if this guy walked around with a candle all the time and said, 'Why should I pay for the lightbulbs?'" And you know... the house wouldn't be a house without the Internet. Right? They wouldn't be able to do all the things they need to do. They wouldn't have jobs; they wouldn't be able to summon 911; they wouldn't be able to, you know, go to school; they wouldn't be able to order dinner. They wouldn't be able to do all the things. I mean, the Internet is now just firmly enmeshed in our life. Before the plague, it was a thing that it was involved in everything we do. Now it's required for everything we do. And I just think that even if you don't use it, that's like—even if I'd—"I don't admire the shrubs! Why should I pay to water them?" You're part of the household. It's a household necessity. I think you gotta pitch in.

john

I did actually follow up, 'cause that was my obvious question. Like, is—can it be true that Josh really only uses his phone for data? And specifically, his paid-by-himself, presumably grandpersoned in, unlimited data plan. And according to Spencer, Josh does claim he only uses his phone data. And he has no other devices that he is using that require Wi-Fi access. [Stifles laughter.] Uh, and also Spencer has checked with the rest of the housemates, and they all want Josh to subsidize their Wi-Fi usage.

jesse

Yeah, my one question, John, was why he had checked with two of the housemates, but not the other ones. [Everyone laughs.]

john

Yeah!

jesse

It's like—seemed a little shady. [Jesse and John laugh.] But if he's now checked with all of them...

john

Well, Cory is an expert in fictional utopian societies or dystopian societies. It might be the rules of the house! They form a council, there's a quorum, who—to divide the Wi-Fi!

jesse

I bet Cory still has an open Wi-Fi network for people who are passing by his front door like it was San Francisco in 1996.

cory

I did have one of those in San Francisco in 1999 in Potrero Hill! And people used it—it was on the early Wi-Fi maps. I would always know if someone was lost on the way to the airport, because they'd pull up in front of my house to get directions from MapQuest. [John laughs.] So I—I do not presently have an open Wi-Fi network, because I live in the city of Burbank, where we have hundred gigabit fiber passing under our foundation slab that the city paid for, but which I'm not allowed to use. It's only for large businesses, and I have to use Charter Spectrum.

john

Whoa! What?!

cory

Who are from Hell. Yeah, I know. Yeah.

john

Whoa! It's almost as like corporations are interfering with technology for their own benefit!

cory

I mean, this is a—it's a radical hypothesis, but I think we could come up with a falsifiable experiment and see whether it's true. So I don't think these guys have a utopian society, by the way. I think that they are in fact members of different subcultures, and the reason that he only asked two of the roommates is that the other four are steampunks.

john

[Laughs.] Wha—why do you get that?! What would you get the steampunk from?!

cory

I just—you know, if we're going to imagine a radical social experiment household with new social arrangements, I just like the idea that there's a couple of them who are just LARPing Victorianism, and therefore only communicate by semaphore. [Jesse laughs.]

john

I can't wait to read this novel by you, Cory Doctorow. [Cory chuckles.] But let me ask you this technical question.

cory

Sure.

john

'Cause you know more about it than I do. Which is the better way to get your memes and your funs up and down the Internet highway? Over the phone via unlimited data? Or via Wi-Fi? And you can answer that question in terms of quality, in terms of security, in terms of cost, in terms of benefit to society, I don't know. But like, if Josh is really just using his phone for data, and nothing else in the house, is that good, bad, neutral?

cory

I think it's okay. I mean, I think that in general, mobile hotspots are a little less reliable—

john

Mm-hm.

cory

—than fixed line hotspots. So I mean, the question isn't Wi-Fi. It's like, how the Wi-Fi gets into the house. I mean, one way to think about this is that we have one universe with one electromagnetic spectrum, and you're sharing it with everybody else. Right? And only the slice of it. Once you take a wire and you wrap it in some insulation, then you've got like a little pocket universe! Right? It has its own electromagnetic spectrum that is different from the electromagnetic spectrum that's right next to it, even if you're broadcasting the same frequencies! And so there is a capacity thing. So this is the nexus of the non-outlandish, stupid claims about 5G. There are outlandish, stupid claims about 5G, which made people go and burn them down.

john

Uh-huh.

cory

But the stupid claims about 5G are just that we can use 5G instead of fiber to wire up our cities, because somehow these radio-based stations will give us fast Internet, without them needing to be connected to the fast Internet.

john

Okay.

cory

And that's like saying you could have a really big faucet on your house, and it doesn't matter what kind of water main it's connected to. It's—you know, the faucet is not your problem there.

john

So let's talk about water for a second! 'Cause I'm not sure I agree with—with you on this. Let's talk about water. Right?

cory

Okay.

john

If the house pays a water bill, and—[stifles laughter]—and Josh is—uh, decides to only drink bottled water that he brings in, he only pees into—[laughs]—a composting toilet that he has in his house. And he takes care of all—he never touches a drop of water. This is like a Dune type situation. Dude wears a stillsuit. Totally water-independent of the rest of the house. [Cory laughs.] Should he have to pay part of the water bill? Simply because it's available?

cory

Okay, I'm gonna make a different argument here. I'm gonna—I'm gonna scratch and refactor here. The reason he should do it is the categorical imperative. If all six of these people sat down and said, "Well, you know, we all pitch in for the groceries, but I never eat lettuce, so I want 18 cents off my grocery bill," and you know, "We all pitch in for this, we all pitch in for that," and "I don't even—I don't even like the TV! Why am I paying for the wall space that it occupies?" You know. "I never sat on that sofa! The six square feet of the sitting room that it occupies should be deducted from my share of the rent!" To live in a house is not to have that arrangement. To live in a house communally and happily is to have an arrangement where you acknowledge that there are some positive externalities that other people benefit from, just as you benefit from their positive externalities.

john

I agree with all of those things except the Wi-Fi. I'm sorry! [John and Cory laugh.] Here's what I'm gonna say. I'm gonna give you—it pains me to disagree with my friend Cory Doctorow. Even though I agree with Cory on all points. If it can be said truthfully—if Josh is not using that Wi-Fi. If he's not watching the television. Right? If he's not streaming a thing. If he's like—if it's true that the only Internet that he's getting is off of his own phone, in no other way, then I do not feel that he needs to contribute to the Wi-Fi bill. Okay? But. Because I'm going this—as far as to disagree even slightly with Cory Doctorow, I'm gonna give the most anti–Cory Doctorow ruling I can. Spencer, you should spy on him. [John and Cory laugh.] Spy on him! Get a thing—look. I know there's—I know there's a thing, 'cause I have this thing, but I'm not gonna advertise this thing. But you can get a Wi-Fi system that is monitoring who is using it at any given time. You will know! You will know, Spencer, if Josh even takes one—what's the smallest bit there is? Minibit?

cory

A bit.

john

A bit? There's nothing smaller—

cory

A bit.

john

I'm gonna make it a half bit! You know what? That's how small I'm gonna make it.

jesse

It's pronounced a "ha'bit," (hay bit) John. [John and Cory laugh.]

cory

A hay—it's a groat!

john

It's a groat.

jesse

If you haven't got a bit, a ha'bit will do.

john

If he takes even a ha'bit of the Internet off you guys... [Smack!] Split it up evenly! Then he's taking advantage of the common, uh, good. But if he's not taking advantage of the common good, I don't think he has to pay for it. I betcha he is. Spencer, I'd bet you're gonna spy on him, and then you guys are gonna have so much fun as your perfect society dissolves into chaos, and anger, and resentment, and bitterness. And camaraderie! Just like the Judge John Hodgman podcast.

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

This is like one of those people who goes to dinner with a group of people and says they're—"Well, I only got a drink. So I'm only paying the tip on the cost of the drink."

john

Yeah.

jesse

"I won't split the tip evenly."

cory

Yeah!

john

Yeah, look! I'm not saying that Josh is a generous person, or even a genial person! But this is a—I think this is slightly different than the kind of person who goes to dinner and says, "I really wasn't that hungry. [Laughing] So I'm not paying."

cory

How about the kind of person who says, "My gate-guarded community should have a private firefighting arrangement, and if you don't pay the firefighter tax, they should let your house burn down"?

jesse

[Laughing] Yeah. What about that, John?

cory

Those are a thing! [Laughs.]

john

But—but—[sighs]. If I lived in—alright. Alright! Alright! You know what? Fine. I'm living in your gated community. I've taken a look at your fire department, and I think it's dumb. I don't think they're good at it. [Cory and John laugh.] I'm hiring a private firefighter to live with me. [Cory laughs.] That's the name of this sitcom! My Private Firefighter. John Hodgman and his private firefighter—[laughs]

jesse

Played by Rob Riggle.

john

And his—_[laughs]—played by Rob Riggle. Oh, sold in the room! Come on! [Jesse laughs.]_ Living together in a gated community, just waiting for a fire to bust out!

cory

Is the character's catchline "Thank you for your service"? Is that what they—like—[laughs]

jesse

Mm-hm.

john

Sure.

cory

"Pass me the salt! Thank you for your service!"

john

You can get in on this IP!

jesse

"Who ate my peanut butter?!" And then Rob Riggle says, [kind of gruff] "I did!" [Usual voice] And then you say, "Thank you for your service." [Cory and maybe John laugh.] Here's something from Rob, not Riggle: "I seek to file suit against—" Or maybe it's Riggle! Doesn't say that it's not Riggle. I just presumed it's not Rob Riggle. Could be—

john

[Laughs.] [Gruff] "Hey, Hodgman! Riggle here!" [Laughs.]

jesse

Could be Rob Corddry! Who knows what Rob it is? Probably Rob Huebel, though. "I seek to file suit against my friend Tyler. Tyler will not update software on his phone until the device forces him. Every time this happens, he sends me a message complaining about an update that the general public received months and sometimes years before him. His complaints are usually trivial, like the position of a button being a farther reach for him now. I would like you to order him to update his phone software and stop making me relive a software update months after it happens." [John and Cory laugh.]

john

I love how Rob acknowledges that a software update is inherently traumatic, and something you don't wanna relive. [Laughs.] No matter what so-called improvements are there, it is like, "Why have you just changed my whole world around? I'm just—I just got used to having my thumb there!" Cory, what do you think?

cory

So, I think that's he right for the wrong reason.

john

Yeahhh!

cory

I mean, keeping your software updated is like getting vaccinated. Because the problem with your phone being broken into is not just what happens to you, although that can be really horrific, but also what happens to the people you communicate with.

john

Mm-hm.

cory

And their data being compromised. And the people whose data you have on your phone. It's actually—I—you could subtitle this, "Why Andrew Yang is wrong." [John snorts.] 'Cause the whole idea that you should be paid for your data—

john

Oh—oh—oh, boy. I'm getting outta here. [Laughs.]

cory

Yeah, yeah, right!

john

I don't want these letters! [John and Cory laugh.]

jesse

"Uh, gotta go!"

crosstalk

Cory: But the idea that you should be paid for your data— John: Welcome to the Cory Doctorow Only Podcast! [Cory and Jesse or John laugh.]

cory

Well, look. Just the idea that you should be paid for your data is really incoherent. 'Cause like, who owns the fact that we're having this conversation? Is it me or you? Which one of us gets—

john

Me.

cory

—to sell it to Facebook?

john

Me.

cory

Really.

john

Yeah.

jesse

Yeah.

crosstalk

John: Well, it's a split between me and Jesse. Cory: And what if you're rude to me?

cory

But what if you're rude to me, and I wanna—I wanna, uh, disclose that fact to other potential guests? Should you get a veto, 'cause you have a property right in the fact that I was on your podcast? I just think that it—

john

Wait a minute. Jennifer, did Cory not sign the NDA? [John and Cory laugh.]

cory

So anyway, I just think that like, this is—this is the thing! Right? I have your data on my phone. 'Cause it's also my data! Right?

john

Right.

cory

The pictures of us together, your phone number in my address book. All that stuff—

john

This is starting to sound like a threat.

cory

[Laughing] Yeah. [John laughs.] So for that reason, you should be updated. And then the other thing is that, um, he's right that it—updates suck, because they break everything. And you should have the right and ability to put it back the way you want it. I miss old Twitter.

john

So in a perfect world, Tyler's unwillingness to update should be tolerated and encouraged. Wait a minute. In terms of features. But not in terms of security.

cory

Right.

john

Tyler should be updating regularly for the purpose of the security of his data, and the other people whose data he's collected in his own phone. Correct?

cory

Sure. And just so his phone doesn't end up part of a botnet that's being used to, like, spread ransomware to hospitals and shut them down. You know? Just for all of that good stuff.

john

Yeah, Tyler! Does that sound like fun to you? Also you're bothering your buddy Rob! By complaining about something you should have done months or years ago, apparently! Yeah. Update your stuff. What kind of phone and kind of phone security do you have going on, Cory Doctorow? Do you have a rec?

cory

So I don't have a phone rec. I just have, like, a phone counsel of despair. [John snorts.] Which is that we live in feudal times. And there are bandits. And there are warlords. And the warlords have got these castles called Google, and Facebook. So you can have PDP 11, you can have a PDP 8, you can have a PDP 9. Anyways—you know, that—that basically, if you stay updated, and it's a reputable vendor, and they're large, they will keep you safe from everyone except them, most of the time.

john

Mm-hm.

cory

And that's where I've landed. On my laptop, it's a little better. I use, you know, ThinkPad hardware, but I use a version of Linux called Ubuntu that I've used for 15 years now, and I love to pieces. It's easy, it works. It's great.

john

"Ubuntu, by Cory Doctorow. A brand new fragrance." [Someone laughs quietly.]

cory

Yeah. Yeah! A brand new fragrance. [John laughs.] It—it smells like my, uh, palm sweat.

john

[Laughs.] It smells like palm sweat and privacy. Oh, so final ruling! Tyler, update your phone.

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

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

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

It's Judge John Hodgman, and of course every Judge John Hodgman episode is supported by all of the members of MaximumFun.org. Never more important than now, all the folks who've gone to MaximumFun.org/join. This week, we're also supported by our friends at Babbel!

john

Hmm. French, German, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Turkish, Dutch... Swedish! Polish, Norwegian, Indonesian, Danish. Which will it be, Jesse? Which language shall I learn using Babbel, so that I can move to another country? No, no, I— [Both laugh.] I'm—I choose to stay and fight for this country that I love and believe in! But it is good to know other languages. It is good to be a member of the world community. It is good for your getting around, as soon as we're able to travel again. And it is good for your brain, 'cause it keeps it lively and active. And it is good for your soul to know that you can communicate with others in a different language. And what better way to do that than to learn it? Babbel.com offers you this opportunity. The daily lessons. Look, what is it? It's an app on your phone. And it's a website. It offers you daily lessons that are 10 to 15 minutes long. And they start by teaching you words and phrases you will actually use. Gradually, the sentences get more complex, and soon you're practicing short conversations with your phone! And then with your friends! The lessons are thoughtfully created by over a hundred language experts, and their teaching method has been proven by science to be effective across multiple studies. With Babbel, you can choose from 14 languages. Including Spanish, French, Italian, German—you heard all the ones that I said up at the top! Danish. I think that's what I'm gonna do, Jesse. Here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna learn—

jesse

Yeah.

john

I'm gonna learn Danish. [Chuckles.] I'm gonna—do you say Copenhagen (Co-pin-hah-gin) or Copenhagen (Co-pin-hay-gin)? I don't know. I gotta check it out on Babbel.

jesse

Yeah.

john

I'm gonna learn how to pronounce the capital city. And I'm gonna spend some quality time there. Just relaxing in a wonderful, world-class city—[stifles laughter]—where—where—

jesse

Man, that city rules so hard.

john

—where everyone speaks English anyway. [Laughs.] But I'll—! [Laughs.]

jesse

And everyone is much better-looking than we are. [Laughs.]

john

I'll have the—I'll have a command of Danish! And you know what they'll say to me? Uh, "Thanks for making the effort." And you know how they'll say it? In English probably. [Laughs.]

jesse

Yeah. [Laughs.]

john

But they'll mean it. "Thanks for making the effort. Thanks for using Babbel."

jesse

Right now when you purchase a three-month subscription, Babbel will give our listeners three additional months for free! With the promo code "Hodgman." Three months for free if you go to Babbel.com and use promo code "Hodgman" on your three-month subscription.

john

That's B-A-B-B-E-L.com, promo code "Hodgman."

jesse

You know, John, the other day, friend of Judge John Hodgman Linda Holmes sent me a DM on Twitter. Not to brag, but yes.

john

Whoooa. What?

jesse

I'm on DMing terms with the host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour.

john

[Sighs.] You're so lucky.

jesse

And she said to me, "I just ate a really great pork sandwich. You know why?"

john

Oh! Why?

jesse

[Stifling laughter] "'Cause I heard the ad for Sun Basket on Judge John Hodgman."

john

Whoa!

jesse

She's not being paid for this! I'll make sure of that. [Laughs.]

john

We got the private direct message Linda Holmes vouch?! For Sun Basket?!

jesse

Yeah! This isn't—previously, everybody said, "Well, of course I would use Sun Basket for my meal kit deliveries."

john

Yeah.

jesse

"It's the only meal kit delivery service founded by Jesse's friend Tyler from college!" [John laughs.] But now that it has the Linda Holmes imprimatur, it's going to the stars!

john

I'll tell you something. We usually record in what is for me the late afternoon, here on the East Coast of the United States. This is a bad time for me to be talking about food. [Jesse laughs.] Now I'm getting really hungry. [Laughs.] And it is a bad time for me to be looking at SunBasket.com to see what's on offer these days, because I'm basically shoving the mic aside to start licking the screen. Look at this! Burmese chicken aloo curry. This looks really good! Malaysian stir-fried hawker noodles with shrimp. I don't know what a hawker noodle is, but I wanna eat it!

jesse

The thing I like the best about Sun Basket is I feel like, of all the meal services I've tried—and I've tried a number of them! And I have no complaints about any of the ones that I've tried. But I think that Sun Basket is the one that is the most focused on fresh, clean, high-quality ingredients.

john

jesse

The recipes are simple and straightforward. It's not—but I like that they're not trying to disguise their ingredients with complicated preparations. They pick good stuff, and let it shine. And I really appreciate that when I'm making a Sun Basket meal.

john

Their meals come freshly prepared, and heat up in as little as six minutes. They have paleo, vegetarian, Mediterranean, gluten-free options.

jesse

John, this is important for my family. My wife is allergic to wheat (hweet). [John laughs.] It's—she's not—she doesn't have celiac disease—she's also allergic to me pronouncing "wheat (hweet)" as though it was spelled H-W-E-A-T.

john

[Laughs.] Yeah, I think—I think everyone is. [Laughs.]

jesse

She doesn't have celiac disease, she's not gonna die, she just gets really itchy! You know what, John? No one wants an itchy spouse!

john

That's right!

jesse

If you want an itchy spouse, get your meals wherever you want! But if you're careful about keeping your spouse itch-free, know that there's paleo, vegetarian, Mediterranean, and gluten-free options at Sun Basket.

john

Just look at the tabs that I'm looking at! "Gluten-free," "pescatarian," "fresh and ready," "Mediterranean," "paleo." There's a whole tab for "crab-conscious"!

jesse

[Stifling laughter] Cool!

john

Oh no, sorry, that's "carb-conscious." [Both laugh.]

jesse

Oh. Yeah, I was gonna say, "That's perfect for me! I'm always thinking about crabs!" [Both laugh.] Right now, Sun Basket is offering $35 off your order when you go right now to SunBasket.com/hodgman, and enter promo code "Hodgman" at checkout. That's SunBasket.com/hodgman, and enter promo code "Hodgman" at checkout for $35 off your order.

john

SunBasket.com/hodgman, and enter promo code "Hodgman."

jesse

Sun Basket! The only meal kit delivery service... co-founded by my friend Tyler from college.

john

Crab-conscious for life.

sound effect

[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.]

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

Welcome back to the Judge John Hodgman! We are clearing out the docket with our friend Cory Doctorow, whose new book Attack Surface is available now in both book and audiobook form.

john

Read by Amber Benson!

jesse

Yeah, Cory, we got—we have something we need to address here.

john

Yeah.

cory

Yeah.

john

So you may remember that there was a time when we had, uh, a partially functioning society that included air travel as a part of day to day life. For most people. Many, anyway. And we established a precedent on this podcast that people who change into pajamas for an airplane flight, uh, are monsters. And yet, we have learned that our dear friend Cory Doctorow practices this very, uh, monstrous habit! What—tell me about your—tell me about your airplane PJs. And when was the last time you flew?

cory

Yeah, so let me tell you a story of the Great Before, when we flew on airplanes. And I fly a lot. I was EFF's European director for several years. I lived in London for 13 years. And most of my family and work were in the US and Canada. And there were months when I flew across the ocean four times. And I have a chronic pain problem. Like so many... dudes who spend too much time in front of keyboards.

john

Sure.

cory

And, uh, dudettes. And I discovered that I could build a thing called the "most comfortable man in the sky" kit. [John snorts, Jesse laughs quietly.] And in that kit was a little sleeping bag that was silk on one side and down on the other. So you had a cold side and a warm side. A pair of really nice pajamas that I would iron before I flew. A buckwheat eye mask. A pair of slippers. A hot water bottle and an icepack. Some pretty good painkillers. [John laughs.] And that I could just get on a plane, change into my—

john

You realize the last thing is all you need. [Laughs.]

cory

No, no, no, it's not true! 'Cause I tried it!

john

Now I understand—now I understand how it works.

cory

Change into my jim-jams, crawl into my sleep sack—

john

Mm-hm. Mm-hm.

cory

—and aestivate like a lungfish. Right? That—that—like, it was as close as I could come to my dream of Ninja Air, which is when you're flying tomorrow long-haul. In the middle of the night, a ninja breaks into your house and blow-darts you with sedative, and shrink-wraps you and packs your suitcase, and packs you in the cargo hold of the airplane. And then you're like, wheeled to the curb, driven to your hotel, un-shrink-wrapped. All of your stuff is unpacked. You're tucked into bed. The ninja opens the window. This is the most unrealistic part, 'cause they never open. [John laughs.] And then the ninja blow-darts you with the antidote, and like, repels down the side of the building as you yawn and stretch, with no perception of time having gone by!

john

[Laughs.] You don't need a ninja to do that, Cory! You just need what I have! A butler! A good one.

cory

[Laughs.] Alfred. [Cory and John laugh.] No, but seriously!

john

Yeah.

cory

It—look. Airplanes are so uncomfortable.

john

Right.

cory

And pajamas are so comfortable. And they're much more comfortable than the most comfortable clothes that you can wear that aren't pajamas. Right? They're much more comfortable than a track suit, say.

john

Do you wear a—a sleeping cap? A Scrooge-style sleeping cap?

cory

I have pondered this, but I do not wear a Scrooge-style sleeping cap. I do just keep a bare head. But I do have Bluetooth, like, sleep mask/headphones. For—

john

Yeah! That came up on the Judge John Hodgman podcast recently.

cory

Oh, I love 'em.

john

Because people—

cory

Falling asleep to podcasts.

john

A woman was concerned about her partner falling asleep to podcasts and getting tangled in his earbud cords.

cory

Yep.

john

But now they have special sleep masks with the ear—Bluetooth, uh, things, so people can listen to my [ratcheting his pitch up and down] dulcet tones as they fall asleep. [Cory laughs.] [Back to usual voice] Well, Jesse Thorn, you are the sartorial expert. How do you feel about Cory Doctorow's long-haul "most comfortable person in the sky" kit?

jesse

I mean, Cory Doctorow is introducing two special circumstances to this situation. One is a physical disability. And as someone who suffers from a physical disability that's exacerbated by airplanes myself—I'm a chronic migraine sufferer, and airline travel is a real big trigger for me, as you know, John, from having toured with me. It's really tough. I'm hesitant to get in the way of anyone's accomodations. Also, Cory is specifically talking about overnight flights. Actual sleep flights. Not just red-eyes from coast to coast, but real ten-hour—

john

Long-haul.

jesse

Long-haul. I mean, these are flights where if you fly on a fancy enough airline, they give you pajamas to wear.

john

Yeah. Yeah. That's true.

jesse

I think it is reasonable to wear pajamas on an overnight flight where you expect to sleep a night's sleep. And it's reasonable to do all this other stuff when you are trying to accommodate a physical ailment. I think it's entirely possible to wear pajamas while sleeping on an airplane without, you know, getting in a taxicab to the airport in your pajamas. Or hanging out in a—in a, uh—in a flight waiting area in your pajamas. Or standing in a bunch of lines in front of— [John snorts, Jesse stifles laughter.] —normal adult humans in your pajamas. [Laughs.] But if you're on an airplane, and you're actually sleeping, and you're wearing pajamas, and they're a—you know, they're appropriately modest. [Jesse and John laugh.] Then I don't have a problem with that. [John laughs.]

cory

You make me realize that I omitted something, which is that I change into the pajamas. And this is actually a feature, and not a bug. It's—it's gross changing in an airplane change—uh, bathroom. But, you land with clothes that you haven't slept in!

john

Right.

cory

And sometimes you gotta hit the road running. And you know, you get out of Heathrow, and you gotta go straight to—or JFK or whatever, and you gotta go straight and do something. Well, if you're gonna do that, it's so nice to have put on some clothes, gone to the airport, packed them away again neatly in the bathroom just a few hours after you put them on, so they're still pretty fresh, and then change just before landing.

jesse

Yeah. I—I'm generally a proponent of clothing being utilized for its purpose. And I think Cory sleeping in pajamas on an airplane, that he has changed into, [stifles laughter] is a perfectly appropriate use of pajamas. Even though it is a weird situation where you're sleeping in public. And it's the same reason that I don't—I don't begrudge people wearing sweatsuits on airplanes, even though, you know, I wouldn't wear a sweatsuit in public unless I was, you know—

cory

Sweating.

jesse

—starring in a stage production of Rocky. [Cory and maybe John laugh.] But I—and, you know. Any kind of comfortable—it's fine. But just... a little... acknowledgement that you're in public is nice. [John snorts.] That's what I'm asking. Just a little acknowledgement of the other people there.

john

What—[laughs]—what does that involve?

jesse

I think there's a certain amount, in people who are in their jam-jams at the gate, or going through security in their jam-jams, which is, uh... "To heck with y'all, I'mma do me." [John snorts, Cory laughs.] And part of dressing is about... respecting the other people around you, whether you like it or not. Like, that's the reason why we wear clothes most of the time. Sometimes we wear it 'cause otherwise we'd be too cold or we'd get sunburned. But the main reason is to, you know, have a communication, have a conversation with the people around us. And the message that you send when you're, you know, using an airport bathroom in your jam-jams, is... "My comfort is more important than anything else in the world."

cory

Hmmm.

john

Well, I'll say this. The other benefit of changing in the airplane lavatory—you do this after takeoff? As you're getting ready—

cory

Mm-hm. Uh, no, no, before takeoff.

john

Before takeoff.

cory

No, I—I get—I—I have Medallion status, so I board first. [John snorts.] And I make good use of that time.

john

[Laughs knowingly.] Well!

cory

I'm changing the climate! Ask me how!

john

Jennifer and Jesse, you may hang up now. [Jesse laughs quietly.] I did not realize that I was talking to a fellow Diamond Medallion member.

cory

Oh no, I'm BA, so I'm like a 33rd order Mason within their [inaudible].

john

[Bursts out laughing.] In any case, changing in the airplane lavatory before settling into bed is more acceptable than hanging around the airport in your pajamas, because that's unnerving to other people. And also you're doing a service to the rest of your, uh, companions on the flight! Because after they see that you've changed into their silk pajamas, they're like, "Oh. Well, effectively just cleaned up all the pee and hairs from the floor." [John and Cory laugh.]

cory

Very true! I—

john

"While changing. While putting his clothes on the floor in there. So now it's much more clean in there for me."

cory

And you know, we share a book birthday. Right? I heard you mention that Medallion Status paperback's out on the 13th. That's when Attack Surface is out. And it made me think about—

john

It's not a competition.

cory

No, no, it's great!

john

You're gonna win.

cory

I love sharing book birthdays. If there—if the world wasn't wrapped in plague, we would probably run into each other on the road in airport lounges! And, you know, be in the same bookstore one after the other. As often I—I'm doing—

john

Yeah, and then I could go up to you in the airport and say, [whispering] "You're still wearing your pajamas. I'm not sure you noticed."

cory

[Laughs.] I'm doing a gig at the Brookline Booksmith for Attack Surface!

john

Oh, wonderful!

cory

I mean like, we're—we're in each other's tracks. I once followed Salman Rushdie on a book tour, and every bookstore I went to was like, "You wouldn't believe the security!" [John laughs.] But I did—I—for Walkaway—I did—

john

You inadvertently were part of the fatwa! [Laughs.]

cory

[Laughing] That's right!

john

You were following Salman Rushdie around the country!

cory

That's right. And running into him in lounges, and just like, was seeing him look just exhausted.

john

Yeah.

cory

So I went on 35 cities in 45 days for Walkaway. In the US, Canada, and the UK. And in the US, they put me up in the same brand of hotel over and over and over again. And you know how when you take, like, a glass from the bar up to your room, it's okay?

john

Mm-hm.

cory

I was flying really early in the morning, and I really wanted to get just like one more hour of sleep on the plane. And so I thought, "If I just take this pillow from, like, one Marriott, and then leave it in another Marriott... it's okay, right?" [Laughs.]

john

[Exhales like an appreciative whistle.] What a—what a chain hotel life hack! [Cory and John laugh.]

cory

And it's totally not okay, and I—you know, every time I did it I had the voice of John Hodgman in my head explaining why it wasn't okay, but I rationalized my way into it.

john

I think that Marriott pillows are fungible. I think it's fine. You move one to the other, it's fine. Here's what I gotta say, though. One thing you haven't considered. I'm gonna allow this, presuming that you and your little sleep sack are not blocking access for other people to go use the bathroom. And I see he's waving me off, "No, no way."

cory

Hundred percent. Yeah. No.

john

Personally, I would never take a window seat unless I was wearing a stillsuit. You heard me mention that before. That's a thing from Dune. If you listen to my, uh, MaxFun members-only special episode where I guested on Friendly Fire, we talk about the movie Dune. We talk about stillsuits. I would wear a stillsuit if I had a window seat, because I wouldn't have to use the bathroom, because the urine and feces are processed in the thigh pads.

cory

Correct!

john

That's a shout-out to my David Lynch Dune pals. So I will allow—I will allow this... Dr. Doctorow Doctrine, regarding pajamas. On long-haul flights. The "most comfortable person in the air" kit sounds fine to me. But you are missing one thing, Cory, and I'm surprised that you're missing this, because you are such an advocacy of—of privacy. You're not thinking about dream theft. [Cory and Jesse laugh.] You're sleeping with an open dome. Anyone could shoot a dream drone over your head, and pick up your dreams. That's why you gotta wear a sleeping cap! Specifically, a Judge John Hodgman brand Dream Theft Prevention Device sleeping cap. It has that embroidered on there. And we're gonna make this product. [Laughs.]

cory

I'm gonna say, I just ordered that product in my mind, so I'm 100% all over that.

john

I know. I know, 'cause I stole your dreams! I knew you were going to order it. That's why you gotta get one. Gonna get a sleeping cap, and we're gonna get it up at the MaxFun shop, and it's gonna say, "Judge John Hodgman patented, DRM-protected, Dream Theft Prevention Device." [Jesse and/or someone else laugh quietly.]

cory

It's a Faraday cage for your mind.

john

There you go.

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

Here's something from Savannah: "My husband Brent plays gospel a cappella quartet music from the late 1980s and early 1990s with relative frequency. He says he finds it funny. I think he actually really likes it. We're not religious. I grew up as a preacher's daughter in a strict church where no musical instruments were allowed. I hate hearing these songs." [John stifles laughter.] "They make me feel strangely claustrophobic. He thinks I should learn to laugh at them. I want the judge to order an injunction stating that Brent cannot play these songs over our shared house speakers, and especially not in the car on road trips." And then in parentheses, "(Ask me about the Josh Groban incident.)"

john

[Laughs.] Uh, I did—I—we did request some information about the Josh Groban incident, and it's about as you would imagine, Cory. Essentially, Savannah—[laughs]—went on a—

jesse

It's a classic Groban incident. [Laughs.]

john

It's a classic Groban incident. [Laughs.] Uh, it's a—uh, Brent and Savannah were on a 14-hour road trip from Indiana to South Dakota, and Brent made her listen to a Josh Groban religious song over and over and over again, and she found herself to be, uh, distracted and, um, frankly triggered by it. And it was very uncomfortable for her. So Cory, let me ask you this question. This is a personal question. Uh, are you a religious person? Do you believe in God or whatever, of any kind?

cory

Uh, no, I—I am irreligious.

john

You are irreligious.

cory

Yes.

john

Do you—this is something of a leading question. Do you think it's funny to play sincere, if somewhat... sappy or ridiculous, but sincere religious music, over and over, to laugh at in your house? Whether or not your formerly religious wife, who was raised in a religious environment, tells you that it's annoying to her specifically. Is that funny? Is it funny to make fun of religious music?

cory

Uh—

jesse

Is that funny to you, Cory?

john

Is that funny? [Laughs.]

cory

I sincerely like a lot of religious music.

john

Yeah!

cory

So this is—this is a somewhat difficult discussion for me. Gordon Gano, the frontman for the Violent Femmes, had a whole side hustle called The Mercy Seat that recorded some incredibly good gospel music. I could listen to it all day long. I often do. I—I mean, I think this is kind of a no-brainer. Right? You share a space with other people. You've gotta find a playlist that you both like. And each of you might ask the other one to tolerate a little bit of your favorite music. Like for example, I live with someone who labors under the unfortunate misapprehension that listening to Talking Heads all day, every day, for the rest of your life, is not good. [John laughs.] And, you know—

john

You probably ask yourself, "How did you get there?" [Laughs.]

cory

And "Who is this beautiful wife?" [John laughs.] "Where is that beautiful wife?" And so on. And you know, she's wrong, but I love her, and so sometimes I put on David Byrne's solo albums instead. And that's how we arrive at a marital bliss.

john

Yeah, but she's not playing the Talking Heads because she thinks they're dumb.

cory

No.

john

And that it's hilarious, and she goes around the house going, "Listen to this big suit music!"

cory

So—

john

[Stifling laughter] And also she knows that you toured with the Talking Heads, and it was a horrible experience in your life.

cory

Yeah, just to be clear, never toured with Talking Heads. It would have been great. But—

john

I know. It could never be a bad experience. It would be the greatest.

cory

No, no. No! No! I—in fact, I once did a gig with David Byrne! Back to book tours! Right?

john

Yeahhh! Yeah, me too!

cory

I was on a tour, he was on a tour, we did a thing together, it was so—he's so nice! Anyway—

john

So nice! I once did a book event—I hosted a book event with David Byrne at the Free Library in Philadelphia.

cory

Wow!

john

And the decision was made—we both lived in New York. And we both had independently come to the decision we were going to go back to New York that night on Amtrak. And I got—and the train was delayed by hours, and I sat with David Byrne and his—the woman who was helping him on his tour, at the Dunkin' Donuts at 30th Street Station at one o'clock in the morning in Philadelphia for about an hour. It was the strangest and best David Byrne experience I could ever have in my life. People are like, "Are you gonna go see David Byrne's American Utopia?" I know it's brilliant, but I've already seen the greatest show on Earth. [Stifles laughter.]

cory

Yeah! [Laughs.]

john

David Byrne drinking a Dunkin' Donuts coffee. [Laughs.]

jesse

"I lived it."

cory

Oh my god! You're living the dream! But, you know, the most salient fact about any of this is that he's doing a thing that annoys his partner and he does it all the time, and that's not cool.

john

I agree.

cory

I mean, it doesn't matter that he's laughing at it or not laughing at it. If it was something that was not gospel, and he wasn't laughing at it, and he still was like, "Hey, honey, here's a thing you hate! Can I play this thing you hate, a lot?" It would still make him a jerk.

john

Right! And—but I don't see—the point that I'm trying to make is... I—it seems to me pretty clear that not even Brent likes this music. If he genuinely liked it—right? Then you would have a point of discussion. But he enjoys it ironically. It's like for him, it's the nineties or something. He's enjoying it ironically.

cory

Mm.

john

And—and it bothers his partner. So I am—I am a non-religious person myself. And in terms of my faith, I have very little. [Chuckles.] Very little faith. But I will say that liking a thing ironically, and hurting your partner, is bad for your soul. And earns you eternal damnation in the court of Judge John Hodgman.

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

john

I once was on a sailboat that used to belong to Tina Weymouth. I'm gonna get a connection to all of these Talking Heads.

jesse

Let's take a quick break. When we come back, we'll hear about using smartphone maps with our guest, Cory Doctorow.

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

promo

Music: Relaxing ukulele music. Manolo Moreno: Hey, you've reached Dr. Gameshow. Leave your message after the beep. [Music stops.] [Beep!] Steve: Hello, this is Steve from Albany, talking about my favorite podcast, Dr. Gameshow. Dr. Gameshow is a show where listeners submit their crazy ideas for gameshows, and the two hosts have to play them. And they often bring in celebrities and small children to share in the pain and hilarity. At first it might seem like Jo Firestone has a contentious relationship with listeners, but that is only mostly true. She actually really respects us. It’s a lot like Lethal Weapon, where Jo is like, “Aw listeners, you’re all loose cannons! You’re out of control!” And we’re like, “No, Firestone, you’re too by the book. You’ve forgotten what it’s like out there.” And that’s why I love the show. [Beep!] [Music resumes.] Jo Firestone: Listen to Dr. Gameshow on Maximum Fun. New episodes every other Wednesday. [Music fades out.]

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

Judge Hodgman, we're taking a quick break here from clearing the docket. What have you got upcoming?

john

Well, as you know—or as perhaps you don't know—all ten episodes of the short form animated comedy show I made with our friend David Rees are available on Hulu for your viewing pleasure. I hope. You can go check them out, and I hope you will if you haven't already, at Bit.ly/dicktown. Bit.ly/dicktown. That's D-I-C-K-T-O-W-N, all small letters, all one word. If you have checked it out, and you haven't told someone about it, would you please? We'd really love to make some more of them. But here is something that I also hope you know, but maybe you don't. Medallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms, my most recent book of funny essays—except for the one about Petey the cat, which is sad, but also good—is now available in paperback, as of yesterday! The paperback edition is out. Obviously, I cannot go out on the road to breathe in your face and talk about it right now, for reasons that you understand. But I'm doing two very fun virtual events this week, that I hope you will join me for. Tomorrow, Thursday, the 15th of October, I will be in virtual conversation at the Mark Twain House and Museum. Mark Twain doesn't live there anymore. He sold it, I think, when he died. [Jesse laughs quietly.] But now it's a museum to Mark Twain-ology. And I'll be in conversation with Benjamin Click, a real deal professor of Mark Twain-ology at St. Mary's College of Maryland. Now, you don't know him by that name. You might know him by the name—the pseudo name—Professor Mark, from Vacationland, and the chapter "Daddy Pitchfork," where I go down to a, uh, unnamed version of St. Mary's College of Maryland and have some misadventures. This is the first time that I will be seeing Ben Click, and talking to him, since Vacationland came out, and I don't think he's mad at me? But let's find out together by joining me, and he, at the Mark Twain House and Museum tomorrow night, Thursday, October 15th, at seven PM virtually. And you can get the details for that at JohnHodgman.com/tour.

john

When you go over to JohnHodgman.com/tour, you will also see that Friday night, October 16th, I'll be virtually returning to my real hometown, Brookline, Massachusetts, to have a fun virtual conversation with our good friend, Jesse Thorn, Aimee Mann.

jesse

Oh!

john

The incredible—and arguably best—person. [Laughs.]

jesse

Yeah.

john

Uh, musician—musician, podcaster, co-host of The Art of Process with Ted Leo, and just one of the greatest conversationalists of all time. Also, by the way, a former—as you may know, a former resident of the Boston area in New England, a region of the Southeastern Maritime Provinces of Canada.

jesse

Yeah, I'm not familiar with the place, but I certainly know Aimee Mann.

john

Yeah, that's right. And that, again, will be happening at seven o'clock online, virtually, and you can register for one or both of these events, won't you please? By following the links at JohnHodgman.com/tour. You will also see there a reminder that you can get the paperback of Medallion Status wherever books are sold or loaned. If you would like me to inscribe a copy to you, to personalize a copy and sign it, or just get a signed copy, you can always call up our friends at Books Are Magic in Brooklyn. Books Are Magic bookstore in Brooklyn, New York. Go to their website. You can call or order and have it be personalized, and I'll be going there throughout the holiday season to sign and inscribe books for anyone who wants them. And they do ship! Now, just one more thing. I continue to phone bank and text bank, and be active and engaged in this very important election. As always, on Sunday, I will be meeting up with the democrats of Somerville and listener Zach, to make phone calls to battleground states, starting at three PM. If you'd like to join us, and watch me on Zoom while I do this, and make a few calls yourself, it's a very friendly group. They offer a training at the every—at the beginning of every session. And you can join us by signing up for a shift at Bit.ly/gogetemzach. On Monday, as always, I will be meeting up with listener Kelsey and her phone bank group that's calling voters in Wisconsin to recruit poll workers and poll observers. That's at 5:30 PM central. And you can sign up for that session at Bit.ly/gogetemkelsey. That's "Go get em," G-O-G-E-T-E-M-K-E-L-S-E-Y. And again, it's a very friendly group. You get online with them. You say hi to everybody. They give you a short training if you've not done this before. You start doing it, and afterward, you all kinda decompress with each other and say, "Hoo, that was fun," or, "Ah, that was amazing," or, "Eh, the people hung up, but I'll—better luck next time."

john

Finally, we have a new bank that I'm gonna be joining. I'm gonna be joining listener Melissa this Saturday, the 17th, at noon. Normally I take Saturdays off. I take Saturdays off from everything. We all need some time to decompress. But listener Melissa wrote me, and she's working with a phone bank that's calling voters in Pennsylvania to recruit poll workers and poll observers. And this is really important. Really important work to get poll workers and poll observers out there, to keep as many polls open as possible, so that people can vote safely, and as early as possible. So that's noon on Saturday the 17th. I'll be joining Melissa and her phone banking group, calling voters in Pennsylvania, and if you'd like to join up with us, go to Bit.ly—guess what?—gogetemmelissa. Bit.ly/gogetemmelissa. G-O-G-E-T-E-M-M-E-L-I-S-S-A. [As a relieved exhale] Hoo! Jesse Thorn! It's a busy season! What have you got going on?

jesse

Well, of course, our listeners are expecting me to mention that if they use the code "Justice" in my shop, the Put This On Shop, at PutThisOnShop.com, they can get free shipping the United States on almost everything in there. Um, not just, for example, the little bug and creature stick pin pack. Or—from the sixties. Or maybe the cufflinks with a white star liner on them. But everything. But that's not what I'm here to talk about today, John.

john

Oh!

jesse

I'm not here to talk about the pennant that says "Quebec," or the one that says "Boston Beans," that are on stick pins. [John laughs, Jesse stifles laughter.]

john

I want those...

jesse

I'm not here to talk about those things. I just thought I would mention that our friend Elliott Kalan from The Flop House has a new book out. [John gasps.] It's called Sharko and Hippo.

john

Sharko and Hippo!

jesse

It is a children's picture book that is a riff on the Marx Brothers, that is really hilarious and charming. I bought myself a copy. I—that's right! I'm not a freeloader! Sure, I'll freeload on Elliott's backyard pool. I've done that a lot this summer. But I won't— [John and Jesse laugh.] I paid cash money for my copy of Sharko and Hippo. It's available in bookstores. You can call your local independent bookstore and order it, or you can order it online from your favorite bookstore. It's called Sharko and Hippo by Elliott Kalan. It's really funny. If you're looking for a gift for a kid in your life, you could do a lot worse.

john

You know, I—I'm glad you mention it. 'Cause I did use my money to buy two copies of Sharko and Hippo to send to some little friends in Maine. And I'll just mention that I did so by calling up Print Bookstore—our friends at Print Bookstore, a bookstore in Portland, Maine—and they will also ship books to wherever you may wish them to go. So that's a way you can do it!

jesse

Awesome. Let's get back to the case!

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[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

Welcome back to the Judge John Hodgman podcast. We're clearing the docket. Here's something from Jeremy. He says: "My girlfriend gets mad at me when we look at my phone's map for directions while walking around. She insists the phone should be oriented with north on the top, the way you might normally look at a map, so you can get a sense of where you are within a neighborhood. I orient the map so that it reflects the direction we're currently facing, allowing me to more easily plan left and right turns. Who's right? Who's wrong?"

john

Alright. For clarity here, Cory Doctorow, you should know—[stifles laughter]—that this isn't just some any Jeremy. This isn't some regular Jeremy. This Jeremy is a big Maximum Fun supporter. He's the Mayor of Maximum Fun Town, New York City, and he—he's slowly trying to take over this podcast by submitting cases five to ten times a day. And we've already heard one from him—[laughs quietly]—I think also between him and his partner, with regard to, he would go into grocery stores and trim the vegetables before he took them to pay.

cory

Mmm.

john

And leave the trimmings behi—like, so he would grab a bunch of radishes, right? And trim off all the radish leaves, and just leave them for someone else to clean up, and then weigh that, and then pay that amount. Obviously very wrong on many, many levels, and he was judged extremely harshly. Maybe not even harshly enough. So you can tell that this court is somewhat prejudiced. I should recuse myself. [Cory and maybe Jesse laugh quietly.] So I'm gonna let Cory Doctorow judge this one solo.

cory

It's a no-brainer. He's right. He's right because you do you. He's right because all of us have different navigational capabilities. I, uh, often get lost in hotels— [John laughs.] —that I've stayed in for multiple days, and I get out of the elevator, and I still go the wrong direction when I get out of the elevator like six times in a row. I have no sense of direction. I have no spatial sense. I knock things over. I trip over things, and I drop things, all the time. And my wife has the most incredible spatial sense of all. She can, like, look down a corridor, at a picture at the end of the corridor a hundred yards away, and say, "That picture is two degrees off true." [John exclaims in shock.] And she will be absolutely right. It's a crazy superpower. And she—

john

Did you marry an AI?!

cory

I—I married a former Quake champion! She was on the British Quake team! [John laughs.] She has this incredible gamer sense! And, you know, and she's brilliant! And she's always in charge when we go out, and I have learned the hard way that every time I feel—no matter how strongly I feel like we're going in the wrong direction, I'm wrong. And so like, now I say things like, "It feels like we should turn left, but you think we should turn right, so we're going to turn right, because even though I feel that, I'm gonna turn right. Okay?" And she's like, "Yes, you're wrong again!" [John snorts.] So this person is clearly married to someone who is much better at orienting themselves in space than he is. Or partnered with. And so that person, when they're controlling the map, should orient the map in ways that make sense to them. Because they're able to orient themselves around an abstract like "north." Whereas if you are a poor and shrunken thing like me— [John snorts.] —with a debilitating geospatial deficit, then you need your map pointing in the direction that you're going! I also need to make the L and the R with my fingers to know which one is left and right, so, you know, there you go.

john

[Laughs.] Well, I'll tell you what. That's a very, very reasoned judgment. And it's hard to find a single flaw with it. Spatial relations and how you relate and perceive space in your own body is very highly personal. I cannot imagine personally using a GPS on a phone while walking around, or in a car while driving, with it oriented north. As opposed to having it oriented towards the direction in which I am going. I can't—that—the whole thing makes me nervous. I think you're absolutely right except for one small problem with your judgement, Cory. And that is that if we were to follow your judgment, Jeremy would be correct. [Cory laughs.] And I'm not sure that I can allow that in this courtroom. Jesse, you're the tiebreaker in this literal tribunal. Do we give this one to Jeremy? Or no?

jesse

Honestly, I don't even know how you would even get your phone to always show the map pointing due north. It has a little sensor in it to tell what direction you're walking, specifically so it won't do that. So I gotta—I—I'm in—it's a noble impulse, John. To rule against Jeremy. [Jesse stifles laughter, Cory and maybe John laugh.] And I—every fiber of my being wants to rule against Jeremy.

john

Yeah. [Multiple people laugh quietly.]

jesse

But it's his phone, it's how the phone is designed to work... I think I gotta go with Cory, and say— [John audibly winces, Jesse's voice rises on a question] —Jeremy's right?

john

Well... I gotta say, you know, I recused myself for a reason, and now I regret it. Uh, what about you, Jennifer Marmor? Is there any way I can get outta this, or do we gotta rule for Jeremy?

jennifer marmor

Yeah, you gotta go with Jeremy.

john

[Sighs.] Even though I think this sets an extremely dangerous precedent— [Jesse laughs.] —and an extremely slippery slope... I find in Jeremy's favor.

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[Three gavel bangs.]

john

Ugh.

jesse

Here's a final question from Jess: "My wife loves spoilers." [John snorts.] "For example, she will stop the movie and say, 'I need to know! Does Gandalf survive?' I've seen the studies that say spoiling things doesn't actually reduce the enjoyment of them. So I shouldn't really care. But here's what I see as the crux." Oh, wow. Jess nominating themselves to be—[laughs]—the crux-finder here!

john

New crux-finder!

jesse

"I like to suspend my disbelief during a re-watch. 'Maybe this time—spoiler alert—Gandalf doesn't survive.' When I have to take myself out of the artist's own narrative and explain what happens, it hurts my own enjoyment of the piece, and does a disservice to the work. My wife says that if I know the answer to a question she asks, I should just tell her. But why should we stop a piece of culture in order for me to explain what is going to happen five minutes later?"

john

Uh, alright. Well, before we dig into Jess's issue with their wife... Cory, quick question. And this is a—what—name one of your favorite books, or movies, or pieces of culture. Not your favorite favorite, but just something you really love. And have seen many—or read many times.

cory

Uh, Neal Stephenson's novel Interface, about election shenanigans.

john

Yeah!

cory

Great—great, seasonal book.

john

That's a timely one. Would you rather read a new book, that has got—that gets you as excited as when you read Neal Stephenson's Interface for the first time, or would you rather take—this is science fiction-y, so you'll like it. Would you rather take a pill that would erase the memory of that book every time you read it, so you could read it new over and over and over again?

cory

Oh my goodness. Yeah, I don't like either of those options! I re-read that book because as a writer, I'm really interested in how he does it!

john

Right.

cory

So I like the spoilers! And I—and you know, as everyone knows, the world has ten kinds of people in it. People who understand binary, people who don't, and people who understand ternary. [John snorts.] And I—I am one of those people who, when I see a magic trick done really well, the thing I wanna know is how it's done, and that makes me happier.

john

Right.

cory

And when—you know, I worked for Imagineering for a while, and the best night of my life was the overnight in the Haunted Mansion!

john

Hoo!

cory

'Cause even though I knew, like, intellectually how it was all done, I think that there is a kind of enjoyment that you get from knowing what's coming, and going, "Hey, look at how they're foreshadowing it! Look at how they set that up. Look at how they fake you out!" All of that stuff actually, for me, really enhances the enjoyment of it.

john

Would you enjoy a magic trick—I mean, I understand when you see the magic trick, you then wanna see how it works.

cory

Uh-huh.

john

When you enjoy the Haunted Mansion, then you do—then you then wanna sleep over. I don't want to sleep over in the Haunted Mansion ever; that's scary to me. That's a scary idea. That's as scary as swimming in the, uh, former 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea lagoon. With the robit underwater monsters in it. [Jesse or Cory laughs quietly.] But I understand the—that impulse. But for example, would you want to be like, "I'm gonna show you a magic trick. But before I show you the magic trick, I'm gonna show you what the gimmick is. I'm gonna show you how it works." Is that—would that be enjoy—

cory

Yeah, that—! Penn and Teller doing the cup and balls with the—

john

Yeah.

cory

—with the transparent cup? A hundred percent. I love seeing the praxis. The artistry. I—it's great.

john

Yeah. So, here's the thing, though. I don't know—I don't know—Jess, the letter writer, the complainant, is stating that they have this ability to turn off their memory of a thing. [Laughs.] To literally suspend their disbelief again, and pretend they are watching it for the very first time. Now, if that's true, Jess, don't hide your light under a bushel. That's a superpower. If you—[laughs]. If you have a switch in your head to erase your memory of a thing that you love, that's something science should study. Don't be like Daredevil, and hide your radar sense from the world so you can climb up and down buildings and punch people. Help solve a problem call blindness! [Stifles laughter.] By sharing your superpower with the world! I guess what I'm saying is that if Jess does have this superpower, this ability to turn off their literal memory and re-enjoy, say, the Lord of the Rings movie fresh, that it would be unenjoyable to have that spell broken by her wife asking what's about to happen. You know, you're down there in the Mines of Moria, and all of a sudden your wife makes you remember, "Oh, right. Maybe this Balrog shall not pass!" But I think that maybe what's really happening here—'cause I'm not sure that you can really turn off your memory of a piece of work—that frankly, Jess simply is annoyed by the interruption of the moment. Of Jess's wife saying, "Ah, ah, ah! Stop. Is he gonna live or die?"

john

And by the way, I—now I can't even remember! Gandalf does live, but also dies! [Laughs.] I don't even know—I don't—I—maybe I have this superpower!

cory

No, you're thinking of Jesus.

john

I think there's some parallels—uh, on-purpose parallels, perhaps. [Laughs.]

cory

The hair, the tablets.

john

Yeah. That's right. The blowing of, uh, smoke rings? [John and Cory laugh.] Famous part—famous part of the Sermon on the Mount. I think that Jess is throwing up all kinds of interference. Like, "This is a disservice to the work for me to explain what's about to hap—" The work doesn't care. The work doesn't care what you think. I was trained in literary theory at Yale University. The author is dead. All that remains is the text, and the text lives without you. It does not care if you are spoiling it for your wife, Jess. You are not probably able to actually erase your memory. Your wife is not ruining your enjoyment of this by making you—bringing you out of the story. The wife—your wife is annoying you 'cause she's making you stop this thing and tell what's gonna happen. And in this, and this point only, I have great sympathy. I see there's no problem with Jess's wife wanting to know what's gonna happen ahead of time in the story, but that is not Jess's burden to inform her. There is a thing. Wikipedia. If you wanna know what's gonna happen in the story because you wanna know how the Lord of the Rings sausage is made, or you wanna know—now I'm trying very hard—now the back of my head is trying to remember what's the name of that special fancy traveling bread that they ate. [Laughs.] 'Cause that's what I wanna say. What's the name of that bread? That elf bread? That they raised in leaves?

cory

That was Montreal bagels.

john

Yeah, if you wanna know how the elfin Montreal bagels are made, go read the Wikipedia page before you see the movie! If you wanna admire the film craft, read how the movie was made! But don't put it on your partner, Jess's wife, to explain it for you. Especially not in real time. 'Cause that's not a fun way to experience that movie.

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[Three gavel bangs.]

cory

That is an excellent ruling.

john

Yeah. Thank you.

cory

Look it up for yourself. Don't—don't subject someone else to your... to your weird way of enjoying stuff.

john

That's right.

cory

As someone who enjoys stuff in weird ways.

john

That's right. So Cory, before you go, just wanna remind everybody Attack Surface is out now. As a print book, as an audiobook, as an electronic book I would imagine?

cory

Certainly. Absolutely.

john

And are you doing any events associated with this?

cory

There are eight nights of bookstore-sponsored events, from the 13th to the 22nd of October, the Attack Surface Lectures, each with different guests. Ranging from Amber Benson and John Rogers to Sarah Gailey and Chuck Wendig, Runa Sandvik and Window Snyder, and many other amazing guests. Bruce Sterling's doing a cyberpunk night with me. And you can get the whole schedule at TinyUrl.com/gogetemcory. G-O-G-E-T-E-M-C-O-R-Y.

john

That shortened website again is...

cory

TinyUrl.com/gogetemcory.

john

TinyUrl.com—T-I-N-Y-U-R-L.com/G-O-G-E-T-E-M-C-O-R-Y. [Stifling laughter] Just rolls right off the tongue.

cory

It sure does.

john

These shortened URLs sure are handy. [Laughs.] Unforgettable, every one of them. [Laughs.] Thank you very much! I'll look forward to seeing you and following you on the road! The virtual road!

jesse

The docket is clear. That's it for another episode of Judge John Hodgman. Our thanks to Cory for joining us today on the show. Thank you, Cory!

john

Thanks, Cory!

jesse

Cory's new book is called Attack Surface. It's the third Little Brother novel. It is out now. You can visit Cory's website Craphound.com for more information on where to buy it. John, did you know that that website is named after a short story that Cory wrote?

john

Oh!

jesse

And in the dawning days of podcasting, when I basically didn't know Cory—I may have emailed with him once—I read it for a still extant science fiction story podcast called Escape Pod.

john

Oh!

jesse

It was one of the first professionally produced podcasts.

john

Yeah, they had to make Escape Pod. That was—it was written! Written in the stars!

jesse

Yeah.

john

Yeah.

jesse

Yeah. Exactly. In more ways than one.

john

Right.

jesse

While you're at Craphound.com, you can check out Cory's August 2020 book about tech monopolies, How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism, and Poesy the Monster Slayer, Cory's new picture book about a little maker girl who turns her toys into monster-hunting weapons.

john

What a delight.

jesse

Our producer is Jennifer Marmor. You can follow us on Twitter at @JesseThorn and @hodgman. We're on Instagram at @judgejohnhodgman. Make sure to hashtag your Judge John Hodgman Tweets #JJHo, and check out the Maximum Fun subreddit—that's at MaximumFun.Reddit.com—to chat about this week's episode. You can submit your cases to Judge John Hodgman at MaximumFun.org/jjho, or just email hodgman@maximumfun.org. We'll talk to you next time on the Judge John Hodgman podcast.

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[Three gavel bangs.]

john

Hi. John Hodgman here again, with a very special message. I apologize for not remembering that the special elvin energy bar that Galadriel gives Frodo and company wrapped up in leaves is called lembas bread. There was a time when I knew all of this, cold. But I'm getting older now, and I can't remem—I don't even remember if Gandalf lives or dies, or what's going on with him. Lembas bread! Save your time. Don't write me a letter. [Stifles laughter.] But thanks. Also, don't write me a letter about this! Um—[laughs]—yeah, we should have called this the Doctorowate. Or we should've—you know, we were making so many jokes about Cory Doctorow's doctoral school. At no point did we ever make a Doctorow docket joke. Sooo... now I did. So you don't have to write me a letter about that, either! But of course, if you wanna write me a letter about anything under the sun, you're always welcome to. Hodgman@maximumfun.org. Maybe this is a new segment! [Stifles laughter.] "Don't write me a letter, but you can still do it anyway." Alright, thanks. That's our show.

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[Three gavel bangs.]

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A cheerful guitar chord.

speaker 1

MaximumFun.org.

speaker 2

Comedy and culture.

speaker 3

Artist owned—

speaker 4

—audience supported.

About the show

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