TRANSCRIPT Judge John Hodgman Ep. 495: Jean’s Heat Lamp Terrarium

The winter solstice is approaching and it’s getting cold! Jean Grae in chambers with us to clear our wintery docket.

Podcast: Judge John Hodgman

Episode number: 495

Guests: Jean Grae

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, as always, is hooded sweatshirt memo getter— [John laughs.] —Judge John Hodgman. That's a joke about something that our audience can't see, that everyone on this week's program is wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

john hodgman

We are allll wearing hooded sweatshirts today, on our weekly Judge John Hodgman Zoom call!

jesse

Yeah. [John and Jesse laugh.]

john

It's how we stay in touch, how we stay connected. And it's not just you and me and producer Jennifer Marmor, Jesse. Look. I'm gonna introduce our special guest in a second. But I gotta set this up. It is now December. We are approaching the winter solstice! In the northern hemisphere. Which this year is December the 21st. The longest night of the year! The longest night—[stifles laughter]—of 2020. Like we needed more of it. Whatever holiday you observe around this time, it's a time across cultures to kindle a light against the darkness, and eat food. Take comfort in family and friends, maybe only by Zoom, as we're doing now. Don't travel, if you can help it. Definitely eat a lot of food. And hope at the end of this long night, the sun rises again. But given 2020 so far, all bets are off. The sun may never rise again. I don't know! We'll see what happens. December 22nd might be the beginning of perpetual night. Who knows? But if that happens, if the sun doesn't rise, there is someone you want six feet safely by your side, and that is our special guest: Jean Grae! Your favorite polymathic artist of words and music and pictures and ideas. Member of the Legion of Judge John Hodgman Guest Bailiffs. Long live the Legion. Famed throughout the world for her portrayal of Monica on Dicktown, on Hulu. Throughout the world minus the UK and Canada and Australia. Basically any other nation. [Stifles laughter.] Sadly. Uh, get a VPN, mates. Bit.ly/dicktown.

john

The creator of the forthcoming podcast Stacey Jambles: Ace Detective With No Short Term Memory, and also a holiday entertaining super expert. The indescribable—because she cannot be contained by words—Jean Grae! Hi, Jean!

jean grae

Hiii!

john

Oh, and—!

jean

And hygiene (hi, jean) is so important, especially right now. [John laughs.] So important.

jesse

Yeah. [As soon as Jesse's audio starts, the sound of a leaf blower begins in the background.] Wash your hands when you come in.

john

And also, hello to our—our special, uh, pandemic frequent guest: the leaf blower outside Jesse's house. [Jesse and Jean laugh.]

jesse

If you're concerned that the sun doesn't rise the day after the solstice, uh—well, I have an ally.

john

[Laughing] That's right!

jesse

No leaves will be left un-blown in my neighborhood! [Jean and John laugh.]

john

You're gonna be like Bruce Campbell in The Evil Dead 2; you're gonna strap a leaf blower to the stump of your right arm.

jesse

It's gonna be like Mad Max: Fury Road, only instead of a guitar that spews flames, [laughing] it's a guy on a giant spring with a leaf blower. [Jean laughs.]

john

That guy's the Doof Warrior? You'd be the Leaf Warrior.

jesse

Yeah.

john

Jean Grae, thanks for being here.

jean

Those were good jokes. [Jesse laughs.]

john

Well, look...

jean

[Laughs.] That's where my humor's at right now.

john

What happened was—

jean

I just listen a lot, and I'm like—

john

Yeah.

jean

"That was a fun chuckle." [Jesse laughs quietly.]

john

What—yeah, that's more accurate. That's more accurate than "good jokes." [Jean laughs.] I'll say that was a fun chuckle. I'll take that.

jean

I enjoy the—and relatable now!

john

That's right.

jean

Because there are, um, lawnmowers and leaf blowers in my neighborhood. This is a life I've never lived!

john

Right, because you have now moved to Balmer? Maryland.

jean

Mm-hm. Mm-hm.

john

What used to be called, uh, "Washington, DC's Brooklyn." I read that in a newspaper article.

jean

What year was that?

john

That, uh—that was in the sixties. When Brooklyn was not a good thing. It used to be called Losers Town, too, back then. [Laughs.]

jean

So they were like, "Uh, this is where a lot of Black people are in the city. It's the same."

john

That's right. That's right.

jean

[Laughs.] Scary.

john

And then in 1975, they got some advertising executives to come up with a new nickname for Baltimore.

jean

Mm-hm.

john

And that nickname is, as you know, Charm City.

jean

Yeah. It's very charming.

john

Charm City. Jean, you have a new home in Baltimore, Maryland.

jean

Yep!

john

You are getting ready to celebrate, uh, the winter solstice.

jean

Mm-hm.

john

Saturnalia, the darkest night of the year, and all attendant holidays.

jean

Mm-hm. Mm-hm.

john

For the first time. And good thing! Because we are here to adjudicate cases about holiday decor—

jean

Awesome.

john

—traditions, home eating, and more. So let's get into it!

jesse

Here's something from Corey. "My wife and I always get into a dispute this time of year. When we set up our Christmas nativity scene—" [Jean starts quietly cracking up.] "—she has the shepherds and Wise Men face in, toward the baby Jesus, which is more like real life." [John snorts.] "I prefer them to be faced outward, toward the viewer. Like a stage. Who's right?"

john

[Laughs.] J—I can see and hear that, uh, Jean Grae is laughing at something. She's having a pleasant chuckle.

jean

[Coughs, recovers from laughter.] Yes.

john

What's happening, Jean? What are you reacting to?

jean

Well, I'm—[laughs]—I'm looking at the photo, and, um, I re—

john

Right. This is a photo of their nativity scene.

jean

[Stifles laughter.] It's a photo of the nativity.

john

In Corey's house.

jean

And then I immediately realized that it is so awesome to have it have some sort of realism, instead of to function like a stage play, like I normally see nativities doing.

john

Right.

jean

Because immediately in my mind, I want to like— [Singing, as all three stifle laughter] I'm Wise Man number one, and I brought the frankincense! But wait! I'm Wise Man number two, and I've got the myrrh! And then the— I'm Wise Man number three, and no one's more important than me! I brought GOLD! [Speaking] Like, it's not a musical! [John laughs.]

jesse

I see in this picture here baby Jesus framing his head with his hands, and giving a little shake.

jean

[Laughs.] "Haaaa! Cha cha!"

jesse

He's selling the whole "son of God" thing. [Laughs.]

john

Well... I think that it would not be too controversial to say that religion is theatre, to a certain degree.

jean

Acceptable.

john

There is no realism in a nativity scene. Because there are competing descriptions in the Gospels about what actually happened in this manger. For sure, there's no—the Magi, the bearers of the frankincense, gold, and myrrh. By the way, good job, Magi who brought gold! That's a good gift.

jean

Yeah! It's the best one.

john

[Laughs.] Right?

jean

Like, what—you brought oil? And then, uh, incense. Like, get outta here. Somebody brought gold. You better bring it.

john

[Laughs.] Yeah!

jean

Like, what are you doing? I don't care about the other two.

john

"I'll take the gold. You—you two Magi can go." [Stifles laughter.] That's the first words of baby Jesus. "Gimme the gold."

jean

"Gimme the gold."

jesse

If a Magi came to your birth, what would you like to, uh—the Magi to bring?

john

Ooh. [John or Jean exhales thoughtfully.]

jesse

"The Magus" is the singular Magi, I guess.

john

So we're taking frankincense, myrrh, and gold off the table.

jean

Mm-hm.

jesse

Yeah, those are—let's say three Magi have brought you those three things.

jean

Ah.

jesse

But hark! Lo!

jean

A fourth!

jesse

Upon the horizon is a fourth Magus!

john

What's he bringing, Jean? Or she, or they.

jean

Um, what—

john

For you.

jean

What is their whole deal? Like, what do they do? Are they supposed to be able to be like, "Oh, I know—" Were they like, "Oh, I know who you're gonna be, and so we brought this stuff"?

john

Alternately they are Wise Men or Kings.

jean

Mm-hm.

john

Who were drawn to visit the baby Jesus, because they heard this prophecy that he was gonna be... hot stuff.

jean

Oh!

jesse

Yeah, they're sort of a stamp of legitimacy. It's like, uh, you know, the Prime Minister of Canada calling Joe Biden.

john

[Laughing] That's right.

jean

Okay.

john

That's right.

jesse

They're saying, "Congratulations on being the son of God."

john

Right.

jean

Um—yeah. I would want that to—I would want like, the full truth, about, like, stuff. Or I would basically, like, want a new home. 'Cause I don't know how they, like, brought him a bunch of stuff, but they were like, "You're in a barn! Cool! Bye-bye, kid! Child!"

john

Yeah. Not—not merely in a barn, I learned!

jean

Yeah, it's messed—it's—oh.

john

A trough. A manger—

jean

You know—

john

I always thought the manger was the barn. But the manger is a food trough! That he—that they used as his cradle!

jean

[Deep sigh.] Yeah, maybe a cradle.

john

Which makes sense, because it's mohn-jey, for—M-A-N-G-E-R. It's—it's the—

jesse

Yeah.

john

The cognate is—or whatever it is. The word word is that.

crosstalk

Jean: Yeah, so... maybe a bed. Jesse: Plus there's no crib for his bed.

john

Right.

jean

Yeah.

john

They didn't have a crib. They—they put him in a bowl! [Laughs.] They put the baby Jesus in a food bowl.

jesse

Yeah. Sweet head and all.

jean

So maybe—maybe a bed, and not gold.

john

Maybe a bed. Maybe—yeah. [Laughs.]

jesse

A bed.

john

Yeah.

jean

"'Cause I can't use the gold."

jesse

That is more practical, 'cause my first thought was ham. [John and Jean crack up, Jesse stifles laughter.] Like a big ham. Like, maybe like a honey-baked spiral cut type deal?

jean

For a baby?!

jesse

Just what—something for everybody to gnaw on! 'Cause everybody's coming in.

jean

Ohhh, I get it!

jesse

You know what I mean?

john

Yeah. It's a—like a—yeah. If ham is in your dietary wheelhouse, that's always a pleasant gift. It lasts for years. Thirty-three years, I believe.

jesse

Yeah.

john

Biblically speaking.

jean

How about antibiotics?

crosstalk

John: [Laughing] That would be good, too! Jesse: Oh, yeah. That'd be good. Jean: Like, she just gave birth.

jesse

In case there was an infection.

john

Yeah.

jean

Yeah, there's a lot—he's in a trough. Like—hm, clean him up!

jesse

Or just the germ theory of disease!

jean

Yeah, that—! Oh, that's great.

jesse

Just the knowledge that people should wash their hands—

jean

Uh-huh.

jesse

—while delivering the baby.

john

Also, soak the beans. Soak the beans.

jesse

Yeah. [Jesse and John laugh.] Don't forget to soak the beans.

john

That's a Kasper Hauser reference, look it up.

jesse

Yeah.

john

The Kasper Hauser Radio—what is it, Comedy Podcast?

jesse

Yeah, Kasper Hauser Comedy Podcast. You need that.

john

Yeah. Yeah, go check that out on MaximumFun.org. Yeah. [Clears throat.] I agree. Like, I'm—the realism here—

jean

Mm-hm.

john

—that informs Corey's dispute is, uh, fakeism. Because of course—[stifles laughter]—this is—there are many different depictions of this moment in the life of the probably historical figure Jesus. They are—in the Gospels, they are often contradictory. These three Magi did not show up until two years after Jesus was born in one of the Gospels.

jean

Oh.

john

Don't ask me which one; I'm not a Biblical scholar. I looked it up briefly.

jean

Gospel number 14.

john

Right. And the nativ—

jean

That's how they're labeled.

john

And the nativity itself was always a piece of theatre! And in fact it started as like, a Christmas pageant! Like a live stage show that was—actually, according to Wikipedia, Saint Francis of Assisi mounted the first live nativity scene in 1221, and that's why they refer to Saint Francis of Assisi as, uh, the Corky Saint Clair of Franciscans. [Jesse and Jean laugh, John stifles laughter.] Patron Saint of Community Theatre. [Laughs.]

jean

I just—I didn't wanna see it set up like a sitcom.

john

Right.

jean

Like, I like the fact that they're all doing this. But I would say, like, maybe just make someone, like, break the fourth wall? Just one? [John laughs.] Like The Office?

jesse

Just one sheep is looking out at the audience—

jean

Yes!

jesse

—with one eyebrow raised, like, "Come on."

jean

[Laughing] Yeah. Yes.

jesse

"Son of God?"

jean

"What is this?"

john

"You're probably wondering how I got here." [Everyone laughs.] Flashback! [More laughter.]

jean

Yes.

john

Flashback to that sheep being born, going, "Where's my gold and myrrh?" [More laughter.] I agree and concur with your wisdom, uh, you two other Magi. This Magi feel—this Wise Person says, uh, it looks better! Seeing their backs. I mean, they are there in veneration of the Christ child, A.

jean

Mm-hm. Mm-hm.

john

B, if you had them all facing outward, it wouldn't look like a nativity scene. It would look like a display of your Warhammer figurines.

jesse

[Stifling laughter] Mm-hm.

john

This is better.

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[Three gavel bangs.]

jean

This is better.

jesse

No offense—[stifles laughter]—no offense to your display of Warhammer, uh, figurines, specifically Stuart Wellington from The Flop House.

john

Yeah, Stu Wellington, who paints Warhammer figurines live on Instagram—

jean

Oh.

john

—uh, I would like you to create a nativity scene of your Warhammer figurines.

jean

What am I doing with my life?

crosstalk

John: I know, right? Jesse: I know. [Laughs.]

jesse

All you have is your own church, Jean!

jean

Damn it! [Stifles laughter.]

john

I did forget to mention—

jean

I really need to think differently!

john

—that Jean has her own church, called the—speaking of religion as performance.

jean

Mm-hm.

john

Jean has her own church, which is the Church of the Infinite You.

jean

That's right.

john

Which meets on occasional Sundays on Twitch, and the—and, uh, everyone follow Jean on Twitter and Instagram. We'll give all the handles at the end.

jean

Yeah.

john

To find out when the next one is. Because this is some church you can really use.

jean

And, uh, a nice family named the Weissmans (Wise Mans) once came to the church, so... [John and Jesse laugh.] There you go!

john

What'd they bring? A ham?

jean

A ham.

john

Three hams.

jean

They brought me three hams, and I was like, "This is a lot."

john

"Oh my god. The Weissmans showed up."

jean

And I was like, "That's also an interesting gift, uh, from the Weissmans."

john

And before I get letters, people of faith, I honor and respect your faith. When I say that, uh, religion is theatre, that is in my opinion a compliment to religion, because theatre is where we come together—when it is safe to do so—and sit in silence, and contemplate bigger truths! And enjoy a communion, both in the audience and with performers on stage who are asking the big questions. So please do not feel that I am denigrating religion. I am trying to pay it a compliment. Alright.

jesse

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

It's Judge John Hodgman. I'm Bailiff Jesse Thorn, with Judge John Hodgman. Every Judge John Hodgman episode, of course, is brought to you by the members of Maximum Fun. All the folks who've gone to MaximumFun.org/join to kick in a few bucks to help pay for this production. This week we are also supported, specifically caffeinally, by our friends— [Jesse and John stifle laughter.] —at Ruby Coffee! You probably—you may have heard the story of how we hooked up with Ruby Coffee already on Judge John Hodgman.

john

Mm-hm.

jesse

But basically, I spent an afternoon trying to find the fanciest coffee that I could possibly get for my wife. I wanted the best coffee, not the most expensive coffee. And I found Ruby Coffee Roasters, I put in an order, my wife really loved it, but when it came, it came with a note from this guy named Jesse who works there, and he says, "Hey! It just so happens I saw your name on the order as it was going out the door. This is a small outfit. And I'm a big MaxFunster! I'm a big Jordan, Jesse, Go! and Judge John Hodgman fan." I was so grateful. And I said, "Listen. There's a lot of coffee snobs at Maximum Fun."

john

Right.

jesse

"Lot of real serious coffee enthusiasts."

john

Yep. A lot of turtleneck wearers, I noticed when I went by.

jesse

Yeah. [Laughs.]

john

You know what I mean?

jesse

[Laughing] Some real Maynard G Krebses? Is that what you're suggesting?

john

Yeah. A lot of coffee snobs!

jesse

[Laughing] Are you describing beatniks, John?

john

That's right. Beatniks love the coffeehouse—

jesse

[Laughing] Stereotypical beatniks from the 1950s?

john

With their bongos, it's like—and their—

jesse

[Laughing] From a sitcom in the early sixties?

john

That's right. Yep. Their—they love that—

jesse

The band from Pee-wee's Playhouse? Is that what you're describing?

john

Yessiree, Daddy-o! That's what I'm describing! And what do the beatniks love more than high-quality coffee? Nothing. [Jesse quietly recovers from laughter in the background.] Except maybe soul patches. But you know what I'm saying! It's a high—it's a discerning crew of coffee drinkers at Maximum Fun HQ, and what did they discover when they got some of that Ruby Coffee?

jesse

They loved it! I just checked in with my wife. I'm like, "How's that coffee that we got in the mail?" and she said, "Oh, it's great! Of course it's great!" [Laughs.] It's great! So, uh, they set up a special deal. We swapped coffee for a couple ad spots. They set up a special deal for Judge John Hodgman listeners. RubyCoffeeRoasters.com. Use the discount code "JJHO" to get 20% off your first shipment of any subscription, or 15% off of a one-time coffee purchase. RubyCoffeeRoasters.com, and the code is "JJHO." I actually got an email yesterday from Jesse at Ruby Coffee Roasters.

john

Yeah?

jesse

He told me they have—[stifles laughter]—they are like, flying out the door. Judge John Hodgman listeners have been so supportive, and he was, like—he was, like—I don't know if an email can be in tears, but he was awed. [John chuckles.] By the response. [Chuckles.] So thanks to him, and thanks to our listeners!

john

One of the listeners even told Jesse that they were going to refuse to use the discount code. Because they wanted to support a small business. And this is a small business! Ruby Coffee Roasters is a small coffee-roasting company based in Nelsonville, Wisconsin, population of 191. Quality coffee sourced from a variety of direct relationships with farmers, and small coffee import/export companies who work directly with small farmers. They are roasting coffee out of love, and sending it to you for love. And it's delicious stuff. And even though it's nice of you to support them... take advantage of this discount code, why don't you? You deserve a treat! Go to RubyCoffeeRoasters.com, and use discount code "JJHO." That's RubyCoffeeRoasters.com, discount code "JJHO."

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

promo

Music: Upbeat, fun music. Emily Heller: Does our podcast deep-dive into the weirdest Wikipedia pages we can find? Lisa Hanawalt: Yeees! Do we learn about scam artists, remote islands, horrible mascots, beautiful diseases, and mythical monsters? Emily: Yes, yes, yes, absolutely, and yes! Do we retain any of this knowledge? Emily & Lisa: Eeeeh? Lisa: Probably not. Emily: I’m Emily Heller. Lisa: I’m Lisa Hanawalt.

promo

Emily: We make art! And comedy. And TV shows. And also the podcast Baby Geniuses. For the past eight years, we’ve been trying to learn new things about the world and each other every episode. Lisa: But let’s be honest, this podcast is mostly about two friends hanging out, shooting the breeze, and making each other laugh. We’re horny. We like gardening and horses. And we get real stupid on here. Emily: But, like, in a smart way! Lisa: Yeah. Emily: Join us! Every other week on Maximum Fun. Music: Baby Geniuses, tell us something we don’t know! [Music ends.]

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

Welcome back to the Judge John Hodgman podcast. We're clearing the docket this week with our friend Jean Grae. Here is a case from Leah: "My husband and I traditionally do not get too much into Christmas decorations, for various reasons. Not the least of which is that he's Jewish, and I am a lapsed Catholic. However, during this pandemic year, the spirit of Christmas has struck me to the core. I want to go all out with Christmas decorations to bring some joy and whimsy to this dark winter. I have my eye on a fiber optic rainbow extravaganza Christmas tree from Hammacher Schlemmer."

john

Yesss! [John laughs, Jesse stifles laughter.]

jesse

"Which he thinks is garish." [John laughs harder.] "He prefers a more natural and understated tree. I want an explosion of color, and maybe an inflatable Frosty the Snowman on our lawn. Help us decide whose design aesthetic prevails."

john

Jean, have you received the most recent Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue in the mails?

jean

I have not.

john

I'm sure your—your new address is updating throughout the catalogue communities.

jean

[Chuckles.] I hope so.

john

So it'll be coming. So, alright. I have received it, so I knew exactly— [Jean gasps.] —what Leah was talking about, and I found it on their website. I sent—I put a link in the document that you can all now open.

jean

Ohhh...

john

This is my present to you.

jean

Awww.

john

Do you see it? The White Northern Lights Tree? I don't know know why they have to call it the White Northern Lights Tree.

jean

It's a joy—you know why it says "White Northern Lights." [John laughs.] Tch. This is why I don't order this catalogue anymore.

john

[Laughs.] This is a full, fluffy—

jean

Wow.

john

—fiber-optically, uh, pine-needled fir tree imitation... that has programmable lights? It can—I think it can pulse, and change?

jean

Yeah!

john

It says it creates, "A dancing cascade of colors along its branches." I gotta say, what do—what do you think about this in their home, Jean?

jean

Um, I think that that is awesome. And as someone who grew up in a—my dad was a very strict Muslim.

john

Mm-hm.

jean

And my mom was sort of like, "I'm everything," but she didn't get to celebrate that. So we never got the opportunity to like, have Christmas in the house. I had my first, like, real Christmas, and like, Christmas tree, like, three years ago.

john

Oh, wow!

jean

And... man. I... love— [John or Jesse laughs quietly, Jean stifles laughter.] I love Christmas so much! I am not a religious person, of—I—

john

No!

jean

I just—the feeling of it. The idea of it. The—

john

Neither is Christmas. [Inaudible.]

jean

No, it's not! It's got his name in it, but hm-mm!

john

Yeah.

jean

I was so excited to do it. I was, um, just talking to Quelle about, like—my mom took us when we were kids to go see the Santa at Macy's. Like, the Macy's Macy's.

john

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

jean

Not a Macy's.

john

Yeah.

jean

Macy's, uh, you know, uh—

crosstalk

John: Macy's Prime. Jean: Miracle Macy's. John: Right. Jesse: The Miracle on 34th Street Santa. Jean: The Miracle on 34th Macy's!

john

Yeah.

jean

So we got to—you know, it was like, ten blocks away from us. And she got in a whole bunch of trouble because of it. And she was like, "No, I want my kids to have this experience." And I still have the picture of us, like, sitting on Santa's lap, and I look very upset. But the idea that she was like, "No, you should get to have these experiences! We're at, like, this Macy's. It's magical. It doesn't matter; you don't have to be a part of this faith or anything to appreciate celebrating, or feeling good, or good feels, and lights, and—you know? And toys, and—"

john

Right.

jean

So we do big Christmas. And this year especially, 'cause everything has been horrible, I'm like, "No, we should go all out." Like, yeah, let's get a blow-up snowman! [Stifles laughter.] And a Santa, and—and like, maybe one of the car wash tube guys for no reason, and— [Jesse laughs, John cracks up.] —paint him in Christmas colors. They have them online, they're $129—

john

Yeah.

jean

—and the pump is 99. And they—you can get the one with two legs, which is much better than the one with one leg.

john

Well, the one with one leg is just a tube. He's just a worm.

jean

He's just a tube.

john

Right.

jean

And I'm like, "Let's go all out, to have some, like... joy."

john

Yeah.

jean

Just... yeah. Go for it. I love this tree. I don't know if it would be our only tree? But...

john

You mean you might get two of them?

jean

Yeah.

john

Yeah. Well, they do come in a four-and-a-half–foot size, and a seven-and-a-half–foot size.

jean

Well, I think you solved the problem.

jesse

I mean, the—the husband here is not wrong that it is obscenely garish.

crosstalk

Jean: Mm-hm! Mm-hm. Mm-hm. Mm-hm! John: Yes. Yes.

jesse

[Stifling laughter] It's also extremely expensive.

john

That is true. That is true.

jean

Oh, is it? I didn't look at that.

john

Well—

jesse

It costs about as much as ten regular Christmas trees.

jean

Oh! Well...

john

Uh, unless you're in Manhattan.

jesse

Oh. [Stifles laughter.]

john

Then it's the cost of two. [Jean laughs, John stifles laughter.] It's $500. For the seven-and-a-half–foot one, it's $500. And for the four-and-a-half–foot one, it's 250. But you really need to have both—

jean

Oh, that's not bad.

john

You really need to have both to get the mother-and-child, uh, garish Christmas tree look. [Jesse laughs quietly.]

jean

Mm-hm.

jesse

I feel like if you spend the $500 to buy the seven-and-a-half–foot version of this tree, you are sort of morally obliged to spend the rest of the money to get the hologram Liberace to perform in front of it. [John and Jean crack up.]

john

You mean the rest of the money in the world? [Laughs.]

jesse

Yeah. [Laughs]

jean

All of it? [Laughs.] Why not the little tree? Why not the smaller one, like, next to the bigger one, or in another room?

jesse

No, go hard or go home.

john

Yeah.

jesse

[Laughing] That's my feeling about these rainbow trees.

jean

No. I—I think—I think you guys are, um, skimping on the factor of walking—because all we have is being inside. So don't just make that one room the special room. Like, put something in another room, and you're like, "Oh, this is a Christmas tree," and then you go into another room, you're like, "But what about THIS Christmas tree?"

john

Right.

jesse

Ohhh.

jean

"This is a whole new Christmas!" I think it's different this year. I think put as much joy in different rooms as you can. If you got the space.

jesse

I have always wanted one of those aluminum Christmas trees.

crosstalk

Jesse: That have, you know, colored uplights. Jean: Mm-hm. John: Mm-hm. That mid-century modern?

jesse

Yeah. I think those are really neat.

jean

You should get one.

john

I always have had a—a natural Christmas tree. Because what better way to celebrate, whether it is the birth of Christ or the general sense of rebirth after the longest night in the year? Because after all, Christmas is a synthetic observance. Taking in all different kinds of traditions—pre-Christian Pagan traditions of Yule in Germany, and across the Celtic area, and then obviously later, all kinds of commercial traditions, of, uh, Coca-Cola and Santa Claus, and all those other sort of commercially invented traditions—that kinda got rebranded with Christianity, uh, sometime during the early Christian church. But in fact, Christmas itself was not celebrated by most Christians—indeed, the Puritans who invaded and then lived in New England—the region of, uh, Southeast Canada where I am from—abhorred Christmas. They thought it was a completely decadent tradition, and essentially a Pagan tradition. Wasn't until the Victorian Era the Christmas that we know came to be propagated throughout the English-speaking world. So the point that I'm saying is, there are a lot of different traditions. My tradition was always to get a natural tree in my home, with my mom and dad, and then in my own home. Because what better way to celebrate rebirth during the darkest night of the year than... killing a tree and watching it die slowly? [Jesse and/or Jean laugh quietly.] But! My grandmother always had—uh, not a mid-century modern aluminum tree like you speak of, Jesse, but just a really classic fakey tree. Fakey hardware store tree. That was—the needles were all silver. And there was a—

jean

Mm-hm.

john

I have a fondness for that as well! And this particular year, as you point out, Jean—this is a year where we really need a lot of light in all of this darkness. I think it's a great time—like, as, in many ways, the way we've been reevaluating our relationship with work, our relationship with our friends and our family, our relationship with our government, what we want from a society—it's a good time to just go ahead and try something new for Christmas. And if Leah and her husband are in a position, uh, financially, to splurge on the seven-and-a-half–foot tree? I think they should do it. Because here's—here's what. You have this tree for this year, and you just enjoy this...

jean

Mm-hm!

john

...garish display. And then you can keep it next year if you love it. Or I bet you could donate it to a school, or to a nursing home.

jean

Mm-hm.

john

Or to some other organization that might appreciate it next year. I would hope that you would make some, you know, equal donation to a charitable organization, or to people who are in need. Like, if you only have $500 left in your life, take care of yourself. Don't buy this tree. But if you buy this tree—if you can afford $500 for this cuckoo tree, then put $500 into the hands of people who need it. And I think that's a very nice way to create a dancing cascade of new experiences, in your Christmas and in others, or your holiday.

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

jean

Quite like the Northern Lights themselves.

john

A dancing cascade of colors?

jean

That's right.

john

Yeah. One thing that I used to do with my son—we would play a game when—remember the SkyMall catalogue?

jean

Oh, yeah.

john

Well, the SkyMall has gone to the great, uh, recycling bin in the sky.

jean

Mm-hm.

jesse

We'll always have SkyMaul, M-A-U-L, Kasper Hauser's pair of perfect books.

john

Pair of perfect SkyMall parodies, yeah.

jesse

Yeah.

john

But I've put a link in the document, which you guys can both open if you don't mind, because we used to play a game with my—my son and I, in the SkyMall catalogue, where we would go page by page, while we were maybe flying to a place and passing the time. And we would—our agreement was, as a thought experiment, if you have to buy something on each page, what would it be? And while SkyMall's no longer around, Hammacher Schlemmer certainly is a good way to do this. So I've sent you the link to their New Arrivals page. [Jean laughs quietly.] So Jean and Jesse. Here on the New Arrivals page, top row, there are four items. You have to pick one. The 750-watt wall outlet heater, the Hammacher Schlemmer Classic Lionel Train that goes around a tree, children's race car simulator, or four-foot twinkling Christmas bubble light.

jean

[Chuckles.] Oof. Jesse—

jesse

This is easy for me; I—I love that giant bubble light. [John and Jean laugh.] This is something distasteful that I could get into in an instant. I, uh—you know, I—this summer, my father passed away, and there's never been—in my life, anyway—a greater bubble light enthusiast than my dad. Like, my dad would plug in the bubble lights that he had bought at, uh—[stifles laughter]—at Cole Hardware down the street from our house, and he would like, giggle with glee as they feebly bubbled on our Christmas tree. [Jesse and one or both of the others laugh.] Just barely working. Just always barely working. [More laughter.] He loved them so much. Uh, and this one, which is four feet tall, seems—seems perfect! [Stifles laughter.]

john

Alright, four foot tall—that—Jean, do you concur, or do you get something else?

jean

No, something else. The race car simulator, hands down. [Jesse and John laugh.] Because I have been known to, any time I see like a—a—if I'm somewhere and I see those, like, kids', like, the little horses outside a supermarket? Just anything that a—that is only for children, and I should not be able to fit into, I will cram myself into that area. And get on that child's toy, and make children wait until— [John laughs.] And I have spent like $20 just being there for a long time. Perhaps I was drinking, perhaps I was completely sober. Nothing would give me greater joy than to put this in—[laughs]—in the living room. And to randomly... hurt myself.

john

[Laughs.] Trying to get into it. It's pretty small!

jean

Trying to get into this. I'm sure I would break it, and my knees would be up in my ears. But, um, it would bring—it would bring me a great amount of joy.

jesse

I have to say, though, John—

john

Yeah.

jesse

—that you unnaturally constrained our choices. And on my front page as it appeared on my computer screen, the item I would choose above all others, comfortably, by an enormous margin, is item 96554, the illuminated earwax remover. [John and Jean crack up.] This is the ear-cleaning tool that uses five LEDs—

jean

Oh!

jesse

—to illuminate the ear canal.

john

Mm-hm?

jesse

And an integrated 1080p camera to see and target wax build-up. So you hold it in your hand, shove it in your ear— [Jesse and Jean stifle laughter.] —and look at your phone, where there's like a colonoscopy camera, broadcasting directly to your phone via Bluetooth. [All three laugh.]

jean

Why?!

john

Alright, I'll give—I'll give you that one. Jean? I will offer you one more chance to trade up.

jean

I'm not gonna trade up, but if it were anything else, it would be the hand pain–relieving mitt, because I would just keep them on all the time. [Laughs.]

john

It's—

jean

Just as an excuse. To be like, "Oh, I'm sorry, I can't." I'd just—just typing with them. Just everything. I'd be like, "I gotta wear these!"

john

It just looks like a giant—it looks like a giant black vortex oven mitt.

jean

Yes! [Laughs.]

john

That has mysterious red light inside of it.

jesse

Yeah.

jean

It has no—no thumb pocket, you just your whole hand is in it, and you can't get anything done.

jesse

The mysterious red light cannot be overstated here. The myst—its mysteriousness— [Jean and Jesse laugh.] Its odd quality, and like the—you know, the neoprene body glove–ness of this thing that—this—

jean

Mm-hm.

jesse

It really is like, anything could be inside there.

jean

It says it's—

jesse

Like, it's designed to be a void into which— [Jean laughs.] It's like a trust fall. Where you put your hand into the void, and a red light comes out. [Laughs.]

jean

It says it's "mitten-like." [Jesse and Jean laugh.] It's mittenesque. It's not a mitten.

jesse

Well, you know, uh—"For legal reasons, we cannot claim it's—" [Laughs.]

jean

[Laughs.] We cannot.

jesse

"Unfortunately fails to meet the FDA standard for mitten."

jean

It's a hand—it's a hand pocket. It's an outside hand pocket.

john

Well, alright. So Jesse, you get the illuminated earwax remover.

jesse

[Whispers] Yes... [Jean laughs.]

john

Jean? For this holiday season, I'm giving you the cordless LED mysterious hand pain–relieving mitt.

jean

Wooo! Two of them!

john

I'm glad none of you snapped up the world's largest putting pool table. [John and someone else laugh quietly.] It's a putting—it's a putting surface that's shaped like a pool table. If you—this is a time when we all should try to be a little less material, especially since everyone's—a lot of people are hurting these days. If you wanna make your holiday season giftless—which is kinda a awesome thing to do—just, uh, get a free copy of the Hammacher Schlemmer—[laughs]—the Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue, and sit down with your family, and pay this thought experiment: "What junk would I take if I had to take something?" And you will be so happy that no one gave you a single gift this year. And as you do it, just simply send $25 to MaximumFun.org as a royalty. 'Cause I invented this game. Page By Page.

jean

Wait, there's an air-propelled bowling game... Wait a second...

john

[Laughs.] Oh, there's more. You can always load more.

jean

I forgot. There's so much more.

john

There's so much more.

jean

[Quietly, to herself] Basketball hoop... Where would I put that?

john

Jean, please close the Hammacher Schlemmer website.

jean

Okay, but can I just say one more thing that we bought for the house?

john

Yeah, please!

jean

Um, this is going along with that, like, needing to find, like, joy all over the place. So I—I rec—well, like in the past two years, I found out about the wonder of electric fireplace inserts.

john

Sure.

jean

'Cause we had one in our last place, and we, like, did an entire built-in around it, and it was amazing and wonderful. I grew up with a fireplace, and al—and never had it again in another, like, house or apartment or anything. And although this is a very old house, a lot of things were covered up, so we believe there's a fireplace hiding. But we did not wanna be in this house without a fireplace. So... In—

john

You're just smashing down walls looking for it?

jean

[Laughs.] I would like to!

john

I know you would.

jean

In, um, trying to find the right electric fireplace insert to build into something I'm creating—like, I'm building mantels around them—we now have four of them. And they all operate differently, but one of the best things that I did in the past month was to put them all in the living room, and turn them all on. At once.

john

Four fireplace inserts?

jean

Yes.

john

One for each wall?

jean

No, some just in the middle of the floor—

john

[Laughing] Okay.

jean

—'cause they're just the log. [Laughs.] Some in the cabinet.

john

Jean, would you do me a favor? When—when—when we're all—

jean

Mm-hm! I've already taken a picture. [Laughs.]

john

Okay, yeah. Let's—please send it in to Jennifer Marmor so we can get that up on the Judge John Hodgman Instagram.

jean

Mm-hm. Mm-hm. And they're very cheap!

john

Now—there we go. That's another way to liven up the winter solstice. Foldaway illuminated bowling arcade game. Let's close the Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue and move on to some more justice.

jean

Mmm.

jesse

Erin says: "We live in Michigan, which gets cold in the winter! Every winter, my husband and I battle over the thermostat. I'm cold, he's hot. I turn the heat up—"

john

Mm-hm.

jesse

"—he turns it back down. I wear slippers, and sweatshirts, and blankets. All I want is to be cozy and not shivering while wearing multiple layers. He frequently turns the heat down to 65 to 67 degrees." [John whistles.]

jean

Eugh.

jesse

"I want Judge Hodgman to order that we maintain our thermostat at a minimum of 70 degrees in the winter months, which is what I feel is a typical or average household temperature. I'd really prefer 72 degrees to be extra cozy, but will compromise at 70 degrees."

jean

Mm.

john

Michigan is a cold, cold place in the winter!

jean

Mm-hm!

jesse

[Stifling laughter] You know what Michigan is?

john

No.

jesse

Mitten-like! [John and Jean laugh.]

john

It's true. It's true!

jesse

Yeah.

john

It's like a giant, mysterious hand warmer. It's the giant, mysterious hand warmer of the Great Lakes!

jean

That's what they call it!

jesse

Yeah, why is that red light emanating from it? [John and Jean laugh, Jesse stifles laughter.] What is the glow?

john

[Laughs, sighs.] I—you know, this is such a common dispute. In life, and certainly in the Judge John Hodgman mail bag. I have heard some hearsay over the years that gender-assigned-at-birth men tend to run biologically hotter than gender-assigned-at-birth women.

jesse

There's research about that in offices.

john

Is there?

jesse

Yeah.

john

Yeah. And therefore there is this fight over the thermostat, constantly.

jean

Mm-hm.

john

And what—what do you think, Jean? Do you and Quelle, your husband, have this dispute?

jean

Well, this is our first time—I mean, also I think my first time living in a place where we are in control of our own heat.

john

Oh, right! Right.

jean

And having a thermostat. Because coming from New York, like, that's not a thing.

john

Right.

jean

Like, it's just on, and you're either like, "My skin is falling off! I'm dying! I'm burning! It's so hot!"

john

Right.

jean

Or like, "I'm FREEZING!"

john

Right.

jean

So we've never had the chance to do that. And this is our first, uh, thermostat living together. He's had, you know, this experience before. And he is a generally—like a walking... radiator that's just constantly—like a bleeding radiator.

john

Right. Right. Right.

jean

He is very warm, all the time. And I generally—um, because I'm dead inside— [John and/or Jesse laugh.] —I'm just freezing.

john

That's why you have four fireplace inserts in one room.

jean

[Laughs.] It is why I have them all over the place.

john

That's right.

jean

And which is also part of our kind of compromise, so I can get my, like, heat in areas where I really want it. But—

jesse

Jean sleeps on one of those heated logs, like a lizard in a terrarium. [Jean laughs, John cracks up.]

jean

I do! Let me tell you—

john

Yeah.

jean

—if I could enclose part of the bedroom like that, I would 100% do it. [Jesse laughs.] And then just like, a little water bowl—

john

Mm-hm!

jean

—and I would roll over and just throw my face into it, 'cause I get very thirsty at night. That sounds awesome. [Laughs.]

john

That's right.

jesse

A few crickets to munch. [Laughs.]

jean

A few crickets! Listen! Thank you! I think—we haven't finished our bedroom, and maybe this is part of the construct.

jesse

Yeah.

jean

Just Jean's... heat lamp terrarium.

jesse

Mm-hm.

john

Yep. Build—yeah, we oughta—I'll start a "Build Jean a Terrarium" fund.

jean

Thank you.

john

Yeah.

jean

Please go to Jean—BuildJeanATerrarium.com. And donate what you can! Um... You know, just donate any money you're gonna use for yourself, really, is what I'm asking.

john

Yeah. If you're buying a $500 eight-foot fiber-optic tree...

jean

Mm-hm. Mm-mm.

john

Throw Jean a little bit of money so she can buy that multicolor gravel to put on the floor of her bedroom. [Jesse laughs.]

jean

Yeah, buy me that—just give me that $500. [John laughs.] Just give me—I need the gravel. What are we really talking about here? Um, but—

john

So as things are getting colder in Baltimore—

jean

Yeah.

john

—are you guys starting to fight over that thermostat, or what?

jean

No! We don't fight. Um, I think 70-72 feels like the normal thing that I've heard in life, and we've tried it a few times.

john

Mm-hm.

jean

I think it's great in the sss—uh, I—I think 70's a good compromise! I didn't know I was gonna feel the difference between something being, like, 69 or 70.

john

Right.

jean

But that gets to the point in a day, and, um—and if I'm feeling a little cold, I'm like, "Hm. I feel like it should have switched over by now. That feels like a—mm, it's at least fallen below a 68." [Laughs.]

john

Yeah.

jean

I think 70 is—that's where we have it right now.

john

Does this come up in California, in Los Angeles, Jesse Thorn? Between you and Theresa at all?

jesse

No. This was a concern when I lived in San Francisco. A little cooler in the winter in San Francisco.

john

Mm-hm.

jesse

Uh, but I don't think I ever had a thermostat until I moved to Los Angeles—

jean

Mm-hm.

jesse

—that wasn't the kind where you move a little stick left and right. [Jean and John laugh.] And you're really looking at five degrees-ish of precision. You know what I mean? Like...

jean

It's not doing anything. Mm-hm.

john

Right. Right. Right.

jesse

It's like a little mercury-powered spring or something, that powers a—a furnace from 1928.

jean

[Stifling laughter] Mm-hm.

john

Right. Right. [Laughs.]

jesse

My mom—my mom really does have a furnace—[laughs]—her furnace is huge and terrifying in the basement. [Jean gasps.] And it really is from like, 1930. [Stifles laughter.]

john

We had a furnace like that in our basement when I was growing up, and it was this massive cast-iron nightmare machine.

jesse

Yeah.

john

With—with tendrils going out. [Jean gasps.] To all of the different hot air registers throughout the house. It was very impressive, and very terrifying.

jesse

But it's definitely a question between my wife and I where we have very strongly different preferences, and it is the classic, uh, I am usually too warm and she is usually too cold. For me, I've always—I had always attributed it to being a native San Franciscan. Like, any temperature below 60 or above 70 seems uncomfortable to me! [Laughs.] So like, any time I'm not wearing a sweatshirt, I feel uncomfortable. And indeed, like, when I read Erin say that she wants to be cozy in the house, my immediate thought was that I am much more cozy in a sweater when it's 68.

jean

Mm-hm.

john

Yeah.

jesse

Than I am in a shirt when it's 73.

john

Yeah. Erin, I—I mean, it costs a lot of money to heat a house in Michigan, I bet, during the winter. Because it's cold there. So you do want your home to be a refuge from the cold. Not just... a version of the cold.

jean

Mm-hm.

john

You do want— [All three laugh.] You definitely want to feel a real difference between the outside and the inside.

jesse

You're not just looking for reduced brutality.

john

Right! [Jean laughs, John stifles laughter.] And I kinda feel like 65 is pretty low for a inside temperature.

jean

Mm.

john

But I also concur with you, Jean, and you, Jesse, that coziness—if that's what you're after, Erin, coziness is enhanced by woolens, and socks, and sweatshirts, and blankies, and throws. And usually, like, a point—like, a focused source of heat, like a roaring fire. Or one of Jean's many electric fireplace inserts.

jean

Mm-hm!

john

That, to me, is coziness. So for ambient temperature, I'm—I think I need to rule in favor of Erin, but not all the way up to 72. And not even all the way up to 70. I think the appropriate compromise here is 69.999. [Jesse and Jean laugh.] If you have that level of control—[laughs]—put it at 69.999. Because 999 upside down is 666, the number of the beast. [Jean laughs.]

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

I looked on EnergyStar.gov, the—the federal government's energy efficiency website, and they reco—

john

Oh, we have a federal government?

jesse

[Laughing] I know.

jean

No.

jesse

Well, hopefully we still do by the time this episode comes out. Uh, they recommended 68, but said 70 is also acceptable. Shooting for 68.

jean

Hm.

jesse

Is what they recommend. And I think probably even more important than the difference between 68 and 70, for example—certainly 69.9999999 and 70— [Jean chuckles.] —is, you know, a—a smart thermostat. Not a computer thermostat, but a programmable thermostat—

john

Yeah.

jesse

—is very inexpensive and easy to install, and you just make sure that you are heating your home less when you are asleep.

john

Mm-hm.

jesse

Uh, and when you are away from the house, [stifles laughter] when leaving the house returns to our lives.

john

Yeah. You know what? Put, uh, Santa Claus in charge of the thermostat! 'Cause he's—he knows when you're sleeping, and he knows when you're awake!

jean

So terrifying.

jesse

Yeah. He's the original smart thermostat.

john

[Stifles laughter.] That's right. Yeah. Sixty-nine feels right to me. That's the best number. And by the way, Erin, when you're really, really cold... there in Michigan... think of late June. June 21, 22, depends. That's the summer solstice. The longest day of the year. Unless you're in the southern hemisphere! In which case... psych! It's the longest again!

jesse

Ha haaa!

john

'Cause the Earth is a globe! [John and Jean laugh.] Jesse, Jean, before we go to a break, can either of you guess... where the holiday known as Midwinter Holiday is celebrated in June?

jean

It could be my hometown. 'Cause we are, uh, the reverse.

john

Cape Town?

jean

Mm-hm.

john

Yep. You're in the southern hemisphere.

jean

We are. We're the flips. We're the flipsies.

john

Uh, close, but not cigar. ...Close, but not cigar. That's a saying I just made up. [Laughs.]

jean

Okay. Well... [Laughs.] Same to you, then!

john

Antarctica! [Laughs.] Every southern hemisphere winter solstice, all of the research stations in Antarctica stop what they're doing and celebrate Midwinter Holiday. And they have a feast based on whatever they have around, 'cause they cannot take any shipments during the winter.

jean

Huh!

john

And do you know—[stifles laughter]—and do you know what some of them do as a ritual? They watch The Thing. [Laughs.]

jesse

[Laughing] What?!

jean

What??

john

They watch the movie John Carpenter's The Thing. [Stifles laughter.] Which is about a research station that is snowed in, and then, uh—and then terrorized by an alien creature that wants to eat them. That's their holiday! I'm telling you. Jesse, when we get—Jennifer Marmor, when we get to do live shows again, book Antarctica, please.

jesse

I know. I would love it.

john

I wanna do a huge—

jean

Are you booking Antarctica as a guest bailiff? [Jesse laughs.]

john

Yeah! We can all go—we can all go! Just do a huge Midwinter Holiday Pageant in Antarctica!

jesse

[Laughing] The frozen body of Shackleton or whatever is the guest bailiff. [Jean laughs, Jesse recovers.] You know, John, I have been in the very dawn days of podcasting. Maybe the proudest moment of my entire podcasting career, in maybe—I'm gonna say 2005, perhaps? Uh, there was a call that went out on the Yahoo group for podcasters.

john

Mm-hm?

jesse

That said: "I am sending data CDs of content to Antarctica via airplane for Antarctica's radio station. If you send me data files, and give me permission to air them on Antarctica's radio station, I will." And, uh, I sent in MP3s of The Sound—then called The Sound of Young America, now my NPR show Bullseye.

john

Right.

jesse

And it was the thrill of a lifetime to know that they were airing in, uh—in frozen Antarctica.

jean

Hm!

john

I'm wearing a Ross Island Trail System Antarctica T-shirt that was sent to me by listener Dave, from Antarctica! I still don't understand why listener Dave was in Antarctica.

jesse

He wasn't even a scientist, if I remember correctly! [John laughs.] He was working on painting things.

john

I don't—I guess they need someone to paint things. And I don't—and I think that this was not sent from Antarctica. I think he brought it from Antarctica and then sent it to me. He also sent me a T-shirt that said, "Take only one banana, please." 'Cause apparently—[laughs]—apparently there's a big problem with banana-hoarding at the—in the cafeteria at this particular—whatever research station he was at. [Someone laughs quietly.]

jesse

Apparently, uh, Jennifer Marmor, our producer's grandma went to Antarctica.

john

Oh, she's nodding along!

jean

Did she come back? [Beat.]

jesse

Yeah.

jean

Ohhh, that's a good—that's good. That's good. [Laughs quietly.]

jean

Confirmed.

john

That's a Midwinter Holiday miracle.

jesse

Let's take a quick break. When we come back, we'll hear disputes about scratch-off lottery tickets, and an update from a past litigant about solar panels!

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

Judge Hodgman, we're taking a quick break from clearing the docket with our buddy Jean. Let's talk about what we have upcoming. What's going on with you, John?

john

Well, uh, aside from going to your search engine and putting in the words "Jean" and "Grae"—J-E-A-N, G-R-A-E—to see all the things that Jean has made everywhere in the world, which is pretty much everything everywhere... I hope you will also put in, or considering putting in once again, the URL Bit.ly/dicktown. That's Bit dot L-Y slash D-I-C-K-T-O-W-N. That of course brings you to the Hulu page hosting all ten episodes of the animated comedy co-created by me and our friend David Rees called Dicktown, in which I play a sad, uh, former boy detective who's now a grown-up man still solving mysteries for teenagers, and David plays my former arch nemesis and high school bully, who is now my only friend. It's a show we put a lot of our heart into, and has a lot of heart in it, even though it is called Dicktown. And we really would love to make more. And your going to that URL, watching it, spreading the word, is really helping us get to that goal. You'll also hear the incredible voice of Jean Grae! In episode one, as Monica. The cosplayer. As well! Uh, if you are interested in any of my books, and getting any of them signed or personalized, before the holiday—the Midwinter Holiday—there is still time to do it. Just go to BooksAreMagic.net, or just Google "Books Are Magic," or give them a call. That's a great bookshop. That's Emma Straud's bookshop there in Brooklyn. And you can buy any copy of any of my books, ask me to sign it or personalize it to you or to a friend, and I will be dropping by there throughout December to sign those books and get 'em back to you in time for the holidays. So that's what's going on with me. Jesse Thorn, what's going on with you?

jesse

Well, I'm also plugging Dicktown, because my wife and I finished watching Dicktown. It's a wonderful, hilarious show.

john

Aw.

jesse

It's very much more heartfelt than you might expect, very much more character-driven, David Rees is much better at acting than you would think he would be—

john

[Laughs.] He's a natural!

jesse

[Laughs.] It's so funny. And such a—the conceit seems glib, but it really comes to life on the screen. It is a very sweet, funny show that I love. So I hope everyone will actually make the effort to watch Dicktown. A lot of folks who listen to Judge John Hodgman told me they listened to my interview with David Letterman on my NPR show Bullseye.

john

Yeah.

jesse

I'm very grateful to all of those folks. We have some other really great guests coming up on Bullseye, including David Cross—

john

Oh!

jesse

—speaking of comedy hero Davids.

john

With beards?

jesse

With beards, that's true. And David Cross really talked about his childhood and emotional life in a way that I personally had not heard him talk about, uh, in public, and it was very moving.

john

Yeah.

jesse

And it was a great conversation. So watch out for that on Bullseye as well. And of course... John, I have a store, and it's the holiday season, and probably a holiday season where you don't wanna go to any physical stores.

john

Mm-hm!

jesse

And you wanna get something that is really great and special for someone that you love, and you should do it from my store, the Put This On Shop, at PutThisOnShop.com. Every purchase helps me keep, uh, my one employee Spencer employed. [Both laugh.] But also—also, there's—

john

While disseminating great and cool things out into the world!

jesse

Yeah, there's so much cool stuff that you can buy in the Put This On Shop. Don't think it's just for super fancy fancy-lads. Although it is certainly for them. If they're—if you have a super fancy fancy-lad in your, uh, family, yes, of course, you should—[stifles laughter]—there's no question that you should be buying them gifts from the Put This On Shop. But they needn't be super fancy fancy-lads! People of all genders, shapes, sizes, and personalities can find something great in the Put This On Shop. I have Planters Mr. Peanut bowls. There's a full set of peanut bowls for your peanut entertaining, once the—once the pandemic is over, everybody's gonna be having peanut parties, and they're gonna need custom bowls for that.

john

[Laughs quietly.] I have some of these peanut bowls! That were sourced from another place, but I only had the—I only have the large one, and one of the small ones! This is a complete set! These are hot.

jesse

Yeah, it's one group bowl for your primary storage of your peanuts at the party, and then each person has their own little bowl, and you can put a little peanut spoon in the big one. Spoon 'em out into your little one. If you—I mean, you'd have to get yourself a peanut spoon.

john

Uh, I'm sure that that will show up at the Put This On Shop eventually.

jesse

Anyway, if you use the code "Holiday Justice" at PutThisOnShop.com, almost everything ships for free in the US. That's PutThisOnShop.com, and the code is "Holiday Justice."

john

Let's get back to the docket!

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

Welcome back the Judge John Hodgman podcast. We're clearing the docket. We're joined by our friend Jean Grae. Here is a dispute from Sara. She says: "My husband and I both dislike receiving scratch-off lottery tickets as gifts. We both feel that they are a waste of money, and they rarely result in winning anything other than more lottery tickets. However, several members of my family enjoy giving scratch-off lottery tickets as gifts. It's a, quote, 'tradition,' unquote, started with my grandfather Pop, who is no longer with us. My husband says we should ask my family to stop giving us lottery tickets, and to save their money. I feel that if my family members get enjoyment out of giving us lottery tickets, we should just let them continue."

john

Well, Jesse, Jean, what do you think? Should Sara and her husband honor Pop? Or throw his legacy into the garbage like so many used $1 New York State Lottery "Snow Me the Money" cards? [Jean and Jesse laugh.] A real scratch-off card. [Laughs.]

jesse

I have immediate strong feelings about this, John.

jean

Mm-hm.

john

Please!

jesse

I'm not a gambler.

john

No.

jesse

I went on an entire trip to Las Vegas where all I did was put—

john

You don't know when to hold them, nor do you know when to fold them! [Jesse and Jean laugh.]

jesse

No! I went on an entire trip to—

john

You don't know when to walk away; usually you're walking closer, and people are like, "What are you even doing?! Are you a gambler?" and you're like, "No!"

jean

Well, it's not his fault! It's because the song doesn't tell you when to, at all! It just presents the problem, and then there's no resolution. Or no suggestions.

john

Right.

jesse

It's one of those, "If you've got it, you've got it" situations.

john

That's right.

jesse

It's not intended to be instructional. It's about an essential quality of a human being.

jean

I guess...

john

Uh, Jesse, you and I are islands in the stream, and I—and I talked all over you there, and I apologize as your friend and partner. So please, go ahead.

jesse

I went on an entire trip to Las Vegas once where I just put one dollar into an Antiques Roadshow slot machine, 'cause I was so excited there was Antiques Roadshow–themed slot machines. [John and Jesse laugh.]

john

[Laughing] I am so happy! I had no idea! Oh my goodness! [Jean laughs, John recovers.] "Oh my days," as they say on, uh, Love Island.

jesse

It was a really fun trip to Las—Las Vegas is not my favorite place to visit, but, um—uh, I stayed at the Golden Nugget, and—which really does have a giant golden nugget, which I didn't know.

jean

Mm-hm. [Laughs.]

john

Uh-huh.

jesse

That's—it's—it has a titular golden nugget. And it—there was a women's bodybuilding competition going on in the hotel at the time. So it was just full of enormous muscled women, and their tiny, uh, male handlers. Which was just a great vibe.

john

Wow. [Jean laughs, Jesse stifles laughter.]

jesse

Just in general, it was just like, "This is cool. This is great. This is why you wanna go to Las Vegas." Um, but yeah. I—I am not a gambler. But I have to say that, as a non-gambler... I think it is a waste of money to spend your money on scratch-off lottery tickets.

john

Mm-hm.

jesse

But I think this family tradition is fun! And if I was in a family where it was a family tradition to give lottery tickets out as gifts, I would think it was very fun to get them as gifts!

john

Yeah!

jesse

As long as no one was spending an amount of money on them that was... problematic. You know, I wouldn't want—I wouldn't want my mother-in-law Beth to buy me $500 in lottery ticket, where—lottery tickets, where it would, you know, cramp her household budget.

john

I would only want her to do that if it was offsetting her purchase of a seven-and-a-half–foot fiber-optic tree.

jean

Mm-hm.

jesse

Yeah.

john

But yes. Right.

jesse

But I mean, if it—if it was in the scale of, uh—of an appropriate gift—in my wife's family, they give each other $20 gifts, usually.

john

Right. Right.

jesse

And they do a Secret Santa–type situation. I would think that would be fun!

john

A $20 lottery ticket, that—that's quite a ticket!

jesse

Well, twenty $1 lottery tickets or ten $2 lottery tickets, and then, you know, the net proceeds—

jean

Mm-hm.

jesse

—probably, depending on the state, go to... schools, or something!

john

What do you think, Jean? You are a gambler! I know that, 'cause we went to Las Vegas together!

jean

[Laughs.] You do!

john

Stayed at the El Cortez Hotel, and I did not see an Antiques Roadshow slot machine there. [Stifling laughter] I'm very upset about it!

jean

No, I didn't see one either. You were very successful, uh, at your slot machine.

john

For a while.

jean

For a while. And then, uh— [John exhales thoughtfully.] And then, uh, for a while—and then it was not. And I was like, "Yeah, you should've gotten outta here." I was, uh, down there until three o'clock in the morning, and, uh, didn't go well for me.

john

I'm sorry.

jean

But I—I love slot machines. I love Vegas. I love, you know, the whole vibe of the place. However... I have a song on the—my—That's Not How You Do That adult instructional trilogy—[laughs]—called "You're Not Gonna Win the Lottery."

john

Mm-hm.

jean

About me being annoyed, especially in bodegas, when people are in front of me in line, having me in there all day because they're picking their goddamn numbers.

john

Ah. Right.

jean

And I'm like, "You know what? How about you just step to the side and let everybody else go, 'cause I wanna get outta here. You're not gonna win the lottery." [Someone laughs quietly.]

john

Yeah.

jean

"It's not gonna happen. I know you wanna do this." That being said... I under—like, you—how you gonna be mad at Pop for wanting you—for also getting joy, like, outta buying his lottery tickets, and then being gracious enough to be like, [slightly raspy] "And you know what?" [In her usual voice] 'Cause this is how Pop sounds. [John laughs.] [Raspy, strained] "I wanna give it to you! So that maybe you can win a million dollars!" [Jean stops the Pop voice.] And then be like, [mopey] "Aw, I don't want that!" [Jean stops the mopey tone.] That's rude. Take your lottery tickets. I want someone to give me lottery tickets! I'll take 'em!

john

In the secular observance of Midwinter Holiday... there's a creature called the Grinch.

jesse

Mm-hm.

john

Somebody who just can't get into it.

jean

Mm-hm.

john

Now, look. Gambling is a—can be a seriously destructive addiction. And I certainly wouldn't want my... aunt (sounds like "ant")—or aunt (rhymes with "gaunt"), as we say in New England—who's got a gambling problem, buying $5,000 worth of scratch tickets to give to me! Even though that would greatly increase my chances of winning. That would be bad. So I don't mean to diminish gambling, uh, its deleterious effects. But... yeah! I come from a family where I had a grandfather named Pop! We'd get some scratch-off tickets in our stockings! It's fun. It's like, there's so much—if you're stuffing a stocking, it's gonna be junk anyway. Might as well have something to do for five seconds. [Jean or Jesse laughs quietly.] Maybe you'll win 25 bucks.

sound effect

[Three gavel bangs.]

jesse

You can't fill a whole stocking with satsumas. [Jean laughs.]

john

One thing I learned, looking into this, is that the Maryland lottery has an extremely elaborate webpage detailing all the different scratch-off games they have.

jean

Hm!

john

There's a scratch-off finder—[laughs]

jean

Oh, lord.

john

Where you can filter them by, uh, payout, by what kinds of games there are—uh, there's even—you can—

jesse

Celebrity endorsers.

john

Well—

jesse

Cal Ripken Jr.

john

Yeah.

jean

Oh, wow.

jesse

Uh, John Waters. [All three laugh.]

john

A John Waters scratch-off ticket would be—would be amazing, yep!

jesse

Omar from The Wire. The character, Omar. [Laughs.]

john

Yeah.

jean

[Stifling laughter] Just the character Omar from The Wire scratch-off?

jesse

[Stifling laughter] Yeah.

john

Yeah. Come at—yeah, you come at the king, you best not miss! [Jesse laughs.] Uh, you can even get a sortable, exportable spreadsheet. [Stifles laughter.] That you can download. It's an incredibly elaborate website. So...

jean

Huh.

jean

Yeah. Jean, I'm gonna send you, uh—you and Quelle each a Peppermint Payout, times three.

jean

I don't want that. I don't want that. I want—

john

No?

jean

We're not talking about Pop sending us lottery tickets. This is John Hodgman sending us something. And we want slot machines. So you're gonna send us each a slot machine, or you send us NOTHING! [Jesse laughs quietly.]

john

I'll tell you what I want. I'll tell you what I want. I wanna get back into the seat... of that huge Game of Thrones

jean

[Laughing] That was amazing!

john

—slot machine that I played in the El Cortez.

jean

It was like, 12 feet tall. [Laughs.]

john

And it surrounded you! Like, I had—

jean

And you like, got—you had to get into it.

john

Yeah! I was—

jean

Like, you didn't just sit down. You got into the slot machine. Pretty much.

john

Right! And I—it was like surround sound! It was incredible!

jean

Mm-hm.

jesse

Like you're playing Need for Speed at the arcade, or whatever?

john

[Laughing] Yeah, exactly!

jean

But—but bigger. Just, more.

john

It was just—and it—and I was doing so well on it.

jean

It was so loud!

john

For a long time. And—

jesse

Did you sit on an iron throne?

john

[Stifles laughter.] I sat on an iron throne, and it—you know what? I got some scratches. 'Cause that's—you're supposed to be reminded as the ruler that... [Jean laughs quietly.]

jesse

Right.

john

But the—you know, it had all these voices in it, including this Peter Dinklage soundalike who would say things like, "Well done!" or whatever.

jean

Mm-hm.

john

And after a while of this, I realized, "Oh. From an 826 Valencia event I did a million years ago, I have Peter Dinklage's email." So at two o'clock in the morning in Las Vegas, I emailed Peter Dinklage—

jean

Oh no.

john

—to say, "Did—did you record your own voice for this Game of Thrones slot machine that I'm in?" [Jean and John laugh quietly.] Five minutes later, "Yes." That was the whole email back. [All three laugh.]

jesse

"Yesss!"

jean

Somebody recognized—

jesse

The Dink is a straight shooter, John.

john

Yep, he told me the truth. Told me the truth.

jesse

Okay, so we finally have some follow-up here from Kari in Minnesota.

john

Here we go.

jesse

Who you may remember from episode 443, "Daylight Savings Crime." I wasn't the bailiff on this episode, John! What happened?

john

That's right! Ify Nwadiwe was our guest bailiff that week. A member—

jesse

The host of Maximum Fun's own film show Who Shot Ya?!

john

Exactly! And member of the Legion of Guest Bailiffs. Long live the Legion. And so for your benefit—and yours as well, Jean—Kari brought the case against her husband Joshua about the home solar panels that he had installed. And she was feeling that his obsession with energy efficiency was getting out of hand. Uh, and—and so what does Kari have to say?

jesse

"Joshua's excited to report that we went net zero on electricity for the year! In fact, we produced 69 more kilowatt hours than we consumed. It was a—"

john

Wait, how many?

jesse

Sixty-nine. [Jean laughs quietly.]

crosstalk

John: Sorry, I wanna write that—I'm sorry. Jesse: Point nine, nine, nine. [Jean and John laugh.]

john

Thank you.

jesse

"It was a squeaker, but we did it. Joshua is complying well with your ruling by majorly toning down the frequency of his stats reports and back-of-the-envelope jottings. It's been a win-win. Thanks for your help."

john

And they sent in a photo, which if you scroll down, Jean, you can see.

jean

Mm-hm.

john

Josh snow-squeegeeing his solar panels on his shed.

jean

That's what's up.

john

In Minnesota. Hoo, boy oh boy. You know, look. I spend part of the time—and even part of the winter—in Maine. But... I'm telling you, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, they get the real winter. That's the real stuff there.

jean

Mm-hm.

john

Tell you. I think—I think if you've gone net zero, and you've put out 69.999 whatevers, you've earned yourself a fiber-optic Christmas tree, you guys. Happy Midwinter Holiday.

jean

That's impressive.

john

It's cold. That looks cold as—

jean

It's very cold! It looks cold. It—

john

That was taken recently

jean

You know how you just—you look at something, you're like, "Yeah, but it's snow," you're like, "Eh," but I just feel it. I can feel it.

john

I know! Like, the—the—yeah, that's—[sighs]. There's snow all over the ground, there's snow all over the roofs, there's snow all over the trees and the tops of the gates. And we record this in advance! This was recorded in August! [Jean and/or Jesse laugh quietly.] So... Minnesota is not—I love Minnesota. Never seen a more bleaker landscape than in Minnesota in the middle of February as I drove from Minneapolis St. Paul Airport to Morris, Minnesota, to do a show up there at the University of Minnesota at Morris. Which is up on the way to Fargo. And I would just drive through what literally seemed to be abandoned towns. Like, nothing was open. No one was on the streets, no cars in the streets. And I'm like, "Where is everybody?" And then I would crest a hill, and then I would see, down off to my left, one of these lakes they have. They have about 10,000 of 'em.

jesse

Mm-hm. Roughly.

jean

Mm-hm.

john

And I realized—I realized where the town was! It was on the lake! Everyone had moved onto the frozen lake. There was truck after truck after truck, after fishing camp after fishing camp after fishing camp on this lake.

jean

Wow.

john

Hardy—hardy people. Hardy people up there in Northern Minnesota.

jesse

John, I'll never forget when I—when my radio show was with Public Radio International, which was based in Minneapolis St. Paul.

john

Yeah.

jesse

Having a phone conversation with my person there. We had a weekly meeting. Her name was Heidi. Very kind woman. And... I'll never forget the feeling I had when Heidi said to me that she was hiring a man later that day to clear the snow from her roof, and I said, "Oh. It doesn't just fall off or whatever?" [Stifling laughter] And she says, "No. If a man doesn't come to clear it, my house would collapse." [Jean sighs. Jesse cracks up.]

john

Ohhh, my lord. Oh my days. Oh my days.

jean

That's, uh, too much snow! I like a little bit of snow. I like, uh, a snowpocalypse here and there. 'Cause it gives—it was originally the excuse to be like, "Aw, man. I'm sorry, that got canceled! Can't do it!"

john

Right. You don't—you don't need a snowpocalypse anymore.

jean

And at this point, I just wanna see—no! We don't need it.

john

Right.

jean

But I do wanna see the environment, like, do something else. Like— [John and Jesse burst out laughing, Jean stifles laughter.] Like, just do something else, and then it would give me a reason to be like, "Oh, I can't go do anything," like, for a different reason.

john

Yeah.

jean

That would be great.

jesse

The docket's clear. That's it for another episode of Judge John Hodgman. Our thanks to our friend Jean Grae for joining us this week. You can find her on Twitter at @JeanGreasy, and on Bandcamp at JeanGrae.Bandcamp.com. J-E-A-N-G-R-A-E dot Bandcamp dot com. Jean has some holiday EPs up on Bandcamp right now, including one called— [Jean laughs, Jesse stifles laughter.] —with her husband Quelle Chris, called, MERRYPOCALYPSE. [John laughs.]

jean

How fitting.

jesse

That's fun! Um, but gosh, that's just—

john

And there's all kinds of other stuff that she's created up there! Including the, uh—the adulting trilogy, right? Your—That's Not How You Do That.

jean

Yeah! Check out all the That's Not How You Do Thats, which does include the song "You're Not Gonna Win the Lottery."

jesse

Our producer is the ever capable 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 to discuss this episode. Submit your cases at MaximumFun.org/jjho, or email hodgman@maximumfun.org. We'll see you next time on the Judge John Hodgman podcast.

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[Three gavel bangs.]

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A cheerful ukulele chord.

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