Friday, February 27, 2015

70 - Answers

Q: waits - Where did the song "here we sit like birds in the wilderness" originate?
A: I was unfamiliar with this song (the lyrics of which can be found here), so I dove headfirst into some research. I have to say at the outset that I'm in your debt, because this was a lot of fun to track down. What follows is a first-person recounting of my journey of discovery with this song.

My initial search turned up a number of children's lyrics and Boy Scout sites, which lead me to think it was a camp song. I attended summer camp, first as a youth and later as a counselor, but our camp did not feature this song. The song appeared to be a way of passing the time while waiting for something (mealtime) or someone (another group of campers). Before I found a recording I read the lyrics aloud and fell into a natural cadence with them. Ba-da-da-da, ba-dadadadada, and so on. And I thought to myself, wow, that cadence sounds very familiar. Then I found a recording from a place called Flying Horse Farms:

Sure enough, camp song, complete with choreographed arm motions and shouted lyrics. Mystery solved, right? Well, not quite. I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd heard that cadence and melody before. After some more digging I discovered that the song originated from a folk song called The Old Gray Mare. Both links contain some brief but interesting information about the song's origins, which date back to the Civil War and maybe as far back as London Bridge Is Falling Down.

But wait a minute, Old Gray Mare you say? Why is that familiar? And then I remembered, The Simpsons!

And then it hit me that I'd heard this melody and cadence while watching college football:

In short, the history of the song goes a long way back, but it's been used for a lot of things over the years. Hope this gives you a bit of entertainment as we kick things off on our 70th journey into the land of questions and answers.

Q: Jacob - What makes this episode the quintessential episode?
A: My initial answer was "nothing", but I thought a little more about this and decided that it does have some quintessential "Ask Mitssob" characteristics:
1. It's late. Very late. Untimely late. Late enough that at least one of the answers is OBE (Overtaken By Events, one of many military acronyms that have made their way into my lexicon).
2. It has rambling answers that provide entertainment and information.
3. I use biographical information in at least one answer.
4. My editor makes an appearance. [Ed. Hello. Hi.]

Q: Bill - What do you get for the man who has everything?
A: The joking answer to this question would be "nothing", because the man who has everything clearly doesn't have "nothing". But that's a cop-out and today is not a day for cop-outs. 

First, even a man who has everything likely hasn't EXPERIENCED everything, so I would start by looking in that direction. You could go as simple as a pottery class or bird carving, or as immersive and intense as the movie "The Game" went (complete with cathartic birthday experience that I won't mention in case you haven't seen this movie).

Second, this same hypothetical man probably hasn't EATEN everything, so I would suggest taking him out to dinner. You could also give him some exotic foods like kangaroo, chocolate covered crickets, or haggis. Or you could combine the above suggestion with this one and do a cooking class. 

In any event I think that there are plenty of options for "the man who has everything".

Q: Luke - What are the best and worst Christmas songs and movies, respectively?
Q: JFK - Though I'd add in there Christmas TV specials/Christmas episodes of xyz show too.
A: I love getting questions like these but I also hate it because it's a huge time-sucker. If I ever start doing this as a paid gig I'm going to have the hardest time doing this on a deadline. Anyway let's dive in. 

Best Christmas Songs

These are the songs that make me happy it's the holiday. I tend to whistle little pieces of them as I walk around work or outside. I tend towards the classic and religious, but also the sad.

Angels We Have Heard On High
Gloooo, ooooo, ooooo, ooooo, ria! Puts me right in the spirit of the season, both religious and secular.

Making the most of the dreariness of winter, set to a catchy melody. This also gives me the excuse to link to a fantastic parody video made from clips from Star Trek: The Next Generation!

The original lyrics (in the link above) are slightly more depressing than the more well-known ones, but I find it a beautiful song with a great melody, one that I never get tired of hearing. 

Note that this doubles as easily the creepiest Christmas song out there. I love the song, don't get me wrong, but the tone and content can easily go from sweet and innocent to creepy and horror-movie. The woman in the song is clearly stating that she'd like to leave but the man is very intent on keeping her in his home. Yes, I get it, it's innocent, but in this day and age it's very easy to read it another way.

Not technically a Christmas song, but I do love the sadness that is captured in this South Park classic.

Worst Christmas Songs

Repetitive, overplayed, repetitive, boring, and repetitive. After the second chorus (which corresponds with the 500th time you hear the refrain about "Last Christmas I gave you my heart") I find myself yelling at whatever speaker this song is eminating from, "We get it! Last Christmas you foolishly gave your heart away and this Christmas you're going to do it again. Good luck with that, asshole!" And then I go back to whatever it was I was doing until the next time this song comes on, usually within 15-20 minutes.

Have you thought through the ramifications of your Christmas desire, little girl? No? I didn't think so.

And the number one worst Christmas song...The Italian (Fucking) Christmas Donkey
Combining the worst elements of Italian music and annoying Christmas themes in one neat, tidy package!

Best Christmas Movie

A Christmas Carol - I love the elements of despair, love, hopelessness, family, regret and redemption that this story has. My personal favorite version is A Muppet Christmas Carol, but honorable mention goes to the underrated Scrooged.

It's a Wonderful Life - Frank Capra at his most Frank Capra. Jimmy Stewart at his most Jimmy Stewart. I watch this movie every Christmas and every Christmas I love it all over again.

Bonus: Die Hard - It's become cliche to engage in the "Is Die Hard a Christmas Movie?" debate (personally I say yes but I understand both sides of the argument), but I'll include it because it's a great movie, Christmas or otherwise.

Worst Christmas Movie

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians - Brilliantly torn to shreds by the MST3K team, this movie is so bad that I still haven't seen it all the way through. It's possible that it resolves itself into something redeeming, but I doubt it. If you want to watch it yourself you can find the non-MST3K version here

After you asked this questions one of the Kinja-based sites provided their own list, which I found quite entertaining. 

Mrs. Ssob Bonus Round

To say that Christmas is special to my in-laws would be like saying that air is special to creatures that breathe. As such my wife is an afficianado of all things Christmas, so I asked for her input on this question.

Favorite Movie: Elf
Best Christmas Song: Baby It's Cold Outside (specifically the one with Zooey Deschanel and Will Farrell from Elf)

Favorite Christmas Special: Too many to mention (basically anything that's playing on the Hallmark channel or Netflix)
Worst Christmas Song: The Italian Christmas Donkey

Q: democko - Why did Canada join Twitter?
A: The "DUH" answer is that Canada joined Twitter to become an active participant in that most peculiar recent development in society: social media. But why does Canada feel the need to participate? Reading through their feed gives me part of an answer. They are using it to promote the contributions of Canada to the world (in the recent Oscars), advertise tourism (which would bring money to the country), and to share news involving Canada. 

In short, they want to be involved in all social media platforms, and I think they're doing a fine job so far. 

Q: Jesse_Burton - I just put my foot through the ripped pee-hole in my it time to get some new pairs?
A: [Ed: There's a joke in there somewhere, I just can't find it. Now that the pee-hole is bigger it should be easier.]
Not necessarily. If you possess sewing skills you can repair the hole and continue wearing the boxers. Alternatively you could just continue wearing the boxers even though they have an enlargened pee-hole.

But even with the above suggestion, yes, you really should invest in some new boxers. They're not that expensive, come in a variety of styles, and frankly there's something very pleasant about wearing a new pair of boxers.

Q: Jackie - What is the best stocking-stuffer available this year?
A: To bound the search I've defined "stocking-stuffer" as:
1. An item that can fit into a standard Christmas stocking (less than 2 pounds, no larger than a paperback book)
2. An item that costs less than $20

With those restrictions here's an off-the-cuff list of things:
- Flashlight
- Pen Knife
- Bottle Opener
- Purell
- Chapstick
- Thumb drive / SD card
- Candy
- Deck of Cards
- Tape Measure
- Hand lotion
- Gift Card
- Starbucks (or similar) coffee packets

As you can see I'm a big fan of practical stocking stuffers. A couple of years ago I bought a couple dozen of this multi-tool and gave them to my team at work and to my in-laws. I still have mine and use it for everything from opening bottles to tuning my drums.

Q: Todd - I need to start planning a menu. Best Christmas dinner main course?
A: My wife's mother is one of 14 children. Throughout my wife's childhood their family would all gather in Long Island at her late grandmother's house and an epic feast would ensue. There would be a turkey, a ham, baked ziti, a roast beef, and a pork roast (and possibly more). Appetizers would be varied and plentiful, as would desserts, and an epic feast would ensue.

We aren't quite as elaborate on my side of the family. My mother has prepared a roast for our Christmas dinner for as long as I can remember, and her side of the family would come to our house on Christmas Day and we'd have a great dinner.

My breakdown of the classic (and non-classic) entrees is below:
- Ham: Personally this is my least favorite main course, but it's also quite popular this time of year.
- Turkey/Chicken: Seems too close to Thanksgiving for my tastes, but to each their own.
- Pig Roast: A Hawaiian twist on the holiday! The only difficulty is in digging the pit, which is fairly easy before the ground freezes but would probably require some serious Earth-moving equipment or high explosives to do in winter.
- Roast Beef: Because this has been my family's meal of choice I'm biased.
- Duck: Reserved for fans of the Christmas classic A Christmas Story.

Q: Brett - Spaceballs: great movie or greatest movie?
A: While Spaceballs is a great movie, I cannot make the leap to call it the greatest. I don't mean that as an insult. Far from it. Mel Brooks movies are entertainment, not great art. I'll even go so far as to say that Spaceballs is not even Mel Brooks' greatest movie (in my opinion that honor falls to Blazing Saddles).

On the plus side you have some truly Oscar-worthy performances (seriously, I'm not joking) from John Candy, Joan Rivers, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman and Mel Brooks himself. The writing is above average, the jokes (for the most part) are funny. Like many Mel Brooks movies it is inherently quoteable. People at work make the "12345...that's the same combination as my luggage!" joke frequently, as well as the "When will THEN be NOW?" line. Finally, the running gag about merchandising was years ahead of its time.

On the minus side, though, the move has not aged well. The references and in-movie technology are practically sheep-dipped in the 1980's. Some of the targets of ridicule (like the sheer size of the ship at the beginning of the movie) just aren't that funny. And there are some cringe-worthy moments that are trying VERY HARD to be funny, but just aren't ("Druish Princess").

After you asked this question rumors began to arise that the long-rumored sequel was indeed being thought about again. In the movie Yogurt makes reference to the next movie being called "Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money". An urban legend was that the sequel would actually be called "Spaceballs 3: The Search for Part 2", which still makes me smile. 

Finally, an enterprising YouTuber created a brilliant trailer based on the ones done for Interstellar. I have to say it does a fantastic job of making the movie look FAR more serious than it actually is.

Q: Barn - What should the schedule of planning my wedding look like?
A: First, congratulations to you and the future Mrs. Barn! I was excited to hear your announcement and wish you both years of happiness.

The short, "kinda joking but not really" answer to your question is "whatever your future bride tells you that it is." But I assume that by asking the question that you're not totally cut out of the process, nor should you be. I really enjoyed planning our wedding and was involved in more than I expected to be going in. Many of the decisions were made by my wife, but we saw eye-to-eye on the big things (type of venue, church, etc), with disagreements only happening on the smaller stuff.

Couple random tips before I break out a schedule. First, spreadsheets are your friend. I made several during the planning process and they were invaluable in keeping us both organized. Second, figure out a way to share a calendar with your bride-to-be. Right around the time I moved in with my wife we did this and it was a very valuable tool during the wedding planning process. If one of you makes an appointment you can put it on the calendar and the other will immediately see it, making coordination a lot easier.

Below is my informal breakdown of planning the wedding. I'm basing this on the wedding I know best (mine), which was a church ceremony with a separate venue for cocktail hour and reception (which also doubled as the hotel). You may not have the same wedding vision as we did but hopefully this helps!

Stage 1: 12-24 months until THE BIG DAY

1. Define a budget that you're comfortable with. I recommend building in at least a 10% buffer.
2. Come up with a rough wedding guest list (within 20 people) and wedding party.
3. Find a venue. For me this was the big driver of the rest of the wedding planning process. The venues that we looked at all had relationships with vendors to provide other services that you'll need. 
4. If you're going to do a church service, find a church. 

Let me break the list at this point to say, welcome to the Wedding Industrial Complex! I recommend picking up a copy of Insane City by one of my favorite authors Dave Barry to help you see some of the humor in this process.

Stage 2: 6-12 months until THE BIG DAY
5. Pay deposits. Our wedding venue required a series of deposits before the final payment the week of the wedding. Vendors have their own schedules, just roll with it.
6. If you're going to do save-the-date cards then those can go out whenever you want.

Stage 3: 3-6 months until THE BIG DAY
7. Invites should follow around 8-10 weeks before the wedding itself. This can get frustrating and political as you and your future bride navigate both of your families trying to find out who to invite and not to invite. I don't have any specific advice, just know that it could get tense at times.
8. If you're planning to register for gifts, now's the time!

Stage 4: 1-3 months until THE BIG DAY
9. Your RSVP date should be roughly a month prior to the wedding, that way you can plan how many guests you'll have, arrange tables, etc. We had several late changes, which was frustrating but in hindsight we should have planned for them. 
10. Wedding Shower and Bachelor / Bachelorette parties happen around this time. Enjoy this time bonding with friends and family, it's a blast!

Stage 5: 0-1 months until THE BIG DAY
10. If you're working with a hotel it's a good idea to create some kind of check-in bag for your guests. We included water, snacks, pamphlets for local attractions, and a note about the hotel itself.
11. For us we had to bring everything (table place cards, signs, etc) to the venue a week before THE BIG DAY.
12. Get married!!!

Again, congratulations and best of luck!

Q: Luke - How would you rank all questions in this thread against each other? What criteria would you use, and what would the final rankings be?
Q: Jacob - Should we do a question draft where, after you close questions, everyone drafts questions and then you determine who has the best team?
A: I don't explicitly rank the questions that are asked here, but there definitely ones that I enjoy answering more than others. On the blogspot account I started tagging posts with general content like "silly", "sports", "politics". A long-term project (read: one that I'll never get around to but would be fun if I did) would be to go back and re-rate the questions along the lines you outlined. 

What's more likely is that I'll do a second spin of questions. I've toyed with the idea of writing a real book based on the questions asked here, going back and reworking/editing the answers into something of a more complete work. If and when I do that then categorizing the answers will be a good way to organize the project.

Q: democko - What is the most underrated thread on jolinko?
A: I have always been partial to the "...will not be down for breakfast" thread. It's a good source for recent deaths, often getting updated within minutes of an announcement. It is also an opportunity to inject some humor into what is normally a very sad occasion. Finally it gives people a chance to weigh in on what that person meant to them.