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August 02, 2004

My Favorite Pop Culture Everything, Redux

This list of questions was out a few months back on ArtsJournal and I used it as my opening entry here on Popping Culture. Now that we've had a few months to get settled, I thought a re-visit was in order.

Here it is in all its glory... you have any significant challenges?

1. Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly? Fred Astaire
2. The Great Gatsby or The Sun Also Rises? The Great Gatsby. No-brainer.
3. Count Basie or Duke Ellington? Duke Ellington. Swing, baby! Yeah!
4. Cats or dogs? Ouch. Um. We’ll do this numerically. I have two cats and one dog.
5. Matisse or Picasso? Please. Picasso.
6. Yeats or Eliot? Yeats
7. Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin? Charlie Chaplain. I laughed a little just typing his name.
8. Flannery O’Connor or John Updike? Please don’t make me pick.
9. To Have and Have Not or Casablanca? Casablanca. I buy the hype.
10. Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning? Pollock.
11. The Who or the Stones? I HAVE to pick one? How about the Beatles?
12. Philip Larkin or Sylvia Plath? Plath Plath Plath. Also, Plath.
13. Trollope or Dickens? Dickens. Duh.
14. Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald? Ella Fitzgerald.
15. Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy? Dostoyevsky. Double duh.
16. The Moviegoer or The End of the Affair? Not enough information. Um, in my head, not in the question.
17. George Balanchine or Martha Graham? Eep. I defer to Sheila on this one and say Balanchine.
18. Hot dogs or hamburgers? Burgers. Double duh.
19. Letterman or Leno? Letterman five years ago or Letterman this year?
20. Wilco or Cat Power? None for me, thanks.
21. Verdi or Wagner? Verdi.
22. Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe? Grace Kelly in by a nose. A particularly cute nose.
23. Bill Monroe or Johnny Cash? The Man in Black. I’m shocked you even asked.
24. Kingsley or Martin Amis? Kingsley
25. Robert Mitchum or Marlon Brando? Early Brando.
26. Mark Morris or Twyla Tharp? Not enough information.
27. Vermeer or Rembrandt? Rembrandt.
28. Tchaikovsky or Chopin? Tchaikovsky. They’re getting easier.
29. Red wine or white? Red (I was tempted to go with the Billy Joel answer: “A bottle of red, a bottle of white”)
30. Noël Coward or Oscar Wilde? Wilde
31. Grosse Pointe Blank or High Fidelity? Nice choice here. Can I get back to you? Both are right up my alley and Cusack’s the man.
32. Shostakovich or Prokofiev? Pass.
33. Mikhail Baryshnikov or Rudolf Nureyev? Baryshnikov.
34. Constable or Turner? Dunno
35. The Searchers or Rio Bravo? Rio Bravo. Makes me feel all manly.
36. Comedy or tragedy? Mood-driven. Mostly comedy.
37. Fall or spring? Fall. Triple Duh.
38. Manet or Monet? Manet, based on minimal information.
39. The Sopranos or The Simpsons? Simpsons. Easy one.
40. Rodgers and Hart or Gershwin and Gershwin? Rodgers and Hart.
41. Joseph Conrad or Henry James? Joseph Conrad. Close one, though.
42. Sunset or sunrise? Sunset.
43. Johnny Mercer or Cole Porter? Johnny Mercer. I see a lot of folks going with more popular but less talented names on this thing.
44. Mac or PC? Please. PC... unless I'm publishing.
45. New York or Los Angeles? NYC
46. Partisan Review or Horizon? None of the above.
47. Stax or Motown? Motown.
48. Van Gogh or Gauguin? Van Gogh. So I’m a romantic. Sue me.
49. Steely Dan or Elvis Costello? Elvis Costello. Not even close.
50. Reading a blog or reading a magazine? Magazine. Magazines don’t demonize you for disagreement.
51. John Gielgud or Laurence Olivier? Olivier
52. Only the Lonely or Songs for Swingin’ Lovers? No clue.
53. Chinatown or Bonnie and Clyde? Chinatown. One of the best ever.
54. Ghost World or Election? Good question. Election.
55. Minimalism or conceptual art? Minimalism.
56. Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny? Bugs.
57. Modernism or postmodernism? Modernism, if I have to choose.
58. Batman or Spider-Man? Batman as a concept, Spider-man as a movie
59. Emmylou Harris or Lucinda Williams? Emmylou
60. Johnson or Boswell? No answer.
61. Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf? Austen Austen Austen. May I just say Austen again? Ever see Emma Thompson do Jane Austen? Delicious.
62. The Honeymooners or The Dick Van Dyke Show? DvD, of course… got me through a lot of long, sick afternoons.
63. An Eames chair or a Noguchi table? Pass.
64. Out of the Past or Double Indemnity? Out of the Past
65. The Marriage of Figaro or Don Giovanni? Figaro.
66. Blue or green? Green. This is a recent change. It was blue for the longest time.
67. A Midsummer Night’s Dream or As You Like It? Midsummer, of course. The best of the comedies. God, I love Shakespeare.
68. Ballet or opera? Ballet in a landslide.
69. Film or live theater? Live theater. Duh.
70. Acoustic or electric? Acoustic. Double Duh again.
71. North by Northwest or Vertigo? Ouch. I honestly can’t pick here. Durn. Wow.. good question.
72. Sargent or Whistler? Sargent
73. V.S. Naipaul or Milan Kundera? Cute. Um, Naipaul.
74. The Music Man or Oklahoma? The Music Man, based strictly on fond childhood memories. Color me biased.
75. Sushi, yes or no? No.
76. The New Yorker under Ross or Shawn? Stop it.
77. Tennessee Williams or Edward Albee? Williams.
78. The Portrait of a Lady or The Wings of the Dove? The Portrait of a Lady!
79. Paul Taylor or Merce Cunningham? Dunno
80. Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies van der Rohe? Wright
81. Diana Krall or Norah Jones? This is not a choice. Norah Jones is a gift.
82. Watercolor or pastel? Watercolor. I like being able to hide my mistakes.
83. Bus or subway? Subway
84. Stravinsky or Schoenberg? Stravinsky. Not close.
85. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter? Smooth.
86. Willa Cather or Theodore Dreiser? Willa Cather.
87. Schubert or Mozart? Hrm. My heart says Schubert.
88. The Fifties or the Twenties? Fifties.
89. Huckleberry Finn or Moby-Dick? Huck Finn, still changing my life.
90. Thomas Mann or James Joyce? James Joyce.
91. Lester Young or Coleman Hawkins? Dunno
92. Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman? Part of me really wants to say Dickinson just because, even though I love Whitman, he’s all elitist and white male in his writing. However, I’m saying Dickinson because I just think she saw things others didn’t.
93. Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill? Lincoln. Freed the slaves, yo. I hate this choice, because I’m a huge fan of Churchill and I’m ultimately only picking Lincoln because he’s the American.
94. Liz Phair or Aimee Mann? Liz Phair, but another close one.
95. Italian or French cooking? Italian. Not even close. Not in the same time zone.
96. Bach on piano or harpsichord? Anything on the piano.
97. Anchovies, yes or no? Nope
98. Short novels or long ones? Long ones.
99. Swing or bebop? Swing, baby. Yeah! Or did I say that already?
100. "The Last Judgment" or "The Last Supper"? “The Last Supper,” and I am presuming this is a reference to art, not occasion.

Posted by Dan at August 2, 2004 12:41 PM

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Hey, I came across your blog through your comment at a friend's blog and I just have to say: I can respect (if not agree with) all the choices except Cather over Dreiser. Why? Personally, Cather is the driest, least interesting writer I have ever been required to read. I can acknowledge her importance for the niche she fills as the rural American lesbian pseudo-feminist of modernists, but she does nothing for me whatsoever as a writer. I was saddened you left no explanation for that one. I'd be interested to hear your reasoning. Otherwise, fun list. :)

Posted by: Nathan at August 2, 2004 02:53 PM

Well, 99-out-of-100 ain't bad.

The Cather-Dreiser question hinged for me on one book: The Song of the Lark. I love this Cather novel, and am probably biased toward it because I spent a good deal of time discussing it and writing about it for a Lit. class as part of my creative writing major.

If I were more familiar with Dreiser, and/or if the professor in question had assigned, say, An American Tragedy, things might have been different.

I have had limited contact with Dreiser comparatively, and since it was a personal list, I felt obligated in a few places to go with what I knew, assuming that I currently liked it more since I actually had knowledge of it. I hope that makes sense. I probably would need more research (maybe reading more than one novel 15 years ago by Dreiser) to be fair, but in a list of 100, I didn't feel particularly interested in doing all the work it would take to make them all fair.

So the answer to why Cather? I would have to say "my own ignorance." Seems a common enough answer in my life. :)

Then again, that's what this list is for... perhaps I'll go out and grab some Dreiser now that you mentioned it.

Sorry about any saddening.

Posted by: Big Dan at August 2, 2004 04:59 PM


What I want to know is how you managed to get them all wrong. Seriously, every single one ... well, except for the Simpsons. The Simpsons rock ;).

Posted by: Jheka at August 2, 2004 07:27 PM


I've sunk to a new low... I'm even getting subjective questions wrong now.

Let's see if the Chairman will allow Battle: Anchovies, Battle: Opera or Battle: Gene Kelly next time.

Posted by: Big Dan at August 2, 2004 07:49 PM

After a brief review, I have four comments.
1. Fred Astair is priceless, but Gene Kelly was all that and a bag of chips. He could sing, he could dance, he could act, and what a body (especially back in the day!).
19. How about Letterman ANY time? I can’t think of a time Leno could beat him.
23. I’m a HUGE fan of Johnny Cash, but it shouldn’t be a "shock" to put Bill Monroe in the same category as him. Like Cash, there will never be anyone like him.
81. Do you know who Diana Krall is? Have you ever heard any of her songs? I have a feeling you haven’t. No disrespect to Norah, but this isn’t as close as you might think.

Posted by: Rosemary's Baby at August 3, 2004 11:54 AM

Of course I know Diana Krall, though not as well as I know Norah.

The Look of Love I really like, as well as a number she did with Sixpence None the Richer called I Remember You.

Other than that she is a mystery to me, but from what I know, it is no contest. You are welcome to put whomever you like on your list.

Posted by: Big Dan at August 3, 2004 02:50 PM

I couldn't be a judge for Battle Anchovies. I'm way too biased (just love those salty little buggers). I'm also pretty happy to not be judging this week ... whew!!

Posted by: Jheka at August 3, 2004 06:52 PM

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