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December 9, 2008

What do they have in common?
Posted by Patrick at 09:52 PM * 87 comments

Richard & Linda Thompson. Linda Rondstadt. The Flying Burrito Brothers. Aretha Franklin. Ry Cooder. Cat Power. The Afghan Whigs. Percy Sledge. Gregg Allman. Elvis Costello. Frank Black.

I mean, aside from the obvious, like “they’re musicians” or “they speak English” or “they breathe oxygen.” A little more specific than that. Discuss.

(This is a test of the Making Light Expertise System.)

Comments on What do they have in common?:
#1 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 10:17 PM:

Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?

#2 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 10:20 PM:

...Guests on "The Hour" with George Stroumbolopoulos?

#3 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 10:20 PM:

Hazarding a guess, before I hit up Google for exhaustive discographies: no matter how good their songwriting, they have all done notable work with material they did not write?

This is guessing. I don't know all the material of all the artists. I do know that Richard Thompson has done quantities of English trad (and that astonishing Britney Spears cover), Linda Rondstadt sang the hell out of Warren Zevon's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," and "Respect" was not original to Aretha Franklin.

I am not immediately coming up with any notable covers done by Gregg Allman, Elvis Costello, or Frank Black, although I am feeling really stupid for not being able to call an Elvis Costello one to mind.

I want someone else to solve this riddle.

#4 ::: Proud of myself ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 10:22 PM:

That it took less than a minute of creative googling to get the answer.

#5 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 10:25 PM:

The Warren Commission completely failed to mention any one of them in its report despite substantial incriminating evidence?

Sorry, wrong thread.

#6 ::: ADM ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 10:28 PM:

I like Rikibeth's idea of covers. My first thought is that they all have done some great traditional music (at least, if you count gospel as traditional), although I don't know the Afghan Whigs. Also, maybe related to bands that have words that have a P in them, like, ... uh, the Appractions?

#7 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 10:29 PM:

#4, hey, I was on the right track just guessing!

#8 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 10:29 PM:

A) They are all on the TSA no-fly list
B) They were all investigated by the Hoover's FBI at some point for various subversive activities.

(For reasons of national security, I cannot provide evidence for either claim.)

#9 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 10:30 PM:

"Proud of myself" is right on the money: they all recorded covers of "The Dark End of the Street" by Dan Penn and Chips Moman.

Thirty minutes from question to answer! Not too bad.

#10 ::: JKRichard ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 10:31 PM:

Two words: 1) Bacon, and 2) Kevin.

Mystery managed.

#11 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 11:17 PM:

They're all stage names?

#12 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 11:29 PM:

OK, I didn't get that one...I'm not good at setting these up. I give too much information.

What do the following bands have in common?

Meredith Brooks
Ricky Lee Jones
Kelly Clarkson
Avril Lavigne
Katy Perry
Rob Zombie
The Vandals
Guns and Roses
Nine Inch Nails

("They all suck these days" is not the answer I'm looking for, even if you think it's true. )

11:28 PM Eastern time. Go!

#13 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 11:44 PM:

Ah, the Making Light expertise system. Reminds me of barging in on an open thread, when I was writing a college paper and desperately needed the proper form of address for a formal letter to a 15th century Venetian Doge at 2 in the morning. I felt a little bad about it, but really, when Google and my dead tree research had failed me, where else was I going to find that information before I had to turn the paper in?

(Incidentally the proper Latin form is "Dei Gratia Dux Venetiarum" or "By the Grace of God, Duke of the Venetians." I was kicking myself for not realizing that of course it would be the same as the form for your generic duke, since Doge is just the Italian title derived from the same Latin word: "dux")

#14 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 11:45 PM:

Sandy B. @ 12: They've all appeared in a trivia question on Making Light?

*ducks, runs for cover*

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 12:00 AM:

Chris W., the ideal question is (a.) fun to contemplate, and (b.) gives someone the opportunity to show off their truly arcane expertise in a good cause. That one qualifies.

#16 ::: Bob Rossney ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 12:04 AM:

(Elvis Costello covers include, among many others: "I Stand Accused," "My Funny Valentine," "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," "Eisenhower Blues," and - here is where the forehead-slapping commences - "What's So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding?")

#17 ::: Darice Moore ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 12:10 AM:

Didn't Elvis do an entire album of country music covers? "Good Year for the Roses" is the one I remember.

#18 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 01:49 AM:

Mmm. I grew up on, among other things, Linda Rondstat's Heart Like A Wheel album, which included this cover. Gods know I had no idea what the lyrics meant for years, but I had 'em memorized anyway. (Similarly, Mom remains amused by memories of 6-yr-old me singing along with Barry Manilow, "Just think of me as a busy busy bee / gettin' by by sellin' honey" without having the first clue.) Dad recorded it all onto one side of a 120-min cassette tape which survived kindergarten, elementary school, high school, and most of college. Then at some point I didn't notice I'd failed to cue up the blank side, and recorded over it.

I think I'll temporarily swipe the vinyl next time I'm visiting Mom and Dad. Yum, phono-to-mp3! Thanks, Ion!

#19 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 01:57 AM:

Do creatively silly answers count for anything? Because my first thought was, "Artists whose work has been used without their permission in Republican political commercials."

#20 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 02:05 AM:

Who would have thought they were all born on December 10th?

#21 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 03:01 AM:

I've never even heard of half these people, so I don't think I have the remotest shot at giving the intended answer. (Now to read the comments, and see what people come up with.)

#22 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 05:33 AM:

All right: what do the following have in common?

Gerard Butler, William Finley, Herbert Lom, John Tuturro, Tom Tyler, Billy Zane.

#23 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 06:08 AM:

Patrick left out The Commitments.

#24 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 08:25 AM:

No love for my favourite version? Moving Hearts from the eponymous album, with Christie Moore singing to bring tears to your eyes.

#25 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 08:42 AM:

Without googling, can you tell what these names have in common - besides their being male actors?

Lionel Barrymore.
James Mason.
José Ferrer.
Herbert Lom.
Robert Ryan.

#26 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 08:53 AM:

Chris @ #13, I would suspect that the proper form of address to the Doge at 2 in the morning would include "excuse me for waking you up, Your Grace..."

#27 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 09:55 AM:

Serge #25: They're all Puerto Rican? :)

#28 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 10:01 AM:

Glenn @ 22: the Phantom?

#29 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 10:04 AM:

Fragano @ 27... I should have known that putting Herbert Lom's name in there would make it too easy to figure out.

#30 ::: modallist ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 10:48 AM:

Chris W. @ 13: The "Dei Gratia" bit is interesting, though. Given that the doges were elected by the aristocracy of a republic, one wonders what God had to do with it.

#31 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 11:05 AM:

I don't see anything inherently odder about the idea that God works through elections than through inheritence/civil war/marriage etc. But maybe that's just me.

#32 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 11:22 AM:

Ah. Okay, here is another test of the MLES...

When I was a very young coder, when minicomputers still roamed the data centers of America in vast, teeming schools, my father gave me a large format paperback book with about a hundred short little BASIC programs in it, most of them games or similar little curiosities. I remember one of them was Mandala. I think its longest program was Star Trader, which weighed in at like nine pages or something.

Anyway, this book was one of the three books that got me started in a long and generally satisfying career making computers dance (when they're not crashing), and I can't remember its name. I want to say it was something dumb, like 101 BASIC Games or something like that, but isn't sufficiently helpful. I think it might be this one, but I'm not sure.

Does anyone have a copy of the book I'm describing? Does it match my description completely, or am I confusing parts of it with another book? Can you tell me its ISBN?

I ask, because I think I may have promised someone that I'd port all its contents to Python or something like that. That someone is still getting his first set of teeth.

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 11:23 AM:

Who do the following people have in common?

Richard Dreyfus.
Alec Guinness.
Robert Wagner.
Sean Connery.
Alan Arkin.

#34 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 11:35 AM:

30 and 31: The Pope is elected. Bishops were historically elected, and in some churches still are. Some monarchs used to be elected, including the Holy Roman Emperor (at least theoretically) and the King of Poland (really). All these people claim or claimed authority from God. The idea that rulers had authority from God was certainly not inextricably linked with hereditary succession, though in places where hereditary succession was the rule, God might be invoked against those who wanted to change it.

#35 ::: Stevey-Boy ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 11:37 AM:

Serge @33: All starred in movies with Robert Shaw? Although Alan Arkin is causing me problems

#36 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 11:38 AM:

Chris@13: nitpick; 'Doge' is specifically the Venetian title derived from 'dux'. The standard Italian is, I think, 'duca'.

#37 ::: Rick Owens ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 11:40 AM:

j h woodyatt @ 32:

I remember the book you linked to, because I checked it out of our school library quite a few times. Does help any?

#38 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 11:49 AM:

Stevey-Boy @ 35... Not quite. The answer was much prettier than Robert Shaw.

Audrey Hepburn.

Richard Dreyfus - "Always"
Alec Guinness - "The Lavender Hill Gang"
Robert Wagner - "Love Among Thieves"
Sean Connery - "Robin and Marian"
Alan Arkin - "Wait Until Dark"

#39 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 11:55 AM:

Rick @37, that's the book. I recognize the cover art.

#40 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 11:55 AM:

j h woodyatt@32: The David Ahl book does fit the description. I remember typing in the "Star Trek" game and thinking that half the game was message strings. I guess it makes sense. in 1979 we had strings; today we've got people who do nothing but edit textures.

#41 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 12:10 PM:

Andrew 36: Oh, of course! As in "Duca, Duca! L'amante fu rapita a Rigoletto"!

#42 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 01:06 PM:

So, spaghetti westerns are really Venetian westerns?

Get along little Doge!

#43 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 01:17 PM:

*chases John Houghton across the room with a branding iron*

#44 ::: martyn44 ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 01:25 PM:

modallist @ #30 Having delusions of grandeur, perhaps?

#45 ::: Brendan Gray ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 01:50 PM:

I have two guesses:

1) They are (or where) "Friends of Bill"? (Bill Clinton that is)

2) They were involved in the 1992 innauguration?

#46 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 03:15 PM:

Dan Penn is associated with all of them?

#47 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 03:18 PM:

Never mind that, it got stuck in the inter-tubes.

#48 ::: Finders, Inc. ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 03:38 PM:

#12: One connection is that this person has been a member of, or played session for, all of these bands or acts.
(Also less than one minute on Google; the delay is due to my not reading the thread until now...)

#49 ::: Eileen Gunn ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 10:19 PM:

I was going to say "They all slept with Gram Parsons," but never mind.

#50 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 01:03 AM:

Rikibeth got mine.

#51 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 01:20 AM:

j h woodyatt/Rick Owens: I had that book, too. Probably unsurprisingly, I am also in the computer field (though on the sysadmin/toolsmith side rather than pure software engineering), and that book was a big part of it.

#52 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 01:43 AM:

Here's one, mildly obscured.

Yeovilton. Duxford. Weybridge. Manchester. East Fortune. Hillingdon. Manhattan. Christ Church. Tukwila. Filton.

#53 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 01:58 AM:

Christopher Davis @ #52:

A guess without Googling: Are they all places in New Zealand?

#54 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 04:17 AM:

I haven't seen the correct answer to my question at #25. No, Fragano, Lionel Barrymore wasn't Puerto Rican either.

#55 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 05:21 AM:

52: they're all airfields? More specifically, aviation museums? Even more specifically, do they all have a certain beautiful aircraft on display?

#56 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 05:40 AM:

52, 55 - A Concorde?

#57 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 06:13 AM:

Okay, here's one: Joan Vinge, Alison Scott, Jo Walton.

#58 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 07:18 AM:

None of them are Senate Candidate #3.

#59 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 09:38 AM:

Neil Wilcox@31

Scene: Venice some centuries ago.

"God, if you don't want me to become Doge, give me a sign."

(Lengthy pause)

"Clearly God wants me to become Doge."

#60 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 09:40 AM:

Michael I @ 59... Meanwhile the people of Venice exclaim:

"We don't need no steenkeeng Doges!"

#61 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 09:57 AM:

More likely the conversation goes:

Visiting Scholar: So, Doge, explain to me how you came to power. How did you get elected?
Doge: God knows.

#62 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 11:49 AM:

Following this here tangent, this was the product of some creative discussion when I was university (and had seen the first line only as graffiti in a faculty bathroom):

A handsome young man of Stoke Poges,
in Venice composed apologias
for those aristocrats
who, though fond of their cats,
were accused of mistreating their Doges.

I'm not aware of any other rhymes for Stoke Poges, although no doubt the denizens of Making Light will now provide me with another 30 or so. And probably another ten limericks, at that.

(This is under no circumstances to be understood as a challenge.)

#63 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 12:14 PM:

candle #62:

Loges. Though I'm not taking a reserved seat to see what happens with them.

#64 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 12:22 PM:

I keep crashing when I try to put all the TNH-style links in my posts. #48: you are correct! The drummer for the Vandals did a few other things, it turns out.

#65 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 12:32 PM:

Serge, at #25 was it that all the actors played heads of state in the movies?

#66 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 12:39 PM:

Higglety pigglety
Writing an elegy
Thomas Grey's possibly
The Man From Stoke Poges.

Failing to segue, I
can't get this poem to the
field where the Lionheart
died, in Limoges .

... dammit, I almost managed to write a higglety-pigglety limerick.

#67 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 12:40 PM:

Serge, would it be they all played Captain Nemo at some point?

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 01:41 PM:

pat greene... Indeed they all played Captain Nemo. I didn't mention Naseeruddin Shah because that would have tipped people off too easily. I wonder if adding Michael Caine or Ben Cross to the list would have.

#69 ::: Zed Lopez ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Ken Jennings' Tuesday Trivia (the form to subscribe is on that page) always concludes with a tough "what do these things have in common" question (designed to be Google-resistant.) I don't think I've ever gotten one...

#70 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 05:31 PM:

ajay (#55) and Tim Hall (#56) got it. I restricted it to the British-built Concordes, because otherwise the list includes "Le Bourget, Orly, Toulouse, Chantilly, Sinsheim, Toulouse, Le Bourget, Paris"...and that's a bit obvious.

#71 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 08:21 PM:

#40: I remember typing in the "Star Trek" game and thinking that half the game was message strings.

What this makes me think about is that games in this form could, I imagine*, not have any secrets to reveal later (spoiler-able things), unless they are in the logic rather than the data or assembled from little scattered strings.

* I never did the typing-in-programs-from-paper thing myself.

#72 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2008, 12:40 AM:

Xopher #41, ooh, right up there as one of my favourite bits of libretti, very suitable for spitting venomously, is:
     “Cortigiani, vil razza dannata,
     per qual prezzo vendeste il mio bene?
     A voi nulla per l'oro sconviene!”

From Rigoletto, Act 2, scene 4 (approximately, “You vile race of Courtiers! Damn you! What price did you get for my joy? There is nothing you won't do for money!” — I can substitute suitably for ‘courtiers’ & sometimes cut out the second line or substitute for ‘mio bene’)

#73 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2008, 10:49 AM:

I just wrote to our Host & Hostess about this. They may already know, but they also may not.

#74 ::: Rick Owens ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2008, 11:35 AM:

Kevin Reid @71:

Re. Spoilers found while reading code - yes, exactly. In most cases the spoilers from reading strings didn't matter because the random number generator controlled (at least partially) which code branches ran during a given game. Massive surprises were impossible, but minor ones were part and parcel of game play.

One's fluency in the language also made a difference - if you couldn't follow the logic, you couldn't see how pieces would be put together later on. In some cases you couldn't even see the logic at all - anyone else remember games from Compute! and other magazines, where you had to type in pages of hex codes? At that point I had the tools to look at the assembly language after keying it all in, but not the knowledge. Later on I played with 6502 ASM, but it's been long enough that I've forgotten it. Maybe someday I'll revisit it... eh, probably not, higher level languages are more fun. :)

#75 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2008, 11:43 AM:

66: It's a bit of a stretch to rhyme Stoke Poges (pronouced poe-jez) with Limoges (pronounced Lee-mozh)...

There are very few authentically Grecian peripatetikoi
In Chicago, Illinois,
But you can't throw a brick without hitting one of the hundreds of loggias
In Stoke Poges.

(and, due to watching The Wire...)

Calling acquaintances
Homies, or brothers, or
Bunkies, or O.G.s

May sound authentic and
If you're in Baltimore -
Not in Stoke Poges.

#76 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2008, 02:15 PM:

Back to Basic Games - I got into programming from those kids' magazines in the 80's that had a game or two that you typed in, plus general computer-y stuff. I've been trying to find something similar, but everything today is either gaming magazines or only for Serious Adult Programmers. How do kids today find out how computers work? (Software-wise, I mean; clearly the hardware side of the answer is "their mom makes them help whenever she rebuilds the family machine".)

It seems weird to me that there were more resources for this in the 80s, when practically nobody had computers, than there are today when so many more people do.

#77 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2008, 02:44 PM:

Serge @75:
Cleaned up. Thanks for the heads up, though I would surely have noticed it when I came by the site this evening.

(Not posting much—work crunch—but I do still read.)

#78 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2008, 02:59 PM:

Abi @ 79... You're welcome. My best wishes for your work crunch to soon subside.

#79 ::: Spammer ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2008, 06:31 PM:

[Spam from]

#80 ::: Rick Owens ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2008, 08:09 PM:

Cat Meadors @78:

Re. loss of resources from the 80's to now: I think that's largely because computers have gone mainstream. Early home computers came out of a culture that valued tinkering and hobby work; getting into the guts of the machine was part of the draw. Now, PCs are more of a commodity, and many folks don't want to know about the internals.

Purely guessing on my part, but I suspect that kids who want to learn about computers today have to find adults who are willing to help them along. Languages like Logo and Scratch are good places to start; giving a kid an OLPC computer is another option.

#81 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2008, 10:08 PM:

Rick Owens @82: I suspect that kids who want to learn about computers today have to find adults who are willing to help them along.

David Brin on his blog had been looking for resources to get one of his kids going in computer programming; he recalled the old computers that would boot up into Basic from ROM.

I pointed him in the direction of a Color Computer* emulator available online (and got a thanks in return), but that wasn't the route he ended up taking; I forget what he decided to go for, but he had found an answer he was satisfied with.

* A Radio Shack computer with a 6809 processor. I've claimed it was the true ancestor to the Mac.

#82 ::: Sally Brackett ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2008, 03:59 AM:

Rick Owens @82

We used Logo in elementary school as a class though our teacher told us what to type in. It was a lot more fun when I took a class specifically on it in junior high and we learned /why/ what we typed in worked the way it did. Computer science was also offered in high school. I took the first class in it. We learned Java.

(I'm a freshman in college at the moment so junior high was 2002-4.)

#83 ::: K. G. Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2008, 05:14 AM:

Patrick's original question was a bit of a trick question because the list didn't include the artist who performed what many people feel is the definitive version of The Dark End of the Street. So, experts, the missing name?

#84 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2008, 07:20 PM:

I don't know if she's the definitive artist, but Eva Cassidy performed it, too.

#85 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 07:00 AM:

Definitive, not sure, but Kate and Anna McGarrigle's version was pretty good.

#86 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 07:21 AM:

Well, damn. Can't find any evidence of the McGarrigles ever having sung this now - I must have dreamt it.

#87 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2009, 06:33 AM:

Here's a new one along these lines that I just did the research on:

Gardner Dozois, Harlan Ellison, Philip José Farmer, Neil Gaiman, Jack Gaughan, David Hartwell, Dave Langford, Ursula K. Le Guin, Clifford Simak, Vernor Vinge.

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