Thursday Night Bar Fight #11: In Which You are Not Burgess Meredith in The Twilight Zone


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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68 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    (Will there be video game systems available in the television building?)Report

  2. Avatar Christopher Carr says:


    ALL of Beethoven’s symphonies; does I, Claudius count as a movie or a TV series? Maybe Blade Runner?; maybe Jackass to balance everything out?Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I suppose I should also ask which drugs are available because, seriously, if there’s weed available, that changes all kinds of stuff. (“Television” becomes a player, for example.)

    Books would allow for such things as “D&D books” which would allow for the weekly meeting to have a D&D game… and, at this point, I’d say that if you’re spending six days by yourself, books are an easier habit to get into and maintain as part of a solitary lifestyle (punctuated by D&D games) than, say, music would be. But, again, perhaps the drugs available would change that.

    And if I could bring Quantum Leap with me, I wouldn’t need anything else.Report

    • Avatar Pub Editor says:

      I was thinking that “books” would allow for copies of plays and screenplays; one day a week, people in the book building could meet to rehearse and stage plays.

      But the D&D books, and the possibilities that extend from them, is an even better idea. Bravo!Report

  4. Avatar Kimsie says:

    Books. But I think that’s cheating, as one can make music without materials.Report

  5. Books, though movies would be a close second.

    I’ve just always loved reading, and would rather do without any other media than do without books.Report

    • Missed the bonus question:

      TV show — “Futurama.” I’d have said “The Simpsons,” but it sucks now in a way that “Futurama” has managed to not suck. Or maybe “Iron Chef,” since it’s real people talking about a diversity of things, and it would help cut the loneliness.

      Movie — sorry, there is no movie I can think of that I would want to watch over and over and over again.

      Music — again, trying to think of anything I wouldn’t hate with that much repetition. I’d probably pick “The Globe Sessions.”Report

  6. Avatar North says:

    Books, though I’m with Jaybird that the lack of videogames cuts deeply.Report

  7. Avatar zic says:

    Due to contamination protocols, you will live by yourself in your own apartment six days a week; every seventh day, you will be allowed to mingle with others from your building in the commons area. You will need to live in this apartment for the next ten years; after that, the radiation levels will have dissipated enough for you to go outside again without threat of lethal exposure.

    I could not live like this and maintain my sanity. I’d prefer the lethal exposure.Report

  8. Avatar Pub Editor says:

    Books. And I made the decision pretty quickly. A decision where quantity and quality both factor into the decison.

    “You should probably consider that the one day of the week you’ll have human interaction, it will be with the type of people who chose as you did. This may or may not be important to you.”

    This only reinforces my decision.

    I assume that books would include comic books?Report

  9. Avatar Murali says:

    Books. I hardly watch television anymore. Can probably live without turning on the radio. And movies are a distant second or even third to books. You’ve gotta have books man.Report

  10. *Pops head out of motion practice Hell.*

    This is tough. My first inclination was to say books, which provide almost limitless opportunities for entertainment and stimulation, but without access to the outside world, I fear my memory of sights and sounds would atrophy over time to the point where my ability to create a mental image of whatever I’m reading about would also disappear. On the other hand, I suspect that in general I’d most enjoy the company of people who chose the book building. Still, I think I’d go in another direction, especially since I doubt I’d be able to convince the most important person of all (The Wife) to go this route.

    Music is tempting, with good music providing some (though by no means all) of the same benefits as good literature, but with the added benefit of not totally depriving you of your senses and appreciation for aesthetics. Still, The Wife is even less passionate about music than she is about books. Also, as much as I love music, my experience working in a record store for a couple of years back in the ’90s proved to me that talking about nothing other than music for more than an hour or two at a time is insufferable.

    TV is straight out – sitcoms get stale very quickly and prior to the advent of HBO, I can’t think of a single TV drama capable of keeping me interested in a multiple episode story arc. Also, TV documentaries are generally terrible and border on fiction (notable exception: ESPN’s 30 for 30 series). I’m pretty sure I’d have a really hard time finding people I liked amongst the group that chose this building. The only positive is that it wouldn’t atrophy my memory of the outside world, nor would it dull my senses.

    That leaves movies. Even though I’m far from a movie afficionado, I think this is still the best choice for me. I’m pretty sure The Wife would choose this option in any event, which is a big plus. In addition, movies would provide the visual and audio stimulation needed to keep my senses from atrophying and to keep my memory of the outside world alive. While movies are never as good as the books on which they are often based, some are sufficiently good to keep the memory of good literature alive. Some movies also have outstanding soundtracks, so in situations where I really wanted to listen to some music, I could always just flip to appropriate scenes from such movies and just close my eyes. Also, there are no shortage of good documentary films. Oh – and assuming that we get access to them, I’d be able to keep myself occupied by using foreign films to teach me new languages.

    Last but not least, few people enjoy conversations where one is able to shoehorn in a movie quote more than I; being surrounded by people with similar – but perhaps even more exagerrated – mannerisms would definitely be a plus.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      Alone. You. Alone. I did not read this to include your wife; she gets her own apartment.

      ou can be assured that your family and friends will arrive safely in their own chosen buildings. However, you have no way on knowing which building they will choose, save guesses based on what you know about them already. If they choose another building, you will not see them again for ten years.

      So you would have a chance to see her once a week — if she chooses the same media you do. But you do not get to share the apartment with her.

      This (plus not going outside) is why I opted for a lethal dose of radiation.Report

  11. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Everyone’s saying books. I didn’t understand the question to be framed in that way — I thought it solicited specific items of media. So I might pick (for instance) Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle (yes, including Cryptonomicon), a yoga manual, and The Shawshank Redemption.Report

    • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

      Any one you choose will have access to everything ever in that medium, but nothing in any of the other mediums.

      Books means all books, but no music, movies, or TV Series.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Well, then they’re all right. Books are the clearly superior choice as between the other media.Report

        • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

          The bonus question was more toward what you were thinking.

          You would get all books, but you’d also get to select one set of recordings,one movie, and one TV show.

          For recordings, I’d probably get as complete a set of Bach’s recordings as I can find, even if it isn’t considered a great performance. Over ten years of listening, variety will matter far more than quality. (I’m taking the liberty of assuming I can get a multi-CD set.

          One movie: This is almost a throwaway. I can’t think of a single movie that wouldn’t be ruined by having to watch it a dozen times. If any movie could keep my interest through multiple viewings though, it would probably be Memento.

          One TV series: I’ve never actually seen a single episode of Law and Order, but that might be a good reason to pick it. Variety matters more than quality and there have to be more episodes of Law and Order than anything else.Report

  12. Avatar Chris says:

    I’m just going to run out into the radiation.Report

  13. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Does television include everything I would currently find on TV? And new versions thereof? Including sports? If so, I’d take sports.

    It’s weird… I’m a compulsive reader (my participation here probably makes that obvious) but I tend to read in drips and drabs. Books don’t always do it for me as the sustained attention is a struggle at this point. Hell, posts longer than a few paragraphs here usually take several attempts at reading with random something elsing in between. So, while it will be a struggle for me to make good use of the restroom with nothing to read, I find comfort in the ambient noise that emanates from the TV. And having new shows and sporting events would be awesome.Report

  14. Avatar Reformed Republican says:

    At first I thought music, because I listen to music most of the time. However, it is rare that I am ONLY listening to music. I am not sure if I could just listen to music for entertainment. That led me to books. I could happily spend a lot of free time reading.

    Then I remembered that movies includes porn, so just to be contrarian, I will pick movies. I am going to be spending most of my time by myself anyway.Report

  15. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    I think movies and television should both be rejected out of hand. Both media are subject to seeming very dated if they are much more than a decade old. Also, the economics of those industries have made it so small audiences are not well-served.

    Music and books, on the other hand, are much more timeless. I’m likely to find plenty of great recordings from a variety of niche genres from the 50s, but I might only identify a handful of tolerable (though tedious) movies and no TV shows.

    Between music and books though, I’d turn toward books. While books are also a passive medium, they seem less passive than watching a screen. I think I’d be much more likely to learn something from a book than from the other three media.Report

  16. Avatar Andrew says:

    I can’t imagine a world without music. I can’t imagine not being able to read a book or watch a movie or watch a basketball game (although, I suppose since Pauley Pavilion may not be radiation-proof, there wouldn’t be any basketball games to watch), but the prospect of making it through so much as a single day without music would be a mindblowing proposition to me, where on the other hand I can get through weeks without any of the other mediums.Report

  17. Avatar Angela says:


    My one choice:
    movie: The Princess Bride (because it always makes me happy when I watch it)
    tv show: The Wonderful World of Disney (54 years of shows should keep me entertained. Masterpiece Theater is another contender)
    music: Bach’s cantatas for voice (all 224 of them)

    But I agree with zic: solitary confinement 6 days a week for 10 years is horrifying.Report

  18. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    1. Books
    2. Books

    99. Books
    100. Movies. (Assuming we mean talkies, this room cuts me off from the world before 1927.)
    101. Music
    102. TV (All the TV worth watching wouldn’t last more than two or three years.)Report

  19. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Oh, and the Bonus:

    The book is Finnegans Wake, which after 10 years of reading might start to make sense.

    The album is the complete Brandenburg Concertos.

    The TV series is The Wire.

    The movie is The Kids are Alright (the one with The Who).Report

  20. Avatar NewDealer says:

    1. Books

    Wide range of material: fiction, non-fiction, lots of smart and entertaining stuff. Can explore the entirety of the past.

    The second part is hardest:

    1. Movies: The Complete Films of Francois Truffaut Box Set, TV: Doctor Who, Music: Box Set of Mozart SymphoniesReport

  21. Avatar Plinko says:

    I would have taken video games if they were available, just the prospect of the interactivity would be priceless.

    Man, it’s hard between TV and books. If it were just me, books would be an easy choice. Mrs. P. would choose books without even thinking, I am sure, as well.
    I really can’t tell what the gravatar would pick – she loves books and the ‘teebee’ and would pick based the moment – I dunno if trapping toddlers alone in an apartment 6 days a week would be all that great a protocol, though. So I’ll say she has to live with me in Books.

    Now, if I get to have my one little extra of each – this is tough.
    Album – Hum, Downward is Heavenward
    TV – Lots of good choices here – probably The Simpsons.
    Movie – If I’m gonna be alone 6 days a week, I think I know what kind of movie I’m gonna pick.Report

  22. Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

    Given the existence of television shows and movies with a heavy music focus, that makes choosing music rather foolish.

    Movies means missing out on Buffy, Star Trek, and Game of thrones.

    Reading isn’t done compared to the amount of tv I watch.

    Clearly I should choose tv and watch shows like smash, glee, and other when I want music.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      This is an interesting loophole (choosing TV to get music also, via music videos etc). I don’t know if it’s enough to turn me away from books as my choice, but…Report

  23. Avatar Patrick says:

    If you pick movies, you get some music, because there’s soundtracks, of course.

    I’d rather be in a fifth apartment with a 10 year supply of paper and pencils than any of the options here.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      To answer the bonus question, assuming I’m the only guy who gets to bring in the other stuff (because if anybody can bring a book along, somebody else is going to bring the Bible)…

      The Jerusalem Bible (although Finnegan’s is a good choice, Mike), Moving Pictures (to torture the rest of you), all 41 years running of PBS’s Masterpiece Theater for the television show (yeah, I’m cheating, sue me, it’s on Wikipedia’s list of Longest Running Television Shows so it counts!), and something supremely silly, like The Trouble With Harry.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I was thinking that if I had to pick a television show, I’d go with PBS Masterpiece Theater too, but so much of that is Masterpiece Mystery, and I’m afraid that after 10 years of watching shows about murder and only spending 1 day a week with actual people, I’d be pretty convinced that everyone was an evil killer.Report

        • Avatar Patrick says:

          It’s likely in this scenario that homicidal madness will set in before the ten years are up. If it’s you, you get plenty of working ideas from the show. If it’s not you, you get to hone your mystery-solving skills. Win-win!Report

    • Avatar Kimsie says:

      Soundtracks are often a different genre of music than what’s played on records.Report

  24. Avatar Pinky says:

    I’m with the Pirate and Patrick. I love music, but I can get music through movies and TV. It’s more like, I need music. Ten years without music and I would literally go insane. That’s literally as in literally, insane as in insane.

    I need music more than I need books.

    So for me the choice is between movies and TV. TV would offer more variety. That stinks as a choice, because of the four, TV is the one I respect the least, but there’s no way around it. Seven movies a day for ten years, it’s going to get every bit as predictable as the worst TV. TV has a decent variety, too: from PBS science shows to cartoons to serious dramas to Spanish soap operas.

    As for my smuggled items, a bible (which has come up before in bar fights), Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here (another bar fight favorite), and Amadeus (just to make sure I get classical music and decent acting).Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      If I ever had to choose one TV show, it’d be Lost.Report

    • Avatar Andrew says:

      The problem with getting music through movies and TV is that you’ll have songs cut up and fading in and out and significantly less selection that just being able to say “oh, I wanna dig through some Howlin’ Wolf today” or “now’s as good a time as any to try to make sense of early 70s Miles Davis electric madness.” Sure, you can find bits and pieces of those somewhere maybe (although, sans books or Internet to help you research it, good luck finding that one movie or TV show that features Howlin’ Wolf extensively), but actually doing some serious listening to one particular artist or one particular era of an artist, would be impossible.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        Yeah, but if I had access to all the Great Performances from PBS, and all the musical performances on Letterman and Conan, and all those episodes of Soul Train and American Bandstand, I think I could get by. You might not be appreciating music the wey you’d like to, but you’d be experiencing it, and you’d be a lot better off than all of those suckers in the book stacks who don’t hear anything but the sound of their own breathing for ten years.

        The thing I keep thinking of is variety. A ten-year slog in one room is going to be rough without aural, visual, and mental stimulation. TV will give you plenty of the first two, and you can probably find enough of the third to get by. That’s what you’re going to be doing – getting by for ten years. Maybe I shouldn’t be assuming that you have full access to all television. If you’ve only got episodes of Cops, yeah, it’s gonna be a bad decade. Then again, I’m guessing that the book people will have more than People Magazine.Report

  25. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    Books by an internal vote of 6-1.

    To make the 6 solitary days a week of as pleasant as possible, books are the clear winner.

    For the 7th day, I’d lean toward music for two reasons
    – I think the missus would be in that building (but what if she picked the book building to catch up with me? Aaaaargh Gift of the Magi!)
    – a weekly concert or rave would be really nice (though much less exciting if I’d had nothing to do but dance and listen to music the whole week)

    Also, if the books were on paper, I might be willing to risk expulsion to my doom by searing radiation, by checking out some origami books and another couple of books so awful and obscure no one would be likely to miss them, and practicing origami with their pages.Report

  26. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    Books, without a moment’s hesitation.

    One of each of the others? That party’s hard.

    Music: Lucinda Williams, probably West.
    TV: no idea, really. Too few appealing choices–perhaps a long loop of the old ABC Wide World of Sports? (The thrill of victory…)
    Movies: tough, too many good choices. Probably A River Runs Through It, even though I’d have the book.Report

  27. Avatar Jaybird says:

    In addition to the Video Games building that would sorely tempt me, I’d also long for a Blogs building.

    Just sayin’.Report

  28. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Books of course.

    But for recorded music, it would be Murray Perahia playing the Goldberg Variations.
    Movie: Blade Runner
    TV: Nova.

    Trouble is, as I get older, I can no longer read without glasses. Even with glasses, I can’t read for hours as I once did.

    Borges on his blindness:

    Nadie rebaje a lágrima o reproche
    esta declaración de la maestría
    de Dios, que con magnífica ironía
    me dio a la vez los libros y la noche.

    De esta ciudad de libros hizo dueños
    a unos ojos sin luz, que sólo pueden
    leer en las bibliotecas de los sueños
    los insensatos párrafos que ceden

    las albas a su afán. En vano el día
    les prodiga sus libros infinitos,
    arduos como los arduos manuscritos
    que perecieron en Alejandría.

    None should be reduced to tears or recrimination
    By this declaration of the mastery
    Of God, whose transcendent irony
    Gave me at once both books and night.

    In this city of books he made masters
    of darkened eyes reading only
    In the libraries of dreams.
    Insensate paragraphs are offered

    To each eager dawn. In vain the day
    Lavishes its infinity of books upon them,
    Arduous as the arduous manuscripts
    Which perished in Alexandria.Report

  29. Avatar Mary G says:

    I have a problem with the question…if I can come out of my room one day a week, why not every day of the week? Either the common areas are radiation-proof, or they’re not.

    But I’d pick books, too. Can’t imagine life without reading. If they are paper, there are blank end pages and I can make ink out of food and write and draw on them.

    Movie – Harold & Maude
    Music – The Complete John Williams
    TV – Dr. Who, because I’ve never been able to get into it, but so many people love it that there must be something there, and I’ve never seen it, and there are lots of episodes.Report

  30. Avatar Just Me says:

    Books, Books, Books……Did I mention Books? TV: Doctor Who, and by entire episodes I am fervently hoping that the lost episodes are found. Music: Jerry Jeff Walker ultimate collection. Movie: Despicable me, I have wonderful memories of seeing it the first time and it’s cute!Report

  31. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    I’d probably pick TV, to my everlasting shame–books would be appealing, but ultimately six days a week with nothing but the sound of my own voice would drive me nuts. Movies are a less-varied and more limited alternative to TV, so they’re right out, and music alone could never keep me engaged enough to sustain six days a week.

    Smuggled movie would be Star Wars episode IV, probably. Music would be The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. The hardest choice would be a book. Probably the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, although I’d also be tempted by the Dark Tower books and Robert Caro’s LBJ biographies. God, this would be agonizing.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      I don’t know why you’re ashamed about TV – ok, that’s a lie, I know why because I’m ashamed too.

      If you pick anything other than books, the single book choice becomes awfully important. For me, it had to be the Bible, but if the Gideons had gotten to the facility before I did and there was a bible in every room, then it’d be a tough pick. I might go for a geometry or Latin textbook. Maybe a collection of Poe. I stalled out halfway through War and Peace; if I had ten years and no other book I bet I could finish it.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller says:

        I made it through Infinite Jest, but I’m sure it would withstand a few retreads. That would have to go on my list as well.Report

  32. Avatar Lab Rat says:

    Question, does the book building include access to scientific journals?

    Regardless, I’d definitely take books. There is a much wider range of subject material, particularly non-fiction. It’s also probably the only option that would allow me to be productive. Given ten years, and unlimited access I could perhaps learn a useful skill set to help rebuild society. Ignoring that, simply sitting down and reading every work by the masters would be worth the choice. I can’t imagine any of the other mediums entertaining me for more than a few months. As it is, I burn out on movies and TV. I’m also certain I’d see my wife, which is a huge plus.

    From the rejected mediums I’d take Astral Weeks, Casablanca, and Boston Legal.Report

  33. Avatar Caleb says:

    Books, without a single hesitation.

    Music I can live without, although I might get a bit sad. I haven’t had a TV in years. Movies are limited by format. You can only tell certain types of stories in 2-3 hours of visual and auditory media.

    For the bonus:
    TV: The wire. I haven’t watched any of it, but people keep telling me it is right up my alley. I would watch an episode on special occasion to keep it interesting.

    Movie: I actually the suggestion someone had of The Princess Bride. It’s not the deepest or most meaningful movie, but it’s the only one I can think of that I’ve watched countless times over the years and have still been entertained by.

    Music: Hard choice. I have a box CD collection of all of Beethoven’s Symphonies. Does that count?Report

  34. Avatar essman says:

    Music. I am assuming I will have kick-ass speakers.

    Beethoven’s 9th (Solti, Chicago)
    The Dark Tower, if a book series is allowed; The Stand, otherwise.
    Battlestar Galactica (Olmos/McDonnell).Report