July 11, 2004

I posted this on my other (mostly for Latinists) website, but there's very little overlap in readership, so I'll post it here, too. If you've already read it, you don't have to read it again.

Terry Teachout recently posted a sort of quiz designed to judge how compatible anyone else's cultural tastes are with his, the Teachout Cultural Compatibility Index, or TCCI. I thought it might be amusing to post my own answers, with accompanying comments.

For clarity, I have bolded both choices, but RED means I agree with Teachout, BLUE means I disagree, and BLACK (the majority) means I have insufficient information to decide one way or the other. As a shorthand method to get across how I decided some of them, I sometimes give pairs of ratings on a scale of 1-10. Thus, 10-1 means I absolutely love the one and hate the other, 4-3 means I rather like both, but the first one a little bit more, 2-1 that I dislike both, but one slightly less than the other. An X means insufficient information: thus 9-X means I really like the first item, but don't know the second, so I can't say for sure I would still prefer the first if I did. Clear enough? If not, the comments are open. My compatibility index seems to be 75%, higher than any yet recorded on Teachout's site: the 'vote' is 36-12, with no fewer than 52 abstentions and spoiled ballots.

Here are my answers, or rather preferences:

  1. Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly? X-X: insufficient information. I don't watch a lot of movies, and have no clear picture of either.
  2. The Great Gatsby or The Sun Also Rises? Ditto: never read either that I can remember, but I don't much like Hemingway, so would probably prefer Fitzgerald.
  3. Count Basie over Duke Ellington. 4-3: I haven't heard a lot of either, but more of Basie, mostly on a few Big Joe Turner albums. And I've liked what little I've heard of both, but Basie a bit more, so Basie it is.
  4. Cats over dogs. I'm not a pet person, but if I had to own one or the other, it would definitely be a cat, preferably calico.
  5. Matisse or Picasso? X-2: Don't really know Matisse, don't care for Picasso. Sue me.
  6. Yeats over Eliot. 6-4: Neither is all that high or low on my list.
  7. Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin? X-X: See #1. Keaton's bit part in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was not bad, but that's hardly enough to tip the scales.
  8. Flannery O’Connor or John Updike? Never read either, but I strongly suspect from their reputations that I would prefer O'Connor.
  9. To Have and Have Not or Casablanca? X-8: I don't recall having seen the former, but it would be hard to beat Casablanca. Still, I can't vote without more information.
  10. Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning? 1-X: Drips and spatters leave me cold, and mystified. I suppose I've seen a DeKooning or two, but have no mental picture at all. They either made a negative impression or none at all.
  11. The Stones over The Who. I find rock in general leaves me cold, but there are degrees of coldness, so I'd have to call this for the Stones by 2-1. Remember: there's no zero on this scale.
  12. Philip Larkin over Sylvia Plath. 9-1. I guess I prefer reading a screwed-up depressive man to a screwed-up suicidal woman.
  13. Trollope over Dickens. Call it 8-3. I would think that most people who prefer Trollope would also prefer Tolstoy (number 15), and vice versa, but Teachout is an exception.
  14. Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald? Never heard much of the latter. Call it 6-X.
  15. Tolstoy over Dostoyevsky. Maybe not by much: call it 9-7.
  16. The Moviegoer or The End of the Affair? Never read either, and had to think for a while to remember who wrote them.
  17. George Balanchine or Martha Graham? Insufficient information.
  18. Hamburgers over Hot dogs. As long as they have cheese on them, and maybe some bacon, and ketchup, mustard, and fresh onion, but no relish or lettuce or tomato, and are burned on the outside but bleeding raw inside, and are bought from a trustworthy butcher so they won't make me sick. I mean not immediately sick from food poisoning: they can't be good for my heart.
  19. Letterman over Leno. Not that I care much for either: 2-1.
  20. Wilco or Cat Power? Never heard Wilco, or heard of Cat Power, though I gather it (they? he? she?) is or has some kind of band.
  21. Verdi over Wagner. No contest here: 8-3.
  22. Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe? Can't recall any of their movies, though Monroe's is certainly a familiar face -- and blown-up skirt.
  23. Bill Monroe over Johnny Cash. Not by much: maybe 5-4. I have no particular preference for bluegrass over country, so this could have gone either way with different representatives on each side. For the former, I would give either the Stanley Brothers or the Louvin Brothers an 8, Del McCoury a 7, for the latter Hank Williams a 9, Loretta Lynn an 8, George Jones and Dwight Yoakam a 7, and so on.
  24. Kingsley over Martin Amis. By about 9-2 -- not that I've read much Martin, but what I little I have (a few pages browsing in the bookstore) has not tempted me to go further. Perhaps I should try again some day.
  25. Robert Mitchum or Marlon Brando? As I said, I don't see a lot of movies, though I have vague memories of On the Waterfront, and wasn't that Mitchum as the marine stranded on a Japanese-held island with a nun in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison? Not a bad movie, but hardly sufficient to tip the scales here.
  26. Mark Morris or Twyla Tharp? Never seen either's work.
  27. Vermeer over Rembrandt. Just an impression, based on vague acquaintance.
  28. Chopin over Tchaikovsky Maybe 5-3. Other romantics would have tipped the scales much further one way or the other. I do find the slushier of the romantics (e.g. Liszt) far more tolerable on the piano than with a full orchestra. Perhaps if Tchaikovsky had written much at all for the piano I would like him better.
  29. White wine over red. If I'm drinking wine at all. I generally prefer hard liquor over wine or beer.
  30. Noël Coward or Oscar Wilde? Insufficient information: call it X-6.
  31. Grosse Pointe Blank or High Fidelity? I've never seen either.
  32. Shostakovich over Prokofiev.
  33. Mikhail Baryshnikov or Rudolf Nureyev? Insufficient information. I get the two mixed up: can't even remember which one played an Amish farmer in Witness. (Is "Amish farmer" redundant? Maybe not: I imagine a few of them are blacksmiths and barrel-makers.)
  34. Constable or Turner? No clear picture (sorry!) of either.
  35. The Searchers or Rio Bravo? I don't recall seeing either of these -- certainly not in the last 20 years.
  36. Comedy or tragedy? I've gone back and forth on this one and still can't decide. When it comes to Greek plays and Shakespeare, definitely tragedy. For opera and modern English plays (e.g. Pygmalion and Importance of Being Earnest), definitely comedy. For Roman plays, I'm not sure: Plautus and Seneca are so different I can't think how to really compare them. For movies, probably comedy. I think I'd better pass on this one.
  37. Fall over spring.
  38. Manet or Monet? Time to hit the art museums and develop an opinion?
  39. The Simpsons over The Sopranos. Haven't seen much of the latter, but what little I have seen seemed good, not great, and I love The Simpsons.
  40. Rodgers and Hart or Gershwin and Gershwin? I've certainly heard some works of each, but never stopped to check the authorship. When it comes to The Great American Songbook, I'm astonishingly ignorant.
  41. Henry James over Joseph Conrad. 10-8: Conrad would have won most other matchups.
  42. Sunset over sunrise.
  43. Johnny Mercer or Cole Porter? No idea: see number 40.
  44. Mac or PC? Never used a Mac, so I can't say. Maybe I should try one before I replace my current 6-year-old wreck.
  45. New York over Los Angeles. I've never been to Los Angeles, but I love most of what I've seen of New York (6 months residence in 2001-02, 15-20 weekend visits since). Perhaps I would like Los Angeles even better, but it seems unlikely.
  46. Partisan Review or Horizon? Huh? Is Partisan Review still in business? And what's Horizon, some kind of travel magazine?
  47. Stax or Motown? No idea. I don't tend to notice the label on pop recordings.
  48. Van Gogh or Gauguin? See number 38.
  49. Steely Dan or Elvis Costello? I've never knowingly listened to either, and couldn't name a song by either, though I have a clear picture of the latter's face, or rather his haircut and glasses. I think both postdate my total loss of interest in non-country, non-bluegrass contemporary pop music, though I may be wrong about Steely Dan's dates. I've certainly never owned or borrowed any album by either one.
  50. Reading a blog or reading a magazine? What did you think I was going to say?
  51. John Gielgud or Laurence Olivier? Insufficient information.
  52. Only the Lonely or Songs for Swingin’ Lovers? I don't even know who did these, though I gather they are album titles. Sinatra? No idea.
  53. Chinatown or Bonnie and Clyde? I may have seen the latter long ago.
  54. Ghost World or Election? Haven't seen 'em.
  55. Minimalism or conceptual art? Hmmm. How to settle the precedence between a louse and a flea? I'm going to pass on this one even if that violates the spirit of the TCCI.
  56. Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny? I've never watched non-contemporary cartoons, and have no idea which I would prefer if I did. Perhaps I should. It's been far too long since I've watched either of these to have an opinion. Ask me to judge Beavis & Butt-Head, The Simpsons, Duckman, Futurama, King of the Hill, and South Park, and I'll have an answer. In fact, that is my answer, in decreasing order of preference. (I almost began "Except for the occasional Three Stooges episode, I've never watched non-contemporary cartoons" -- until I remembered that they're not actually cartoons, they just seem like them somehow.)
  57. Modernism over postmodernism. I much prefer Classicism, actually, but if I have to choose . . . .
  58. Batman or Spider-Man? In comics, or in movies? Either way, I have no idea. In fact, I don't know and don't care.
  59. Lucinda Williams over Emmylou Harris. 7-4. Perhaps I should buy some of the latter's albums: there's a good chance she would move up, since I've liked what little I've heard. Then again, the one I like best is just a remake of the Louvin Brothers version ("If I could only win your love").
  60. Johnson over Boswell. Perhaps I should recalculate, but I figure the best parts of Boswell are direct quotations from Johnson, and there's plenty more Johnson not in Boswell, so how could he lose?
  61. Jane Austen over Virginia Woolf. 10-3. I was going to say 10-1 to get across the degree of difference, but I suppose there are plenty of worse authors than Woolf.
  62. The Honeymooners or The Dick Van Dyke Show? Before my time, I think, or might as well have been. (I'm 51.)
  63. An Eames chair or a Noguchi table? No clear picture of what either looks like, much less feels like to sit on, or at, though I suspect I've seen one or both on Frasier.
  64. Out of the Past or Double Indemnity? No clear memory of seeing either.
  65. Don Giovanni over The Marriage of Figaro. Not that I've seen the latter, or listened to it, enough to judge fairly. Can I get back to this one when I do?
  66. Blue over green.
  67. A Midsummer Night’s Dream or As You Like It? Have never seen the latter, or read it since college, and remember nothing of that.
  68. Opera over ballet. 10-2, though I've seen very few ballets.
  69. Film over live theater. And not only because I can watch films at home. But what about films of theatrical productions? If he hadn't said "live", it might have been more difficult to decide.
  70. Acoustic over electric. No contest.
  71. North by Northwest or Vertigo? I have only vague memories of seeing the first, none of the second, so there's no way to decide.
  72. Sargent over Whistler. Nothing against Whistler, but I really like Sargent.
  73. V. S. Naipaul over Milan Kundera. I don't recall the last time I read any Kundera, but Naipaul's a favorite, so call this 9-X and mildly provisional.
  74. The Music Man or Oklahoma? Don't know, don't care, never liked musicals.
  75. Sushi, yes, oh yes!
  76. The New Yorker under Ross or Shawn? Insufficient information, and I've never really cared for or about the magazine, or read it much all. Do you have to grow up with literary ambitions and dreams of being published in it to be a New Yorker fanatic? I am vaguely aware that Ross came before Shawn, and that the latter was the father of the guy who played the Grand Negus (Nagus?) of the Ferengi on Star Trek: Deep Space 9, but that's about it.
  77. Tennessee Williams or Edward Albee? Modern drama (I mean the last 50 years or so) is a closed book to me, with a very few exceptions from my time in New York. I did like Zimmerman's stage version of (parts of) Ovid's Metamorphoses. and Stoppard's Invention of Love, on A. E. Housman. I suspect I may have been the only person in the theater for the latter who had read just about all of Housman's prose and very little of his verse.
  78. The Portrait of a Lady over The Wings of the Dove. Actually, I've never read either, but can be quite sure the score would be something like 10-2, at worst 9-4. I've read and loved several other earlyish James novels: The Europeans, Washington Square, The Bostonians, even The Reverberator. I found What Maisie Knew and The Spoils of Poynton hard going, but worth it: I sometimes had to read a sentence three or four times to construe it, but was never tempted to give up. Given that James' style is reliably reported to get even more difficult by the time of The Wings of the Dove, I have no doubt that I would far prefer The Portrait of a Lady. I really need to find time for it soon, also The Princess Casamassima, which I've read about a quarter of. In that case, I quit because of a job change and resulting overwork, not at all because I'd lost interest. Time to knit up the broken strand, or just start again at the beginning?
  79. Paul Taylor or Merce Cunningham? Insufficient information. I know nothing about dance.
  80. Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies van der Rohe? Insufficient information. I don't know anything about architecture, either.
  81. Diana Krall or Norah Jones? Never heard (and barely heard of) either.
  82. Watercolor or pastel? Huh? Depends on what the artists do with them.
  83. Bus or subway? Depends on the city, I think.
  84. Stravinsky over Schoenberg.
  85. Crunchy over smooth peanut butter. I rarely eat either, except in Thai food, but I always buy crunchy, even for baiting mousetraps. Why not give the furry little bastards a special treat before they die?
  86. Willa Cather over Theodore Dreiser.
  87. Schubert over Mozart. Hard to decide: 10-9.
  88. The Fifties over the Twenties. Just an impression with nothing much to back it up.
  89. Huckleberry Finn over Moby-Dick.
  90. Thomas Mann over James Joyce. 7-3: would be 7-1 if it weren't for Dubliners.
  91. Lester Young or Coleman Hawkins? Haven't heard either lately, and have no impression strong enough to decide. My jazz collection is severely limited: several Minguses (Mingi?), Cecil Taylor's first two albums (like Henry James, but much faster, he seems to have gone around the bend into unintelligibility as he got older), a couple of others.
  92. Emily Dickinson over Walt Whitman. Neither is a big favorite, but the latter leaves me completely cold -- too prosy, and oratorical, if that's not a contradiction: maybe 4-1.
  93. Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill? Sorry, too different to judge. I'll have to think about this one some more.
  94. Liz Phair or Aimee Mann? Mere names: I don't even know whether they sing, dance, paint, sculpt, or what.
  95. Italian over French cooking. If restricted to these two, I have a mild preference for Italian (maybe 4-3), but what I really prefer is almost any kind of Asian: Japanese, Korean, Chinese in all its varieties, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Afghan, and more. Any of these would beat Italian and French, though it may just be that I can't afford to eat in the restaurants that make the latter worthwhile. On the other hand, it may just be a generalized preference for the exotic, since I would also rather eat Ethiopian or Mexican food over anything strictly European -- not that good Mexican food is particularly easy to find. And I almost never order a steak, tossed salad, and baked potato in a restaurant: I can make those at home.
  96. Bach on harpsichord over Bach on piano. I'm not a militant 'original instrument' fan, but here it does make a difference. If the pianist is Glenn Gould, I might vote the other way, but it usually isn't.
  97. Anchovies, yes. I was going to add "but only on pizzas and in Caesar salads", but (a) that's the only place I ever come across them, and (b) I suppose they would be good in other dishes, too. I find that one of the best ways to make a frozen pizza at home is to buy a large four-cheese pizza and add a whole can of anchovies, so I guess that means I like anchovies.
  98. Short novels or long ones? Depends on the author, I think, and how much free time I have.
  99. Bebop over swing. I guess, if bebop includes Charles Mingus (see number 91), and I think it does
  100. "The Last Judgment" over "The Last Supper". I have a weakness for the apocalyptic.
Posted by Dr. Weevil at July 11, 2004 03:55 PM