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S2: I’m Stephen Metcalf and this is the Slate Culture Gabfest. Never will I ever beef with Chrissy Tiguan Edition. It’s Wednesday, May 27, 2020. On today’s show. Never have I ever as a Netflix sitcom substantially created, produced and written by Mindy Kaling. It’s about a first generation Indian American girl coming of age in Sherman Oaks, California. And then Allison Roman versus really the world at this point. It started out as her versus Chrissy Teigen, Anne Marie Kondo. It expanded from there into a maelstrom. We also throw onto that some Lana del Rey versus the pop world. What we’re really talking about in that segment is Twitter beefs in an age of pandemic. And finally, I chose this week’s Comfort movie. So it does not feature a psychopath.
S3: It features the Jirina, Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney being dreamy together. It’s Steven Soderbergh’s 1998 caper. Out of Sight. Joining me is Julia Turner from Los Angeles. She, of course, is the deputy managing editor of the L.A. Times, Julia Turner. Hey, how’s it going? Hello. Nice to be with you. And Dana Stevens, of course, is the film critic for Slate dot com. Hey, Dan.
S4: Hi. How are you all doing? How are you holding up?
S3: I’m poised between. The abject terror of infection of the early portion of the pandemic with some hopeful summer loosening of the rules that are nonetheless Cuomo friendly. That’s exactly where I’m at.
S5: But the loosening of the rules is like utterly without logic. I’m so freaked out by the loosening of the rules.
S3: Right. I definitely is on a Massen social scale. They’re third incoherent. And they’re going to produce, unfortunately, consequences that we can’t really even discuss glibly what some of those consequences are gonna be. I think very responsible people are capable of perhaps conforming their behavior to the change in weather and mood with really, really like the kinds of risks that you already take when you get into a bathtub or an automobile. But I, I do not in any way mean to be glib or incurred no one to do anything other than what they’re doing.
S5: No. I mean, it’s like the fundamental question, like the the. There’s also the risk of the economy continuing to stall and all the economic devastation. I mean, it is true. Like, my behavior is different than it was 10 weeks ago. I took the kids to the beach this weekend. We we know we figured out a place to park that where the beach is pretty empty and it felt very safe to be there. And I never would have done that at March, so. Bye bye. Even as I exclaim, I am also changing my behavior. It just feels like we’re all at the top of the slide and we don’t know what’s going to happen when we get to the bottom.
S6: Yeah, and I mean, without getting into something that will turn us into the political covers, just the fact that there’s no leadership from the top, that there’s absolutely no sense of kind of coherence of of a plan for the country. It’s just it causes you despair no matter what your own personal situation is. It causes me to stare listlessly into space for many hours a day.
S3: Right. And like devoted self hating Protestant that I am. There are instances where the like workings of my own private conscience aren’t a substitute for leadership. And, you know, strategic matter nations of the state. But now where the political, philosophical gabfests. So maybe we should move on to Mindy Kaling. What do we think? I think so. Mindy Kaling, is she the busiest woman in show business, The Office, The Mindy Project, Four Weddings and a Funeral. She’s appeared in a lot of things that we’ve watched over the years. Her new show is basically, as I understand it, an autobiographical one. It’s based on her story, but it takes place in 2020, roughly. Never have I ever follows the sophomore year in high school of an Indian American girl named Davy Vishwakarma. Her beloved father recently has died of a heart attack which has brought upon her a were led to believe psychosomatic attack of leg paralysis. Her mother is very loving, very brilliant woman, but she’s overprotective. And a little bit of a tiger mother were led to believe by the show’s own logic and her cousin now lives with them. She’s older, beautiful and quite brilliant and being forced into an arranged marriage, all of which is to say that her household is safe and loving. But the source of some frustrations and she’s become fixated on losing her virginity to the school’s heartthrob. Meanwhile, I am still puzzling out why. But it has a strange logic to it. The show is narrated by the retired tennis star John McEnroe. The show stars my Ramakrishnan as Davíð and Porntip Jagannathan as her mother. Let’s listen to a clip.
S7: Daisy, you look like an engine car. Dasheen Thanks, Bob. But I thought we’re dressing hot today. This is my boys. Meet me in polo. Instead of my usual large, the janitor said no, just no. Well, I know I did a good job. Did a load of sexy flapper go? My grandmother died in a stroke. Okay, let’s just stick to the plan. What’s our goal for today? To make conversation. Right. We’re talking to the boys. I’m going to ask Jonah to come over and watch unreleased. You underground footage before you know it will all be blinking at cross. Boyfriend here.
S3: I. Dana, let me start with you, in some respects, the show is a, you know, fairly standard issue, cracking the DaVinci Code of sophomore year of high school drama, comedy dramedy, crossed with though highly original first generation American elements. What do you make of it?
S6: It is tons of fun. It’s very sweet. It’s very energetic. It moves quickly, which, as you guys know, is my number one criterion for will I continue to watch it, especially Netflix comedies or not. And I plan to watch the whole thing. I’m now halfway through the 10 episode season. And presumably there could be more because there could be more to it. To come in Dave’s story. And I’m really loving it. And I’m I’m advising my about to be high school freshman daughter to watch it to Steve. I don’t know if you had either of your kids watch it. I’m watching it alone for the moment, but I really think she would enjoy it. And she has a high standard for such things mainly. In fact, she wants them not to resemble a show that this show makes fun of, which is Riverdale. There’s a moment that a couple of the characters are watching Riverdale and both entranced by and poking fun at the way high schoolers are played by 28 year olds. Right. According to kind of age old Greece style tradition. And this show doesn’t feel like that. The high schoolers, at least the main character who’s wonderful, seems like an actual adolescent. And that really adds a lot to her story. But I just think across the board, the casting is great. I don’t know about you guys, but for example, small things like the rivalry that the main character has with this this other grade grubber at school. And they’re sort of, you know, just fierce enmity with each other, especially in this episode midway through where they go to a model U.N. convention and they each play a different country at the convention. It’s just some really good high school nerd humor and excellent casting. And in all the roles, it’s just so charmingly done, including Steve. I love the John McEnroe narration. I love the weirdness of it that it’s never explained why a real life tennis star in his 60s is is is narrating. But there’s something so self-deprecating and funny about his narration and the way that he connects his own tendency to lose his temper. Right. His famous habit of screaming at umpires and, you know, being angry throughout tennis games with the short temper that the main character has. It’s this crazy disconnect, and I’m not exactly sure how good he’s going to enter into the story. But but I always look forward to the John McEnroe narration segments.
S5: I mean, just to step back. This show is wonderful. Really wonderful. I watched the whole thing. And Dana, if you liked episodes one through five and you liked the rivalry between Davy’s character and Ben Hur, her nemesis, you will really enjoy Episode six, which takes it toggle over to Ben’s point of view with with an alternate Grown-Up famous narrator who I won’t spoil. Oh, great. And I think the show only gets deeper and richer. It goes for as it goes forward because it wrestles with the with Davie’s underlying problem, which is grief. Right. I mean, the teen rom com is a venerable format and this has many of its pleasures. I love the characterisation, for example, of her friends. I particularly love her theater friend thinking that her flapper getup was a hot hardy outfit for their boyfriend conquest attempts. And the show just wears lightly, like, of course, the three female heroes or three girls of different ethnicities, not white in the San Fernando Valley. So it everything it’s doing with the rom com is great. But I actually think where this show. Excels is in being about grief and the way that David’s relationship with her mother is sketched and the tensions that are personal to them. They have to do with the kind of cultural relationship to achievement and misbehavior and being in America that is drawn in this family and the different ways in which they’re processing. The loss of David’s father becomes more and more central as it goes along. And it’s handled with incredible grace. And I will cop to it. I wept. I wept at the finale and just thought of the families I know that lost a parent early on for their kids. And I thought it was just a really extraordinary and great portrayal of grief. And it McEnroe. I really loved because I think it helped me put my finger on something that doesn’t always work for me about Mindy Keeling’s work. But that really works for me here. There’s a certain kind of like. Glib brashness to her protagonists. And I watched many seasons of The Mindy Project that did not watch it all the way to its end on Hulu. But I didn’t quite find her character real. I felt like her dalliances with men were sort of everybody was a new pop up cardboard guy every week. It was a kind of emotional unreality to the two that show that made it a little bit hard to love and kind of took away from the thing that Mindy Kaling has always very publicly spoken about loving, which is the conventions of the rom com format. But the John McEnroe kind of solves the emotional puzzle of the Mindy Kaling protagonist to me, because it it it used this male archetype of someone who is kind of brash and and like doesn’t want to get underneath their own feelings because there’s pain there as a way to explain why the protagonist’s behavior is like a little bit alien. And it’s sort of this male archetype for how to understand the person like, oh, yeah, they’re just angry so they lash out and do dumb shit. And we sort of accept that in men in a way that we don’t in women. And so for it to be doing this like really kind of radical gender thing on top of its ethnicity stuff, on top of being a really beautiful story about Kharif, I was just blown away. I thought it was so great. It’s my favorite thing we watched in a long time.
S6: Oh, that’s wonderful. That makes me really, really excited to watch it till the end. Maybe I will recruit my daughter and force her to start it with me so we can we can cry together at the end.
S3: I will definitely now watch her to the end, but I was very on the fence. But Julia, you really unlocked a couple of secrets for me. I mean, I had friends from abroad come and visit. And you do you know, one of the things they most wanted to see, you know, they didn’t want to see the Empire State Building or that Statue of Liberty.
S1: What they wanted to do was go to a public high school and look at the lockers. I mean, the degree to which we’ve exported this extraordinary. Institution, the American Public High School, VÍA are fiction making and filmmaking.
S3: TV making promises to the rest of the world. It’s imprinted so deeply on the consciousness of young people and others all over the world that this is archetypal experience happens in front of these rows of lockers for which I suppose in other cultures there isn’t really an exact equivalent because people are like, I just want to see like I want to go see a row of lockers. And I so I love this genre. The power of the generative powers of this genre. Right. It’s like both able to produce the new infinitely. At the same time, its constraints are the point, right? It’s like a sonnet or Sudoku or whatever. It’s the fact that it’s a heavily constrained genre. You have a bunch of expectations and you really want them satisfied. I agree with you that this this is humanized in ways that are incredibly touching. For example, there’s a set piece involving the moped that is beautifully set up.
S1: It’s delivered upon with real grace. And it’s that was quite moving. There were things about this show that I didn’t love and I thought they were that they were going to get in my way of continuing with it. So you’ve talked me out of it. And Dana, you asked me about my 14 year old daughter who watched it. And I was like, please, I can’t make up what I I can’t make up my mind about this. And she expressed something in a text to me that I think was so wise. I hope I’ll be forgiven for reading it. But she said, you know, she liked it. She found it entertaining and funny. She thought the top plot was a tiny bit cliche. I’m essentially reading from her text. She said it was very diverse, which was really, really nice. But sometimes I felt like it was like forced diversity and they were only putting in plot lines to be progressive, which I DKA, if that’s bad or not. But at the end of the day, all of the representation was good and it’s sort of I was on that fence too. It’s like the white male is not the default human in this show. You know, the white male is the social type is barely present when he when he is present. He occupies an identity box the way everyone else in the world occupies an identity box. I think that is a huge advance for human civilization.
S5: I mean, I actually think the way that the plotlines are constructed is really conscious. And there is only one white male character I can think of in the show, actually. I guess maybe there’s like a Dufy neighbor who tries to buy the vest, but at one point. But, you know, then the nemesis is a white boy and Jewish. But like the popular kids are all multi-ethnic, the nerds are all multi-ethnic. The Hoddy is multi-ethnic. The you know, the just the the texture of it takes very lightly that these are all a wide array of interesting stories. The point of which is not their ethnicity. And and, you know, for so many years, what we have done as a culture is spectate, white male ambition and anger as represented by John McEnroe. And having John McEnroe deem it worthy to spectate everybody else is part of what’s just so sly and lovely about the way the show puts our historical cultural obsessions on their head.
S3: Yeah, I totally agree. And just a quick quick note. Sorry. There is a second white male character who’s white maleness, as is pointed up quite a lot, which is the college counselor who just totally straight. It is totally stereotypes, Davey. He’s meant to be kind of regarded as a sack of shit. That’s funny. I mean, that’s quite well done.
S6: And Stephen responds maybe to your daughter’s text. I don’t know if she listens, but I feel like there’s one character that very definitely in with a very light touch kind of spoofs. The idea very earnestly having to represent every every possible category of diversity, which is the English teacher, I guess he’s an English teacher. The sort of history and language arts teacher. Hilarious. Wonderful performance by I just actor who, you know, is so sincere in his in his desire to not be a white man. Right. And to to represent every conceivable category that the students themselves are constantly rolling their eyes at him. And he is just this kind of I mean, he seems like a great teacher in a way, but he is also this just incredibly self-conscious, sort of touchy feely representa of of of every point of view. So I think that the show the show really sidesteps that super earnest, sincere way of sugar. I think diversity.
S3: I totally agree. I would just one funny thing is it’s like just a good you get to belabor it a little bit with one very funny thing about that teacher is that he both wants the moral authority of the immense tragedies of history and he wants to really get eye level with the kids and relate to them. And he can’t. So he has this incredibly nonsensical and irritating halfway point that he’s settled on. Or he just goes back spasmodically between those two. And that is very, very, very smart sitcom writing.
S1: Okay. Well, the show’s never have I ever I guess at the end of the day, all three of us loved it. I got. Gratefully talked into it by my co-hosts. It’s on Netflix. Check it out and talk to us about it after you have. All right. Moving on. Right, before we go any further, I’m sure we have some business to discuss. So, Dana, what’s so what’s up?
S6: Well, see, first of all, in Slate plus today, we’re going to have some torture. Julia is going to force and I to do a Sudoku puzzle together online. We’re not sure how that’s going to work with that is all revolving around a wonderful video that Julia tweeted about and linked to and that we’ll talk about as well in which you see a Sudoku master in Surrey, England, solving an apparently impossible Sudoku puzzle as he narrates himself doing it.
S4: And we all agree that that was a fascinating video. I’m not sure if it will be fascinating to hear our feeble minds, the stabbing at a much easier Sudoku puzzle. But that is our plan for Slate plus. And of course, as always, if you want to hear those extra segments and get ad free podcast, you can sign up for Slate, plus the magazine’s membership program. As we’ve mentioned in our last few episodes, the current pandemic crisis has caused a lot of big budget problems at Slate and other media outlets. And that is why the Culture Gabfest has had to go temporarily, we hope, to a biweekly schedule instead of the weekly one. We maintained for so many years. So your membership is extra important for us right now. So please, if you want to support Slate and all the great journalism that we do, you can sign up for a slate plus membership at Slate dot com slash culture. Plus again, that slate dot com slash culture. Plus, please consider joining if you haven’t.
S5: And I will say if you if this show has is a habit in your life, if you listen to us regularly and if for some reason you haven’t joined Slate Plus until now, we’d be really grateful if you would join now. The journalism in general is in need of reader and listener support, direct support. You know, you pay for your cable. You pay for your cell phone. You know, you pay for Netflix. And yet I think there still can be a bit of a habit of feeling like why should I pay for the news that I value? And you should. It’s not free. And the business model that used to make it free advertising is gone. Those ad dollars are going to Facebook and Google. They’re not coming to journalists anymore in any substantial amount. So if you want journalism to thrive, you should pay for it. And we hope that Slate is one of the things you’ll consider paying for. So that’s slate dot com slash culture plus.
S6: Other than that, Julia. Do you have some other bits of business to go over? Couple bits of business.
S8: One is just to remind folks that we are all reading The Great Influenza by John Barry about the influenza pandemic of 1918. A big, really interesting, meaty popular history. We’ll be discussing that on the show by the time we all finish it. It’s like a 500 page tome. Second is to announce that, yes, as some of you have asked, we are doing summer stretched this year, our annual tradition of having you guys submit the most stretchable songs you’ve encountered in the last 12 months. Then listening to them, then discussing them with a great friend of the podcast XML. N.V. is still our intention. What does striding mean in a pandemic? In some ways, some of us are taking more walks because it’s the only activity that we have. So that’s some stretching opportunities. On the other hand, mentally and cycle, psychically, we’re all in a slightly less swaggering, steady place because all of human civilization has been humbled by a virus. So it might have some interesting sounds this year. But submit your Strutt offerings and or music that has been resonating for you. Culture Fest at Slate dot com. Put your links there or you can tweet them to at Slate. Cult Fest with the hashtag Summer Stret. And our production assistant will compile them all into a gigantic Spotify playlist, which we will sift through and bring you the best of later this summer. So don’t forget to read the great influenza. And don’t forget to submit your suggestions for Summer Stret. All right. Back to the show.
S3: Allison Roman. She was one of the signature personalities of the Bon Appetit Empire for a while she moved on to BuzzFeed in The New York Times. She’s a pastry chef and cookbook author. She’s famous for her definite article recipes. Also, the cookies, the pasta, thus do that everyone’s suddenly made. She’s been dubbed the prom queen of the pandemic as everyone tries to outdo everyone else by showing off how sumptuously they’ve hunkered down. I guess they’re making some of these recipes then. Allison Roman gave the interview. I think it’s fair to call it that now. She went on a profanity laced takedown of Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo. Let me just read some quotes from that. Like the idea that when Marie Kondo decided to capitalize on her fame and make stuff that you can buy that is completely antithetical to everything she’s ever taught you, someone’s like you should make stuff. And she’s like, okay, slap my name on it. I don’t give a shit. And then she went on to use some heavy shaded Chrissy Teigen as well. Julia, this this is, of course, especially in the time of pandemic’s is absolutely blew up. Twitter Chrissy Tiguan was graceful in her response, as I understand it, and the backlash forced Allison Roman into a huge apology. We will get to Lana Del Rey, who’s done something vaguely similar. But what did you make of this? This Twitter beef, as it were?
S5: Well, I mean, the thing that I think is interesting to discuss is like, OK, so we’ve reached the phase of the pandemic where. The squabbles of people more famous than us have suddenly become galvanizing subjects of inquiry and debate. In a way that they did not seem to be for the first. I don’t know, six weeks or so. And so I know the particulars of the fight. We can we can go through. But I was just more interested in the reaction. Like people were so excited to read about this. I think just the drama of someone who had become kind of a darling, a general social media darling for the last couple of years, and then in particular, the darling of the pandemic with her shallow pasta, which, by the way, it is a really good recipe. And whatever you think of the debate would recommend that you make it. And it just felt a little bit like the old outrage. Internet, where it’s a fairly small subset of the culture, likes to watch people tear each other apart, had resumed. And it was like a weird kind of green shoot of normalcy resuming, but kind of a poisonous green shoot like a foxglove green shoot of just like human nature. It’s not all self-sacrifice and like trying to bend the curve and protect the nurses. It’s just watching people’s based arguments and the return of schadenfreude and Internet crusading and all the rest of it. I don’t know if I found the whole thing to be weirdly heartening and depressing at the same time.
S6: Yeah, I guess so. I guess maybe what struck me most about all this. I unlike Julie, I didn’t feel terribly heartened by it. It made me seriously consider getting completely off Twitter, Steve, as you have done so well that I just don’t have to think about things like what Alison Roman thinks of Chrissy Teagan. But, yeah, I mean, it really does honestly read like a frank conversation that one would have when not being recorded by an interviewer who is about to publish the interview. So there is something unvarnished about it that makes it fun and rollicking to read, but also that seems sort of shockingly uncharitable, particularly to Tiguan, given that the two of them have this professional relationship. Right. I think Chrissy Teigen is one of the executive producers on this cooking show that Allison Roman is about to do, which she is in part promoting in this interview. So there was a little bit of a sense of just going off the rails and not saying this should be off the record in time to to protect oneself from the backlash.
S5: I actually think the smartest stuff to come out of this. You know, there really was a great essay in ITR about the way in which foods from different cultures kind of go viral and who makes them viral and the whiteness of the food world. That, I think is a really interesting and big takeaway from all of this and that. Alison Romans, just thoughtlessness. Like, just not noticing that the people she happened to be dragging were when successful woman of color and the privilege of that thoughtlessness was just part of what made this so electrifying, I think.
S3: All right. Well, there was this other Twitter beef that got brewing between Lana Del Rey and basically the world of female pop diva doom in which she called out by name a, you know, bunch of people d’hote dodgy cat Ariana, Beyonce, A Cardi B saying, you know, you’ve had these number one songs about being sexy. We are, in her words, now being sexy, wearing no clothes, fucking cheating, etc.. Can I go back to singing about being embodied, feeling beautiful, being in love, etc, etc., without being crucified or saying that I’m glamorizing abuse? Question mark. Question mark. Question mark.
S6: Mark, you put in all the excessive line of punctuation.
S3: But Julia just explained to me what this all means and why it’s important or not.
S5: I mean, it’s very hard to untangle. Like you could try to diagram all the sentences and her various statements on this. And I I am not certain what you would come up with in terms of intended meaning. But. I think what I gathered is that she feels that her work doesn’t always get respect because she’s been accused of glamorizing violence against women or women in relationships with bad men or positions of subservience or something. I’m already saying more than she quite said and that she doesn’t understand why she gets criticized when these other women. Again, all women who are women of color and very famous and successful, who she didn’t seem to notice, she was lumping all together against her own experience. Is that what she was saying? I have no sympathy for what she was trying to say. You know, with it, with Allison Roman, I have some understanding of, okay. Your career is skyrocketing. And you gave an interview that was too candid and you haven’t learned how to control your own image and you were kind of heedless about your targets. And then you seem to learn something from it, like that’s a tidier narrative than you were just quietly going along, making music that’s valorized. And but instead you seem to have perceived yourself as being injured in some fashion. That is not explained to any of us.
S6: I mean, she just commits commits a complete unforced error here. Right. I mean, she’s not being asked a question and answering it wrong. She’s just her post or initial post began. Question for the culture, which already is a siren right there. And. And it just it really does seem like she’s on a big self pitying trip, even though, as far as I can tell, her last album was incredibly well-received. And, you know, of course, some of her apologies also contain just a classic classic sort of I mean, it could be satirized on a teen show like never have I ever that we were just talking about. But, you know, just those those moments of humble Braggs like people say, I’m glamorizing abuse, but I’m just a glamorous person expressing a point of view. And she calls herself that at one point I did. There’s something about her that’s just so glorifying in her own posture as a fragile and vulnerable woman that I can easily see how the word white can be stuck in there, even if she didn’t put it there herself. Right. And as it seems like a lot of the backlash has pointed out, these issues, that she thinks that she’s somehow liberated women to sing, sing or think or feel about are things that have been sung about by women of color, a.k.a. the blues. Right. For four decades. Decades.
S3: What I find interesting is the social media for famous people takes place in this liminal space between being a brand and being an actual human being. And the rest of us are forced to try to understand in what sense is this person being outspoken and what sense of they being spoken for. Was this actually written by them? Is it spontaneous? Is it calculated? And it’s partially that mental pista. I mean, which Trump, of course, brings to absolutely heightened state. Look at Steven Miller. Right. That. Did he write it? Did Trump write it because he’s a totally unfiltered moron? Or is it targeted at my psyche in order to lock up my brain and Rendel, render me politically inert or docile and I prefer not to write. I’m Bartleby now. Like, that’s where I’ve gotten to. I can only cope with all of this.
S1: I can’t sift through it all and figure out what is signal and what is noise. And so I’m I have just decided I prefer not to. I just can’t figure out who’s right to speech is stepping on someone else’s historical. Lack of privilege and I can’t. Solve the authenticity conundrum. By thumbing through Twitter. And so I just want to become a Mennonite. I mean, I’m just I hate to be that person I know because it’s so central to our culture.
S5: Nobody is saying that they shouldn’t speak. I think people are just saying. I mean, maybe people are saying that. I don’t know. But I think, like, Lonna has every right to be an idiot. And she’s but she just sounds dumb.
S6: I would also say that both of these instances, the Alesund Roman dust up and know and this Lana Del Rey one seem utterly authentic to me. I don’t think there’s any Steven Millers behind the scenes pulling the strings because they wouldn’t say such dumb, unfiltered things.
S3: I know. Dana, I completely agree with that. Right. That there’s no calculation in either one of those in a way. But I guess that’s what I’m saying, is that I love the idea that someone would say something out of bounds without any calculation that might actually be damaging to their brand. And you want that courage at the same time. Of course, you want people who are unconscious of their immense privilege not to use it to belittle or silence, you know, anyone who doesn’t have all of human history behind their right to speak. So I guess I’m just overwhelmed by it and can only express my my my brain lock.
S5: I mean, OK, I’m going to speak up on behalf of Twitter battles and white woman saying thoughtless things and and getting shit for it, which is to the degree that there is kind of like a enforcement mechanism happening when someone steps out of bounds and does something that they can own, you know, it makes a mistake that they can only make because of the particular privilege they have, whatever it is, and then they get shouted down for it. I actually think you can learn a lot from it if you pay attention to it. Like it’s really useful to hear sometimes from people who are noticing aspects and subtexts of of of how things are coming across that are different from what you might have learned in your own position. And of course, it’s become a recursive loop because so many journalists are on Twitter and it affects what is getting published. And that is broadening out the world. And, you know, even in a world where you’re not on Twitter, you are probably reading and consuming media that is affected by these conversations. But I think even as exhausting as every individual Twitter beef is this sense of like, hey, guys, there are more and less enlightened ways to think about structural inequality in our society. And if you as your as a famous person of whatever ilk I like, smart, scrappy, overexposed recipe developer, a like sulking, injured posture of the victim. Shanti’s like, whatever your jam is, if you fuck up and get shouted at. Like maybe we can all learn something from it. And thus I end our segment coming down largely in favor of Twitter beefs and will further declare their resurrection is a sign of the healing of society.
S6: Thank you. Let us all venture forth and make oblivious statements upon our social media.
S8: Only of us can society heal.
S3: Yes. By the thudding sounds of the punching bag. I like it. All right. Well, we talked Twitter BS beef with us on Twitter and elsewhere. If it’s on Twitter, I want to see it so you can e-mail us or whatever. But I learned a lot from this trialogue.
S1: So anyway, let’s let’s move on.
S9: It was my turn to pick the Comfort movie, and I chose Out of Sight, which is a 1998 screwball thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh. It’s adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel of the same name. And I hadn’t really occurred to me until prepping the segment that it’s kind of part of an unofficial trilogy of Leonard adaptations that all came out in the 90s, Get Shorty and Jackie Brown being the other two, each with a different director. Jack Foley is a career bank robber with a twist. He EBR jurors the use of firearms, relying instead on his wit and charm to exit the premises with a stack of cash. He has a habit, however, of ending up behind bars. And after a half botched escape from prison, he ends up stuffed into the trunk of a getaway car with Karen Sisko, a federal marshal played by Jennifer Lopez. And I should say Foley is played by George Clooney. The two have been forced to meet cute under the tightest possible constraints, literal and figurative. They sigh and murmur into one another’s ears, trading soften barbs and talking movies. It’s a great little scene setting up. The great question of the movie is how badly has she fallen for him? She’s a tough career law enforcement officer who is routinely condescended to by her male colleague. She’d like nothing better than the big collar. But he’s George Clooney. Come on. Will she do her duty and bring him to justice or. Etc., etc., etc.. It sounds a little corny, but everything is complex. It’s just shot through with Elmore Leonard’s astonishing dialogue and plot, dexterity, ease and just incredible wit. Anyway, the movie features a knockout ensemble cast. You’ve got plenty of Jaylo in the leads, but they’re supported by Get Ready, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Steve on, Dennis Farina, Lewis Goostman, Michael Keaton, Catherine Keener and Albert Brooks, all of whom play meaningful roles in the movie, all of whom brought what seems to me to be their a game to what we’re in, just in terms of number of lines, relatively small parts, some of them bigger than others anyway. It’s a great movie. Let’s listen to a clip.
S10: So Attorney Moran actually. Why are you famous? Tom, I was convicted in California. The FBI told me that I robbed more banks even when the computer. How many was it up to that? You don’t really know. Sterling was 18 years old. Drive for my Uncle Cully and his partner, Gustman. So basically, you say you spend half your life in prison. You go back. I do. 30 years. No time off. Imagine looking at that. I don’t have to. I don’t rob banks. Scared? What do you want me to do, scream? How much, anyway? I’m just going to sit here. Take it easy for you to scream.
S3: Dana, of course, they have to start with you. Did you see this back in 98? And had you seen it since? And what was it like to re experience it now?
S4: Yeah, I definitely saw it back in 98. I loved it then. Still love it. I wouldn’t say that. It, unlike you, is one of my kind of movies that I returned to and returned to over and over again. I can see exactly why it would fulfill that that spot. I think that how it struck me at the time I remember and I think this is sort of what it marks in Soderbergh’s career, which has been so diverse. Right. Is that he kind of prides himself on making every kind of movie and TV show and skipping from genre to Jinro with dexterity. And to me, it was sort of, you know, Steven Soderbergh hits the mainstream, right. He makes a movie that isn’t vaguely arty as Sex, Lies and Videotape seemed at the time. And it isn’t, you know, a serious coming of age movie like King of the Hill was, you know, that he suddenly he was making a kind of a little pop gem that that people actually flocked to see, not because of who the director was, but because of who the stars were. And it really does have a throwback kind of feeling, I think, to me, a throwback to 70s kind of romances. I mean, among the conversation topics in that famous truck scene when they’re locked up together are all these movies, the 60s and 70s kind of paranoid thrillers. They talk about Bonnie and Clyde and they talk about network. Right. And they talk about the Parallax view. These are among there, their trunk flirtation topics. And the movie consciously borrows from the feeling of that period. There are these things like freeze frames, right, that were definitely not being done a lot in the late 90s. And, you know, montages that are that are action montages that could be out of the sting or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or something like that. It has a little bit of that playfulness of a heist movie or a crime thriller from the 60s or 70s.
S9: Mm hmm. Julia, what’s your history with this movie?
S5: I adored this movie when I first saw it. When it came out. Maybe a year after. I think I saw it on video, not in the theater. And I loved it so much. I think I like watch it multiple times when I rented it. And I remember feeling like it was just so cool and fun and light in its touch. And I remember actually loving the score like I bought the score, which I never, never did before or since I except for I guess I bought Nick Bertel score for Beale Street out of out of loyalty and a desire to hear it because I liked it. But it’s really the only time I’ve ever watched a movie and thought, I want this music. I think in part because I just wanted the mood of the movie to persist in my own life and my own life to feel as adroit as George Clooney is when he is handling situations large and small. I had a funny. I have not watched it since. It’s been 20 years since I’ve seen it. And I had a funny. Response to it that that evolved over the watch. And I’m curious for your feedback on it, which is that it almost feels like a meringue. Like there’s sort of there’s so much there. Every small part is played by someone who has had a major career since then. There’s a tiny, tiny part where you’re like, oh, my God, that’s Violet Davis. And, you know, just just every role is a heavyweight. Steve Zon is, of course, amazing. And seems feelingly. So, as he always is, Catherine Keener has a great. Well. Louise Guzman. I mean, there’s just great, great actors everywhere in this movie. But it’s such a tone piece. It’s such a mood piece. Like initially I felt. And it’s and it’s so based on this kind of old fashioned, just pure, improbable attraction. And the idea that a woman stuffed in a trunk with a like, disgustingly dirty man who just crawled through a tunnel and is like possessed by putting his hand on your thigh and would would actually be a great romance that I had like for the first half of the movie, I was like, maybe this meringue has collapsed and doesn’t quite work anymore in this moment in culture. And then I watched the final third and I was like. This is great. This is still fun. So I’m curious if you guys had any of that sense of like, whoa, does this still land with the power that it did when I first saw it? Julia?
S3: I thought some candy. That’s almost exactly the same experience I had. So I should say that this is a movie that I adored when it came out, as you did. I’ve returned to it over and over and over again without ever re watching it. So I think about the movie. I remember it fondly. Unlike my other comfort movies, which I would say Get Shorty would be one of them. I’d watch Get Shorty probably once every couple years since it came out. I just never really. I lived off of the memory of it. Right. Without really without really going back to re experience it. And I would say some of the gender and racial politics have not aged exquisitely. They’re not total howlers. They’re not out there. You know, there’s I don’t think there’s a reason to cancel this movie. I sincerely don’t think there is. But there are a couple of things that in a movie today you wouldn’t get away with and shouldn’t get away with. So there’s definitely that.
S9: But what I realize is that is is in re watching it. There’s first of all, there’s a very last gasp high Hollywood belief in the power of romance that I think the movie pulls off both the power of of stardom, movie stardom and romance, that the movie pulls off that just to Hollywood doesn’t even attempt anymore. I mean, the culture is not receptive to it. And the stars aren’t that big. They’re not that sexy. Heteronormativity is no longer that universally believed in all kinds of reasons. But this was the last gasp of that. I mean, you are rooting so hard for these two people to be onscreen with one another. And the whole story is accordingly built around effectively a single romantic interlude. And it sets up the quandaries of the film, especially hers and then and that scene. Dana, you probably have read about this. You know, they essentially they meet together, finally remeet one another, finally somewhat inside their respective identities as bank robber and federal marshal, somewhat out of their identities. They then, through flirtation, establish that they will. Tacitly, more or less tacitly agree to shed those identities in order to be lovers. And then there’s a love scene. And Soderbergh had shot these. It was thinking about just having them be consecutive. They flirt in the bar. They come to their tacit agreement. They go and they mess around. And he was working with the editor of Lawrence of Arabia, this legendary woman whose name, I don’t know, Dana advocates.
S4: And she just died two years ago.
S1: And she intercut the two scenes. It’s like one thing. Being in that bar and coming to this tacit agreement and being upstairs and consummating are shown to be one thing because they’re intercut non chronologically with one another.
S6: I mean, because you were talking about the editing. I just have to talk about my experience of of watching this movie. Visa V editing, which is that I kept thinking and saying again to my viewing partner, it’s completely the editing that makes this movie work. The editing is unbelievable. There’s all these time frames that are being cut between all the Pulp Fiction. Right.
S4: A fairly recent crime caper at that point that also chopped up time frames in a in a maybe more virtuosic way. But I think in a less subtle and effective way, there’s two different stints in prison that the Clooney character serves. Right. And we sort of have to differentiate between is he and his time in prison or his second time in prison or is this in between somewhere? And the movie so effortlessly establishes that there’s that sex scene that you talk about which in which essentially the flirtation in a bar and the consummation in the hotel room kind of happened at the same time. And it’s exquisitely done. And while watching all those scenes, I kept thinking, wow, Soderbergh can really edit because I think of him as his own editor, which he is now, and he has been in recent years. But I didn’t realize that he had only become his own editor in the second half of his career. So and he had worked with these other editors, great ones like Andy Coats at times. So I came out of it thinking, Yay, Soderbergh, way to edit your own movie. And then saw with the shock that, you know, it was this this legendary Hollywood golden age editor, Andy Cote’s, who had done it instead. But on every level, I think the movie has that kind of craft. You know, that score that you observed Julias by David Holmes, who wrote a whole bunch of Steven Soderbergh scores. And, you know, just again, perfectly captures that mood, that slightly out of time. I know this doesn’t feel like a throwback movie, but it has an energy that calls on earlier eras of Hollywood and all of that stuff, including, you know, just like casting a great, great actor in every single role, including some uncredited ones that we won’t mention here. So we won’t spoil them. It just gives this movie this confidence and bravado and just kind of pizzazz, you know, that has lasted more than 20 years before we exit the segment, I think is important to identify this movie as a kind of.
S9: Turning point in a bunch of different careers, so 1989. Sex, Lies and Videotape, as Soderbergh has written and directed debut. It not only watches him as a 24 year old wonder, can it also totally remakes Sundance? I recently read the very good Peter Riskin book about independent film in the 90s. Without question, Sex, Lies and Videotape turn Sundance into Sundance. Then he kind of has he becomes extreme. Soderbergh becomes extremely ambitious as a filmmaker, as a young filmmaker, with a lot on his mind and a lot to say. And it’s kind of one admirable stumble after another. He makes Kafka King of the Hill, the underneath skits, appeals and Grey’s Anatomy. So five movies that really don’t live up to this debut. And, you know, you could kind of see him flaming out at that point. And then he delivers at a site for Universal, some big hit, delightful movie. And immediately he goes out of sight, the Limey, Erin Brockovich, Traffic and Ocean’s Eleven. So it obviously set up Soderbergh, as is the filmmaker that we know today was the thing that got him out of this early reputation. I’m going to be an, you know, sort of arty, artsy indie guy. And he brought his really incredible filmmaking talents and do it more into the mainstream on and on. We know that story pretty well. But look at Clooney. I mean, you know, Clooney was sort of known as a Hollywood joke for a while. Then, of course, he was a big TV star, but not in an era when you’ve made the jump from TV to film very easily, if at all. He makes a bunch of Hollywood movies. He’s in Batman and Robin in 97, which is not one of the more memorable of the Batman movies. It’s kind of quiet, but caught between that big Eighty-Nine, you know. Keaton Batman that rebooted the whole thing in the Dark Knight series. It’s kind of forgotten. He makes a movie called The Peacemaker, which I think was an early attempt by DreamWorks to pretend they were a big smear to show the world that they were going to be a big studio. That movie did nothing. Thin Red Line I have no memory of. And then it’s out of sight, you know, out of sight. In 98, you so you walked out of that movie theater to be crazy, not to think that George Clooney was a big movie star. And kind of from that moment on, he really was. I mean, these people can write in and correct my history, but that that certainly was my memory of it. And looking at the Wikipedia filmography, it’s true. And then I think in arguably, do we agree this is probably the greatest performance Jaylo ever gave? Is that a stretch?
S6: Well, I don’t know. Are we comparing it to her extraordinary performance on the pole last year in Hustler’s? That was a very memorable Jaylo moment.
S5: I also do not think we should besmirch her significant contributions to made him.
S6: And let’s not go down the road of Gigli.
S3: All right. Q QED, this is her greatest performance of all time. All right. The movie is out of sight. Read. Watch it and tell us what you thought of it. I think we all had a lot of fun revisiting.
S5: All right. Can can I make my assignment for next time? Oh, my gosh. Yes, please. Okay, so I. A couple weeks ago with my super cineaste brother in law, I was talking about what my next options were be, because we’ve basically gone through most of the movies that I’ve watched multiple times significantly in my life.
S8: And then I was like, wow. The only other one is center stage, the ballet movie. But I’m not shy and really ask all of Culture Fest Nalanda to relaunch center stage the ballet movie. And then the next day on Vulture. This, like massive oral history of center stage came out and the center stage stands came like crawling out of the woodwork and where, you know, all over the place and reclaiming it is like a really excellent dance movie in some fashion. And the alternate I was considering was Network, which is maybe my the other maybe of the ivory watched most often. But I’m just gonna dangle network ahead for further in the pandemic, because now that we’ve watch so many important film classics for the last two weeks, it’s time to go back to kind of twister level re watchable 90s track. And maybe this is early AUSTRAC and it’s not even drak center stage. You guys have to watch this ballet movie. It looks like it’s currently available to stream on Netflix and you can also rent it on iTunes or Google Play or Voodoo or that’s there’s a bunch of places you can find it.
S1: All right. Excellent. I’m I’m psyched. All right. Well, now is the moment in our podcast when we endorsed then. What do you think, Steve?
S4: I’m going to be met caffeine and endorse two things, if you like. We’ve earned it by only being bi weekly. I’m I’m accumulating too many interesting things to stick with. Just one. So one is a very short something that came up in our prep document. And thank you to Rachel, our production assistant, for finding this. There’s a little interview with Andy Coats, the editor, legendary hollett, Hollywood editor, who also edited Out of Sight. That specifically is about, Steve, that scene that you mentioned about her decision to intercut the foreplay with the actual consummation of the Clooney Lopez love affair. And it’s just three minutes long. It’s on YouTube. We can put a link to it on our show page. And it was made just a couple years before she died. So it’s, you know, a much older and B Cotes reflecting back on how she made that decision. That’s really fun. That’s my small light one. And my other one is I was reading the other day that apparently people’s listening during quarantine has changed their earbud habits and that they’re not listening to as many podcasts, although hopefully still hours and are listening to more music to accompany the endless chores as they go through their house. I just wanted to point out that for me there is nothing like a big, juicy 19th century novel to while the time away as you’re doing things like, you know, scraping Kovic off of your grout.
S6: So the one that I’ve been listening to since actually before the quarantine, because it’s a daing long book.
S4: It’s something like 900 pages if you were to read the original book. And I believe the audio book that I listened to was 21 hours long. Is Veillette by Charlotte Bronte, which is Charlotte Bronte’s last novel. Have either of you read Veillette and any. Never, Azia? No, no.
S3: I have always wanted to read fill out.
S4: I mean, yes, if you’re if you’re Charlotte Bronte person, if you’re Jane Eyre person. If you’re somebody who just finds that particular. The way that she can handle, I would say, sort of omniscient first person narrators. Right. I mean, first person narrators. But that seemed to incorporate all kinds of things that they couldn’t possibly know. I mean, that thing that Jane Eyre does like Jane Eyre, to me, is a book that the minute you put it, pick it up, you are going to finish it. You know, it’s like the movie that comes on cable and you can’t stop watching Jane Eyre. Is that for books? Veillette is a little different in that it’s much longer. It incorporates many more characters. It’s more of an epic. But in a way it’s also much deeper. It’s written by an older Charlotte Bronte and one had Bette, who had been through an incredible few years of her life. I mean, if you even rudimentary know her story, you know that she lost all of her family, her brother and her two sisters. And, you know, the four of them had had been very close and created this kind of almost like a writing unit. You know, the four of them, they grew up writing stories together. They sort of developed as the girls, as writers and Branwell, their brother, as an artist together and losing them must have just been such an incredibly huge blow to her and her father. Also, she lost in a very short period of years. So after going through all of this, Charlotte Bronte goes back to her earlier youth. She’s still a young woman and remembers this year that she and her sister spent in Brussels teaching at a place Yona, right at a young lady’s school. This is something that they actually lived through and that she had this unconsummated romance with the teacher at the school. And in a sort of masked way, she’s telling that story in Veillette. And all I can say is that, I mean, there is no soap opera that has anything on a well told Charlotte Bronte novel. I happened to listen to this as an audio book because somehow 19th century literature just really works for me that way. It has that episodic quality, the almost soap opera element that you can’t stop listening. So if you listen to the audio book and I in particular recommend the one that’s narrated by Charlotte Ritchie, who is an actress in Call the Midwife, I’m sure there are other good versions of it as well. But if you listen to it or read it, please get in touch with me about it so that we can just drop our jaws to the ground about the ending and what exactly it means. So Veillette by Charlotte Bronte and the interview with and Be Cote’s on YouTube. Those are my endorsements.
S3: Wow. Oh, that was great. I’ve always wanted to read that book and now I’m definitely going to do it. Magnificent. Julia, what do you have?
S5: All right. Well, my endorsement was going to be the miracle Sudoku video in which you watch for 25 minutes. A man tried to solve a Sudoku grid and has an elaborate set of rules. And when he opens the puzzle, only two numbers populated in the entire grid. But we are discussing that Sudoku and going to force Dana to do a Sudoku in our Slate plus segment today. So now is a great time to join Slate Plus. And I would encourage you to come listen to Danas. No doubt delighted domination of the Sudoku format. My actual endorsement, though, for your quarantine cookery book is Wiley du Frayn’s Scrambled Egg and Cheese Sandwich, which is a recipe that’s available to you on Bon Appetite. And we will share the link a few points. Wylie Dufresne is like a kind of American molecular gastronomist. He’s he’s a practitioner of a type of cooking that I don’t. I honestly don’t really even love to eat in restaurants and don’t particularly enjoy making in my home. I’m not a molecular gastronomy type. And also this is a it’s essentially a grilled cheese with scrambled eggs on it. But in describing how to make it, he suggests whisking your eggs constantly as you cook them on a high heat so that they make a very small, tight curd, which I’m a big fan of, slowly started large curd, scrambled eggs. So the sandwich goes against many of my food proclivities. But if you’re kind of missing that, like soft, gooey egg and cheese diary type confection, that is maybe more easy to find. If you’re frequenting diners or bodegas in the world, you can recreate some of that feeling at home by following this recipe, which after you make this small curd scramble, you stir in cream cheese so that it takes on kind of like a stiff, solid quality that’s almost more like egg salad than scrambled eggs. Then you make just kind of a classic grilled cheese, white bread, American cheese. Put this egg goo on top and there’s slice of bread and kind of flip that like a normal grilled cheese on a hot frying pan. And it is so good. Little bit of cayenne in the eggs. It is like a miracle sandwich. So get yourself some good American processed cheese product and some white bread and make this sandwich. Wow, that sounds good.
S9: Oh, my Lord. Mouth-watering. Okay. So for my endorsement this week, a couple different things. One of the facile theories that I’ve pushed on this show over the years is this notion of creative dyads people who who you almost can’t think of one without also thinking of the other. They somehow represent a dynamic tension. So Lennon, McCartney being obviously a famous one, or Mozart and Beethoven, you know, Martin Mozart, you know, endlessly virtuosic music poured out of them. It has a kind of sprightly, incredible inventiveness where as Beethoven was deep, dark, depressed, the music came very difficult. You know, not only with great difficulty from the bottom of the soul, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. You. Yeah, maybe Hemingway, Fitzgerald or a bunch of them. You sort of say one and the other is going occur to you. I would say the great postwar painting diad would be certainly for it. Abstract expressionism would have been Pollock and de Kooning. I am. And then you tend to be one or the other, right. Are you at all third? Don’t ask me as a person that is in your tastes. I am so partial to de Kooning is as a painter, as late bloomer who is still trying to do figural things with very gestural paint strokes on and on and on. Love de Kooning. There’s this article in Tablet magazine about a stolen de Kooning. So right away you’ve got this great mystery. It was stolen, I believe, from an Arizona museum. The University of Arizona Museum of Art had a painting called Woman Ochre. And one day back in the 1980s, 1985, a couple walks in stressed. So suspiciously. I mean, this is the whole thing was done so brazenly and one distracts the security guard, the other rushes upstairs and cuts the painting out of its frame. And it’s been gone ever since it reappeared a couple of years ago. And this woman tracked down the entire backstory of the couple who almost certainly stole it. Now, I should mention, the journalist is a woman named Emily. Emily Benedek, B.N. TDK. And I was very taken with this piece of writing. I was so grateful for having read it. It’s up Payoff’s. Ah, so earned. And then the second thing I’d like to endorse really quickly is that Laura Marling, the wonderful singer songwriter Englishwoman, has a new album out, sort of a folky folk rocker, whatever. These are incredibly limiting terms for someone whose talent is quite, quite something. But she did something. She did a couple couple things. One is that she did a from home NPR Tiny Desk concert, doing a handful of songs to her. Singing is so beautiful and so delicate. And I was showing it to my younger daughter who’s taken up singing and guitar playing. And so we did a little bit of research. And Laura Marling has done the most unexpected and generous thing. And I am here to tell you, as someone who’s constantly trying to figure out how artists play songs that I admire. I don’t think anyone else has really done. She has made videos and posted them to her social media to completely demystify the chord structures of her own song. She says, yes, here’s this kind of crazy tuning or somewhat unexpected alternate tuning or open tuning kind of a version of Open A. And once you do that, here’s how you can play these wonderfully, beautifully voiced but complex rich, really densely and richly voiced, somewhat unexpected chords. I thought that that was just a gesture of such remarkable openness and generosity just to open source. A significant part of your own creative process in that way as songwriters, I think is very unusual anyway.
S3: So those are my endorsement. Julia, thank you so much.
S2: Thanks. Thanks, Dana.
S4: As always, Steve is a pleasure.
S2: Find links to some of the things we talked about today at our show page at Slate dot com slash culture fest. Please, we love it, especially given lockdown, extended lockdown. We do love it when we hear from you. You can e-mail us a culture first at Slate dot com, engage us on Twitter. It’s at Slate called Fest Producers Cameron Drewes, our production assistants, Rachel Allen, Dana Stevens and Julia Turner. Thank you so much for joining us. Please stay safe. They will. And we will see you soon.
S8: Hello and welcome to the slut police segment of the Slate Culture Gabfest. Today we are discussing the miracle Sudoku video and the miracle of the miracle Sudoku video. And then we’re going to discuss Sudoku in general and what our relationship is to this particular puzzle format, which I suspect Dana has not done much of. And we’re going to make Dana do a Sudoku on air and we will see what kind of profanity and or major conversion to puzzle them will happen as a result. But first, let’s start with the video, guys. Did you watch, as I demanded, the 25 minute video of the guy doing the miracle Sudoku?
S6: Yes, I did. It’s great entertainment. You guys, you have absolutely no idea what the rules of the game are, as I don’t.
S5: Well, also, it should be stipulated that the rules of Sudoku are not the rules of that particular Sudoku, which has all these additional restrictions and limitations on it. But describe why watching someone solve the puzzle for 25 minutes could possibly be fun and engrossing.
S6: I mean, I think I guess a part of it is just the guys. You know, this is a this is somebody who quit his job in order to professionally play Sudoku and a sort of Twitch style online gaming situation, which is a pretty bold move. Obviously, the game means a lot to you.
S4: If you do that and I guess for me, a part of it had to do with that. That fascination with expertise and with being deeply into something, no matter what that thing is. You know, the way that we’ve talked about with reality shows, like I’d rather watch a reality show about, you know, a guy using a carpenter’s lee. There’s something that I know nothing about as long as you can see somebody who’s good at something engaged in their passion. And so that’s a huge part of it. There’s also the fact that for reasons that I don’t understand, this puzzle that he’s been presented with is incredibly hard. Right. So it’s as if he’s been sat down to play a a chess game against one of the great chess masters or chess computers or whatever. And to watch his increasing sense of Marvel and almost sublimity as he finds his way to solving it is just kind of uplifting when you know what the hell he’s doing or not.
S3: Yeah, I’m. What then? I mean, this is one of those weird things where you hear the description of something, you hear the description of what it is. You cannot square with the description people are giving of their reaction to it. So you’re hearing people say this is the greatest film of the 21st century and it’s just 25 minutes of guys solving solving a Sudoku. You know, like these two things cannot possibly go together. Then you take the time to watch it with the bar set, essentially skyhigh, your expectations are insane. And it surpasses even those. I mean, I love watching. Right. I mean, it’s it’s. And I think it’s. It’s exactly right. It’s you. So I don’t know. I didn’t know anything when I started the video. I knew nothing about it. I didn’t know how to pronounce his name. But what you quickly understand is, you know, so the it like crossword puzzles, the beauty of it is both in the solving and the design.
S9: And as you saw, you begin to understand the exquisiteness with which the puzzle that you’ve been presented is is wrought. And so so it’s it’s the process of discovery at your own powers of solution. As they perfectly also reveal the powers behind the design and then the other thing is not knowing anything about it. You don’t really realize why this person who’s a brilliant Sudoku solver is so blown away by this minimalist canvas that he’s been handed. He’s given essentially two numbers. I think it’s a one and a two. And he’s been given two. In addition to the usual rules of the game, too restrictive rules, which is you can’t make a king’s move and you can’t make a nice move. And he’s looking at this and he essentially says this is going to be the shortest video we’ve ever made because this is impossible. There’s no way to like there’s no power of inductive logic by which you can go from those rules. This grid and those two numbers placed where they are to a completed puzzle. He sees no way to do it at all. And so you follow along as to his immense support. A surprise. I mean, he uses the word sublime at late, late in the video, but it’s a form of Sublett. This is a sublimity to have been able to give that little evidence, that tiny bit of a crumb to find the trail from that, you know, up back to a completed puzzle. It is amazing to watch. He’s also has the virtue of being a charming, understated Englishman. So all of his amazement is comes off as completely genuine. I love the fact that he says he must be joking several times in the solving of it. And then I’ll just say that the elimination of the threes, which to someone who’s seen video, will make some sense that just eliminating all the places where the threes might go, it’s that moment where the thing begins to really and really deeply engage where where that’s that’s the sort of fulcrum moment where he goes from thinking this is an utter impossibility to eipe. I’m in the process of doing something sublime. We like just satisfying and kind of revealing of the nature of human ingenuity. It’s wonderful. I mean, it’s as good as everyone says.
S5: OK, so neither of you ever did any Sudoku. No. Before this?
S6: No. So why is it me in Studio Keillor who’s being forced to display my now now I no, I’m gonna force Steve as well.
S5: Well, I’ll do it together. OK. I just assumed that as a sometime crossword puzzler, which you are, Steve, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. That, you know, like if you’re if you’re boppin about the part of the newspaper that has a crossword, you will also will often find a Sudoku and give it a whirl at some point. Sudoku. This stoga craze, I think is something that’s come to American shores in like the last 20 years. And it’s essentially like a math puzzle game. And if you have a puzzle susceptible mind, you can kind of get into the challenge of solving it. It has never been as appealing to me as the crossword because it’s less about the acquisition of knowledge and and dexterity with language. Two things I love, and it’s more about logic. It’s just like a peer. If if the rules say this, this can’t be that, you know, it’s like a logic in elimination puzzle. It probably has more in common with those. Like law school l sat, you know, Amy, Betty, Cara and and Donna are all doing X or Y or Z and on a train. And they have this and I have that. You know, it’s it’s it’s sort of that type of logic in elimination puzzle with the language removed from it. But it totally has its satisfactions. I found it to be a less enduring pleasure than crosswords, although I don’t even really do crosswords anymore. So. But let us all click on HTP s slash slash Sudoku dot com slash easy and narrate our process of trying to figure this out. Okay, so. The roles are thus in every row you have. OK. So it turns out the process of me explaining Sudoku to Dana and Steve and then starting to do this puzzle was probably not the best idea. So we have mandated that camera. And fast forward. A bit and get to the part where we talk about how they felt about it.
S4: So, Dana, which square can the one be in of these two? The bottom square?
S8: It doesn’t have a look at that. Does the Sudoku seem more or less appealing than it did before? We did that.
S3: Well, it was already made so appealing by the video.
S8: So are you going to, like, pop on over here and become a Sudoku man?
S3: I mean, I, I class it with Tetris and Super Mario as the kind of thing that I had what felt like in Super Bowl skepticism about. And also, I thought it would reveal my cognitive deficiencies. You know, back to me unrelentingly the way life from middle school on basically has. And instead, once I started doing them, I became like a goggle eye addict.
S6: What do you mean once you started doing them? So you started doing them after you watch the guys video?
S3: No. I started doing Super Mario and Tetris after a while after. Oh, those two. OK. And then I became a god goggle eyed addict who needed really like really needed, you know, rehab to get over how intensely I wanted to master it and get better and be better than everybody. So I’m afraid to even go near Sudoku. But the video makes me want to say I’m the opposite.
S6: I would have to be locked in solitary confinement with no access to books or any other form of entertainment to complete this puzzle, because it just rings all my bells of games and numbers and things that I have resistances to. And I’m sure that that, you know, makes me not a tough, resilient, greedy person who tries new things. But this scares me. Whatever you’re doing right now, this puzzle, I’m solving it while we talk. I also I guess, like most games, it it ends up with this it’s just this horrible sense of a hamster wheel where it’s like you would go through all this metal work to solve it, and then you just have a big box full of numbers that you never look at again. Like, why not just not start it in the first place?
S8: I do not think there should be any self judgment for your nihilist response to puzzles. If you don’t want to spend time doing puzzles, then that’s more time. You have to do other things. And we should merely commend you for that. Meanwhile, I’m going to start placing the eights as you can hear me tapping. I think it’s time to go so I can finish solving the Sudoku before we close out this late plus segment.
S4: I actually wanted to do a little shout out to Slate plus listeners in particular about something I said a few shows back. I want to make sure that I’ve caught up with everyone’s requests for yoga because I think I mentioned it to sleep. Lesser’s only that I was going to recommend some of my favorite ways to do yoga in quarantine, recommend some ongoing classes and teachers to them. I got a few great responses on that. I think I’ve responded to everyone. But then there was a second wave and I’m not entirely sure that I’ve answered everyone’s questions about quarantine, yoga. So if you’re one of the people who wrote me about it and I haven’t responded to you yet, please just write me again at Caldari Fest Slocomb with something in the subject line that makes it very clear you’re talking about me and yoga suggestions and I will get back to you soon. So I’m sorry about that.
S6: All right. I’m clicking along here. Can I get this guy solved any minute? Thank you for doing a Sudoku with me. Thank you.
S8: Slate plus listeners for listening to the show and for supporting Slate and its journalism. We’ll see you in a couple weeks.