The “Clarence Thomas Is A Prince Fan” Edition
Speaker 1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership.
David Plotz: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest.
David Plotz: October 13th, 2022. The Clarence Thomas is a Prince fan edition. I am David Plotz of City Cast. I’m here in Washington, D.C. I’m joined by Emily Bazelon of the New York Times Magazine and Yale University Law School in New Haven. Hello, Emily.
Emily Bazelon: Hey, David.
David Plotz: And from New York City, John DICKERSON of CBS Prime Time with John DICKERSON. Hello, John.
John Dickerson: Hello, David. Although, actually, I am once again in Washington another year.
David Plotz: We still none of us have won a MacArthur. So it goes.
Emily Bazelon: But our listeners are shocked.
John Dickerson: However, I am hoping to be I am hoping to be on MacArthur Boulevard at some point.
Speaker 5: Later.
David Plotz: This week on the Gabfest. Three L.A. City Council members are caught on a secret tape saying or condoning racist and just generally repugnant things about their rivals. What does it mean? What should happen to them? What is happening to them then? The Ukraine war seems to get more dangerous by the week. We will talk once again to Anne Applebaum to make sense of the bridge bombing, Putin’s retaliation, Elon Musk’s meddling and more. Then the Supreme Court takes on a fascinating case about fair use Art Prince, Andy Warhol, The Onion, a lot of other things. Amazing case.
David Plotz: Plus, of course, we’ll have cocktail chatter and Gabfest listeners. Don’t forget, on Wednesday, November 2nd at 7 p.m., we are going to be live in Atlanta at Georgia Tech’s first Center for the Arts. Tickets are at Slate.com flush Gabfest live there, premium tickets available there, swag bags. We had a great crowd last time we were in Atlanta and we would love to see so many of you when we’re there again. And of course, it’s right before the most important and interesting and crazy Senate race in the country and a wild governor’s race. So join us, slate.com plus Gabfest live November 2nd, Wednesday at the Georgia Tech First Center for the Arts.
David Plotz: Three Latino members of the Los Angeles City Council, all Democrats have been under huge pressure to resign after a secret tape recording made a year ago was leaked, revealing them, saying or just going along with racist, unpleasant and just plain mean statements about other politicians. The most outspoken of the three, Nury Martinez, who had been the president of the city council, first resigned as president and on Wednesday resigned as a council member after she was caught using various slurs to describe a two year old, a black child of a fellow council member, saying derogatory things about people from Oaxaca living in Los Angeles and saying of the district attorney, Fuck that guy, He’s with the blacks. So. Why? Were you guys surprised that this tape existed and that they were saying things like this?
Speaker 1: No.
Emily Bazelon: No. Why not?
John Dickerson: So let’s think if we can figure out all the categories. By the way, whoever was in the hotel room next to me last night decided to have a constant, unending, loud conversation from like midnight till 6 a.m.. So if I sound punchy and just totally out of it, this is why.
Speaker 5: I thought.
Emily Bazelon: You were going to say so. I understand about people overhearing conversations that they’re not supposed to hear.
John Dickerson: Oh, my God. Anyway, what are the categories? So, David, does it surprise me as an act of human nature? No. Does it surprise me as a political conversation that takes place? No. Does it surprise me in the specific context of Los Angeles and coalition and racial politics in Los Angeles, which I don’t know super well, but which I’ve read about and thought about? It doesn’t surprise me in that context. So I guess in none of the context, those those are three. There might be more.
Emily Bazelon: Well, the fact that the tape exists is, I think, surprising because they were having this conversation at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. And it seems very strange that there would be a rule of taping meetings that people involved in the meeting wouldn’t know about and then would get leaked, like, that’s not good. And that labor federation came out with the statement saying they’d had a security breach and they were looking into it. So the things that were said were totally abhorrent. I was interested in how much they sounded like old fashioned pals dividing up the spoils.
Emily Bazelon: Right. So this is a progressive city. You have the idea that people don’t speak in these explicitly derogatory racial and ethnic terms? No, in fact, they do. These were Latino politicians who are trying to take more power where Latinos have less power in terms of representation on the council compared with the number of Latinos than other racial and ethnic groups in the city. That clearly mattered to these people a lot. I was taken aback at how explicitly racial it was and how cruel it was. I mean, I know people are mean, but like the idea that these people as Latino representatives would see things in such starkly racial and ethnic terms. Yeah, I was surprised by that. I’m just naive.
John Dickerson: To back up your point about the misrepresentation, Latinos make up roughly half of the city’s population, but only hold four of its 15 city council seats. My other fun fact that I read in the Times is that there are 4 million residents and they speak a combined 200 plus languages at home.
David Plotz: John John’s John is doing a book report on Los Angeles.
Speaker 1: Well, as.
David Plotz: A city, I.
John Dickerson: Just I felt like that was color.
David Plotz: And diversity.
Emily Bazelon: You know?
John Dickerson: But I. But but I call.
Speaker 5: Angelinos.
Emily Bazelon: A fair curve.
John Dickerson: And the. And the chief export is the unanimous plan. No, but I thought those were important figures with respect to the the push and pull and and diversity and the cutting up the spoils. This is a conversation, we should note, that took place in the context of redistricting. But as you said, Emily, the cruelty, the conversation started talking about redistricting, but then just got into just like wallowing in the cruelty for a little while.
Speaker 6: So getting back to Mark, I told Danny, you want to cut a deal, and if you want to if you want to make like the last moves, I would go after the airport because I know that idea. I said, Come. So don’t go, go, go. You’ll have to leave him alone. He’ll get the airport from his little brother a little bit on how we would like people. I go, I got what is what the bombers would want as a bomber. I don’t exactly what you think involves all the same things given, you know, why are they so close?
Speaker 1: I mean, he’s from Massachusetts. This can’t go on the investigative about.
Speaker 6: What it is that I read during Black History Month. I have a council. You know, when I got into it, remember, it’s an AI processor. When we do do the I want to correct this.
John Dickerson: Language because I want to have those.
Speaker 1: Statues.
Speaker 6: In there.
Speaker 1: I won’t let her go yard bag or their brother Louie, but.
Speaker 6: They don’t like on the side that you sit next to that you have got. It is right now.
David Plotz: As you guys know, I’m a big fan of smoke filled rooms and backroom deals. I was just spent last weekend in the Hill country of Texas and there are so many shrines to LBJ. And you can imagine, you can imagine and probably these tapes exist of, you know, conversations of this sort that LBJ had that. We’re probably even worse in probably terms that are even more repugnant than ones we heard. And I do think that the best to politics, like politics, is great when there’s a kind of gimme, gimme negotiation, scheming, alliances, idealism. And I’m definitely I’m definitely not even going to try to spend one second defending what they said because what they said is disgusting. And I don’t like even though we all are slightly different people in private like what they said, or at least certainly what Martinez said was really gross.
David Plotz: On the other hand, you do want people to have comfortable spaces to. Be real and mean and base sometimes. And people people can act when they believe they are comfortable, when they around people who they feel comfortable with, they can they can express parts of themselves that they don’t necessarily express in public. And I think that’s fine. I think politics actually needs that. Politics is a performative profession and so many effective politicians are great performers. And so it is not at all surprising to think that performers are somewhat different behind the scenes and behave somewhat differently behind the scenes. And that’s okay to be discordant. There could be a discordance between who you are as your public face and who you are in private, and and that that part of it is okay. And I also just want to stand up for the idea that people and this I know John Dickerson stands up for this people should have spaces where they feel safe to just kind of talk and be themselves and hopefully they are not so appalling.
Emily Bazelon: Well, okay, but isn’t it still like what do we make of the fact that in 2020 to these progressive politicians when they’re just being themselves are one of them, is being racist and the other ones are like letting her do it and not saying anything? I mean, one thing it suggests to me is that city politics are have often been like this, Right? I mean, the city I grew up in Philadelphia, like very much when I was growing up, felt racially and ethnically divided with people representing different factions of the city and vying for power. And so it feels familiar to me and yet also depressing that right now this is where that conversation went.
John Dickerson: Yeah. I mean, I guess because I wasn’t surprised by it. I mean, I guess what surprised me was the way. In which everybody seemed to be perfectly okay with just being awful. So in other words, the basic commerce of power and race, that was throughout the conversation. You know, usually that’s kind of understood or implied, and everybody understands it in their bones, but they don’t say it all out loud and. But then there’s this other category of just being straight up cruel and mean and racist. And that’s the thing that surprised me. They spent so much time in that neighborhood. The.
John Dickerson: But as a political matter, your point about the cities makes me think about Maggie Haberman spoke up and Donald Trump that he grew out of the New York racial politics of the eighties and that that tattooed a certain view of race and fiefdoms on him that that’s a part of his continuing DNA. And that is not dissimilar from what we heard in this conversation.
John Dickerson: Which brings me to another point, David, which is how do you square this and your and your point about private spaces, which I agree with, with Donald Trump’s claim that his Access Hollywood tape was just locker room talk.
David Plotz: Yeah. I mean, I think there are and I was just thinking about this like did Bill Clinton, who is this a very effective public performer, was also probably, you know, very possibly a rapist. And is it okay to be, oh, I’m a rapist in private and but I’m a good politic? No, of course not. Like it’s not. And there there’s certain like steps beyond which you you can’t go. I guess it’s I guess it is that that. There is. I think if they had just been using salty language.
Emily Bazelon: And that would be different.
David Plotz: Our politics. Yeah, it’s the. But what is it? But what’s the this? Is it the racist language. But I think lots of people talk in racially coded categories when they’re in private.
Emily Bazelon: Wasn’t coded.
Speaker 1: Now not.
David Plotz: Even racially coded as in like a racist racial language when they’re in private, especially when they’re talking about something which is explicitly racial, which is how do we increase Latino political power. So not at all surprising that we talk in racial categories is like the problem, the mean stuff they said about the kid or the problem that they were dividing up the city and then, you know, to screw the Armenians.
Emily Bazelon: Well, neither was so good, right? I mean, the part about dividing up the city, you know, the attorney general of California, Rob Bonta, is now declaring that he’s going to investigate, which I think is good, because there is a point at which this kind of dividing up the political spoils starts to be or should be illegal. And so that seemed like a healthy development for Los Angeles. I mean, one thing I was trying to think about is so I think you can say, okay, when people have these kinds of private conversations and their course and some of it is base, they’re kind of revealing some aspect of themselves. And the voters can decide like, we don’t want someone who feels that way to some degree in her heart to represent us. And I think there was enough of outrage in Los Angeles that I understand why Nora martinez resigned in the face of that.
Emily Bazelon: You could also argue that, you know, really what’s more important is how effective Martinez is as a representative, what is her record show? And it sounds like she’s been a very strong advocate for various causes in the city that she sees as benefiting working class neighborhood she represents that are largely Latino. And I do you know, I do wonder about the focus on language and talking and this representation of what is in someone’s heart versus what kind of actions she takes as a city council member. But, you know, in the end, it’s like this is the kind of revealing thing that the left in particular does not tolerate right now. And that’s what you saw.
David Plotz: I want to go back to the Trump thing. I actually know that I think back. I kind of think that what Trump was saying in private there was, okay, the problem with Trump is his public nastiness to me that Trump is publicly racist, publicly nasty publicly, I think so. You know, hypocrisy is the tribute. The advice pays to virtue. Right? Right. We all know that. And actually.
John Dickerson: I kind of hate that expression, but you’re okay. Okay.
David Plotz: Actually, it is good to force people to perform being polite more than they than they might be in private, that forcing people like creating a culture where people are supposed to be polite and decent to each other and smile to each other and not say grotesque things to each other is better than the alternative. Where people are are to, you know, say the things that are the poisonous things that are inside all of us. At some point, you know, people are filled with devilish honest and pettiness and viciousness. And the acts that we take to suppress that in public are good. But it does you know, that you have to acknowledge that there are times in private when a lot of that comes out for some people and for some people it comes out in much more toxic ways, as it did with these these folks.
Emily Bazelon: You really want to go all the way to defending Trump, saying that like reveling in grabbing women by the party. Like, I don’t know.
Speaker 1: I don’t defend that.
David Plotz: I don’t defend that. But I do I do defend the distinction between between private and public spaces and that what people do in private, and especially if you’re in a performative profession, the public actions are more important and Trump’s public actions are despicable. Right. And that just disturbs me so much more than the fact that he’s also saying disgusting, you know, sexually assault if things in private.
Emily Bazelon: Well, I do think there is this larger interesting issue with Trump, which is that he does all this awful stuff in public and then somehow it matters more when it seems like it’s in secret. But I also think that if you’re going to talk that way about women, it is revealing about something that we already know about this person and it is super not okay. And in the same way I sort of felt that way about Nury Martinez, like if this is the way she sees people in her city and a child of her colleagues like I am, I wouldn’t want her representing me either.
John Dickerson: Well, and also the roles there, I mean, this is slicing the prosciutto a little thin. But if your role is to be a advocate for a certain population in a certain geographical area, that’s one thing. If your role is to represent an entire country of which women are half the percentage, leaving aside all the other ways in which it was disgusting, the way Trump is talking is just there’s different connectivity between your private thoughts and your public role in those in those instances. Although when you’re city council president, you’re also overseeing a whole area, not just your your constituency.
John Dickerson: But I think that David, I don’t think he’s excusing. I think he’s trying to figure out where the. Where the line is and recognize that this this contradiction, which is true, not contradiction, but this quality. That’s true that a lot of these people, a lot of people in politics say awful things, but maybe not this awful. But I would not want to be have their most private comments in public.
David Plotz: We are joined by beloved Gabfest guest Anne Applebaum of The Atlantic. She’s in Berlin. She’s here to talk about the war in Ukraine, which is moving in all directions all at once. Ukrainian forces or some somebody connected with Ukraine seems to have partially destroyed the bridge linking Russia to Crimea, which is a critical Russian supply line, prompting a barrage of Russian attacks at civilian targets across Ukraine. Ukrainian forces continue to gain territory in parts of the country.
David Plotz: And then we also have this coming winter energy crunch where abetted by Saudi Arabia, Russia is going to put huge pressure on Europe, which is going to have extremely high gas prices, shortages of of energy, which could continue for a long time. And also Elon Musk inserted his intrusive little nose into the war, too, as well. So and can you start us with this bridge bombing and how important and damaging it was strategically to Russia?
Speaker 5: So, first of all, it’s important to understand that this wasn’t just an ordinary bridge, you know, for pedestrians to stroll across. It was built after the annexation of Crimea. And it has a really important strategic significance for the war. It’s both a car bridge and also a train bridge. And it was on that bridge that the Russians have been bringing supplies to the occupied parts of southern Ukraine, which are very hard for them to logistically difficult for them to supply otherwise. So this was not an act of terrorism. It was an attack. It was a it was a legitimate war target. And it’s one that people have been speculating about since the very beginning of the war.
Speaker 5: So the role of the bridge as a significant part of why the Russians are able to conduct this war has been known for a long time. And it was for that reason that everybody assumed the bridge was very, very well guarded, you know, with drones and I don’t know underwater drones as well, and soldiers and sailors and so on. And so the sight of it burning, you know, a few mornings back was a kind of jolt. You know, it meant that the Ukrainians, you know, did have a we don’t still don’t know, actually, by the way, what exactly caused the caused the fire and caused part of the bridge to collapse. But it was either a very good special services operation or it was some kind of missile we haven’t seen yet. Or it was, you know, guys who snorkeling. I mean, we actually, you know, we don’t know. But it was it was it was very well done.
Speaker 5: I did hear I have to tell you one theory, and it came from a Russian a member of the Russian sort of democratic opposition, if you can call it that, in exile, who says, you know, of course, it wasn’t the Ukrainians, it was the FSB, the Russians blowing up the bridge in order to make a point. But, you know, so I give you I concede that there are there’s enough unknown that it could be maybe lots of other people. But, you know, we have to could we both know who benefits? You have to assume the Ukrainians.
Speaker 5: And clearly, the sight of it burning was very shocking to Russians, both because Putin has made a great song and dance about Crimea being eternally Russia. And it will always be part of Russia. And this meant this casts some doubt on that idea. And also because, as I said, it implies that the Ukrainians have some kind of, you know, unbelievably good secret way of operating that we nobody knew about. And so the the political significance, the kind of information war, if you will, significance of it was in addition to the strategic savings was very high. You know, it showed they can do things. It showed they aren’t giving up. They aren’t quitting the war. And it also shows that, you know, Crimea is one of their war aims.
Emily Bazelon: So then obviously we have these retaliatory strikes in ten Ukrainian cities, killing, I think, 20 civilians and injuring something like 100 more people, which seemed like clearly Putin trying to strike back, but also kind of like an act of desperation to return to this kind of terrorizing the civilian population, which was an earlier tactic last February and into March and April. I mean, there have been moments of it, but it just seemed like a return to that kind of city bombing. And then we have, you know, the kind of Western alliance saying we are with Ukraine in the long haul, we’re going to send more weapons. We’re not going anywhere.
Emily Bazelon: Do you think that we’re maybe in the kind of home stretch where Russia is striking out in that kind of caged, very scary way that I think you anticipated, but that this signals that Russia really can’t turn things around?
Speaker 5: So, first of all, there’s some question about whether this really was retaliatory, whether it had been planned in advance. It isn’t that unlike some other things that have happened during the, you know, in the last few months. But essentially, you’re right. It’s you know, if he were winning the war, if he were winning the war militarily, Putin wouldn’t be attacking Ukrainian civilian infrastructure because he would need to. And so, yes, it is a kind of act of desperation. It’s part of the turning point in the war that really began three or four weeks ago when the Ukrainians made that offensive across the north and it became clear that they could take back territory.
Speaker 5: And then since then, we’ve had this mobilization draft of Russians as well as that, you know, now these these civilian attacks. So it’s they I agree that they are a sign of weakness. They’re not a sign of strength. They’re a sign of, you know, you know, the kind of attempt to shift tactics. I don’t think we can say yet that there are the end game, but they are evidence that the military operation is going badly.
John Dickerson: And some U.S. military officials are saying it can’t be reversed. The draw, you know, the conscription isn’t working out. And even if you can get all of these motley soldiers to the front, they don’t have the command and control to operate effectively once they got there. So so I don’t know. That’s just a kind of comment which leads me to, I guess, to the tactical use of nuclear weapons. What’s your take on that? And also its use as a as a propaganda piece kind of we know about the Putin hand, but Biden either on purpose or as a kind of Biden s gaffe, said we’re in as perilous a state as America has been since 1962 in the Cuban Missile Crisis. On the one hand, that could be his hyperbole. On the other hand, it could be something that focuses on this nuclear question and puts Putin in a different position. How did you sort through all of that?
Speaker 5: So, first of all, sort of the most Americans are unaware of it. Putin has been talking about nuclear weapons for a long time and periodically threatening to use them going back a decade or more when they do military exercises. For the last several years, they have exercised the use of nuclear weapons, and they do that deliberately as a kind of scare tactic. So this has been is actually not as new as you think it is.
Speaker 5: You know, the thing about nuclear weapons is that the you know, historically the way they were, we prevented the Soviet Union, for example, from using them in the past in the way in general. It’s that there’s their whole doctrine evolved around this, that you prevent their use by deterring it. So, in other words, it’s true that, you know, you know, I don’t read Biden’s mind, but he could well have been talking about it as a way of messaging to the Russians. This is very serious. And we are planning a very serious response. And there have been some other leaks to that effect. We will respond by taking out the Black Sea fleet or there will be some cyberattack.
Speaker 5: Have there been sort of different versions of what we would do in response? And that’s happening? A Because I think people are discussing it and B, because we want to convince the Russians that this would be a very, very bad idea. I mean, there is a you know, whether or not they would really do it is a long and complicated conversation, you know, during which you would have to sit down and think what would be achieved by doing it? How were they thinking about it? Because just lashing out, you know, exploding a bomb because you’re really, really mad doesn’t win you anything.
Speaker 5: So the Ukrainians, by the way, are psychologically prepared for this to happen already. They assume there could be something like this or some other horrible, tragic event. And so, you know, what would the Russians achieve by doing it? Will they would you know, they could use it on the battlefield, but then, you know, the radiation would blow back into Russia. You could take out a Ukrainian city and then you would have mass casualties and there would be a, you know, an international backlash. Russia’s kind of half.
Speaker 5: Friends in China and India and South Africa might think twice about this. The Chinese are clearly not interested in the in the taboo on nuclear weapons being raised because there are quite a lot of people have them in Asia, you know, Pakistan, India, you know, North Korea. So there are a lot of people who don’t want them to do it. And there are a lot of reasons to expect that there would be a lot of backlash from from doing it. So. So what would they. You know, you have to sort of think about what is very hard to see what they achieve. Like, what do they you know, when you think about it rationally, what what would be the point of it?
David Plotz: And I had a conversation last week with an energy expert that was very sobering to me. And it was right after the Saudis and OPEC had declined to or had decided to cut production. And just the sense that that you in Europe are about to go through a hard winter and that there simply isn’t enough energy available, easily available to feed Europe. Maybe you get through this winter, but it’s just going to drag down all whatever whatever reserves there are. So next winter would be a catastrophe. Does it feel like this is having the demoralizing effect that Putin hopes it will have?
Speaker 5: So I can’t speak for every European country and there’s different politics.
David Plotz: And I thought you could I thought that was a thought.
John Dickerson: She is ambassador to Europe.
Speaker 5: Yes. Yes. Now, Portuguese politics, I can’t recall that. But, you know, I can talk about Germany, which partly because I’m here and I and this is this and Ukraine or the two things I’ve heard people talking about for the last three days. And the Germans seem pretty confident that they are going to be okay. I mean, they will pay a price in higher energy prices, but they seem to think they have enough resources to get through this winter.
Speaker 5: I’m even more worried about other places which aren’t as rich and didn’t plan as well. I was in Moldova this summer, which is almost totally dependent on Russian gas, which is very poor, and where the government is a pro-European part of sort of pro-European, pro-Western, pro-democratic political movement and their opponents are pro-Russian. And so there will be a political dynamic immediately where the pro-Russian party says, if you elect us, we’ll get cheap gas again. And so there are there are a number of places where there will be a political dynamic around gas and the high price of energy, which which which could certainly damage enthusiasm.
Speaker 5: I mean, I do think, you know, maybe I’m maybe I’m going to be proven wrong. But I do think that at least in Germany and in most other places, the the sense that this is a new and different moment and that some things have changed forever and that the old model of old energy models are have run out. I think it’s penetrated at least some parts of the political class. You know, people seem to get that there’s that there were and there’s a sort of different conversation happening now in terms of the war.
Speaker 5: It’s also important to understand that the, you know, the leader of the coalition to help Ukraine is the United States. And the United States is actually not. I mean, we also have higher energy prices because of the global markets, but we are not as dependent on Russian gas as Europe is. And so as long as the main question is, will the United States stay, you know, an ally of Ukraine? And that seems to me undoubtedly going to be the case, at least as long as Joe Biden is in the White House.
Emily Bazelon: And the last time we talked about this, I took great heart. And you’re saying that if the coalition does hold together, that that could really be like a, you know, paradigm shifting, huge moment for pro-democracy forces, for the world, really. And I just want to hear you tell me it’s still true.
Speaker 1: Okay.
John Dickerson: Yeah. You want to hear that bedtime story one more time?
Speaker 6: Yes, please.
Speaker 5: That’s right. No, I mean, I don’t want to. I don’t want to. I’m actually kind of a natural pessimist rather than an eternal optimist. So I you know, I. I’m talking about something that could be rather than something I’m absolutely certain of. But, yes, I do think that a victory for Ukraine, by which I mean Ukraine at least regains the territory it lost since February. And and Russia perceives the war to have been a mistake.
Speaker 5: If that happens, and if Russia is also perceived to have been defeated, then we will be living in a slightly different world where the prestige of, you know, aggressive, not just anti-Western, but, you know, autocratic, anti-liberal, anti openness. Strongmen, dictators will be will have their prestige diminished. I mean, that’s already happened, actually, just to some degree.
John Dickerson: And what do you make of Elon Musk’s role as both hero and goat hero from StarLink goat from. I talked to John Herbst, the former Ukraine ambassador, said basically Musk’s effort at putting together a deal was a signal to Putin that the West is getting tired of this fight and is looking for exit ramps and that Musk should be quiet. What’s your view?
Speaker 5: I mean, I’ve seen so many businessmen look at politics and say, oh, I could do that. You know, that looks really easy. I mean, I interpreted that as kind of Musk’s egotism rather than any sign of what the West can’t, can or would do. I mean, there were a number of odd things about his original tweet or his original comment. One of them was that whether or not he actually spoke to Putin and by the way, I now have heard from other people who say they’ve heard him say he spoke to Putin. So whether he’s either lying in denying it or he’s lying and saying he did it, I don’t know which. But there was one odd thing about it, which was that he used kind of Soviet style language. Even in the tweet, he referred to Crimea being part of Ukraine as Khrushchev’s mistake. I mean, nobody talks like that except Putin and Putin s and people around Putin. So someone from there got to him.
Speaker 5: It’s a little bit like sometimes Tucker Carlson says things that don’t come from his reading of the US press. Somebody you can tell. He made a comment about a pro-Russian oligarch in Ukraine called Medvedchuk, whom he described as Zelensky’s opposition. But, you know, Medvedchuk is not a household name in America. I don’t believe he’s a household name at Fox News. So somebody clearly told Tucker that this is you know, this is, you know, to say this and this and to use this kind of language. So you have that in both cases. You can you can almost see when someone’s been talking to a Russian source or informer or lobbyist, you can hear the effect of it in the way they speak. And so.
Speaker 5: So, yes, what you know, what Musk was was transmitting was Putin’s Putin’s idea now is probably that what he would like to do is keep these territories he falsely claims to have annexed to freeze the war for a while while he mobilizes in re arms. And while also, by the way, it’s about to be winter and it’s going to be raining and snowing in Ukraine. And he would like to freeze the war and rearm and regroup and try again next spring or next year or something like that. I imagine that would be very useful for him. And so anybody willing to repeat that idea in the Western media is fine with him, whether it’s Elon Musk or Tucker Carlson. Does it really matter? In the case of Elon Musk, I’m sort of surprised he fell for it. But then, as I say, on the other hand, businesspeople who suddenly encounter the world of high politics are often taken in by it.
David Plotz: And Applebaum of the Atlantic. Thanks for coming on the Gabfest always.
Speaker 5: Thank you.
David Plotz: Slate Plus members. You get bonus segments on the Gabfest and other Slate podcasts and the bonus segment. Today is a very special one. We talked to John and John from They Might Be Giants about our new theme and how they composed it and how they work. And it was an incredibly fun conversation with two brilliant musicians about about what it’s like to to make music and to come up with music.
David Plotz: Emily, situate us in this fascinating Supreme Court case, argued yesterday, pitting Andy Warhol’s estate slash foundation against a photographer, Lynne Goldsmith, who took a picture of prints that Warhol turned into a series of prints back in 1981 at the behest of the under the payment of Condé Nast. We learned, first of all, that Clarence Thomas was a Prince fan. But tell us about the issues in this case and why the Supreme Court is taking.
Emily Bazelon: It a breath of fresh air, this case, because it doesn’t feel like it’s necessarily going to divide along the usual dispiriting ideological lines. So this is a case about fair use of one person’s artwork and making another person’s artwork. There’s this beautiful photographic portrait of Prince that Lynne Goldsmith made. And then in 1984, around the time that Prince released Purple Rain, Vanity Fair hired Andy Warhol to create one of his trademark, you know, vivid color portraits of Prince. They paid Goldsmith $400 to license her photo as a reference for for the artist, for Andy Warhol. And they agreed to credit her and just to use her photo in connection with the single Vanity Fair issue.
Emily Bazelon: So then Andy Warhol makes the picture for Vanity Fair, but a series of 16 images that become very valuable prints. And after Warhol’s death, Andy Warhol Foundation starts selling these prints, there’s another ripple where a Vanity Fair publisher. Just a special issue celebrating Prince’s life in 2016. And then it goes back to the Andy Warhol Foundation and pays them about $10,000 to use one of a different issue from the series.
Emily Bazelon: But really, I think what’s at issue here is that this 16 print run from Andy Warhol is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. And Lynne Goldsmith feels like she deserves some part of that, that there should be a way in which her copyright for her photograph applies to these incredibly valuable artworks.
Emily Bazelon: And so the test here, from the Supreme Court’s point of view, the test for fair use of one artwork and making another one is whether Warhol’s work transformed Goldsmith’s photographs. And the way that the court talks about this is does the new work add something new with a further purpose or different character, altering the first artwork with new expression, meaning or message? And that’s a hard question for judges to grapple with, right? It’s like a question of art criticism. It’s a pretty deep question. And there’s really strong feelings here on both sides about what it would mean to extend Goldsmith’s copyrights to Warhol’s prints, which are iconic.
Emily Bazelon: Absolutely. In their own right. And I thought this fascinating discussion among the lower court judges, when you look at the photograph of Prince. The main emotion it conveys is his vulnerability. There’s something very full of expression and and, yeah, vulnerability and soulfulness in his expression. And that’s not the emotion that the judges on the lower courts thought that Warhol’s prints conveyed. And so that was their definition of transformative. And that’s just a funny role for judges to be in.
John Dickerson: Isn’t the central question here is not only is the original artist getting due credit for their work, and that’s important because art is him. Art is obviously inspired by inspiration, but but it’s also credit. Where credit is due is a principle. But on the other hand, the benefit of fair use is there is this wonderful ferment and extra creative expression that comes from being able to build on the work that exists already. So they are both coming at it just from a purely artistic, not remunerative standpoint, as being the seed of artistic expression will not flower in a world where either original artists get their credit or derivative artists are not allowed to ever mess with an original work. And so it is that. Do we think that’s the right way to frame it?
Emily Bazelon: Yeah. I mean, always with copyright. You have this question about on the one hand, all art is derivative, right? You’re always building on works that come before you don’t want to cut off anything in that potential wellspring of creativity and inspiration. And yet with copyright law, we have this idea, well, we don’t want people basically stealing from each other. We want the original artist to be able to properly be compensated for their work so that those original artists will keep making art. Right? I tend to lose sight of that a lot of the time as the consumer, because you just think like, okay, great, we’ll let them sample from this other song because I love this new song and who really cares about the old song? But to give it its due, the idea of having some limits to fair use is that it’s really important for artists basically to be able to make a living. And when you look at the incredibly uneven compensation here between Goldsmith and Warhol, you can see where she feels frustrated.
David Plotz: Well, okay, I have several points to say. One is I bet Lynne Goldsmith photo is worth a hell of a lot more than it would have been had Andy Warhol never done his print. So the idea that she has lost economic value from this print because Andy Warhol has made made it so much more, the thing I think is wrong. No one would have seen that print again otherwise or very few people, and it certainly wouldn’t be worth any, I’m sure, since she still licenses it, I’m sure it’s still valuable. I also I had a question, which is.
Speaker 1: If you were.
David Plotz: The photographer in this case, is there anything to stop you from writing into your original license to Vanity Fair that you want a perpetual piece of whatever derivative value is in in art that’s created off of this?
Emily Bazelon: I mean, the only presumably road would be whether Vanity Fair would have signed the contract. QUESTION Right.
John Dickerson: I bet you can.
David Plotz: And if your art is good enough, if your photograph is good enough that people like that, this is it. This is the photograph that makes it that people will sign that contract and they’ll give you because they. But basically, Warhol could have made this with any number of different photographs, any. There’s a million photographs of prints that could have been the derivation of this. And the the value is created by Warhol’s transformation. I don’t think you can you know, I don’t think you can claim you know, I don’t think Goldsmith can possibly claim that the value was created by her photograph in any meaningful way. With the value is, is this transformative act that Warhol does and therefore the Warhol Foundation or Warhol should be the primary beneficiaries. And. Well, and then one final point I want to make, which is it is clear that whatever decision the Supreme Court comes to, it will protect the right of Disney to stop you from using Disney’s Winnie the Pooh.
Emily Bazelon: Mickey Mouse.
David Plotz: Or stop you from using Darth Vader how you want to. So whatever they I suspect they will come down on the side of Warhol in this case in the art, but it will not extend to the point where you can, you know, make your own Luke Skywalker a series of, you know, you paint Luke Skywalker blue and you have Luke Skywalker. That’s not going to be allowed.
Emily Bazelon: Because the Supreme Court is so corporate and because we have these. Yeah, we.
David Plotz: Know, we know. We know that Disney will protect get that protection.
John Dickerson: The question I have, Emily, is on the for fact test for fair use. One thing that I thought Goldsmith had did seem to have a leg to stand on was not David’s very good point, which is that the original photograph gains in value based on Warhol or whether she gets a piece of Warhol’s, you know, the extraordinary value of the prints he created. But one of the tests was that whether the the new art had an effect on the use of the market for the original work, and it does seem like you could make a claim that of all the let’s say, you know, in ten years there’s a spate of prints, retrospectives that they would use the Warhol print instead of the original photograph just to illustrate whatever magazine piece or otherwise. And that that does knock her out of a specific thing that she would have that’s direct competition as opposed to wanting a piece of what Warhol created in his art.
Emily Bazelon: Yeah, I think that is an interesting point, right? I have to say though, I am like super pro having very liberal fair use policies. Like it’s hard for me to just abandon that stance for a second. I feel so strongly about it. However, it does seem like Lynn Goldsmith got kind of screwed here, right? I mean, to me it’s not I don’t care that much that he could have used a different photograph. He used her photograph. And the value of the two things is so uneven that you just feel like, oh, come on, she could have gotten something more. But it does go back to that original contract. I think, you know, this is a little technical, but she signed this contract with Vanity Fair and then Warhol when and made these other prints and wasn’t bound by that contract. And so there is something like questionable there about how the contract got played out.
Emily Bazelon: And I, I do wonder and again, maybe this is kind of like lawyerly and annoying of me, but if you are a person who sells your work, like even just freelance normal journalism, they often ask you to sign away your rights in perpetuity so that they can use things forever however they want. It drives me crazy. It’s so unfair. And I think mostly companies get away with this because artists just sign away. They just figure or I shouldn’t call journalists artists, but you know, creators are just like, okay, whatever. I’m just glad to get paid at all.
John Dickerson: Happy to be.
Emily Bazelon: Right. Yeah. But if you I have done this if you question if you say, like, wait a second. No, I’m not. I’m I’m crossing this paragraph out, usually can win those disputes. And so I do encourage creators of content to read their contracts carefully and to try to push back because I think those incredibly pro, you know, buyer contracts are just there because the it’s the you know, it’s the magazine or the company that creates the contract not because they actually will necessarily insist on all those terms.
John Dickerson: Well, you’ve brought in you’ve pointed out something that’s so true, Emily, and yet so hard when you’re just like, as you said, so happy to be having your thing published. And if you get an agent or a lawyer to fight these. Battles for you because they see those paragraphs coming a mile away and they’re like, No, they’re asking too much. That’s great. But then you end up paying your agent lawyer more than then you got paid for the piece. So.
Emily Bazelon: Well, but I mean, I have to say, like, you can learn how to spot those things yourself and you can just cross them out. That’s what I myself do. I mean, I know I went to law school, but believe me, I’m no lawyer. And there is if you just read the fine print, essentially, you can see like, oh, wait a second, do I really need to license this for every single thing they could ever do with it without getting paid again? No, I don’t.
David Plotz: Let us go to cocktail chatter. When you have sold your Warhol, you’re sitting on a pile of gold drinking a cocktail made of petro and gold. What are you going to be chattering about? Emily.
Emily Bazelon: I am reading two books that I really recommend to listeners. One is called The Fight for Privacy. It’s by Daniel Citron, who is an incredibly smart, thoughtful law professor. She is writing about particularly what she calls the right to intimate privacy. She has been thinking for a long time about, you know, what happens to people when their images, particularly sexual images, are appear online. How do they ever control their reputations again? And the problem, of course, with broadly protecting a right to privacy is it can start to infringe on the right of speech because you want people to be able to disseminate information freely. How do you really draw a line? And I think Danielle is just thinking in such a sensitive and smart way about this, I’m really learning from reading her book.
Emily Bazelon: So I recommended the fight for privacy, and I’m also reading a book by my friend Nicky Davidoff called The Other Side of Prospect, which is a sort of tapestry. It’s about a murder and a wrongful conviction in New Haven, but it’s really, in a lot of ways just this incredibly rich history of New Haven with this detailed information about what, you know, people in particular neighborhoods were eating 50 years ago. I mean, it’s just beautiful and full of riches in that way. And then there’s this story of, you know, these families, both the murder victim’s family and the person who was wrongfully accused that are very moving. And Nikki stuck with this reporting for years. It’s it’s in some ways like an old fashioned book in the best way. So the Other Side of Prospect by Nicholas Davidoff.
David Plotz: J.D., what’s your chatter?
John Dickerson: My chatter is for all the Cormac McCarthy fans out there. I am a Cormac McCarthy fan, though not a completist for those who seek complete understanding. Cormac McCarthy is is often labeled reclusive. He does not do interviews. I think the last one he may have done was the New York Times Magazine in 1992. Anyway, he does not talk much, but turns out he talked more than a little from 1968 to 1980. And all of these interviews are collected there. They’re in Tennessee and Kentucky newspapers about the early period of his career and writing.
John Dickerson: And if you are a fan, they’ve all been collected by the Cormac McCarthy Journal in the October issue and you can find it online. We’ll put a link in the show notes. But as somebody who is always interested in process and and then they are rewarding in that sense. And then also if you are interested in this author who doesn’t speak much to the press. There you go.
David Plotz: My chapter is about an experience I had this weekend. I so I had a weekend in Texas with my brother and my youngest son. And we went to the Hill country west of Austin, mostly to Wimberley and Fredericksburg and Blanco in San Marcos, these wonderful towns, incredible barbecue, Friday Night football. It was great, great trip.
David Plotz: But I want to comment on something that this part of Texas has done that every place should do, which is that so many of the food or bar establishments, bars are these. It’s sort of an outdoor bar or an outdoor food truck gathering or a restaurant that has a lot of outdoors. You order usually inside and then you go sit outside at these scattered picnic tables. Maybe there’s a cornhole set there. Maybe someone’s playing country music on a stage. You there? Fairy lights strung in trees above you, the oaks above you. And you just have this outdoor experience of your meal.
David Plotz: But it’s not outdoor in the way you have in a crowded city where you’re like cheek by jowl with someone else’s because there’s a space limitation and it’s just like you’re sort of it’s like a picnic. It’s like a picnic, but you’ve paid to be at a picnic. You paid to have a bar experience at a picnic. And you can do this in Texas, as my girlfriend pointed out to me, because land is cheap and you can’t do this in downtown Washington or downtown New York. But the idea of the the eating experience, the drinking experience as basically a large picnic surrounded by music and other people in this in this fragrant and lovely outdoor space is incredible. It’s glorious. And any place that has spare land should do it because it is it’s the best way to to have to have a meal or to have a drink.
Emily Bazelon: I love that observation. I went to this wonderful pop up pizza outside in Worcester, Vermont over the summer that was similar. It was in someone’s backyard full of trees and a garden, and everyone was kind of. Sitting around. There was a fire. Yeah.
David Plotz: Lovely listeners, you have great chatters. And this one came to us. It came to us on email. It Gabfest at Slate.com. But you can also tweet them to us at at site Gabfest. And it’s an amazing chatter from Laura Lowenstein.
Emily Bazelon: This is Laura from Cleveland, Ohio. My chatter is about two golden retrievers named Samson and Baylor that live in Stowe, Vermont. Until recently, they were hiking the local Pinnacle Trail, a 3.7 mile out and back trail every day, unaccompanied for over a decade. Their owners fitted them with bear bells so that they would not get targeted by hunters and dogs, which just go up and down the trail, hang out with hikers, get snacks and take naps at the top of the trail overlooking The View. There’s a great 15 minute documentary about them called The Mountain Dogs. Unfortunately, early in the pandemic, Baylor passed away at age 12. But since then, Sampson has been hiking the trail by himself.
David Plotz: I watched this movie. The man died. I wept. I wept watching it. It is. Oh, my God. It’s an amazing story. I’m, like, tearing up just thinking about it.
Emily Bazelon: I’m saving it for the weekend at sea.
John Dickerson: I can’t watch, dog. I can’t. Come on. What are you doing to me?
Emily Bazelon: It was enough for you.
David Plotz: The dead dog. A dog dying does not happen in the movie. Both dogs.
John Dickerson: Well, I know, but it’s all. All dog happiness. I just can’t. I can’t do it. And on the other hand, somehow has transferred her grief about George into a basically uninterrupted ticktock slash Instagram story obsession with dog videos. She’s unstoppable.
David Plotz: That is our show for today. The Gabfest is produced by Cheyna Roth, a researcher at his Bridgette Dunlap. Our theme music is by They Might Be Giants you’re about to hear from in this late plus segment. Are You Lucky Fleet Plus members. Ben Richmond, Senior Director for Podcast Operations. Alicia montgomery, VP of Audio. Follow us on Twitter at Slate Gabfest and tweet your chatter to us there and go to Slate.com slash Gabfest live to get tickets for our Atlanta show on Wednesday, November 2nd. Please come to its meet greet for Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson David Plotz. We will talk to you next week.
David Plotz: Hello, Slate Plus, how are you? As many of you may have noticed, we have a new theme on the Gabfest recently, and that theme has a story behind it. We have long been fans of the band They Might Be Giants and the duo of Johns who make up They Might Be Giants, John Linnell or John Flansburgh. Or who are the who’ve made it up for its entire existence. And some months ago, about a year ago, we mentioned to John Flansburgh. Email John Flansburgh who I have a small relationship with that we were thinking of changing our our theme for the for the Gabfest because anyway, there’s a backstory there. And John Flansburgh immediately said, We want to do it, we’re going to do it. They might be giants, we’ll do this.
David Plotz: And so what followed was some wonderful back and forth over a couple of months where the Johns were writing a new theme for us. We got to hear their amazing ideas, rejected ideas. We rejected some ideas. And then one day we woke up and we had a new theme. And we are so happy to be joined by John Linnell John Flansburgh, who is having some technical difficulties. So we have just John Linnell with us.
David Plotz: John, welcome to the Gabfest again. Welcome back.
Speaker 1: Thank you, David.
David Plotz: I’m going to start with a really basic dumb question because I am not a musician and I don’t really have the language to talk about music, but you do. So can you briefly explain what this theme does and how it does it? I know it’s a big, big question.
Speaker 1: The sort of the initial impulse for us, of course, was to write a song because that’s kind of our home base. So we we made a bunch of demos that were sort of funny songs about you guys. I think that, you know, is between your producers and our and our sort of thoughts about it that we realize like, Oh, David always talks over the intro. So it’s maybe, maybe it doesn’t make sense to have it be a lyric that would be, you know, cross talk. And what we really should do is come up with it with a nice instrumental.
Speaker 1: And then the process from that point was that I did this kind of rough demo using a process many of your listeners have heard of called MITI, which is just a way of writing, writing music as notes and not necessarily assigning specific permanent sounds to any of the notes. It’s a format where you get to do that, and I sent it to my partner, Mr. John Flansburgh, and he slicked it up and made it sound much more radio friendly and which, you know, we’ve done we’ve done loads of themes in the past and there’s a lot of different roles can you can sound more humble or you could sound more like a news news program or whatever you want. And so we just as what we wound up with, it was a collaboration between John and I where I wrote the music and he orchestrated it, you might say.
Emily Bazelon: We were just so thrilled that that you were willing to do this. And we loved the process of the back and forth with you.
Emily Bazelon: Can you tell us about how you thought about the different instruments that you were like the tools that you have, which again, I don’t even really have the language for, but I want to hear about that part of it.
Speaker 1: Yeah. I mean, you know, like I said, there’s a lot of different ways to do it. And we were thinking, obviously we big fans of you guys and we were thinking, well, what kind of what would kind of represent your show? And in a way that carries all the complexity of what you guys get up to. I mean, I have to say, we could make an EP out of all the songs that we wrote before. That would be it.
Speaker 1: Which yeah, we might. Yeah, we might at some point issue this, but basically it’s this is sort of a trumpet driven. So it has it has a bit of a newsy sound to it, but it also sounds like us and I mean, I hope it, I hope it sounds like us. And I very also very much appreciate having our name read out every every week at the end of the show. I think that’s that as much as I like, you know, pride in doing a good job, we also like the free advertising that we’re getting from you guys.
John Dickerson: What I love about that theme song is it has this feeling of joy already in process that you get to run along and catch up to, which feels like exactly what I have associated with your guys music. And oh, and John Flansburgh has now joined us. So we now have a majority. We have the three to do majority of John’s. We are the John of all John’s.
Speaker 1: The John’s rule.
John Dickerson: So John Flansburgh we were just talking about. How you guys came up with this. And I guess so. I guess my question to either one of you would be, when you write, do you guys start with a kind of what’s been in your head musically in that time just because you’ve always got stuff musically in your head and then you you stay on that? Or did you purposely say, Huh, what’s the theme feelings we have about the show? And then and then start from that place?
Speaker 1: Plants You want to answer that? Well, when we’re doing projects like this, we try it. We I think we kind of go at it a little bit like some fancy tailor where we’re trying to figure out exactly what’s going to suit you guys. So. Well, we’ll both. John I’ll take a stab at it with demos and the one knife, that was something that we learned doing advertising a long time ago is that if you actually submit to demos, then the answer can’t be no. And that really helps. So in this case, it kind of led to other other things. I mean, we did a round of demos. I don’t know why we were thinking initially that a vocal lead driven theme would work. I think it actually seemed much more it seemed now it seems really sort.
David Plotz: Of over the.
Speaker 1: Top, like the having a trumpet lead theme seems like a better idea. Obviously suits the sort of the dignity of the show and the dignity of the topics. I think I was I was sort of jealous of Sparks for writing the Michael Silverblatt Bookworm song, which, you know, you get to hear them singing and it sounds like Sparks. And I thought we could do that and have it be our show, too. And then, you know, I kind of realized how how the music is supposed to function on the Gabfest. So that sort of changed our our approach.
David Plotz: One thing I really want to credit you guys with after you gave us the theme John Flansburgh listen to it in in vivo. Once you listen to an actual show we made with it, he had and he had notes for me about how to do the introduction. So if let’s Gabfest listeners may know, may have noticed that the introduction, the the, the words that I speak to start our show have changed because they John Flansburgh you came in with advice and said, you know, because your it used to be used to jump right into the I’m David Plotz it was hello welcome to say political pad press, blah blah blah. And it sort of jumped in. But that was stepping all over this wonderful new theme. And so now we actually have a I say sort of hello and then there’s a break before we get to it, which allows the theme to come in. And I love the fact that you gave notes that made that better.
Speaker 1: John Well, there was a donut built in for the intro and but the problem was that the actual amount, the amount of copy was really prodigious. And then so instead of wordy.
David Plotz: It is a, it is a podcast.
Speaker 1: Man. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, listen, you’re into we love your show.
John Dickerson: We love your show. But if you could cut out the talking.
Emily Bazelon: More trumpet, fewer guys.
Speaker 1: You’re into the show in, like, 10 seconds. 10 seconds.
Emily Bazelon: I just want to say as the occasional sub for David, I did not get this memo, and I’m glad now that I’m getting it. So I’m supposed to say hello.
David Plotz: I have it written within the template. Now I’ll make it make sure.
Emily Bazelon: I need to send that.
David Plotz: Yeah.
David Plotz: There’s a part we can ask another question actually, which is that you guys, you mentioned you’ve done advertising work, you’ve done a bunch of themes, but and you write a lot of rock songs. Is the non rock song stuff for pleasure or just for money?
Speaker 1: Oh, I think some of it is. I mean, to the extent that anything we do is for pleasure, you know, I think it’s fun to write a fun piece of music. You know, we did the we did The Daily The Daily Show theme with Jon Stewart. And that was a lot of people don’t realize that’s us, because it’s doesn’t sound very they.
Emily Bazelon: They’re not giving you credit every week.
Speaker 1: No, no. Well, they’ve they’ve altered it significantly since we we did the original Jon Stewart version. Bob moulded alternators and Bob mould of Oh, he did the Oh my God of Husker Du. He well he wrote he wrote it for. So yeah, they’re pretty much on the Jon Stewart version. What’s his name? Craig.
John Dickerson: Craig Cleghorn.
Speaker 1: Kilborn. Yeah, it’s Kilborn. Yeah. Was that that was the.
David Plotz: By the New York Times food critic.
Speaker 1: Yes. Yeah. And so we have we covered the Bob Mould thing and kind of jazzed it up and, and now I have to say that was actually a lot of fun. But we were also getting a lot of notes from the producers saying it needs to sound like national news. This is still sounds like local news. So it’s a really great learning process for us to, you know, kind of be kicked around, given given that we had a budget that was so big local news, you know, trying to make a lot out of a little that that was one of the things we were schooled on the the.
Speaker 1: Well, that show was that was very early days for that show. And there was like a floor producer on the on that show who seemed to have oversized influence over the head spaces of everybody working on it. I mean, we’re talking about a brand new cable TV show. And and I remember bringing in the first mix of what would be The Daily Show theme for the next ten years. And they played it in in situ.
Speaker 1: And the afterwards, the guy just turned to me and said, It doesn’t work like that. And I was like, And this was as we were doing the Malcolm in the Middle meeting music before it had gone on the air, or it was just on the air. And his whole thing was that it just had to be really hype, like it had to be really trebly and, and very like, you know, we like, like, you know, we mix, we mix for records and stuff that’s mixed for advertising and mixed for themes and stuff is usually a lot more brittle sounding. And it’s a huge aesthetic difference. You know, advertising music is just is, is kind of shrill and yeah, but I don’t think we we don’t know what podcast music is supposed to sound like, but I guess we’re in the process of, of, of making it up, right? Yeah.
John Dickerson: You’re furrowing fresh, fresh tracks through the ground.
John Dickerson: Do you guys have a language or phrases that you use to communicate incredibly difficult and amorphous ideas to each other but that are super important and specific? So for example, there’s an ED or in Las Vegas at 60 Minutes who used to both give me shit and notes about my my recordings. And he would say, you need more pastrami in your voice. And I knew exactly what he was talking about.
Speaker 1: I think I mean, we have an advantage, which is John and I know each other well enough that we don’t actually need to talk very much about stuff because we are generally on the same page. But yeah, I think we do have probably a lot of coded shorthand.
David Plotz: But to give an example or two.
Speaker 1: Well, potato print is a word that comes up, which just means kind of cut and paste something over and over again. That’s one that we’ve used in the studio. Can you think of any more? John I feel like I feel like we can. What’s wild is that we can not only reference all the lousy rock shows we saw as teenagers together directly. And, you know, there’s a there’s such a such a rich parade of bad ideas that we were presented with at that time.
Speaker 1: And then, you know, 35 years or whatever, of of performing and recording together. There’s just been a million different scenarios and lots of things have worked and lots of things haven’t. So it’s easy to reference things that are that run parallel. It’s not there’s not necessarily a lot of things. Yeah, but, you know, I think we have we have a lot of mutual references. And there’s one in particular that I’m just remembering, which is I was I was sort of coaching John on some song he was singing and I was saying, you know, I more Robert Goulet really need to be more Robert Goulet and then John.
Emily Bazelon: Or Robert Grey.
Speaker 1: And then finally John was like, Look, I’m on the I’m on the Gulag Archipelago already.
Emily Bazelon: Wait. What I knew about Robert Goulet was like I saw him as the star of Carousel in somewhere outside of Philadelphia when I was like seven. And he actually broke character and started laughing in the middle of the show, presumably because he’d been drinking. No, I don’t have any hard proof of that. Why is he part of your pantheon?
Speaker 1: Why not? I mean, he’s such a is an icon for people our age, you know, who doesn’t groove to the gulag? He’s kind of a jazz singer.
David Plotz: John Linnell John Flansburgh. Ah, they might be giants. And they are also the authors of our wonderful new theme, and we’re so pleased to listen to them every week as we get started every week. John, thanks for coming in.
Speaker 1: Thank you, David. Thanks. Thanks, guys. Thank you.