From relentless war, militarism, and apartheid around the globe to climate catastrophe and reactionary attacks on civil rights and basic freedoms, the world is a scary place right now, and it is perfectly reasonable to feel despondent about it. It’s at times like this that we need art the most—not as some utilitarian salve for the pain we’re feeling, but because art connects us to the most joyful, beautiful, and human aspects of being alive. In this special all-recommendations episode of Art for the End Times, Lyta and a raucous panel of guests share their top recommendations for art that will make you happy and remind you why life is worth living.
Pre-Production/Studio: Maximillian Alvarez, Stephen Frank
Post-Production: Brent Tomchik
Lyta Gold: Hello, and welcome to Art for the End Times. I’m, as always, your host, Lyta Gold. So today, if you haven’t noticed, everything in the world is kind of bad. It’s kind of bad. There have been some really important labor gains lately, but it seems like the government’s given up on COVID response. They’ve given up on climate change response, immigration policy is still a big fucking mess. There’s been significant backtracking on abortion rights and trans rights across the country. Everything seems to suck right now. And sometimes it’s hard to talk about art at all at times like this, because I think very reasonably people tend to think, what’s the point? Why is it worth talking about these things?
And sometimes people try to come up with a utilitarian reason, like, oh, art that has good politics is worth engaging with because it makes people better political citizens, or engage with art as self care in a therapeutic way. And I see the arguments to both, and I don’t think they’re bad arguments necessarily, but I do think that they’re a little bit reductive. They’re, as I said, a little utilitarian, I think. There are nice things in the world still, and it’s worth talking about them for their own sake. There are reasons that it’s good to be alive and it’s fun to be alive. And a lot of that has to do with art.
So, anything that makes you feel better or different for a bit is good. It’s great. But again, that’s not the reason necessarily that we engage with this stuff and that we talk about this stuff and that we excitedly recommend stuff to other people. This stuff has its own value and we love it for its own reasons. So today we’re going to give you three recommendations each for stuff that you might like, stuff that you might make you happy, or make you feel a little better for a minute, for really no other reason that it might make you happy and feel better and you might enjoy it. And by we, who’s this we who’s me giving you these three recommendations each? I’ve got this incredible, cool panel of the specialest guests in the world, not to exaggerate. But I am. Well, no, I think they’re the best. I don’t know. You guys will find out, enjoy. All right. But, to introduce them. First up from the backstage of The Real News Network, we have audio engineer, tech guru, musical genius, the man who composed the theme for this show itself. It’s Stephen Frank.
Stephen Frank: Hey, thank you Lyta.
Lyta Gold: So glad you’re here. It’s fun to have you on the side of the camera, so to speak.
Stephen Frank: Yeah. It feels weird and I’m a touch nervous, but I think it’ll go fine.
Lyta Gold: Oh, you’re going to be great. This is going to be amazing. All right. Next up we have a multi-talented multi-tasking hero. Name a cool weird job and they’ve had it, name a cool band and they’ve already heard about it, they know way more about it than you do. It’s the ragin’ Cajun, Kate Gotro.
Kate Gotro: Hi. Thank you, Lyta. I want you to announce my wrestling career. If I ever am a wrestler, like I want you to do that. Yeah. Thanks
Lyta Gold: By God. It’s the Kate Gotro music.
Stephen Frank: I got dibs on composing that. If that happens, I’m all over it.
Lyta Gold: All right. Next up we have the queen of business. One of the most sincere and interesting people I’ve ever met, hardcore enthusiast for all nerdy things in the world, the realest nerd you’ve ever met. It’s Allegra Silcox.
Allegra Silcox: What’s up?
Lyta Gold: Not as what.
Allegra Silcox: Is that not good enough?
Lyta Gold: It wasn’t as fun as Kate’s response. Kate’s response is a little hard to top. I’m just saying
Allegra Silcox: That’s true. You should’ve put them last.
Kate Gotro: I get that a lot.
Lyta Gold: It was a good one. All right. All right. Well, after that, we have maybe the actual best human being alive. They’re an immigration lawyer, a writer, a Treky, a pun genius, maybe the literal funniest person I know. I’m talking about the incomparable Adrian Rennix.
Adrian Rennix: Hi. I’m so sorry you chose to do this in an order of de-escalating energy. You did, and that’s your fault. So, hi.
Lyta Gold: That’s the energy I really want people to get out of this is just like, it’s just like a slow slide. That’s definitely what we’re going for here. A slide. Lovely. This last one will be exciting. I called you the best person alive, like what do you want? Which, it’s actually true, except for the part where you give me shit all the time.
Allegra Silcox: The part of being the best person alive is being so cool that you just say, hey, after that.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, it’s true.
Kate Gotro: It’s their humility. It adds a lot to it.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. So, well, hopefully again, this last one will excite everybody, because I’m introducing the hardest working man in left media. He’s an editor, a writer, a journalist, a podcast promoter. Is there anything he doesn’t do? It’s Max Alvarez.
Max Alvarez: Hey everyone. Thank you so much for having me on. I feel like the way this is going, I should just gurgle and mumble inaudibly [mumbles inaudibly].
Stephen Frank: I thought we were just going to get, hey.
Max Alvarez: Hey.
Stephen Frank: That’s, there we go. There we go.
Max Alvarez: No, it’s so great to be back on the pod. As you all know, we are just overjoyed with how incredible Art for the End Times is. It’s really just been an amazing addition to The Real News. And Lyta, you guys know Lyta, like Lyta is just incomparable, with her brilliance, and her wit, and her compassion, and her humor. So we are honored beyond belief that the show has been such an amazing success. And I also wanted to give just a quick shout out, because I am actually on this panel tapping in for our amazing managing editor Jocelyn Dombroski, who unfortunately couldn’t make the recording today, but she is here in spirit. And I am exceedingly happy to finally, after months, to get Stephen Frank on a recording, because he’s brilliant and funny and amazing. And yeah, everyone who loves The Real News loves it because of the work that Stephen does. So I’m glad that he’s on here.
Stephen Frank: I think you’re going to feel different at the end of this, honestly, but we’ll see. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll surprise myself. I don’t know.
Allegra Silcox: We tried to lure you into the last recording that Rennix and I were on, Stephen.
Stephen Frank: Yeah, I know
Allegra Silcox: Like you have good thoughts, jump in here. And he was like, no, leave me alone.
Stephen Frank: No.
Allegra Silcox: Don’t perceive me.
Stephen Frank: I’m not supposed to be here.
Lyta Gold: Well, I think we may have excessive humility on this panel, because I think all of you are extremely brilliant, and I’m very excited for all of your thoughts. So the way we’re going to go about this, we’re going to have three rounds, and we’ll choose a champion of the round, I guess, because we’re doing wrestling moves here. But anyway, first round, first recommendation is going to be books. So people are going to name a book that you think is great. And then next round we’re going to do movies/TV shows. You can pick either. Third round is wild card, bitches. Could be any of the previous categories, could be something completely different. I think Allegra’s going to do something really wild here. I just feel it.
Allegra Silcox: I am saving my load for the wild card.
Lyta Gold: I knew it. I knew it. All right. So let’s get started. Would anybody like to go first? Should I demand it? Should I put you on the spot, firing line?
Stephen Frank: I think you put us on the spot. I think you call it out.
Lyta Gold: On the spot? Yeah. All right. [crosstalk] you’re not going to just jump in.
Kate Gotro: You have to put on the spot, but we have to commit to doing the same slow slide in every round. So you have to start with the highest energy person for books.
Lyta Gold: Who’s the highest energy person for books?
Allegra Silcox: You.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Yeah. But like, no, I should go last each time.
Stephen Frank: I think if we want to move in the opposite direction and leave the best for last, let’s start with me on books, because I think that’s a good place to go to start with, because I am a father of two, and I have a third one on the way, and I don’t get a lot of time to read. My recommendations for reading literally are like instruction manuals on how to use a tool. Like, that’s what I get to read. And then by the time all the kids are in bed, there’s like, can I just sit on the couch, please, and watch nothing? Like, that’s where I’m at.
Lyta Gold: What’s a good instruction manual? Like what would you recommend? Just that.
Stephen Frank: I personally think the Massive X instruction manual is the way to go. It’s the best. It’s one of the best synths out there. Soft synths. I use it a lot for sound design. So I had to really dive into it to get a sense of how all the routing and all the noise filters worked and all that kind of stuff. So yeah. That’s, let’s start off with that. And we can just raise the bar from there.
Allegra Silcox: And a very elaborate code language for a dildo, I think, Massive X.
Stephen Frank: Yes. That’s true.
Lyta Gold: Is it X shaped though? Cause that, I mean, that has its uses, but..
Allegra Silcox: Quick question. Is X going to gon’ it to you, or…?
Stephen Frank: If you know how to use it, yeah. That’s why I read the fucking manual.
Lyta Gold: Well, okay. Beyond manuals about sex dildos… Sex dildos? I guess that’s kind of given. What other book that you read, perhaps pre-children, would you recommend to us?
Stephen Frank: Oh, I need a minute. I need a minute, honestly. Yeah. Come back to me on that. I got to think about it.
Lyta Gold: So really, really manuals were going to be your recommendation? I respect that so much.
Stephen Frank: Kind Of yeah. RTFM, like you got to like, it’s so easy to dive into something that you don’t know anything about. And then once you finally take the time to learn all the ins and outs, you’re like, oh, I can do this now? This is amazing. And I probably don’t read it as religiously as I should, like when I need to do something I’ll have to go to it. But I remember one time I was doing a really crappy desk job. And when my boss wasn’t watching, I’d literally read another synth manual from start to finish, completely. And I learned the whole thing inside out, and that was my Swiss army knife. So sometimes you got to read it. So yeah, but we’ll leave it there. We’ll leave it there.
Allegra Silcox: Honestly, mad respect to Stephen. I was up until 4:00 AM last night – Terrible idea – Writing a glossary of [inaudible] functions. I was literally defining and giving an example for basically every Excel function that exists.
Stephen Frank: Nice.
Allegra Silcox: So I understand the grind. I respect it. I like that there’s people out there that are going to respect the work that I am putting in.
Stephen Frank: Yes. Thank you.
Max Alvarez: So I just wanted to take a quick second to lift up Stephen’s incredible dad energy. This is, I promise it comes in handy when we’re working together. When I need a level head to get a recording going and I’m freaking out and Steven sits down, he gives me the calm dad voice, makes it all good. Whips out his manual.
Lyta Gold: Every crew really needs a dad. It’s like, maybe that’s a patriarchal thing. But it’s a good energy.
Adrian Rennix: There are two kinds of dads.
Lyta Gold: What are the two genders of dad?
Adrian Rennix: Well, there’s the like, here’s the manual which I’ve actually read dad energy. And then there’s the like, I’m going to wildly invent some expertise that I don’t have, and just completely fake it to you all until our car crashes and burns. So whichever one of those dad energies you’re going to bring, you just got to commit to it. So the first one seems more useful.
Kate Gotro: I feel like there’s a third kind of dad energy, which is my dad energy – Not mine, but the energy of my actual father, where he just is like, where are you parking? Where are you parked? Where are you parked? He just wants to know where I’m parked at all times. He just wants to know where my car is.
Allegra Silcox: So where are you parked dad? Classic.
Kate Gotro: Where are you parked? Where are you parked? Did you pay for parking? Are you parked under a tree? Is it going to drop? Are birds shitting on your car right now? As we speak, right now? Go. Go fix that, go do something.
Stephen Frank: He wants you to have an exit strategy.
Allegra Silcox: Why wasn’t your dad here when I didn’t know that parking under trees in New Orleans would cover my car in sap that is impossible and very expensive to get off.
Kate Gotro: Wow. You sound just like him.
Allegra Silcox: Where was Mr. Gotro? Where was he to help me avoid this crisis?
Lyta Gold: I would love to see a Dude, Where’s My Car? sequel starring your dad.
Allegra Silcox: Dude, Where Did You Park?
Kate Gotro: I think I found a house to move into today and I haven’t told him, because I know that the first thing he’s going to ask is, is there parking? And I’m not ready to be as irritated by that as I’m going to be. So I’m just keeping that in my back pocket for later.
Stephen Frank: Oh gosh. I wonder what weird thing I’m going to do that my kids are going to be like, I just can’t deal with him right now. Like what, what is that? What is that?
Allegra Silcox: You’re going to have one.
Kate Gotro: Yeah, the Massive X manual, It’s happening right now. You’re making future history in the… Oh God, oh God.
Stephen Frank: Future setting in the present?
Kate Gotro: In the present.
Stephen Frank: Well, anyway, enough about dad, back to books, right?
Lyta Gold: Right. Allegra. How about you give us your recommendation.
Allegra Silcox: Okay. I’m going to be low energy about the book, because again, I am saving all of my juice for wild card. If you’re familiar with like the extended Lyta Gold universe, this will not be a surprise to you. So I’m going to be out here repping Connie Willis again. I’m still tripping over Blackout/All Clear, which is… Okay. So Connie Willis, for anyone who is not familiar with the Lyta Gold extended universe, which is incorrect of you, she is actually the most awarded sci-fi author ever. And yet, pull 20 people on the street, I doubt anyone’s heard of her.
So that’s messed up and we’re on the warpath to fix that. And she has these incredible series of novels about historian time travel. So Blackout/All Clear is the duology set during The Blitz in World War II London. And it’s an epic, it is an experience. It’s an epic whose resolution really earns every page that went into it. Like, some books you feel like you could skip to the end and you still get the heft of the climax even though you have no context. Not so with Connie. By the end of the book, you’re like, wow, I blood, sweat, and teared… Cried, cried my way into earning the sweet, sweet triumphant victory of this final moment. And I think everyone should read. Did I do it right?
Lyta Gold: That’s good. That’s good. I’m really terrified with the idea of the Lyta Gold extended universe. I feel like I’m going to get some weird TV shows.
Stephen Frank: I don’t know who that is. And now I feel like I need to check it out. So yeah, you sold it real well. I’m all over it.
Allegra Silcox: Lyta Gold caused a run on Connie Willis’s books in the New Orleans public library by how well she recommended them, which caused me to recommend them, which caused our favorite fans in New Orleans, the pigeon ladies. I hope they don’t mind being mentioned on the podcast, to tell all their friends to the point where one of the pigeon ladies themselves tried to check out one of these books, and they were not available because we had caused a run on them.
Lyta Gold: Connie, pigeon ladies… Pigeon ladies, if you’re listening, we love you.
Allegra Silcox: We love you.
Lyta Gold: We just, we just love you a lot.
Allegra Silcox: We love you. We miss you.
Lyta Gold: You don’t need to know why they’re called the pigeon ladies.
Allegra Silcox: [crosstalk] You don’t need to know. It’s better if you don’t know, actually.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, it’s better if you don’t know.
Kate Gotro: Any time I spend time with them, they’re really good. They’re really, really good. I don’t know how to describe it. I got this amazing postcard from them, of them naked on their front porch reading the newspaper together. And I couldn’t –
Lyta Gold: Oh, I got that one too.
Kate Gotro: – [crosstalk] Tell that it was them at first. And so I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. And then I realized it was them, and then I immediately put it on my fridge. Like, so great. Amazing, amazing humans. Wonderful cooks, absolutely brilliant in every way. Lyta, you should really have Claire on to talk about group, whatever the fuck she talks about. Group wild card recommendation, the pigeon ladies. Available on Netflix everywhere. That’s my wild card. My wild card is being friends with Claire and Laura Ruth. That’s my wild card recommendation: being friends with them.
Allegra Silcox: So yeah. Lyta, do you have anything you wanted to throw in there about Blackout/All Clear, since you are the source?
Lyta Gold: Yeah. If anybody ever wants to turn that into a TV show and has money to back it up, they should call me because I have certain thoughts on how this could be done. It’s great. Action-packed exciting story. Historians doing time travel, a lot of crazy stuff happening. It’s great fun.
Allegra Silcox: The green coat.
Lyta Gold: The green coat. There’s these wonderful moments in it early on where you’re like, there’ll be just like a little detail and you’re like, it’s an interesting little detail. And then you’re 500 pages in and you’re like, the green coat, I’m crying. You’re crying because of a coat. A coat! That’s how good Connie Willis is. But yeah, there are other time travel novels that she’s done. There’s another great one, it’s a pandemic novel, and it’s hard to read. It’s wonderful. It’s called Doomsday Book, and it’s in the same… So yes, these historians who do time travel, it’s set in Oxford in the 2060s and then they go back into the past. And Doomsday Book is set during a Black Death, and then there’s a concurrent pandemic going on in Oxford, in 2060 at the time. And it is really hard to read. It is such a good book. That one I would not adapt for TV because I am squeamish about fluids. But the other one, somebody give me a call, cause we have a lot to talk about
Allegra Silcox: My secret agenda for mentioning Blackout/All Clear on the podcast
Lyta Gold: Is to make this like for real, for real.
Kate Gotro: I love when Lyta has thoughts.
Lyta Gold: In general?
Kate Gotro: Yeah.
Lyta Gold: Just in general when I have thoughts?
Kate Gotro: Yeah.
Lyta Gold: A lot of my thoughts are very dumb. You wouldn’t know how dumb they are. [crosstalk] I don’t share the really dumb ones. But I’ll start.
Kate Gotro: Never heard one I didn’t love. It’s like Rennix, what do you do when Lyta does this? On the one hand, you’re so wrong, they’re not dumb. On the other hand, lift up the dumb hoes everywhere. It’s okay. It’s okay to be a dumb hoe.
Lyta Gold: That, honestly like, subtitle of the show. It’s okay to be a dumb hoe, we are not snobs about art and stuff. That being said, Max, do you have a recommendation?
Max Alvarez: So we’re still on books, yeah?
Lyta Gold: We are still on books. We are taking our sweet, beautiful time with this.
Kate Gotro: Believe it or not.
Max Alvarez: I believe it. So I would say that there are a number of books that I think we’re planning on talking about in the future. So Lyta and I have talked about at some point doing a deep dive into the big, hairy world of like 800-page Russian novels. Like the ones that kind help me be… So like my path out of conservatism and becoming the lefty nut job you see before you today was really paved through literature, primarily Russian literature. But I’m going to save all of the discussion of Dostoevsky, Gogol and so on and so forth for another day. And so I just wanted to preface that because I’m always talking about it, so I’m sure if anyone is expecting me to give a book recommendation, it would be one of those.
But I wanted to lift up a book that has really stuck with me ever since I read it. And I’ve actually been reading more of her stuff, and I’m hoping to have a full interview with her. This is Kit de Waal, also known as Mandy – Or, her legal name is Mandy Teresa O’Loughlin. She’s a British-Irish writer. She published her first book, My Name is Leon, in 2016 when she was in her mid 50s. She is an incredibly brilliant person, and also just a really phenomenal advocate for having more working-class voices in literature. And some have even credited her with sparking this resurgence of working-class writing in the UK. She has really put her money where her mouth is. She has a creative writing scholarship that she started for working-class authors. She did this BBC program a couple years ago, I think it was called Where are all the Working-Class Writers? and there was a really incredible and beautiful response to that.
And everything that she comes out with is amazing. But I still can’t get past that debut novel of hers, which is called, as I said, My Name is Leon. And it’s really hard to sum up in a minute or two why I love this book so much. So I would really just tell people, building off of Lyta’s introduction, if you want to experience that incomparable joy that you experience with a good book, and just the marvel that you have when someone writes so well and so simply. I think one of the things that makes Kit de Waal such an incredible writer, that’s the kind of thing you genuinely can’t teach, because every impulse in your body as a young writer wants to go in the opposite direction.
But what she does is she trusts her reader. She only gives you enough detail for your mind to be stirred and to fill in the characters and shade in the corners of every room with your own nostalgia, your own longings, your own familial connections that she is describing in this book. And I think that that’s a really, really tough thing to do. All of us here are, I think, creatives in one way or another, and you want to make sure that the characters that you’re crafting, that people understand them exactly the way that you want to. It takes a tremendous amount of trust to limit that, but it makes it so much better. It makes it such a better experience for the reader, and it makes the emotional connection so much more powerful.
And I think that the emotions in this book are just truly, in their simplicity, overwhelming and desperately needed. The book itself is really the story of two half brothers who are growing up poor in 1980 during a time of great political and cultural tumult in the UK. One of them is mixed race. The older brother Leon is mixed race. The younger brother is white because his father is also white. So he gets adopted after their mom is unable to take care of them. So again, you see a lot of the drudgery, you see a lot of the tough shit that poor and working-class people deal with on a day-to-day basis. But it’s not heavy handed, it’s just, again, part of the scene setting. It does infuse itself into the ways that people talk and feel and relate to one another in a very, I think, genuine way.
But ultimately what it comes down to is that tremendous amount of love that Leon has for his little brother. And this story is really a story of him trying to get back to that brother. The book opens with Leon seeing his little brother in the hospital after he is born. And I just, I cried reading it. Like I mean, I thought about when I got to see my little sister McKenna, whom I’m 10 years older than almost to the day. I remember walking into the hospital room with my brothers, we got taken out of school, and she was there. My mom was holding her, and she was just so small. And I remember holding her and just thinking about how tiny her fingers and toes were. And like all three of the brothers were just like, we’re going to protect you. Like we’re not going to let anything ever happen to you.
And just, I don’t know, feeling that in the same simplistic description in the opening chapter of Kit de Waal’s book… You don’t forget the books that make you cry, because it doesn’t happen a lot, but I’m very grateful to her for that. So I would say anyone who’s feeling down, anyone who wants that no bullshit human connection that treats working-class lives and just human life in general with the kind of dignity and respect and care and beauty that it deserves should absolutely read Kit de Waal’s books.
Lyta Gold: Oh my God, Max. Oh my God.
Stephen Frank: Enough said I guess.
Allegra Silcox: [crosstalk] Incredible recommendation. But I will say, speak for yourself, it doesn’t happen a lot, crying at a book. Speak for yourself, sir. I’ll cry at the Maximum X manual, okay? Whatever that thing was called.
Stephen Frank: It’s definitely getting turned more into a dildo at this point, the way you’re [crosstalk]
Kate Gotro: The more we talk about it, the more dildoish it gets.
Lyta Gold: So if anybody’s trying to download My Name is Leon from the New York Public Library right now on audiobook, fuck you, it’s mine, I just got it. So you’re going to have to wait until I’m done
Allegra Silcox: That made me want to read something more than I wanted to read anything in a long time.
Lyta Gold: Kate, we should do your recommendation next. What do you think is good? What else has given you that vibe?
Kate Gotro: Well, I don’t… Hmm. I don’t read a ton of prose, and I also don’t read new things very often. I have a couple books that I just read over and over for… How long have I been reading this one, four years? And the book that I am currently rereading – I’m sorry, it’s not fresh and interesting – But the book that I’m currently rereading is Joseph Lease’s The Body Ghost, which is a collection of only three or four poems that make up the whole book. And there’s a long poem about his father’s illness and death. And there’s several poems he wrote about his wife.
And then there is my favorite, a poem that’s called “Rent is Theft,” which is this very… I don’t know, this very moving sort of death rattle of… It’s so good. It’s really good. Yeah. I met Joseph when I was in college, and I was in Oakland where he lives and teaches a few years later. And I asked if we could get coffee, and we got coffee and he, in my mind, is this really heroic figure. And then he just trundled up the block. Like he had bedhead, he had obviously just rolled out of bed and trundled up to get coffee. And I talked to him for a long time about his book and how much I loved it, and he was just so incredibly hospitable and generous, telling me about his process, but also just his life. His mom was a communist during the second Red Scare and basically ran these reading groups, and was part of several church groups of communists, and I was just really, really amazed at hearing him talk about it. And the book is really beautiful and I’m reading it again. So I really recommend The Body Ghost by Joseph Lease but if you’re only going to read a little bit of it, you should read Rent Is Theft by Joseph Lease. Yes.
Allegra Silcox: Hard to have a better recommendation than “I’ve been reading one book for four years over and over again.” That’s incredible.
Kate Gotro: Yeah. And it’s not dense or heady. It’s very easily digestible, but it’s just like you eat something and you’re like, I could eat this forever. This is my desert island food. I think I could read this book forever. And I’ve not just been reading it for four years, it’s been in my purse or my backpack or whatever bag I’m carrying around for four years. I pretty much always have it with me. I keep that fucking thing on me. And yeah, that’s also a pretty high recommendation, I feel.
Lyta Gold: Kate, I just want to point out that I remember a time you were going on a three-day trip somewhere and you’re like, should I bring 10 books? Like a list, should I bring all 10 of these books on my three-day trip? And I’d be like, I don’t think that’s… Was that one of the books?
Kate Gotro: It was one of the books. Actually, it was, Lyta, when I was coming to visit you in New York, I was going to be there. Yeah. We did Manhattan for a few days, and then came to visit you for a couple days, and then went to Montauk for a wedding, and I brought, I think 10, or – No I brought 12 books, and Jack and I had a whole thing about it in the airport because he tried to ask me to only bring eight books. And I told him that I would only bring eight books.
And then when we were waiting for a cab once we got in New York, he unzipped my bag looking for something, and then the four secret books that I had brought made themselves known to him. He was like, what the fuck is this? What the fuck is this? And I was like, those are my four books that I didn’t tell you about. And he was like, wow. Okay. He was like, you have to read one of them. You just need to read one of them while you’re here, read one of them and I’ll eat shit. So he slept on the train.
Lyta Gold: Those are my support animal books.
Kate Gotro: Exactly. Yeah, yes. My emotional support novels and verse. So he ended up sleeping on the train from your house, Lyta, to Montauk, but I stayed awake and very begrudgingly read a Maggie Nelson book, because I was like God fucking dammit, I’m going to read a book this trip if it kills me. So that was one of those 10 books. Yeah. 12 books. Lots of books. Yeah.
Lyta Gold: Incredible. My husband also gives me shit for bringing too many books on vacation, but I’m a two or three book person. 12 is a dedication that I just respect and admire.
Kate Gotro: Well, you actually read them, too.
Max Alvarez: Well, so I was going to ask, can we turn this into a quick impromptu confessional? So do we all have this same problem? Because I’m in my mid goddamn 30s now. And no matter what trip I’m taking, I take at least three books and get through a third of one of them. I can’t get out of that. I guess, Stephen, do you take three manuals with you when you go to the beach?
Stephen Frank: No, my problem is I take too much gear with me, because I’m always going out and doing field recording and stuff and I’m like, oh, should I take this mic? Do I need this mic? Oh yeah, I’m going to bring all of them. And then I never end up using them. I just end up using a handheld one or something like that. But there are times it’s like, that’s my thing. I end up bringing too much gear everywhere I go.
Allegra Silcox: I bring a bunch of books, but it’s 2022, so I take advantage of technology and they’re all on my phone. So there’s just basically a virtually limitless number of things that I can have on deck ready for my vacations. I do frequently actually read a lot on my vacations though. So I don’t know, it doesn’t feel like a problem to me. I feel great about my situation there.
Max Alvarez: Well, La-di-da.
Kate Gotro: La-di fucking da, Allegra.
Allegra Silcox: I got 99 problems, but my vacation book reading ain’t one.
Kate Gotro: I think probably Jack’s biggest sticking point with the New York incident of 2021 is that I brought Rambo in French, and I don’t know French, and I can’t read French, and I don’t speak French. And I brought a book in French. And he was like, what were you going to do with this one? And I was like, I was going to have you read it to me if I got bored and couldn’t sleep.
Allegra Silcox: Yeah. Honestly that checks out. It did sound insane up until that point. But once you get to the, oh yeah, Jack speaks French, there’s nothing better than having your beau read to you in another language.
Kate Gotro: I was just going to say, I was just going to have you read it to me.
Allegra Silcox: That’s awesome.
Kate Gotro: And he was like, fine. That’s nice. Fine.
Lyta Gold: All right, Rennix, you haven’t confessed yet. It’s your turn.
Adrian Rennix: To confess about my vacation reading habits or to give a recommendation? Which one are we doing? Which round-robin are we in?
Lyta Gold: One and then the other, because this is clearly Too Much Vacations Anonymous, except for Allegra who doesn’t have a problem, because they’re one of the functional sociopaths that you hear a lot about. It’s not a problem because you’re doing great.
Allegra Silcox: You can’t hear the finger guns I’m currently pointing at Lyta.
Adrian Rennix: I don’t know if I have a vacation book over-packing problem. I do relate to the whole comfort book situation. Especially when I was in high school, I would have certain books that I would always, especially at the beginning of the year, bring with me that were my comfort books, just in case I needed to read them during the day. So I definitely relate to that. And I did that a little bit, too, once when I first started going to jails for my job. And sometimes you have very long waits and you can’t have a phone with you. I would sometimes, I one time brought a P.G. Wodehouse novel to a jail and the jail confiscated it. But you feel better when you have a novel with you. So I definitely relate to that.
Lyta Gold: Subversive P.G. Wodehouse.
Kate Gotro: If it wasn’t a law book, would they not have taken it away?
Adrian Rennix: I don’t know, someone was just on a power trip, I think. But they definitely looked suspiciously at my book that has a man in spats chasing a cat on the cover. And they were like, this seems like something you could use to help people escape. I don’t know.
Allegra Silcox: Tell them it’s critical evidence in your client’s case. They cross the border while reading this book and there’s critical evidence in there.
Adrian Rennix: If I had been a more experienced lawyer at that time, I would’ve known how to submit it, but I was just a little law student.
Allegra Silcox: I like the idea of you bringing The Count of Monte Cristo and them being like, what’s this? And you like, nothing, nothing. It’s nothing, no ideas, no prescient information. Nothing.
Adrian Rennix: Nope. Titles? What’s a title? Never heard of a title.
Lyta Gold: That’s funny, because you, as an experienced immigration lawyer, bringing in, smuggling it in the cover, the cover’s got to be something like Why Ice is Good. And then the book is The Count of Monte Cristo.
Adrian Rennix: Yeah. And little do they know it’s some light reading. Tricked them again.
Allegra Silcox: So are you going to recommend P.G. Wodehouse now? What are you going to do?
Adrian Rennix: I didn’t. A round-robin within a round-robin? I wasn’t sure whether it was still my turn. But yeah, I can go. So I’ve been reading a lot of books in the past couple years thanks to the pandemic and to Lyta’s amazing recommendations. So I was just going to throw out one that I’ve read recently that I really enjoyed just as a completely fun, gripping, adventure novel, which is Mexican Gothic.
Allegra Silcox: Yeah.
Adrian Rennix: So I listened to it on audiobook. It’s set in the 1950s and it’s one of those, what’s going on in this creepy house kind of novels. But it’s really interesting. It has a lot of stuff about mycology and fungi in it. And I had just come off reading a different book about fungi called Entangled Life. So Lyta got a month straight of me talking about mushrooms to her, and she was really nice about it. But it’s a fun book. The author’s really cool. I just started reading another one of hers. It’s about vampires in Mexico City and it’s a good, good time. So if you’re looking for something after you read all the more serious and interesting sounding recommendations that other people have given, if you just want to read something that’s fun, Mexican Gothic’s really good.
Allegra Silcox: Get on that mushroom life.
Adrian Rennix: Well, I did buy a mushroom growing kit right afterwards. So.
Kate Gotro: I was literally like, Rennix has to talk about the fact that they also have a mushroom growing kit. Full brand consistency wall to wall.
Adrian Rennix: Well, I had big plans. When it gets less hot here in Texas, I’m going to start growing mushrooms in my yard. But at the moment it’s 90 degrees every day. So it’s not going to happen yet.
Max Alvarez: So I would be remiss if I didn’t stuff this in here before we move on to the next round, but I have a buddy, I want to put him on blast. His name’s Daniele. He’s an Italian physicist, and he has the best and worst traits of Italians and physicists combined into one person. And so I just, I remember when we met up, a bunch of our friends met up in Amsterdam, and so Daniele thought the shrooms there were great. And he was like, why don’t I get a kit to grow my own shrooms? And so he tried, and they got this weird mold on it, and he refused to throw them away and he kept trying to convince everyone. He’s like, just try them, the mold will be fine, but trust me, the shrooms are great. Just like, Daniele, I’m not trying your moldy-ass shrooms.
Lyta Gold: On the other hand, you might see God. Or he might be really scary.
Adrian Rennix: You get high and then you also get some necrosis, maybe. There’s just a great combination of things that could happen at once.
Allegra Silcox: I’m torn. I’m of two minds. On the one hand, let me at those mushrooms. On the other hand, not until we have Medicare for all. I don’t want those possible bills on my plate.
Kate Gotro: No, if I was –
Max Alvarez: Cosign.
Kate Gotro: – If I was tripping and my stomach started hurting, that would be the end for me. That would be the end. I couldn’t tolerate that. My belly hurting, having a tummy ache while that – No, absolutely not.
Max Alvarez: Well, that’s the funny thing there. So let’s see, I’m still the editor-in-chief here. So I’ve heard that when you take shrooms, it’s been passed down through the lore [crosstalk] –
Stephen Frank: Nice cover there, Max.
Max Alvarez: Thank you. I’m a serious journalist, I promise. But you have to pass through a nauseous fear period before you get the euphoria. So just a heads up for everyone [crosstalk].
Stephen Frank: Just a heads up for everyone out there that’s about to do this right now.
Lyta Gold: I will neither promote nor… Actually, no. Doing whatever makes you happy is the thing about this podcast episode. So if that should include mushrooms, man, it’s your life.
Adrian Rennix: If it’s a felony in your state, just be careful.
Allegra Silcox: Hey, listen, I’ve heard from multiple people that you do boot, but then you rally, and it’s a great time. I personally have – Wait, I’m not in charge of anything, I’m allowed to admit that I’ve done shrooms. I did them once, very mellow though. I had a good friend control my dosage for me so that it would be a good time. But even if you do boot and rally, tummy, belly hurting, I hear you Kate. But also, God gave the worst digestive systems to her hottest soldiers. So you just got to bear the burden.
Kate Gotro: One of my managers at my job sent me a God gives her worst digestive systems to her hottest soldiers meme. And this manager and I don’t text. I don’t even think I knew that she knew that I have a terrible digestive system. But now I know that my bathroom breaks are timed or whatever, so that’s really good to know.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Boot and rally sounds like Boots Riley’s sad cousin. I feel bad for boot and rally. Movies are even weirder, boot and rally, boot and rally. That sounds cool.
Speaking of mushrooms and risking possible death, probably, possibly. I am reading, actually, a different novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia right now, which is Gods of Jade and Shadow, which is about basically, what if the God of death was a sexy skeleton, which is a good premise. Yeah. It’s just fun. I don’t know if it’s an amazing book, but I’m having a blast with it. My recommendation, real quick. I had to really reach because all I do is yell at Rennix and Allegra about the books that I like, and then they read them, so I had to think of one that I haven’t ranted about yet. But I have one, I think, that I haven’t mentioned yet before.
Because I haven’t read it in a long time, but I’ve read it a couple of times in a row like 10 years ago. And it’s a book, it’s got a strange title, it’s Little, Big. It’s not “comma” the word, just there is a comma. So Little, Big is the title. It’s by a guy named John Crowley. And it’s one of these incredibly indescribable books, but it’s about a multi-generational saga about a family that has this strange connection to the fairy realm. To tell you more than that would be to tell you too much about it.
It’s a fantasy book that’s very different from many other fantasy books. And it’s magical in a way that’s hard to describe by the end of it. You’re transported, also. It’s like it does magic to you. It’s a really remarkable book. Again, it’s been a little while since I read it. So maybe some things are dated and problematic in a way that I didn’t notice at the time. I suspect some things are. But it’s weird and it’s cool. And if you want something that’s very different. Aha, Rennix and Allegra both give me faces like I haven’t mentioned it before I win. Yes. Got it.
Kate Gotro: Yeah. You got to say the name again for our listeners, but for me to write it down right now.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Little, Big. I know, strange title, it’s probably not as well known as it should be, by a guy named John Crowley. Who’s actually a really good and strange writer, who not that many people know about.
Adrian Rennix: Little, Big is it. Yeah. Another in the same dildo series that you’re just confused by what the premise is.
Allegra Silcox: It’s little, but it’s big.
Lyta Gold: I’ve referred to my cats as little and big, but that’s for pretty obvious reasons I think.
Allegra Silcox: Who’s little and who’s big?
Lyta Gold: The Trotsky’s little, Mars is big. They’re both gigantic cats, it’s true. But comparatively. It’s relative. It’s relative size.
Allegra Silcox: I added it to my apple note called “Lyta books.”
Lyta Gold: Oh goddamn it. I’m a plague.
Kate Gotro: While I was there I also got to check off a book that I forgot to go back and check off that I’ve now read, though. So it’s a one in one out situation right now.
Lyta Gold: All right. So as much fun as we’re having, I think we should move on to movies and TV shows. Does anybody have anything else that they’re like, oh yeah, totally should say this. Nothing? Nothing?
Allegra Silcox: No.
Lyta Gold: Bueller? Okay. Next up. Let’s talk about a movie and or a TV show that you are so, so excited about. Who is the most excited for a book or TV show? I’m going to guess it’s Allegra.
Allegra Silcox: No, remember? Wild card. I will do my movie right now, but I was purposefully conservative, because there’s only so much fanatic waves that I can give off at one time. I picked one that I watched recently and really, really loved, which was Hero, 2002’s Hero with Jet Lee, Zhang Ziyi, Maggie Cheung, and Donnie Yen. So I’m pretty new to Kung Fu films. I’m catching up on all of the classics, and a friend lent me their Blu-ray. And they said if I want to watch a truly beautiful movie, this is in their top three. And I have to agree. It’s totally a feast for the eyes and the heart, a little bit. It’s a series of vibes with their own corresponding color palettes, and then some sick floaty Kung Fu fights.
By, obviously, some of what I understand are some of the biggest names in the biz, at least circa 2002. Not that many movies really carry me away on a river of their vibes, and this movie absolutely did. I know that there’s a lot of beautiful movies out there that are lauded by different communities, and I’ve never been particularly drawn to movies just because they were pretty. I find a lot of those movies can make me sad. They might be too intense or serious, or I just get bored by a movie celebrating its own wide pan across the landscape or something. Sorry, I’m going to get… I’m not on Twitter anymore, so you can’t be mad at me, film Twitter. But this is one of those movies where it just was like, whatever was happening, I’m picking up what you’re putting down.
I’m with you 100% of the way. I spent a third of the movie guessing. Okay, it’s telling the same story through different possibilities. The lie, and then the guess about what really happened, and then what really happened. And then the history that led into what really happened. And so I’m just guessing, okay, okay, I think they’re all going to wear red, I think they’re all going to wear yellow in the next one, I think this is going to be the vibe for the next round. So you’re never bored. You get to love the actors and the characters from multiple different perspectives. It’s just a great time. I really recommend it. Especially if you like pretty stuff and maybe you’ve never done Kung Fu before. I think it was great.
Lyta Gold: I haven’t seen that movie in forever. I should watch it again. I loved it at the time when it came out.
Stephen Frank: Yeah. I saw it a long time ago, too. And I remember it being very visually stunning, but I don’t remember much other than that. But that really did stick with me. When you said Hero, I remembered that one.
Allegra Silcox: Yeah. It’s a good one. Now, I’ll caveat and say for the lefties who are watching, if you come back and tell me it was actually pro imperialism. Listen, I was high while I watched it, so I don’t know fully what the message actually was. Because it is about a real historical Chinese period, I believe. And I will not even pretend to have operating knowledge to evaluate what the movie’s message in light of that historical context was. But boy, was it lovely to watch?
Lyta Gold: I’m honestly a little tired of the… It’s a thing that lefties do and I think it’s lovely in many ways. And I do think it’s important to look at the politics of a movie. But whether or not a thing has good politics is almost entirely irrelevant to whether or not it’s fun to watch. Or good, or – It’s a complex thing.
Stephen Frank: I think what annoys me is when people try to read meaning into something that was not intended to have meaning. That’s always really frustrating. It’s like you’re seeing beyond what’s actually there. Just if it’s meant to be enjoyed, that’s great. And if you find something that’s meaningful to you, that’s awesome. But I feel like it’s a fool’s errand to go and try to read something into it when it’s not meant to be that way.
Lyta Gold: It’s a tendency to regard every work as though what it is ultimately is a political document. And yeah, everything has its politics. But it’s like you see a movie and you have to be like, okay, now I’m going to slot this into whatever political category. And then, it’s this movie promotes fascism, this movie promotes socialism, blah, blah. And it’s like, okay, fine. What else is happening, for God’s sake?
Max Alvarez: Well, I mean, I think this is one of the many incredibly valuable contributions that Art for the End Times makes in left discourse. Because, Lyta, you and I are often DMing about this when we’re thinking, you’re talking about other episodes that you want to do, and then we go down these rabbit holes about what we love, what we can’t stand about how the left talks about this or that. But I think that overall message that you’ve been conveying since episode one is one that is desperately needed. Because as someone who came from a conservative upbringing to the left, it has always struck me as a very weird cultural tick that leftists have. Because what it reminds me of more than anything is the religious nut jobs that I grew up around.
Because I remember when I went to visit a high school friend before my college started, I went to visit her in her dorm at – I won’t name the college, but it’s a religious college in Southern California. And they were the standard, there was the hardcore Catholics, which is the camp that I was in, there was the hardcore Evangelicals, and then there were a fair amount of Mormons in Orange County. All of them had different ways of embodying this type of tick. But anyway, I went to visit this friend and she was like, oh yeah, we’re going to have a movie night. And it was The Notebook, totally anodyne, little romance movie, love it.
And it’s got one very minor sex scene in it. You don’t see anything graphic, they come in from the rain, they’re kissing, and then it fades out to black. So they cut out like 10 minutes on either side of that. And I was like, wait, what happened to that scene? And they looked at me like it was Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and it turned into this big fight and they kicked me out, because I was just like –
Allegra Silcox: Because you asked, where did it go?
Max Alvarez: Yeah. I was like, it’s kind of weird that you guys would cut out that big chunk of a movie, and it’s not even that offensive. And so then it got really intense about why they didn’t want to subject themselves or anyone else in the dorm to this or that. And so again, I’m not saying we’re that bad, hopefully, but that’s the closest correlation that I’ve been able to draw between the weird desire that some of us on the left have for art and culture to fit our worldview so snugly, even if it means artificially cutting it down to fit in that box. We don’t have to do that, there’s no reason to. You can appreciate art that was made by shitty people or art that doesn’t have pitch perfect politics. That’s one of the beautiful things about art, is it doesn’t have to be subsumed into those binary categories. Anyway, but yeah, so that’s one of the things that I just really love and cherish about the work that you do.
Stephen Frank: I think, Max – And I totally agree with your sentiment there. To add onto that, I think it’s also really closed-minded to go and try to read your political view into whatever you’re watching. It’s like, everything needs to fit into this box, because this is the way it should be, and I’m right, and this is what’s there. Approaching art, movies, TV, or anything like that is, to me, seems very closed-minded and not at all what we actually want to achieve and have people have open minds and make decisions that help everyone. I think that it is a really interesting conundrum of how those two things fit together sometimes.
Allegra Silcox: It can start off well meant, too. So I was just not even reading that many books anymore until I met Lyta, because I was really tired of reading. It just felt like the same drivel over and over again. I didn’t feel like what I was reading mattered or made me understand the world or myself better. So I think you can get very bored by reading some of the monoculture books or movies or TV out there. And it’s really exciting to find something that’s like, wow, not only was it fun to watch, it also said something that I agree with about the world.
And so it can make that difference for me where I’m like, I love watching Hero. I can’t give you that last 10% that says, yes, it thrilled me to my very core that it said something about the world that I 100% agree with and I felt seen by it. That 10% is so nice to get, but you don’t have to have it all the time. You don’t have to apologize for everything that you like that didn’t give you that last 10%.
Stephen Frank: Yeah.
Lyta Gold: Definitely. Who else has a recommendation for something that maybe gave that 10%, that maybe didn’t? Stephen, let’s hear it.
Stephen Frank: Okay. Okay. I’m going to do something a little different here, actually. If it’s okay with you, Lyta –
Lyta Gold: Yes.
Stephen Frank: – I’d like to add video games into this category. Okay?
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Let’s do it.
Stephen Frank: Because as a video game sound designer, that’s my world. That’s what I’m focusing on. And there’s this game by Hideo Kojima called Death Stranding. Has anyone seen that or played that?
Allegra Silcox: [shrieks excitedly] Stephen, not only do I have Death Stranding, I have a PlayStation 4 exclusively for this game, because I mentioned the game Death Stranding to my father one time, and I love him dearly, but he is trying to buy my love. And so he bought me a PlayStation 4 and Death Stranding because I was so excited for these concepts. And then it was too scary and stressful and I didn’t play it. So please tell me all about it.
Stephen Frank: Really? Oh my God. It’s the most bizarre thing you will ever experience.
Allegra Silcox: I watched so many videos.
Stephen Frank: It’s so weird.
Allegra Silcox: Yeah.
Stephen Frank: Okay. So first of all, Norm, was it Norman Remus? Or I don’t know how to –
Lyta Gold: Reedus.
Stephen Frank: Reedus, that’s it. Yeah. The guy, he’s in The Walking Dead. What’s his name in Walking Dead, anyone?
Allegra Silcox: Darrell. And he’s also in Boondock Saints.
Stephen Frank: Exactly.
Adrian Rennix: I was going to say, Boondock Saints. Don’t be rude. Boondock Saints.
Stephen Frank: Yeah. So they put him in this game. He’s such a good character in it, and it’s all about delivering stuff. It’s all about getting packages from one place to another. Such a weird theme or concept for a video game. But then there’s this other world where people who have died are still connected to the earth and they can pull you under in this black ooze that is somehow connected to a beach somewhere. And every time that happens, whales and boats fly in. It is so… I’ve never seen anything like it, but there’s something to me as – I like puzzles a lot. The trying to carry, you have all this gear on your back and you’re trying to deliver something, some sort of medicine or something from one place to another, and you got to navigate through all these different zones where all these dead beings that are somehow connected, they’re stranded on the planet, and you have to navigate through all of that. And it’s really intense, but it’s also just a very odd gameplay mechanic of delivering things. They pulled it off so well, the sound design is amazing, and there’s one moment… So your character, they’re called Repatriate, and he can come back to life. And when he does, you see this baby in the throat of somebody. It’s this close-up, it’s the weirdest thing, and you see the baby inside, and then he comes out of himself… Just check it out, watch something online. It’s so good. It’s so good.
Allegra Silcox: Stephen, I’m so glad that you said that at the end, because I was just waiting for you to finish talking for me to say, I noticed you didn’t say anything about the weird baby. Interesting.
Stephen Frank: Yes, oh my God.
Allegra Silcox: You did say something about that.
Stephen Frank: Okay. I don’t want to take up all the time, so just go check it out. It’s so bizarre. It’s so good. I’ll leave it there.
Allegra Silcox: I will say that the reason that I expressed my initial interest, and that I still do intend to go back and play at one point, was because of the wealth of videos and reviews that I saw online that were like, should you play this weird post-apocalyptic postman simulator game? What’s up with that?
The thing that drew me to it was the idea that you’re playing alone, and you’re carrying 100 pounds on your back and you’re trying to walk over a mountain. There’s stuff that’s really, really hard. But then as you play over time – Correct me if I’m wrong, Stephen – Other players can basically invest in improving the infrastructure of the world around you, and then you get to benefit. So I really liked that communal aspect that was… There’s not any immediate direct like, your goal is to have 10 players build a bridge. But if you put in the effort, everyone around you gets better. So I thought that was super cool, and that’s why I was interested.
Stephen Frank: There are so many, so many different aspects about this game, and you’re totally right about how you are playing alone, but you’re connected to everybody, because people build bridges and structures that help you along the way. Ladders, ropes, whatever. And, as you go through the game, you can give people likes based on the stuff that they leave behind. And your status in the game is based on how many likes you get for the deliveries.
So it’s this weird commentary. As I just said, I don’t want to read too much into art or whatever, but it’s this weird commentary on social media and your value of a person is how many people the stuff that you do. And that’s how your status in the game is measured, of how many likes you get, based on how you help people. It’s so wild. It’s really wild.
Lyta Gold: I was originally going to ask if the package deliverers were unionized, but it sounds like they’re not. Are the babies unionized?
Stephen Frank: No, definitely not, because the babies are the only ones that can detect the dead things, and you have to strap a baby to your chest that lives in a tank the entire game.
Adrian Rennix: Hold on.
Stephen Frank: And I can’t put it all in. I cannot put –
Adrian Rennix: Hold on. Like fish tank or –
Stephen Frank: Little tank that’s strapped to you.
Adrian Rennix: Like a fish tank or… Lyta, help me. Tank girl, help me.
Lyta Gold: You know I love tanks. It’s like a Russian tank?
Adrian Rennix: Yeah, but I’m trying to think –
Lyta Gold: Like the model I’m building right now? I love tanks. I love tanks.
Stephen Frank: So that’s my… Check it out. So good.
Adrian Rennix: These babies need a union.
Lyta Gold: These babies need a union. Anybody else have a movie or a TV show about a baby who needs a union? Or another topic, anything’s good, really?
Adrian Rennix: I don’t have a baby who needs union. I do have a Dutch TV show about the beginnings of a phone sex operation in Amsterdam in 1989. It’s really good. I don’t know if it’s actually good or if I just like it. At this point, I don’t care. I had fun, I had a good time. It’s called Dirty Lines. It’s on Netflix now, actually. But it is a show set in, I guess it’s not set in Amsterdam. I think it’s maybe, it is set in Amsterdam in the late 80s, and it is about these brothers who start the country’s first phone sex hotline. And it’s great. It’s so fun. I had a wonderful time.
It was one of those things that I tried to look it up and find out more about it. And I tried to look up all the actors. I tried to fixate on it and I couldn’t because there wasn’t really enough online to fixate about it, but it was great. It was fun. It was great and fun.
Allegra Silcox: I love the premise. Should we all do our best phone sex voice? Cause I was going to say Lyta has to do the phone sex voice, but then I thought that would be putting her on the spot.
Lyta Gold: Allegra just wants me to do my phone sex voice. And I don’t understand why people would want me to do [crosstalk] my phone sex voice.
Allegra Silcox: I don’t know why. Oh my God, please keep it in the final cut.
Max Alvarez: The Real News is going ASMR.
Adrian Rennix: “ASMR for the End Times” would be a great episode that you should do.
Stephen Frank: Oh, I can totally help with that.
Max Alvarez: That’s a fantastic idea.
Adrian Rennix: I would be so into that.
Kate Gotro: I know exactly what it would be. It would just be Lyta cradling you against your bosom and being like, hey, it’s okay. You did your best. It’s okay. I know this because that is the kind of ASMR –
Adrian Rennix: [crosstalk] really into me.
Kate Gotro: – I want from Lyta. It’s an experience that everyone should have. It’s pretty great.
Lyta Gold: I love small, weird, obscure movies. Actually, my pick is going to be a small, weird, obscure movie that came out just this year, called You Won’t Be Alone. It’s Macedonian, and I think that they had some help from an Australian studio too, and a US studio. And it’s set in historic Macedonia, and it’s about a witch. And it’s like Little, Big, in that it’s hard to explain, but it’s very magical. There’s a witch who lives different lives. She can inhabit the bodies of animals and people. And so she just lives these different lives and learns how to be a person in a very messy and bad society, a very patriarchal, peasant society. And it has a slightly unsatisfying ending, I do have to say. But it has, there’s a lot of viscera also, there’s a lot of intestines and stuff. So not Rennix approved.
Adrian Rennix: No, no, I can’t do viscera, sorry. I loved everything you said up until you got to viscera, then I was like, all right, nevermind. Take it off the list.
Kate Gotro: I’m still with you. I’m still with you. You haven’t lost me yet.
Lyta Gold: There’s a young woman who gets adopted by the older witch, and they’re both witches, and then they have a complex relationship that’s complicated and messy. And there’s a lot of becoming other people and turning into other people. A lot of it is very interior. There’s a lot of monologuing, but it’s really gorgeous and it’s really strange. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot.
It’s one of those movies I watched in a little art house theater in Manhattan with two other people in the theater, because nobody goes to see this kind of thing. And it was fucking great. I had a great time. If it is showing in your town, You Won’t Be Alone. Not a very memorable title. Again, you got to have a memorable title. This is a real issue, but it’s a – [crosstalk]
Allegra Silcox: I thought it was touching. It sounds like a little indie video game, honestly.
Lyta Gold: It does. But it doesn’t really capture that there’s a fucked up witch situation and a lot of viscera. That doesn’t, that doesn’t really [crosstalk].
Adrian Rennix: I would go see what you call fucked up witch situation.
Kate Gotro: But then there would have to be the subtitle With Viscera, and then you wouldn’t be able to go.
Adrian Rennix: I wouldn’t be able to go, no, nevermind. Now with 70% more viscera!
Allegra Silcox: We really should start a streaming service that just edits out viscera and upsetting things for people. I have recently submitted a request for Lyta to create a supercut of Hannibal that’s only the gay parts and the good suits so that I don’t have to see any of the rest of it. I really only want those two parts of that show.
Lyta Gold: It will be [crosstalk].
Adrian Rennix: So I came up with a plan for this years ago, which Lyta already knows, which is because I’m a baby. I like to watch stories that have stakes in them, which is bad because I also can’t watch a lot of graphic violence, and I get very upset by it. So it makes watching TV difficult for me. So my idea has been, I want a service that censors movies for you. So anytime something violent is about to happen, you cut away from the movie to a scene of a library with an old man sitting in an armchair, Masterpiece Theater style. And then he looks into the camera and he says, and then they tortured him. But he told them nothing. Back to the film. You know what happened [crosstalk]. You feel comforted by the old man who just told you what was going on. I think that this would make a million billion dollars.
Stephen Frank: I like your delivery, and now, back to the film.
Allegra Silcox: I love your idea. Great idea. Shark Tank. I’m investing right now. However, I did think that you were going to say a man in a library in an armchair masturbating. And I am interested in this at night service. So it’s the same movie, but you either get the old man with a straight delivery or wild jerking.
Adrian Rennix: Well, this is also really my separate movie cut idea which is, I want to make pornos that have really, really detailed, meaty character plot development. But if you don’t want any of that, you can watch something called the Boners Cut, which is just the money shots all the way through. I feel there’s a lot in this industry of cutting up films that could really, really be money makers.
Lyta Gold: Someone give Rennix a studio for God’s sake. Yeah.
Allegra Silcox: Lawyer, are you done with the lawyer thing yet? Are you done with this whole saving babies thing? Can we move on?
Kate Gotro: We’re all waiting.
Allegra Silcox: Yeah. We’re waiting. Rennix has to save all those babies from those postmen that are carrying them around in the wastes of Death Stranding, all those babies.
Stephen Frank: Yes. Yes.
Adrian Rennix: This is actually, this thematically segues into what my rec was going to be, somewhat.
Allegra Silcox: I’m terrified and intrigued.
Adrian Rennix: My TV show rec is actually a sub-genre that has I think only two shows in it, but I’m just going to recommend it, which is Korean dramas about gangster lawyers seeking revenge. So you can watch both of them on Netflix. One of them is called Vincenzo and the other one is called Lawless Lawyer. And they are Korean legal dramas that are very different from the typical US fare. If you watch a US legal drama, it’s always about DAs or big law firms, and just drama around oh, it’s hard being a lawyer. These are fucking nuts. They’re about, I’m a lawyer for the mob, I’m on a quest for revenge. All the villains are judges, prosecutors, big law people. Usually the gangster lawyer pairs up with some downtrodden public interest lawyer who can’t win cases. They release hornets into courtrooms, they murder people. It’s great.
Allegra Silcox: Release the hornets!
Adrian Rennix: So we were talking about trying to not read political messages into things. These are not, there’s no bigger political message than, wouldn’t it be cool if judges got their comeuppance sometimes, which I really enjoy. So if you want to watch a lot of drama that has a lot of action violence in it, but of a kind that is not so graphic that I can’t watch it, these are some good shows.
Allegra Silcox: That sounds fantastic, Rennix.
Max Alvarez: Now I just want a compilation of Rennix’s boner cuts.
Stephen Frank: That’s a great sentence, Max, thank you.
Adrian Rennix: Yeah, get me a studio deal and I can just serve them up, I guess.
Max Alvarez: Rennix, remember how… God, I’m going to show how old I am – But does anyone remember when Siskel and Ebert would sit in the front row and look back at the camera? So imagine Lyta and Rennix in a movie theater sitting back, like we’re going to take a look at some of the best boner shots in this Korean action drama.
Allegra Silcox: Dude, I can vouch that Vincenzo could have both a successful hornet cut and a horny cut, because everyone in that movie is super attractive, and they do spend the appropriate amount of time just drawing the audience’s attention to how hot the people are.
Lyta Gold: Speaking of suits…
Allegra Silcox: There’s a glorious horse riding scene. Yeah.
Lyta Gold: Oh, the horse riding scene. Speaking of suits, the suits in Hannibal, the suits in Vincenzo, bellissima, they’re so good. They’re so good.
Adrian Rennix: It’s good. It’s good menswear. Yeah.
Max Alvarez: So, I think I’m the last one on the shows rec. Okay. So I’ll run through mine, because I know that Stephen Frank’s got daddy duty, and I want to hear his grab bag. So I promise I’ll be brief. I guess I’d be curious to know if folks felt the same way during the first two years of the pandemic. Almost by way of necessity, I found myself unable to consume new stuff. I found myself very anxious, and I retreated back into recycling the shows that I’d watched. I watched Seinfeld from start to finish four times, 30 Rock, The Office, shit like that. But there came a time, recently rather, where I was like, okay, I need to make sure that this doesn’t become a rut and I actually get back out there.
So I say this by way of saying that I’m not just cheating and pulling old stuff. But honorable mentions for recent stuff that I’m grateful to have been exposed to, one which I think is another great Art for the End Times honorable mention is this new documentary that was 40 years in the making on Kurt Vonnegut called Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time. And as someone with a deep love for Vonnegut, I was very moved by it. And I think it forces you to be very mature about how you relate to authors, because the director does show that everyone loved Kurt Vonnegut. He was a shitty father. He had a lot of problems. And you hear his family members talk about that.
So I think that’s just a really beautiful literary documentary that I would encourage folks to check out. Also, everyone’s been bugging me to do a series on Severance, which I’m going to do for Working People. I do recommend it. It is really good. So everyone should go check that out. So with those two honorable mentions in mind, I just wanted to say for my TV/movie recommendation, I would recommend going back to Children of Men, the 2006 movie version. Because I had realized that I hadn’t watched that movie in my post-recession, post-pandemic state. I had only seen that movie at a time where it still felt like the future was open, then the financial crash happened, my life changed completely, the climate chaos has only gotten worse. We had the pandemic. So I found myself watching it in a very different way, and actually finding a lot of hopefulness in it that I think is worth paying attention to.
Obviously, it’s a very heavy movie. There’s a lot of depressing stuff in it. It is a dystopian depiction of a world in which basically everyone stops having babies. We’re 18 years into a world where people have stopped being able to have babies, I think it’s 2027 when it takes place. All the worst dystopian elements are there, crowding refugees into cages, treating them like cattle, murders, rampant bombings happen left and right. And you just see the slow erosion of people’s faith in each other and in society and in the future. And yet, out of that, the thing I was struck by re-watching it now after the pandemic, after what we’ve been through over the past decade and a half, is I was just really moved and drawn to the acts of kindness, the trust, all the little human sacrifices that make that plot possible.
And that makes the hope not die by the end of it. You actually see so many characters who give their lives, or sacrifice something to keep this hope for a human future alive. And I just, again, found myself very, very moved by that this time around. Also, I think it’s just Alfonso Cuarón’s probably best put-together movie. The filming is brilliant, the little literary features like Clive Owen’s shoes and the fact that animals like him. I would highly recommend going back and checking it out after this. And I promise it won’t just depress you, but there are things there that I think we need to take away, especially as we go further down the gullet of a pretty horrifying century.
Lyta Gold: On that lovely note, we should go to the fun, exciting wild card round, because, Stephen, I know you have to go. So Stephen, if you can give us your wild card real quick.
Stephen Frank: As Lyta said at the beginning, in this time of real depressing current affairs and everything that’s going on, I turn to improv comedy podcasts.
Lyta Gold: Nice.
Stephen Frank: It keeps me laughing, gets me through the day, and the one that just never ceases to make me laugh is called The Neighborhood Listen. Has anybody heard about this? No. Okay. So it’s Paul F. Tompkins, who’s an amazing improv comedian… And I’m blanking on her name, but basically, they are in a town of Dignity Falls, and they take posts from, they call it the neighbor hat, but it’s basically, what’s the neighborhood actual …?
Allegra Silcox: Next Door?
Stephen Frank: The one, what’s it actually called? Next Door. And they take posts from that and they read them on the air – Which by themselves are hilarious. Some of these posts that people make are hilarious – But then they bring a guest in of somebody that made the post or something about the story. And they do this whole improv scene about these very weird posts. One about somebody stole like eight gallons of witch hazel from somebody’s front door. And they had the person on who had it stolen from them.
There was also one post about somebody who saw a person looking under their pots on their front porch. And they brought the person who was looking under the pots, and they did this whole scene of trying to understand what this person does, and why they’re just going up to random people’s houses and looking under their pots. And then an added bonus is there’s really good comedic sound design in it. So just check it out. It’s so funny. It really keeps me laughing and it gets me through the day. So that’s my wild card.
Lyta Gold: This really makes you think that there should be a genre of investigative show that’s not murder mysteries, that’s just finding out why people did weird shit. Who took the witch hazel? I’ve got to know. Eight gallons is so much. You can make so many soaps, a ton of soaps.
Allegra Silcox: I love Paul F. Tompkins, so I’m absolutely going to check that out. Stephen, were you a Comedy Bang! Bang! fan?
Stephen Frank: Yeah, I listened to that, Threedom with Scott Ackerman and Paul F. Tomkins, and… Maybe it’s just because I’m on a podcast and just a hair bit nervous, I cannot remember, and I feel really bad because these people that are on these shows are so talented. But I’m just amazed at how people can think that quickly. My sister always could, and I never could. And I just admire that ability. It’s so fantastic.
Adrian Rennix: I’ve really been wanting to get into comedy podcasts. I really want to get into comedy podcasts, but I am not a person that generally enjoys straightforward, stand-up comedy. I don’t really know where to start. When people try to be funny, I’m like, I don’t know, why are we trying to be funny? I don’t know about that. I don’t think I like that. So that sounds really good. That sounds fantastic.
Stephen Frank: And it’s all improv, all in the moment. It’s fantastic. It’s great. You check out that, Comedy Bang! Bang! There’s also How Did This Get Made? where they talk about terrible high-budget movies. Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, and June Diane Raphael, they talk about these high-budget movies that were really terrible and how they got made and how bad they were. That’s a really good one too, if you want something to laugh at.
Adrian Rennix: That sounds awesome.
Kate Gotro: I already listened to that podcast. It’s called my DMs with Lyta.
Lyta Gold: I don’t know the background. I just say, hey, I saw this stupid movie and I’m mad.
Kate Gotro: You often know a lot more about the background of the production and the studios and it always fascinates me. I just don’t dedicate the time to look it up for myself.
Lyta Gold: Well usually it’s Wikipedia research. This isn’t even being modest. I’m but a mere pretender to this sort of thing.
Stephen Frank: I do have to run, guys. Thank you so, so much. This was such a blast to be on the front side of a podcast for once. Really awesome to see y’all.
Adrian Rennix: [crosstalk].
Lyta Gold: [crosstalk]
Allegra Silcox: It’s been so fun, good to meet you, Stephen.
Stephen Frank: Good to meet you guys too.
Lyta Gold: Anybody else have a funny one, a fun one? I mean, they should all be fun, but anybody got one that’s funny?
Allegra Silcox: Are we ready for the wild card?
Lyta Gold: This is the wild card. Are we ready for your wild card?
Allegra Silcox: Are you ready for me? For the wild card, me? [crosstalk]
Lyta Gold: – Because, again, this is part of why you hype at the beginning, so that you don’t… Because you were asking a Connie Willis level of bringing it at the end. Can you do it?
Allegra Silcox: So this was a really tough pick because, like Stephen, I’m also into some weird podcasts and video games. I ultimately went with my wild card for this entire platform, it’s called Dropout. This is CollegeHumor’s streaming platform. Wild, right?
I also had no idea about this or that CollegeHumor still really existed. So a little background, they launched their own streaming service a while ago, I think because it is hard to monetize adult comedy content on platforms like YouTube. So anyone who’s trying to actually appeal to what people want, we want the curse words, we want the jokes about the Maximum X dildos, they have a hard time actually surviving on those other platforms that already exist. So they were owned by this big media conglomerate parent company, fuck, I don’t know whoever IAC, who in 2020 basically just bailed on them entirely and pulled funding.
They sold the majority share to the now-owner Sam Reich – Fun fact, the son of former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who does actually have some kind of based videos on YouTube nowadays. They had to lay off everybody at this time, it was really sudden. They went from 100 to five to 10 people. So it just seemed like another exciting, leftish media project that was suddenly screwed. It’s fine. I’m okay. It’s fine. Everyone’s fine. But it does seem they’ve done their best to rebound on their own in a way that doesn’t suck labor-wise. Disclaimer, I’m definitely not an expert in their current business model and how they treat employees. I just know that the content of the comedy and how they bring in the actual cast members to the content that they do, and it’s distinctly left.
I’ve been just deeply obsessed with this service since I started it. I’m going to mostly talk about the one show that I like the most, but I have really found a lot of stuff on the streaming platform that has been truly delightful, and they all interconnect because they basically… Their brand is who the cast members are. The more that you get to know them, the more content will start to have more meaning and parasocial relationships for you.
So I’ve been spending so much time watching Dimension 20, which is a live-play Dungeons & Dragons show, DM’d by my new favorite person, Brennan Lee Mulligan. This is featuring everything from anarchistic halflings doing prison breaks to cyborgs in crushing medical debt, to a six-episode parody/homage of Lord of The Rings, featuring probably my new favorite character of all time: Dumb Aragorn.
He just shows up and he’s so dumb. He just looks at fake Arwen and goes, I love you. I love you. You’re, you’re the prettiest elf I ever… I just love Dumb Aragorn so much. So I know that it’s so hard to talk about this because anyone who doesn’t already do or know a lot about Dungeon & Dragons pretty much instantly checks out when you start talking about it.
But it is so, so rewarding to watch a collaborative storytelling experience. A lot of the times when you watch TV or movies, I can get lost in the sauce of, what was the author’s decision here? What were they thinking and doing this or that? And it’s all set in front of you. It’s very, very rewarding. It’s like at the end of your fun podcast that you record with your friends, or your inside jokes in your DM group chat, the things that just truly delight you that you could never fully explain to someone else, you get to actually watch that happen in real-time. So tons, tons, tons of laughs from all of these different Dungeon & Dragons and other roleplaying campaigns. Also some tears. I have cried in several of them. The Game of Thrones-esque season was real tough to watch, and there’s just a lot more content that’s very left facing. So if you’ve been really tired of all the stuff that’s out there, it’s definitely worth checking out. I’m also deeply obsessed with Game Changer. The only game show where the game changes every show. There’s a cast member, Katie Marovitch, who is just an incredible, perfect human. She has lupus, and I’m almost convinced that I have lupus now, because she talks about the sunlight in a way that makes sense to me. I love her.
And Total Forgiveness is a show that I would love to force Rennix and Max Alvarez to watch. It’s like a Jackass style show where two of the cast members do these honestly upsetting dares to get their student debt forgiven. So it’s a brutal, brutal statement on the student debt crisis. It involves neck tattoos and shitting in a public place in front of people in an art show. So there’s just a ton of other stuff that I love on this platform. Everything that they have comes from a point of view that really makes sense to me.
One of the episodes of Game Changer is called “Race To the Bottom.” These cast members are trying to basically bid for the lowest possible amount to get something. And they win the episode by unionizing. And they have a big dropdown banner when they all said like, fuck this. We’re not going to bet against each other anymore. If we all say $1,000, there’s nothing you can do. And the big PowerPoint drops down and says, congratulations, you’ve unionized. Great show. I think it’s $5 or $6 a month. Ain’t nobody got cash for another streaming platform. But if you’ve been thinking about dropping something, if you’re tired of your Hulu or whatever, I think it would be cool to redirect maybe a little bit of that cash to a small ad-less little media company that has lefty content.
A lot of it is free on YouTube right now. You can get a trial and check it out. I feel bad. I just feel like I can’t ever talk about it anywhere because it’s not super easy access. It’s hard to explain what it is. So I used my entire wild card section to talk about it. Boom.
Lyta Gold: This is fire emojis. This is explosions. This is supernova. You did great.
Adrian Rennix: Can I circle back to, you can get your student debt forgiven by pooping in an art gallery? Is that a thing that you can do?
Allegra Silcox: If you work for Dropout, you can.
Kate Gotro: You don’t have to pay me nothing [crosstalk].
Allegra Silcox: Grant and Ally Beardsley just were like, hey, so would you like pay us money if we did stupid stuff? And they upped the game. They went through this whole process. It was very painful to watch. It was painful to see what people are literally actually willing to do to remove this crushing burden from their life. I love it. It’s great all left [inaudible]. I’ve tried to force Max to watch Total Forgiveness already.
Lyta Gold: We have a cat setting. We have a cat setting in the set. It’s great.
Max Alvarez: Sorry. I turned on my video real quick so everyone could see this baby cat that demanded to be held. But also, yeah, we definitely got to watch that and talk about it. Sign me up.
Allegra Silcox: Yeah, that sounds great. I would poop in a gallery for absolutely free.
Lyta Gold: It’s actually a scene in a book I just read recently. And it was My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Yeah. Which I didn’t really like, except for that scene, which I was like, yeah, yeah.
Kate Gotro: Unionize the babies and poop in art galleries. That’s the theme. I think those are the two major trends that publishers are tracking in media right now.
Adrian Rennix: These are the kinds of simple evocative slogans that the left needs. The people can understand. Less jargon, more baby unions.
Allegra Silcox: So, yeah. Dungeons & Dragons. I love it. I highly recommend. If you’ve never watched one before, just go check out [Escape from] the Blood Keep. If you’re a Lord of the Rings nerd, you’ll get every joke. The combat’s fun. They’re excellent, excellent improv folks. Two fast mentions since Stephen threw out a really cool podcast, and Kate, you said you were looking for comedy podcasts. Mission to Zyxx is a sci-fi improv comedy podcast. Same idea. You can see the fun that they’re having building a story improv together. It’s really insane. Also has some lefty vibes, poking fun at traditional intergalactic war stories. And featuring such talents as Paul F. Tompkins as guests. So that’s a ton of fun to watch.
And I just thought it might be worth a mention for people who, like me, who don’t think that there’s many new movies coming out that interest them. I did actually really love Everything Everywhere All at Once. That was my recent movie watch that I would recommend. Truly touching, a lot of fun, very weird. Do you think I’ll get a kickback from Dropout for that?
Lyta Gold: Yeah. You should. You really should. Yeah. But that was a good pitch for it.
Adrian Rennix: You really sold it.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. You’ve been telling us about this, but sometimes it’s hard to try new things. It’s hard to try new platforms, and –
Allegra Silcox: Yeah. I’ve just been building the anticipation. I’ve just been posting extremely random things without context so people would be like, I don’t know what she’s talking about. So what –
Adrian Rennix: You sure have. I haven’t understood your DMs in like a month. Not a single one.
Allegra Silcox: Just screaming about sad elf man [Galeer] who eats yogurt, and no one knows what I’m talking about. But to me, it’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened in my entire life. I’m interested to see what other people’s wild cards are. What does wild card mean to the good folks?
Lyta Gold: Who’s got one?
Kate Gotro: I’ve got one.
Lyta Gold: Let’s hear it.
Kate Gotro: I am recommending, my wild card recommendation is the movie White Palace. It is a 1990 Susan Sarandon, James Spader movie in which Susan Sarandon plays a sexy MILF cougar hottie, and James Spader is literally just some guy. And I love it. I love it so much. It’s fantastic. It is not, you actually can’t find it anywhere besides like abc123movies.com type vibe. But I love it so much. It’s so good. It is about Susan Sarandon. She plays a milftastic waitress at a restaurant called White Palace, which is very obviously supposed to be White Castle. And James Spader plays a loose young yuppie, who goes there, is very fucking rude to her ,and she’s like, fuck you, and then they basically fall madly in lust with one another, and he simply cannot stop himself from wanting to devour her supremely MILFy body and soul.
It has a lot of stuff about class. She is like, yeah, she lives in a small, little junky, little dilapidated, little house on the wrong side of the tracks, And he has big, snazzy, very like ’80s decor like floor to ceiling windows kind of place in the suburbs. And they don’t get along that well, their relationship has no real basis for emotional intimacy or anything like that. But they do just care deeply for each other. They love to fuck. They love to not talk about their financial disparity and –
Allegra Silcox: Kate, I can hear your boner from here. It’s great.
Kate Gotro: I can say this is boner cut the movie.
Allegra Silcox: Can you please give more context about your relationship with James Spader while you’re describing this?
Kate Gotro: Yeah. I love him. He’s important to me, yeah.
Lyta Gold: You’re downplaying this by a lot.
Kate Gotro: Yeah. So I actually, in August of last year, whatever happened in August of last year, I don’t know, but it sent me on this thing of watching all of the James Spader movies, all the ones that he was in, and the good, and the bad, and the ugly. And there are a lot, there are a lot of flops. Like there are some definite flops. And White Palace, which was released straight to video, or VHS, specifically, definitely, definitely one of the flops, but I love it and I think it’s great. And it’s just happy go lucky. They end up together at the end. It’s fantastic. It’s great. He lays her down on a table in the diner she works at. You got to love it. You got to love it, folks.
Allegra Silcox: On www.abc123movies.com. I’m going there right now.
Adrian Rennix: It’s something like that.
Kate Gotro: You didn’t go give me a cut. You think I’ll get a kickback from them?
Adrian Rennix: You’re going to get viruses on your computer is what you’re going to go.
Allegra Silcox: They have to fight the viruses that I already have. So Kate, you said this is straight to video even though it has big names in it?
Kate Gotro: Yeah…
Allegra Silcox: I’m so curious about this. I have to watch it. I have to watch it.
Lyta Gold: It happened a lot before streaming platforms.
Kate Gotro: The tagline is “A younger man and a bolder woman.”
Lyta Gold: Like do we need any other kind of movie? I don’t think so.
Kate Gotro: I will say, I will give like a little caveat, which is that it is very problematique in their initial sexual interaction. James Spader is drunk and thinks that Susan Sarandon is actually his hot, dead, age appropriate wife. So there’s a lot happening. There’s a lot happening there. It’s great. Susan Sarandon smokes approximately 30,000 cigarettes inside over the course of this movie. Yeah.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Queen shit. Amazing.
Kate Gotro: Kathy Bates is in it too.
Lyta Gold: Kathy Bates? What the fuck?
Allegra Silcox: I can’t wait to open this time capsule and just take a little peek.
Kate Gotro: Oh, and Jason Alexander.
Lyta Gold: What?
Kate Gotro: George? Yeah. George Costanza. Yeah. Susan Sarandon, James Spader, Jason Alexander, Kathy Bates, and some others. Yeah. A real banger, a real banger. I think I watched it at like 3:00 AM. It was great.
Lyta Gold: These are the lost treasures. That’s incredible. So, anybody else have a small pick, an obscure pick? I’ve got a not so obscure one. So for segue purposes, I think the small one’s here. Small one’s good here.
Kate Gotro: Yes.
Adrian Rennix: Mine’s [crosstalk] a small weird one.
Lyta Gold: That’s what he said.
Adrian Rennix: So mine is a podcast wreck that I bet, well, other than those of you I already told about it, probably you haven’t heard of, so it’s called the Water Margin Podcast. So if you’re like me and you grew up in the US school system, you didn’t get to learn about the major literary traditions of other countries, which means that there’s a whole bunch of like Chinese literature that I don’t know shit about that continues to be quoted in China to this day, like very important and influential. But it’s hard to know, like, how do I jump into approaching a text from the middle ages, like another culture thing.
So this podcast is an audiobook/interactive retelling of Water Margin, which is one of the most important works of classic Chinese literature. It’s set in the 12th century, was probably written closer to the 14th century, but it’s about these outlaws who live on this mountain and they are fighting government officials, but then sometimes working for the government. Basically, it’s one of the forerunner texts of the whole Wuxia Jianghu martial arts genre that’s now very popular today. But it’s very, very cool and fun and weird and bizarre.
And the host of the podcast is Chinese American, and basically will tell you the story at any time. There’s some historical or cultural context that a “Western listener” might not understand. He’ll explain what it is. He’ll tell you about weird puns that wouldn’t translate. For me, it’s more fun than trying to read a translation and then go to the footnotes and see, what does this mean? And the way he characterizes it is that the characters are all basically just 12th century Chinese Klingons, they’re drinking, they’re partying. They got their honor. So it’s really fun, the episodes are like 20 minutes a piece, so I usually listen to that when I’m cooking my dinner. But if you’re wanting to consume a weighty historical text but you want to do it in a fun way, I’ve really enjoyed this podcast a lot.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. I love that podcast. And I feel like one of the best ways to describe Water Margin, there’s this quote attributed to Kanye that was like from years ago before he really went off the rails, but he said, “My life is dope and I do dope shit.” And that, I think, could be the subtitle of Water Margin. And just people whose lives are dope, who do dope shit on a mountain. It’s tremendous fun.
Adrian Rennix: It’s guys being dudes on a mountain. Yeah. It is literally that caveat. There is a lot of misogyny. I can’t do anything about that. But it is what it is. It was written in the 14th century. It’s really fun.
Allegra Silcox: Until you got to that aside, I was like, if someone had to like design content for Rennix in a lab, it does feel like this. Guys being dudes on a mountain doing dope shit, that’s it [crosstalk].
Adrian Rennix: Oh, there are also monk characters. People go into monasteries and cause havoc at monasteries. There’s also like every five minutes you find out what people are eating, which is something I love in books. I always want to know what people are eating.
Max Alvarez: Well, I feel like, so I know that this is an extended episode and I think it’s been awesome, but I’ll try to be quick so that Lyta can wrap us up. But building off what you were saying, Rennix. I think maybe they’ve talked about this, but I was going to suggest to folks a really great little book that I just was fascinated by and I thought was beautifully written, but it’s called Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge, translated by Jeremy Tiang. I think it’s a really, really unique compendium of short stories about these fabricated monsters and human-like species that live in China. That format becomes, I think, a really compelling fictional vehicle for exploring some really deep human qualities in ways that you really wouldn’t expect.
And it’s one of those books where you read and you feel like, there’s no way I could make this into a movie. It’s something that you appreciate, like Nikolai Gogol’s famous short story The Nose. You read it and you’re like, there’s no way that this could be in any other form but literature. It wouldn’t exist in the same way. It wouldn’t have the same impact if it was fundamentally unvisualizable. And I think the same thing about Strange Beasts of China.
So I guess the only other thing I’d say, again, going back to that soul of Art for the End Times and why I love it so much and so many people seem to be responding to it in kind, is I just wanted to share a quick little story about the importance of not succumbing to that social pressure to not enjoy things that have been around for a long time, because that feels unoriginal or something like that. Like what we were talking about before and the weird way that we need art to reflect our politics perfectly is a bad way to approach art, I think similarly feeling like your connection with any piece of art or culture is somehow minimized by the fact that that piece of art has been around for generations and has impacted so many other people in so many other ways and a lot has been written about it and yada, yada, yada, that doesn’t matter. Well, it matters, but I mean like your connection with it and that reaction that you have to a piece of art, even if other people have reacted to it long before you ever existed, it’s still really important.
And in fact, it’s like one of the beautiful things about art that keeps us carrying it forward into the future. And so I remember the first time I ever went over the Atlantic, I was terrified. And it was when I was going to study abroad in England. And I stopped by Paris to hang out with my buddy Simon. And my mom was –, I owe all of my love for art to my mom. My mom took me to museums growing up in LA, she gave me all these books about the great artists for kids and stuff, and she herself is an amazing artist. And she really cultivated that in me. And it was a connection that we always had. She had different things with her different kids. Ours was going to plays and art museums and stuff like that.
And so I remember walking in The Louvre and just being like, man is a big ass fucking museum. There’s so much stuff here. And I sat to take a break while my then girlfriend was looking at some other wings. And I looked up and I realized that I was sitting right in front of the Winged Victory of Samothrace. As soon as I realized that, I stared, and I had one of those Ferris Bueller moments where he’s staring at the painting and you just dissolve into it, because I was like, Jesus, how did a human being do that with rock? It looks like it’s alive. And it was done like, what? 200 years BC? And I was just so struck by it, even though it had existed for so long. And I had to call my mom.
So I ran out and I used whatever roaming data I had to call her just to tell her how beautiful I thought it was. And then she started crying and I started crying because she was so happy that I shared it with her. But I guess that’s just all to say is that, my recommendation would be, find the beauty that’s all around you. Don’t let those other voices in the room tell you that that connection that you have to something is less valuable because it’s not original or anything like that. If we give up that part of our connection to art, we’re going to lose out on so much.
Lyta Gold: So I have a much less beautiful story about The Louvre and a sculpture, which is that I was there with my husband and we saw the Venus de Milo statue. And there’s a Simpsons episode where it’s like, Homer’s accused of sexual harassment and there’s like a whole Venus de Milo gummy, like a gummy candy of the Venus de Milo. And John saw the Venus de Milo and he did the Homer voice. He was like, mm, forbidden gummy, or it’s like, mm delicious cans, or something like that. Like in the middle of the fucking Louvre, this is what the guy does.
Kate Gotro: I didn’t even go in because of the lines. I didn’t even go in.
Lyta Gold: It’s really a magical place. But yeah, my husband is a problem and he also, he had this great moment. It’s very hard to go see the “Mona Lisa,” very famously, because there’s tons and tons of people. Everyone wants to see it, and it’s this teeny, teeny little thing. But I actually, and most people say it’s disappointing, I actually had a real experience like what Max was saying. See, you look at her, and then she looks different every time you look at her, and you see a different thing. And you’re like, her expression is different, her eyes are different. It’s really remarkable. So we’re coming out of the “Mona Lisa” room because we’ve had this amazing experience. And my husband says, so when is Nicholas Cage going to steal the national treasure? Because he is terrible. And then some guy walking by must have been American, because he laughed. So I recommend taking John to all museums, if you can, because he’s a joy. And I guess to do my miscellaneous pick, I was –
Adrian Rennix: I love John.
Lyta Gold: John is great. John appreciation episode. To do my wild card pick. I was going to do a couple other things, but let’s do this, which is all Nicolas Cage movies. All of them. They’re all magnificent. Because this is, yeah, yeah, everybody knows Nicolas Cage. They’re all good. He’s good in everything he’s in, even if the movie is extremely stupid. There’s this one called Vampire’s Kiss or something, I think. It’s an early one of his, and he just runs down the street yelling, I’m a vampire. I’m a vampire. It’s a masterpiece, it’s so good. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.
Kate Gotro: He’s filming a movie next to my house right now.
Lyta Gold: Wait what?
Allegra Silcox: Have you seen the trailer for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent? A movie starring Nick Cage as Nick Cage being very Nick Cage? I would just watch the fuck out of that movie.
Lyta Gold: That’s like a present. That’s like a birthday present for us.
Allegra Silcox: Although wait. No, I guess that would not be the movie that he’s filming right now, because that’s already coming out. Wait, what movie is he filming Kate?
Lyta Gold: He films like 12 movies a year or so. I don’t know.
Kate Gotro: Yeah, it’s in the house next door to me. I don’t know, it’s in the house.
Lyta Gold: How did you not mention this previously? How is the end of the episode? [crosstalk]
Kate Gotro: I don’t like Nick Cage.
Lyta Gold: I’m losing my mind.
Kate Gotro: Nick Cage makes me uncomfortable.
Lyta Gold: Because he’s too weird and perfect and weird?
Kate Gotro: I just like to pretend he doesn’t exist, because he makes me feel uncomfortable. I can’t explain it. I’ve always felt this way. I’ve always felt this way. So I’ve just been pretending that he’s not next door to me for the last like six months. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It’s true. I’m sorry.
Allegra Silcox: This is James Spader for me. James Spader makes me uncomfortable and I pretend that he doesn’t exist.
Lyta Gold: We almost have like a preferred person –
Kate Gotro: [crosstalk] That’s so fair.
Lyta Gold: – Everybody is uncomfortable. Yeah.
Kate Gotro: It’s the Nick Cage–James Spader spectrum. Where do you fall on it? Tag yourself. No, listen, James Spader definitely makes me uncomfortable, but I like it.
Lyta Gold: Nick Cage makes me uncomfortable, but I laugh because he is so funny. Everything he does. Moonstruck, for God’s sake. He’s the funniest fucking guy. He’s great.
Kate Gotro: I’ve been wanting to watch Moonstruck, actually.
Lyta Gold: Moonstruck is a masterpiece. It is so good.
Kate Gotro: If I were to watch one Nick Cage movie that’s not National Treasure, what should it be?
Lyta Gold: They’re all so good. Moonstruck is great. I mean, Cher’s great. Moonstruck is Italian excellence. It is Italian American excellence. Everybody’s like at 11 all the time. There’s a lot of opera in it and it’s all extremely operatic. He’s young and very handsome in it. Yeah.
Kate Gotro: Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse. Very small part. And you don’t have to see his face.
Lyta Gold: I didn’t know he was in that. I still haven’t seen that, actually.
Kate Gotro: You know what? I will watch Moonstruck tonight. I will.
Lyta Gold: Yes, we did it. We did it, people. Mission accomplished.
Adrian Rennix: I’ll watch it tonight. I’m going to watch a James Spader movie, and you’ll watch a Nicholas Cage movie, and the universe will be in balance. Someone watch White Palace, someone.
Lyta Gold: [crosstalk] I will watch White Palace.
Kate Gotro: Please. I’ll watch Moonstruck tonight.
Allegra Silcox: Lyta, did you say you haven’t seen Into the Spider-Verse?
Lyta Gold: Oh wait. No. I saw it Into the Spider-Verse. I can’t remember which one I’ve seen. Which is the Miles Morales one?
Kate Gotro: Miles Morales, animated. Like, the best animation I’ve seen.
Lyta Gold: I love that one. Yeah.
Kate Gotro: Yeah. Truly incredible.
Lyta Gold: I haven’t seen the new whatever thing.
Kate Gotro: Nick Cage is the voice of the noir guy.
Lyta Gold: Oh yeah he is. He’s so good.
Kate Gotro: It’s funny. The thing is, he plays a very Nick Cage character. The ones where it seems self aware about who he’s being is fun. And plug for Community, a TV show I really love. There was a whole course on Nick Cage, the best or the worst actor. And that’s all they do is they try to solve this question, and Abed watches too many Nick Cage movies in the night, there’s a dire warning. Don’t do it. And he’s just broken. He’s broken by trying to consume too much Nick Cage at one time and answer this question.
Lyta Gold: Because he’s too good. He’s too good.
Adrian Rennix: He’s too good.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. He actually had a really charming Reddit AMA very recently, a couple weeks ago, he seems like a real sweet guy, actually. He does a lot. He does like a million movies because he has tax debt, because he makes poor life choices. And I just like that for him.
Max Alvarez: Yeah. When Nick Cage was doing that, he was actually on Reddit, responding to people’s questions, and I screamed and shared a tweet with Lyta. Because I was like, yo, Nick Cage just responded to someone’s question like, which literary character do you identify with the most? And he said, Dmitri Karamazov, because he just lives it up. And I was like, what? Because he’s just out there doing his thing.
Adrian Rennix: The best Karamazov brother. I’m sorry. I know you had strong feelings about this, Lyta.
Lyta Gold: It’s not a wrong opinion by any means. Is it Ivan, the middle one?
Max Alvarez: Yeah. It’s technically not wrong. It’s simultaneously the best and worst assessment of Dmitri I’ve ever heard.
Lyta Gold: He’s the best and worst actor. Like he is full spectrum. He is the dichotomy all in one. But on that note, I think we need to wrap it up, because this has been an absolute blast, but it has been two hours of an absolute blast, and that’s the maximum amount of a good time. So thanks everybody for joining. This has been so great.
Kate Gotro: Yes. [crosstalk] Sorry in advance for the –
Adrian Rennix: This has been really fun. I’m going to watch Moonstruck tonight.
Kate Gotro: Sorry for the editing. I don’t know if Stephen’s doing that, but sorry to Stephen for all the editing you’ll have to do on this.
Lyta Gold: We’re delightful. I’m sure no one minds. All right, thanks. And we’ll see you next time, people.
Kate Gotro: Bye.
Allegra Silcox: Bye.