Whitewashing: “How is this still a thing?”

JohnChoMartian

WHAT JUST HAPPENED? – Episode 7: How to End Whitewashing, Once and For All

Whitewashing has been a hot topic in the news lately. There’s been a lot of talk about what it is and why it matters. But what can actually be done about it? How can we STOP Hollywood whitewashing? Here’s my take on how whitewashing can be put to rest, once and for all. Along the way, we encounter Judd Apatow, a YouTube celebrity, The 48 Laws of Power, and much more. This episode is my call to arms. Check it out and let me know if you agree.

 

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“Racism can make black people crazy.”

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Radiolab podcast — On the Edge

post-38063-Surya-Bonaly-ice-skating-backf-bwjP

THIS IS NOT ABOUT ICE SKATING

Midway through this week’s episode, a woman named Sandra Bezic describes in ecstasy-filled language the feeling that comes over her when she hears the sound of ice skates as a skater makes a perfect lean from edge to edge. She describes it as a “clean, gentle carving. There are no scratches. It’s a glide.” Bezic literally makes an orgasmic sigh as she speaks.

Just moments earlier in the podcast, we heard a clip of the same Bezic on TV saying this about skater Surya Bonaly: “I’d like to see her stop jumping for six months and learn to skate.”

In that moment, when Bezic lectures Bonaly about learning how to skate, our initial instinct is OUTRAGE. Bezic represents everything wrong with the ice skating establishment. They’re elite, narrow minded, and quite possibly racist. If Bonaly were white, if she behaved more lady like, maybe pundits like Bezic wouldn’t be so hard on her.

But Bezic insists it’s not about Bonaly’s race at all. It’s about the fundamentals of the way Bonaly skates. The little details the TV viewing audience never sees. Details like skating in circles instead of straight lines. Gliding from edge to edge to make that beautiful sound.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think Sandra Bezic was trying to hide some intentional racism or pretending to say anything other than what she believed. And yet that’s far from the end of the conversation.

Kim Yuna skating

I REPEAT: THIS IS NOT ABOUT ICE SKATING

The fundamental tension in figure skating — and especially LADIES figure skating — is they want the figure skaters “to look like LITTLE BALLERINAS but leap into these jumps like PREDATORS.” It’s artistry vs athletics. Power vs. prettiness.

Why?

Why does figure skating need their predators to look like little ballerinas? After all, skating ALREADY has another discipline — namely ice dancing, where artistry is very overtly the most important factor. Why can’t skating reconfigure its sport to put all the best ice ballerinas in one competition, and all the best predators in another. Then everyone gets to be judged by what they do best.

Obviously, this isn’t happening anytime soon. And maybe it shouldn’t. Perhaps it’s precisely this tension between art and power that DEFINES what figure skating is all about.

This is where culture comes into play. Figure skating is the way it is because it evolved in a particular time period and in a particular geography. If figure skating had evolved differently, if there was less emphasis on ballerinas, then maybe the skating world would have favored Bonaly over Sato, and not the other way around.

When Sandra Bezic speaks about skating in circles and not lines, or leaning from edge to edge, she’s clearly NOT talking in racial terms. But she IS necessarily favoring the specific and unique way in which figure skating evolved.

Imagine if figure skating suddenly decided to change to rules to make artistry far less important than it is now. I would imagine Bezic would be up in arms. Because to do so would fundamentally change the nature of what figure skating IS — and, in Bezic’s view, what figure skating SHOULD be.

This is why this story is about so much more than ice skating. Because we are having precisely the same debate in this country about what CULTURE is and what culture should be. The fights over #blacklivesmatter and transgender bathrooms and religious liberty and #whitewashing are about so much more than what’s on the surface.

Groups fighting for change are like Surya Bonaly, making the case that the fundamental rules of what it means to be American are unfair and unjust. Those on the other side are in the Sandra Bezic camp, fighting to preserve their values.

My point is not that one side is right or wrong. But I am making the observation that part of what made this Radiolab episode so great was how it pointed to so much more than what is happening on an ice rink.

BONALY’S REVENGE?

sotnikovaIn the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Sotnikova won gold despite being considered less artistic.

Coda: Something similar happened at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but in reverse. This time, Russian skater Adelina Sotnikova was the hometown favorite. And she edged out defending Olympic champion Kim Yuna to win the gold medal.

Sotnikova came in first DESPITE the fact that Kim Yuna was widely known to be the more artistic and graceful skater. Many were outraged. Here’s Dick Button: “Sotnikova was energetic, strong, commendable, but not a complete skater.” One article said Sotnikova “came away with gold despite Kim skating more beautifully.”

So has figure skating evolved away from artistry and toward athleticism? Has Bonaly been vindicated?

I doubt it. The only certainty in the world of figure skating seems to be that no matter who wins or loses, there WILL be drama.

Watch the emotional clip of Bonaly refusing the silver medal at the 1994 World’s.

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David Chang is a Podcast Enthusiast and host of the podcast “What Just Happened?”

Those creepy and disturbing shoes with severed feet still inside them

Tanis mothTanis — Season 2, Episode 201: The Wall

Tanis is a podcast that demands your full attention. Let your mind wander for just a minute, and you may miss a vital clue. Skip an entire episode, and you could be lost at sea. And yet, with Tanis, your attention is richly rewarded. Tanis will take you to a world of wonder, beauty, horror, and mystery.

Season 2 has arrived — yay!! — and as we’ve come to expect, listening to this podcast is like drinking out of a wonderful, amazing yet very powerful fire hydrant. Your brain is FLOODED with information. And just as Nic is getting his bearings after what happened in The Cabin, we also get caught up on some vital facts.

 

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Veronica Pillman, Sam Reynolds, and Morgan Miller are all missing. Turns out, they never made it out of The Cabin. Where are they now? Not even Cameron Ellis knows. Meanwhile, Tara Reynolds is under LOCK DOWN at a psychiatric facility in Oregon. The Cabin itself has also since vanished, as it is wont to do. This time, someone managed to catch the vanishing on film. Nic appears to be the only one who came back “relatively” normal — emphasis on relatively.

 

AWAKENINGS
Awakenings

The theme to this episode, and possibly this season, is awakenings. Eld Fen, this ancient being, has begun to stir. There are more strange phenomena. Severed feet. Dark videos. Mysterious sounds. As Veronica told Nic, “It’s waking up.” All of this is pointing to something big about to occur.

Whether humanity stands a chance remains to be seen. REPEATEDLY, characters who encounter Tanis say they feel both deeply excited and very scared. What does this mean? Whenever Tanis fulfills its destiny — whatever that may be — we as a species will have reason to be very afraid, very happy, or both all at once.

I did have an unintentional LOL moment when Ellis told Nic he would be investigating disturbances and disappearances that were “adjacent to the breach.” As anyone who’s lived in a major metropolitan knows, real estate that’s not quite in a Tony neighborhood but in some hazily justifiable way can be said to be near said Tony neighborhood is said to be “adjacent.” Hence, that run down studio apartment with a tiny kitchen next to a sketchy liquor store in Los Angeles is sold as “Beverly Hills adjacent.” Nic Silver may not yet be standing on par with Cameron Ellis, but he is working his way up and is now officially “Breach adjacent”!

BHadjacent Overpriced apartment on sketchy street corner? Beverly Hills adjacent!

 

NIC = NEO?
neo

It’s clear there is something special about Nic. Nic is the only one who came out of The Cabin relatively unscathed. He was part of a foursome that created a Map that was “so complete” that it even took Veronica by surprise. B T dubs, what does that mean anyway — that The Map is “complete”?

And Cameron Ellis himself sees something very special in Nic. Cameron may be working under a ruse that he is “hiring” Nic to work on “investigations,” but MAKE NO MISTAKE — Nic is without question the Guinea pig here.

Cameron repeatedly tells Nic to “be careful.” And yet, Cameron very intentionally places Nic in harm’s way, in order to see what happens when Nic comes in contact with The Breach. In other words, you’ve got Tanis aka The Breach on one side, versus Radio Nic Silver on the other. I have a feeling we might be building towards some sort of EPIC SHOWDOWN somewhere down the line. Nic just may be “The One.”

tidalwave_0Epic showdown approaching?

 

STRANGE SOUNDS

For me, one of the highlights of this episode was listening to the strange audio recording that MK uncovered. (Approx 30:20.) They haven’t said much about this specific recording except it’s loosely related to Eld Fen, August Wick, and Professor Coraman, and it appears to be a bootleg audio recording of a part of a film.

I’ve always appreciated the quality of the audio engineering from PNWS and with this episode it’s clear t hey’ve stepped up their game. The sound was eerily reminiscent to the underwater recording from the Pacific Ocean that Cameron Ellis played for Nic in the underground TeslaNova research facility at the end of season one. The sound also had a trippy 1970’s feel to it — which makes sense given their fascination with 70’s scifi art.

Tanis 70s artThe Tanis producers are really into trippy 70’s art!

Throw in what sounds like some people screaming, other sounds that, let’s just say reminds you of vintage adult movies, and some very loud, echoey drumbeats, and it’s clear that PNWS knows how to make the most of the podcast medium.

 

STRING THEORY

Overall, this episode had the feel of setting up game pieces on a board. By my count, there were at least 20 different strands of plots and subplots that were introduced in this one episode, all of which — I have no doubt — will be explored in future episodes.

Among the questions on the table are:

  • What happened to Tara Reynolds? How is she doing? Why is she in a psychiatric facility?
  • Where are Veronica Pillman, Sam Reynolds, and Morgan Miller?
  • What happened to Nic in The Cabin? Has The Cabin changed him in any way? What more will we learn from his hypnosis?
  • What will Nic uncover in his “breach adjacent” investigations?
  • What were those very disturbing “night terror” videos that MK reluctantly sent to Nic? How are they related to Tanis?
  • Who is the Coalition? Are they really a group of government operatives? Are they related in any way to Section?
  • Where is The Cabin?
  • Was Professor Coraman deliberately killed? What did he know about Tanis?
  • What’s up with severed feet?
  • Who is Alan Malden? Is he possibly from another dimension?
  • What happened at Pacifica Station? Will it be reopened?
  • Who is Nathaniel Carter?
  • How exactly is Section related to Parzavala Communications?
  • Does The Last Movie really exist?Or is it a myth as MK believes?
  • Who is “the Hacker” that was looking for The Last Movie? Is he Nathaniel Carter? Cameron Ellis? Professor Coraman? August Wick?
  • Regarding The Map — what does it mean that there are varying levels of “completeness”? Why did Veronica Pillmin think the four of them (Veronica, Sam, Morgan, and Nic) were especially complete?
  • What is in the Eld Fen manuscript?
  • Who was August Wick? How, if at all, was he related to Professor Coraman?
  • What is the significance of the strange audio recording associated with Eld Fen? Is it at all related to the recording of the underwater sound?
  • Will the video of the disappearing Cabin reveal any clues?

All these questions arose from this episode alone — and I’m sure I’m missing a few more. No wonder this podcast feels like drinking from a fire hydrant!

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David Chang is a Podcast Enthusiast and host of the podcast “What Just Happened?”

HAPPY ENDINGS?

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Startup Podcast: Season 3, Episode 1 — Almost Famous

HAPPY ENDINGS?

Startup is by far my FAVORITE podcast from Gimlet Media. But it wasn’t until the end of this episode I finally realized why.

The theme of this season is ENDINGS. Happy endings, sad endings, and everything in between. We’re told they’ll be “telling stories of all different kinds of endings and people who go to extreme lengths to hold their business together.” It almost sounds like a relationship show.

Their first story is a classic Silicon Valley rags-to-riches tale, though at the end of episode 1 the startup in question is still very much in its “rags” phase. The four co-founders have $50,000 in the bank, a cramped apartment in San Francisco, a hope, and a dream. Co-founder Justin seems to be headed toward chronic back pain as he’s lugging around a 30 pound computer on his back. (If you’re an entrepreneur, can you sue yourself for worker’s comp?)

As they’ll likely reveal next week, this company will Mad Max it through the “trough of sorrow” to become a billion dollar company. (If you haven’t guessed which famous startup this is, and care to be spoiled, click this link here.)

Justin’s is the kind of story that gets the most media attention. We LIKE stories about winners, and are naturally attracted to successful underdogs. This IS the United States of America after all.

But for my money, where this season of Startup provides the GREATEST value-add will be on its focus of stories that AREN’T often told. Stories about the entrepreneurs that never make it big. If Justin’s company is a great white unicorn, what happens to the other 99.99%? To those people who are working and fighting as hard as Justin and Emmett, but have no pot of gold at the end of their rainbows? How these people pick up the pieces and move on with their lives is what I’m personally most interested in.

THE QUANTUM LEAP-IFICATION OF STARTUP

The big change for Startup Season 3 is their decision to cover an assortment of companies rather hyper-focusing on just one. I can understand why they made this decision. First and foremost, it prevents The Dating Ring problem of season 2, which provided a priceless amount of free media for that one lucky startup. I had never heard of The Dating Ring before, and I’m sure that but for Startup I still never would have. That’s a little weird, and a little unsettling — as Alex and Lisa themselves admit in this episode, where they also shatter whatever’s left of the fourth wall.

So this IS the right move for them. AND YET, it’s also very clear that something will be lost as the podcast shifts from depth to breadth. Gone is much of the serial effect of the show. Each episode, or few episodes, we the listeners will be asked to start from scratch, with a new set of entrepreneurs and their stories. It’s like going from a TV show like Lost to Quantum Leap.

Having said that, there IS one entrepreneur that unites all the disparate stories together. This person is the true protagonist of this podcast, and the one I’m rooting for the most.

There IS one entrepreneur that unites all the disparate stories together. This person is the true protagonist of this podcast, and the one I’m rooting for the most.

I’m talking of course about Startup’s host herself, Lisa Chow.

Lisa has been an economics reporter for several years. She worked previously at Planet Money and at FiveThirtyEight.com. She also mentioned in this episode she has a three year old son. Journalists naturally DON’T want to become the story itself. But as I was listening to this episode, I couldn’t help but realize that ever since last season’s episode “Profiled” — an episode where Alex Blumberg put Lisa ON THE SPOT by “outing her” if you will, for being an Asian American female married to a white male — I’ve felt an affinity toward Lisa. Like I said above, I’m rooting for her to succeed.

Lisa is the narrator that unites the stories together. And more than any particular featured startup or entrepreneur, the suspense of the show is tied to whether or not she will succeed in creating compelling, insightful, and touching narratives. The work she does in stitching these stories together is a major reason I keep coming back to the show.

15 HOURS LATER

One final coda — this episode was supposed to drop on April 14th. But Gimlet sent out a mysterious tweet early that morning stating that the release would be delayed:

The episode then finally became available many hours later — by my count it was released on or about 1:35 am in the wee hours of April 15th. (Hopefully the Gimlet crew already filed their taxes.)

Of course, the big hairy question is — What happened during those 15 or so hours? I can only speculate that whatever changes were being made weren’t simply minor tweaks or edits. My guess is that it was an all hands on deck sprint to fix whatever was broken with the launch. These hours must have surely been extremely stressful and exhausting.

I can’t help but wonder if anyone had a microphone handy to document those harrowing fifteen hours. If so, that day alone could be fodder for an entire future episode. Either way, the bottom line is I’m AMPED that season 3 has begun! 🙂

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The Podcast Enthusiast is not sponsored by or associated with Gimlet Media or the Startup Podcast. However, as fans of the show, we encourage you to subscribe to and support their work.

Tanis – Season One

Tanis moth
Subscribe to the Tanis podcast.
Support Tanis.
Go to my Definitive Guide to Tanis.

 
Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS 

Tanis is a podcast that demands your full attention. It’s a mystery that asks you to focus and listen at all times. Let your mind wander for just a minute, and you may miss a vital clue. Skip an entire episode, and you could be lost at sea. And yet, with Tanis, your time and attention are richly rewarded. Tanis will take you to a world of wonder, beauty, horror, and mystery. To me, Tanis is one of those podcasts by which others should be measured. It’s really that good. And while the final destination is unknown, the journey is very much worth taking.

What is the Tanis podcast?

Tanis is a fictional, serialized podcast that tells the story of the search for “Tanis.” The main protagonist and narrator—our guide through this journey—is a man named Nic Silver. The podcast is produced by Nic Silver, Terry Miles, and Paul Bae. The podcast is sometimes co-hosted by a woman named Alex Regan.
 
So what exactly is “Tanis”?

This is the central mystery of the podcast. Tanis appears to be some sort of presence or entity that is not of this Earth, that manifests itself in different ways. Sometimes, Tanis appears as an actual, physical being, such as a goddess or a cabin in the woods. In other times, Tanis is more like a rift or breach in the space-time dimension. Tanis moves throughout the Earth approximately once every four hundred years. Currently, Tanis resides somewhere in the Pacific Northwest region of North America.

People who encounter Tanis experience it profound ways. For some people, Tanis can have enormous healing powers and extend life. But for many others, Tanis can lead to extreme violence and quite often suicide. Tanis also impacts your memory. In the presence of Tanis, you experience something called “the blur.” Also, time moves differently once you are in Tanis. Several months in the outside world can feel like just several hours on the inside.

According to Nic, Tanis has been incorporated into many legends and myths. Tanis has evidently been among human beings since the beginning of humanity.

 

The Story So Far

Season One focused largely on Nic Silver’s journey in discovering Tanis. He first encounters Tanis through a short story called “What is Tanis?” that was published in a magazine called Strange Worlds. Nic follows a trail of clues and eventually learns about a novel called “Pacifica” which also was said to describe Tanis. Nic has not seen or read Pacifica, and in fact no one he meets has a copy of the book, not even the author of the novel who is eventually revealed to be a woman named Morgan Miller.

Nic has an invaluable partner who helps with his research, a woman named MeerKatnip, MeerKat or simply MK an expert in hacking and the underground internet or “deep web.” MK and Nic discover a highly secretive company called TeslaNova Corporation that has been searching for Tanis for decades, possibly longer. TeslaNova, through its subsidiary Parzavala Communications, has also been operating a program of “Runners,” who are expert guides that can lead “Seekers” to find Tanis.

The journey to Tanis is called “the Way.” The Way requires “the Map.” However, the Map is actually not a map but a group of 4 people – 1 Runner and 3 Seekers. Collectively, such a gathering of people can find Tanis.

At the start of the season, Nic discovers that a woman named Tara Reynolds was reported missing somewhere in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Before she disappeared, she sent an audio recording to her brother Sam Reynolds indicating she was lost inside a Cabin that was much, much larger on the inside than it looked on the outside. Both Tara and the Cabin disappeared without a trace. Tara was a research scientist at TeslaNova, and the Cabin she was lost in is believed to be a manifestation of Tanis itself. In attempting to find Tara, Sam Reynolds gets mixed up with the so-called Cult of Tanis, a group of people who worship Tanis as a deity. The Cult of Tanis manage to hypnotize Sam in such a way that causes him to repeat a Tanis chant over and over again.

The only way Sam can be cured is by encountering Tanis itself. A woman named Veronica Pillman—another former TeslaNova employee—offers to take Sam, Nic, and Morgan Miller to Tanis to try to help Sam. Thus the four of them become a Map. Veronica is the Runner, and Sam, Nic, and Morgan are the three Seekers. All of them are given nicknames. Veronica is the Runner, Sam is the Zealot, Morgan is the Novelist, and Sam is the Witness.

The season ends with the four of them successfully finding and encountering Tanis, in the form of the Cabin. Along the way they are also able to find Tara Reynolds, who had been trapped inside a room in the Cabin. Meanwhile, Nic’s co-host Alex Regan reported him missing to the police. The police, Alex, as well as employees of TeslaNova and possibly other as-yet unidentified agencies comb the woods in search of Nic and the others. Eventually, they find all of the missing people as well as the Cabin itself. Tara Reynolds is escorted by the police out of the Cabin. She is reportedly covered in blood. The conditions of Nic, Sam, and the others are currently unknown.

Following the re-discovery of the Cabin, TeslaNova employees as well as other unknown agents, quickly close off the area from the public. It’s presumed that research into the Cabin will continue. Nic, meanwhile, can’t remember anything that happened after he found Tara Reynolds inside the Cabin. He decides to hire a therapist and undergo hypnosis in an attempt to unlock the memories of what happened to him and what he saw inside Tanis.
 

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Please note I am NOT endorsed, supported, or attached to Tanis in any way. I am just a big, big fan of their work. If you are a fan of Tanis, please consider becoming a patron to support the show! Depending on how much you contribute, you can also receive various rewards, such as bonus episodes, T-shirts, and exclusive access to Tanis on Snapchat. You can support the show by becoming a patron here.