The primal malaise of the changing of the seasons starts to gnaw on your conscience in September, leaving you to ask the question, “Summer. It has come to a close. Where has the time gone?”
In this week’s episode of Reply All, “Today’s the Day”, PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman talk to an expert on transistors to better understand how computers work. Or, at least, that’s what they set out to do; the expert never picks up the phone. They roll end credits one minute and thirty-eight seconds into the episode.
It is like when you are taking that one evolutionary biology class that rotates three professors to teach you. One of them forgets that it’s their day to lecture the class on the distribution of allele frequencies amongst diploids. 1 So you, and the rest of the class, just sit for about ten minutes until the first brave soul packs her bags and leaves. Everyone else eventually follows suit. The kid that usually comes in late for the clicker question the middle of class ends up being confused about the day of the week. As the sunlight hits you on the way out of the building you feel lifted in its warmth, a wave of relief hits you, because this is exactly what you needed today: just some free time to be present.
They take a horse buggy ride in Central Park, watch a circus show at Coney Island 4, bribe a harbormaster, sing some karaoke with Alex Blumberg, and illegally break into an abandoned building. You learn about unique New York state maritime law, the strength of the Brooklyn Bridge, and that PJ suffers from motion sickness. It felt like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off meets Planes, Trains and Automobiles. 5
There was more to this episode than an immersive, mesmerizing, and lighthearted romp around the city. It was trying to tell us about the passage of time and the journeys we take. And, too, this episode was a test of loyalty between them (PJ and Alex) and us (the audience).
Reply All, normally, “features stories about how people shape the internet, and the internet shapes people.” It is a bold move to tell your audience that this episode will be different, instead of learning something quirky about technology, you should listen to us frolic around the city for the day because we are more interesting. It takes confidence and trust in your audience. I’m glad they went there, but not everyone liked the episode’s aimless nature.
I enjoyed hearing the chemistry and idiosyncrasies between the two. It warmly reminds me of time spent with my friends: you people watch, endlessly riff on each other’s jokes, and try to make an adventure out of the day, collecting interesting stories (memories?) along the way that you will reminisce over. The music (custom, by Breakmaster Cylinder) played well on this tone: wonderful, ethereal. In a telling moment of the episode PJ is asked, “What have you done for the last seven years?” To which he replies, “Made a podcast.” Maybe this experiment was fun for them, a break from the norm, or maybe they just wanted an excuse to spend a day outside. Either way it’s damn good tape.
- See: Hardy-Weinberg principle. ^
- They sound a lot alike; I still have trouble telling them apart. ^
- Well, Brooklyn and Manhattan. Close enough. ^
- Anyone else feel like the song choice of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” for the sword swallowing act was a bit off? ^
- Relevant. ^
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