Jakob Lazzaro Can't Let Go of Rex Tillerson’s insults and husking corn. Paola De Varona is stuck on an abortion scandal and her bullshit (currently laptop loss), and Emma Kumer talks about Las Vegas and a Wisconsin ghost train. Stories featured in this episode hail from Buzzfeed News, The New York Times, and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Transcript below.
Jakob Lazzaro: Hey everyone, welcome back to Can't Let Go, the new podcast from NBN where we talk about news and personal stories from the week we just Can't Let Go of. I'm your host, Jakob Lazzaro, and I'm here with one returning guest – Paola De Varona – and one new guest. Guys, do you want to introduce yourselves?
Paola De Varona: I'm Paola De Varona
Emma Kumer: I'm Emma Kumer, and I'm the Creative Director of North by Northwestern magazine.
Jakob: Alright, so we’ve got stories for you that we can’t let go of this week. Who wants to start?
Emma: Oh, I can start off because I'm new. I think like a lot of people this week, my mind just can’t get off of the shooting in Las Vegas. The whole thing, really, is shocking – especially when you see the names of the people they’ve been publishing online and all the stories the news outlets have been producing. But the thing that I think is most shocking, and I saw this in a New York Times piece, is that it took an hour for police to get into the hotel suite where the guy was standing. I just don’t understand in this age of technology, with the amount of speed we have in relaying information, how it honestly took 60 minutes for them to break into the suite. And at that point, he was dead anyway. But what if he wasn’t? It just freaks me out.
Jakob: What I heard was that a security guard knocked on his door early, like 15 or 16 minutes or something, and the guy fired apparently 200 rounds through the door at the security guard and then shot himself. The police ended up coming back and they cleared the floor, but at that point he was already dead. So somebody did try to figure out what was going on, but then you know 200 rounds through the door is kind of a deterrent.
Emma: Is that guy ok? Do we know?
Jakob: I'm not sure. I heard he was injured, but I think he’s…
Emma: I actually hadn't heard that yet.
Paola: Did you guys hear the stories where they were saying he had booked two rooms overlooking Lollapalooza?
Jakob: I did hear that, yeah.
Paola: Which is really terrifying.
Jakob: Yeah, two rooms overlooking Lolla. So far, nothing has come out. I know ISIL said that he was affiliated with them, but I don’t believe that. They say that for any kind of large event that happens.
Emma: They like to take credit for all the evil.
Jakob: But he was relatively successful, he owned rental properties, he was apparently a very prolific gambler, did a lot of gambling. But he was, you know, successful and his brother, I know, was interviewed on I think it was CNN, a day or two after the attack. He was talking about how he seemed nothing out of the ordinary the last time he had talked to him, which is just weird. So it’s like, why’d he do it? Because what’s coming out now is that he obviously planned it out for a very long time, especially going back to Lollapalooza.
Paola: I really like the stories that are coming out that are showing a connection between him and all these other white middle-aged shooters, and that they were all – a lot of them were domestically abusive to their girlfriends or partners. It’s like, not only do we have a gun problem, but we have this domestic violence problem that is maybe a key to where these things are spurring from. It’s just – the whole mental illness issue comes up a lot when it’s these middle-aged white guys, but not so much when it’s anyone else.
Emma: That’s the problem I have with it.
Paola: Yeah. It’s almost like a way to justify and give an excuse for these white men killing, because they can’t put them in the box of terrorist because they’re not brown and muslim.
Jakob: So now we’re moving into the political sphere with my news story. So I'm sure people who’ve been following what’s going on in Washington recently have been hearing about Rex Tillerson and how he’s been having a lot of – supposedly – having a lot of fights with the president. He called him a moron at one point, and that has been confirmed by several sources. So, there’s a Buzzfeed article I read today, with the beautiful title of Today Tillerson Tried to Kill the Rexit – Rexit – Rumours once and for all. Basically, it’s talking about how he’s saying “I have never considered leaving, blah, blah, blah, I love this administration, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” And an interesting thing in the article is that one U.S. official “expressed confidence” – I'm quoting the Buzzfeed article here – “In Tillerson’s status due to a so-called suicide pact,” which is apparently between him, Defense Secretary Mattis and Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin. Apparently, according to this unnamed source, they’ve all agreed to quit if Trump tries to get rid of any of them, which I'm just like wow. That’s some real palace intrigue right there.
Paola: They’d all quit because of one guy?
Jakob: Yeah, I mean to be fair it is an unnamed source who told this to Buzzfeed, but I'm like…
Emma: Wait, the article literally says an unnamed source?
Jakob: It says one U.S. official. It does not name the U.S. official.
Emma: That’s the kind of stuff they pull in People magazine, where they’re like “a source close to the person, blah, blah, blah.”
Jakob: I don’t know. I'm inclined to believe it just by the level of infighting and true palace intrigue that has come out of the Trump White House. It seems to be like an unpleasant place to work.
Paola: It might be like something that they talked about over beers on a Friday. They’re like if he fires you, we’re all quitting.
Jakob: Yeah. It might not be a serious thing.
Emma: A beer friday in the White House.
Paola: So my story is from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and it’s about Representative Tim Murphy, a representative from Pennsylvania.
Jakob: Ah, this guy.
Paola: Who was found sending text messages to his mistress that he had an affair with to get an abortion, even though he’s staunchly pro-life. So I mean I feel like that speaks for itself.
Emma: Oh my gosh.
Jakob: The level of hypocrisy there.
Paola: I feel like it’s so symbolic of conservatism in the White House and in Washington, D.C. they sell all these values, and then behind closed doors they’re not even adhering to them. It’s so great, because he sends a text message to her. She tells him, “You have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought it was one of the options.” And then he answers, “I get what you say about my march for life messages. I’ve never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff, don’t write any more. I will.” So it’s like, he, ok. If this is true, he’s literally selling these values to get elected.
Jakob: And he doesn’t actually believe in that.
Emma: Oh, that’s so bad.
Jakob: And he’s resigning, so I guess there’s still some political justice in the world. Not everybody has the Trump teflon effect, immune to everything, so that’s nice.
Paola: It’s like the constant attacks women have to face in this country.
Jakob: So now it’s time to move on to our three personal stories. Who wants to start?
Emma: I can. So this isn’t anything that’s happened recently, but this podcast is called can’t let go, and I think about this almost every day. So, it’s a ghost train. In a town near me where I live in Wisconsin, called Shorewood, there’s this train which they closed down because it was not a successful train. But because they missed it so much, they used everyone’s tax dollars to make a ghost train. And this isn’t what you think it is. So what they do, they paid for a light to come and flash across the bridge so it’s like a train is coming, and they paid for these really loud sounds that come and rumble the whole town to make it sound like there’s a train coming. And they have this effect so it sounds like it’s far away and then gets closer. So it literally sounds, feels and looks like there is a train. And you can stand on the bridge where the train is supposed to be and see the lights go whooshing past you. And it’s such a surreal thing.
Paola: How much did they pay for that?
Jakob: Yeah, was this taxpayer money?
Emma: Yeah, it was taxpayer money!
Jakob: Oh my god.
Paola: And people wanted that?
Emma: It comes twice a day at 9:30 p.m. for the southbound train and 10 p.m. for the northbound train.
Paola: Oh my god.
Jakob: Was it like a thing, people were like “Ah, my kid grew up sleeping to the sound of that train and now he can’t,” or like, what?
Emma: It wasn’t even recently that they shut it down, it’s been shut down for years.
Jakob: And they’ve been doing this for years?
Emma: No, they just made it this past year.
Paola: That’s amazing. I feel like that’s humanity right there.
Emma: It’s free, guys! Free entertainment. I went three nights in a row.
Paola: Yeah, you just wait for it. I mean that would be kind of cool. I would like to see it.
Jakob: Wow… somewhere in Wisconsin, in a few hours people will be waiting for the ghost train.
Paola: Do people wait and watch to see when it will come?
Emma: Well, it’s on this bike path, because the train tracks were turned into this bike path that goes the route of the train. So people will bike from far away and be like “Oh, we’ve got to get there in time for the ghost train.” And you’ll see people get off their bikes and just stand there in the path where the train lights go past, and everyone is just waiting for the lights and pretends to freak out when it’s coming.
Paola: Oh my god.
Jakob: Speaking of Wisconsin, my personal story this week also involves Wisconsin. So Justin, who you heard a few weeks ago, and I are in this class called Reporting on Native American Environmental Issues through Medill here. And as part of that class, it’s taught by Patty Loew, who is this really great professor. And as part of that class, we took a trip to the Oneida Indian Reservation, which is up by Green Bay. We were there this weekend, and I got back a few hours before we started recording this. There’s a white corn cooperative up there, which is a few families have come together and basically, they pitch in to grow the white corn which is important for oneida ceremonial, cultural heritage sort of things. So, they have a white corn cooperative where these families come together, and they all pitch in labor and get free fields from the 4H club up in Green Bay, and they grow this corn together. And it’s free – everybody in the cooperative gets an equal share of the resulting corn. So we were up there for their husking bee, which is when they start harvesting. So for the past few days, Justin and I and our professor, Patty, and this other student in the class, April, we were just there husking corn for about two days.
Emma: It was just three of you and a teacher husking corn?
Jakob: Oh, no, no, no. A bunch of people from the corn cooperative were there too.
Paola: My true Northwestern.
Jakob: But it was just a really cool thing. We’re just up in this little barn in Wisconsin husking the corn, and then we’re braiding the corn into these braids that hang from the ceiling of the barn, which is how they dry the corn. Part of the thing is that they’re trying to do as much hand labor as possible, to try and connect with ancestors and keep it kind of organic and promote food sovereignty, which is another goal of the cooperative. It was just really interesting to be up there for a few days.
Emma: Pretty corny. I like it.
Jakob: Oh my god.
Emma: When it comes to corn stories, I'm all ears.
Paola and Jakob: Oh my god.
Jakob: See, I thought I was the pun person, but Emma has apparently surpassed me on that.
Paola: Emma beat you.
Jakob: Now I know how annoying I am.
Emma: Oh, yikes. Or speaking of corn, shucks.
Paola: So my story is short and sweet, but as I said when I first got on the show, that most of my stories would just be me getting back on my bullshit, I am sticking true to that narrative.
Jakob: What are you back on your bullshit this week, Paola?
Paola: On Friday night, I had my discussion for a story I'm working on for NBN, and I met with some girls. That was in Annenberg, and so after that was done I walked all the way back to Allison, to my dorm. And I was just chilling there on my phone for like an hour and a half until my friend Mia came to pick up my camera so she could borrow it. And I go back to my room because I had an assignment due at midnight that I hadn't started, and it was already like ten something. And I check, I look inside my bookbag, and I realize that my laptop wasn’t there. So I had to run all the way back to Annenberg – this is the second time I almost lose my laptop in the span of the past three weeks. And I ran back to Annenberg, I was sweating, it was raining, and I get to where the classroom was, and my laptop was there.
Paola: So I recovered my laptop for the second time, and I think three times is the charm. I think if I lose it a third time, it won’t be there when I go back to get it.
Jakob: I was about to say, at some point your luck’s going to run out, and then what are you going to do?
Jakob: I suggest you like, back up your hard drive just in case you need to make an emergency laptop purchase or something.
Emma: If you lose it, can we commemorate it with a ghost laptop?
Jakob: Oh my god, yeah. We’ll get like a recording of the Apple startup noise, and every day at 6 p.m. Paola will walk into, wherever she is, she’ll just hear…
Jakob: So that’s the end of this week’s Can’t Let Go. The next one will be out on Tuesday as usual. You can find our show on northbynorthwestern.com, of course, but this show and all other NBN podcasts are also available on iTunes and in the Google Play store. If you find them there, you can subscribe to them and you’ll get a notification whenever we make a new episode. Our theme song is Little Lily Swing, by Tri-Tachyon under a Creative Commons Attribution License. I'm your host, Jakob Lazzaro.
Paola: I'm Paola De Varona.
Emma: I'm Emma Kumer.
Jakob: And this is NBN Audio.
Jakob: Speaking of Musko… I almost called it Muskegon. That’s not Wisconsin.
Emma: That’s like mosquito.
Jakob: Sounds like a brand of mosquito repellent.