Slate's The Gist

Slate's The Gist

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Slate's The Gist with Mike Pesca. A daily afternoon podcast about news, culture, and whatever else you'll be discussing with friends and family tonight. Part of the Panoply Network.


The Year MTV Took Over the Charts  

In 1982, MTV started guiding Billboard’s taste in music. The year was filled with elaborate videos and cheesy ballads. Chris Molanphy takes us through all the hand claps and synth vibes of that year’s Billboard hits. Molanphy writes Slate’s Why Is This Song No. 1 column and hosts the podcast Hit Parade

In the Spiel: The last time anything good happened to Donald Trump. 

Is This the End of Steve Bannon?  

Did Steve Bannon really misunderstand the meaning of off the record during his now-infamous “interview” with the American Prospect? “Yup,” says Joshua Green, author of Devil’s Bargain, a book about Bannon’s influence on the Trump presidency. Green addresses the latest rumors of Bannon’s political demise, and tries to sort out why, exactly, Trump’s chief strategist always wears three shirts at once. 

In the Spiel, a nuclear war with North Korea no longer feels inevitable. So what now? 

The Overreaction Doctrine  

Political scientist Moshe Maor says Donald Trump’s policy ideas are very, very over-the-top. But that’s exactly the point. On issues like immigration and transgender service members, bold overreactions are the only kind of policies that speak to cynical voters. “People want immediate action,” says Maor. “Morality aside, Trump is playing his cards right.” Maor is a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

In the Spiel, is Donal Trump a smart racist or a stupid racist?
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Why Are Police Unions So Aggressive?  

Guest host Leon Neyfakh speaks with retired Boston cop Tom Nolan about the politics of police unions. While unions in other industries put on a progressive face to the world, police unions tend to be defensive of everything from disrespecting the mayor of New York to rough treatment of prisoners. But Nolan says he’s encouraged by their recent condemnation of President Trump’s comments about police violence. “I think they know the speaker of those words does not know what the hell he was talking about,” says Nolan, who now teaches at Merrimack College

In the Spiel, Google is a massive company. It’s also an increasingly bad search engine.
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There Is No Order in Congress  

Typically Congress has an order to follow when creating bills and passing them into law. There’s committee writing, revisions, and a bipartisan back-and-forth. In recent years that order has broken down and caused major divides inside both parties. Georgetown senior fellow Joshua Huder details this process and how it went wrong. Huder’s writing can be found on the blog Rule 22.

In the Spiel, Mike heads to the Bobby Fischer museum in Iceland and explores the tricky balance of memorializing the controversial star.

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Brandt Tobler Has a Problem With Authority  

Brandt Tobler has had a crazy life. His stand-up comedy is the sum of his stories as a small-town wayward kid busting out of Wyoming. He was the don of a criminal syndicate he called the “mallfia,” he ran the Las Vegas strip placing bets for gambling titans, and he plotted to kill his estranged father. He’s also kind of a sweetheart. Tobler’s book is Free Roll.

In the Spiel, how cynicism breeds fake news.

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About the Google Memo  

Google’s reputation for openness took a tumble when its CEO fired James Damore, the author of a memo questioning the company’s efforts to achieve gender parity. Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute, blames the internet. She says easy access to data is allowing us to make dumb arguments.

In the Spiel, Mike has more thoughts on the Google memo. Guess what? He dislikes it. 

Muhammad Ali’s Biggest Fight  

Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century, but he didn’t spend his entire life in the ring. During the Vietnam War, he spent his time trying to avoid the draft as a conscientious objector. Journalist Leigh Montville says the struggle changed Ali’s life—and the country. Montville’s new book is Sting Like a Bee
In the Spiel, a closer look at the CV of the most important soil-health civil servant in the news.

Somewheres vs. Anywheres  

Over the last few years, the meaningful fault line between political camps has separated people rooted to certain places and people rooted to certain ideas. David Goodhart says the anywheres have become too dominant, and the somewhere have rightly felt excluded. How can we bridge the divide? Goodhart’s book is The Road to Somewhere
In the Spiel, speak loudly domestically and you might hurt your credibility. Speak loudly internationally and you might end civilization. 

The Social Experiment on TV  

Be bold, but not arrogant. Apologize when wrong, but don’t accept blame. Stay calm in a crisis. These are some of the lessons Mike Richards has learned hosting GSN’s Divided, the social experiment masquerading as a game show. 
In the Spiel, why the Dow is for fuddy-duddies. 

Maria Bamford Wants to See Emotion  

Maria Bamford has been making top comedian lists for years, but she knows her stand-up isn’t for everyone: “I can bomb any moment of the week, any day.” On The Gist, she rebuts Mike’s assertion that comics are more likely to struggle with depression. Bamford also explains why she wishes ESPN’s postgame analysis were swapped out for televised confessional booths for the athletes. Her new Netflix show is Lady Dynamite.
In the Spiel, Mike reads some of the mail responding to his takedown of the term white privilege and names another Lobstar.  

The Scaramucci Tapes  

It’s a special combo Gist, with an interview and Spiel rolled into one segment: Zoe Chace, producer for This American Life, digs up some old audio from one of her conversations with Anthony Scaramucci. The tape is from 2016, when the Mooch was pondering whether to support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. What Scaramucci said back then may indicate what he’ll do next. 

A Video Game Thoreau Might Play  

What would you expect from a video game inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s sojourn in the woods? In Walden, a game, players can contemplate the forest, go boating with Ralph Waldo Emerson, and practice civil disobedience. The game was developed by the Game Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California. Lab Director Tracy Fullerton explains why she thinks Thoreau might have liked the game. 
In the Spiel, our faith in the military might not be blind, but it is blinkered. 

No Hard Feelings  

Psychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett is the grand inquisitor of human emotions. Her book, How Emotions Are Made, inspired a big chunk of the latest season of NPR’s Invisibilia. Barrett says scientific research shows that emotions are highly variable and utter creations of our minds. Some of her resulting conclusions may surprise you. 
In the Spiel, Mike goes there: white privilege and rape culture. 

How to Beat a Casino  

A few years ago, an unassuming young woman named Kelly Sun teamed up with Phil Ivey, the world’s most famous poker player. Using some questionable strategies, the two managed to win millions of dollars from casinos across the world. Now the casinos are saying what they did is cheating, and they’re trying to get their money back in court. Reporter Rose Eveleth tells Sun and Ivey’s story in a new audio documentary, A Queen of Sorts, part of the ESPN podcast series 30 for 30
In the Spiel, yeah, no, #NoConfederate.   

Alan Alda Seeks Clarity  

Alan Alda’s new book is called If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? The title comes from his own bad experiences talking to doctors and other science professionals, including one that screwed up his smile for years. “We need to get people talking like people…it’s all about empathy,” says the actor, who also founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.  In The Spiel, why we should actually care about the bizarre Scaramucci–New Yorker interview.  

They Called Him Son of Sam  

Tom Jennings dug through hours of archival media footage to tell the story of Son of Sam, the serial killer who terrorized New York City in 1976 and 1977. The resulting documentary is part of the Smithsonian Channel’s Lost Tapes series. The Lost Tapes: Son of Sam airs Sunday on the Smithsonian Channel.

Also, a breakdown of the Boy Scouts’ apology for Donald Trump’s jamboree speech.
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How Democrats Condescend to the White Working Class  

According to Joan C. Williams, about a third of the country feels talked down to. These are the white working class folks, the people who went for Trump, the people who feel that terms like disruption just mean more hassle and pain. “We can’t expect people to have elite values if we don’t give them elite lives,” says Williams. She’s the author of the book White Working Class

For the Spiel, why does everyone sound like Goodfellas while doing an Anthony Scaramucci impression?

Why Did Trump and Putin Meet in Secret?  

After the G-20 Summit, Ian Bremmer broke the news to Americans about Trump’s secret second meeting with Vladimir Putin. He says he did it because so many American allies were commenting on the rendezvous in private. “The people in the room, they found it disconcerting that the person Trump was more comfortable with is their adversary,” says Bremmer. He joins us to discuss Russia, Rex Tillerson’s future in the White House, and the decline of American power. Bremmer is an author and risk analyst at the Eurasia Group.

For the Spiel, did you know the Washington Post is owned by Amazon? Trump really wants you to know that.
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A Kid in the Hall Tells All  

When Kevin McDonald moved to New York, his sketch troupe, Kids in the Hall, had a deal with Lorne Michaels to make a new comedy show. But these were during some lean years for Michaels. “We were in a closet,” says McDonald, “and he was being audited, so it was us and a bunch of auditors. Once in a while, if we said something really funny, we could hear the auditors giggling on the other side of the room.”

While Kids in the Hall was never as famous as Saturday Night Live, the show became legendary for a discerning subset of comedy fans. “It’s like unsweetened lemonade—only 20 percent of people like us, but those who do really love us.” McDonald is now hosting a podcast with live shows across the U.S.

For the Spiel, a not so surreal end for Salvador Dalí’s remains. 

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