Jakob Lazzaro Can't Let Go of North Korea and astrology. Justin Curto has a grasp on Justin Bieber’s summer plans and Will Butler, and Paola De Varona is stuck on true friendships and her bullshit (currently accidental deletion). Stories featured in this episode hail from Planet Money, New York Magazine, and The New York Times. 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 that we can’t get out of our heads. I'm your host, Jakob Lazzaro, and I'm here with two returning guests from the very first episode of Can’t Let Go: Justin Curto and Paola De Varona.
Justin Curto: Hi.
Paola De Varona: Hey!
Jakob: So, to get started guys, what news stories could you not let go of this week?
Justin: I guess I want to start. So this story is called “Bieber in the Burbs: What Happened When the Pop Star Showed Up in Montclair, New Jersey.”
Jakob: I like where this is going.
Justin: So, if you’ve kept up with Justin Bieber at all over the summer, some shit went down. Basically he cancelled part of his tour and was hanging out with this pastor from Hillsong Church or Hillsong United or something like that, it’s a church based out of Montclair, New Jersey.
Paola: Have you seen that pastor? I’d hang out with him too.
Justin: Anyway, it was like my kind of journalism, because it’s just like these people gossiping about Justin Bieber, these middle-aged women in Montclair. I’ve gotta find some quotes in here that are amazing. “We’re not really starfuckers here,” Evelyn, a 50-something Montclarion said recently, requesting anonymity so she would feel free to gossip about her neighbors. Like, me too, honestly.
Jakob: This sounds like a college dorm.
Jakob: But just, the Biebs is there.
Justin: Like one of the parts I found interesting was talking about like, maybe why he enjoys going to the Hillsong Church is because he can watch the stage and he’s not on the stage. And on one hand that’s really interesting, like, what’s it do to you to be famous at a young age? And like look for a normal life after…
Jakob: It’s probably not very healthy.
Justin: Well, yeah. I think we know that. But like, aside from that, it’s also chock-full of neighborhood gossip and all the shit that’s going on, and I live for that.
Jakob: So we’re gonna move on from Justin Bieber to North Korea with my story. So I listen to a lot of podcasts, one of them is this great one from NPR called Planet Money. And they had an episode come out on Oct. 13 called “North Korea’s Capitalists.” For a very long time, it was basically illegal to do any sort of private business enterprises, but after the famine in the 1990s a lot of people just kind of started doing that anyway as a way to kind of scrape by and survive. The previous leader, Kim Jong-Il, would crack down on it every few years. But when Kim Jong-Un came into power, he kind of changed the whole policy and started letting all these North Korean capitalists, who are called donju, operate more openly and easily. He actually brought in foreign business experts – capitalists from Europe to come in and have business classes to teach these North Koreans the skills of running a business in a capitalist economy and growing your market and all that. It was really surreal because they interviewed a few guys that had done that. But the big hook of the podcast is the reason Kim Jong-Un did this is because there was then more money flowing around North Korea in terms of taxes and bribes that he could use to dump into the nuclear program. So, that’s why over the past few years, when he came into power they’ve really accelerated the pace of the nuclear program and testing, and now they have a miniaturized warhead on an ICBM which can hit the U.S. So it was interesting because all these people who had come into North Korea, all these foreign business experts, with the stated goal of improving the North Korean economy, they had actually been helping the nuclear program develop the whole time.
Justin: Why does everything lead back to nuclear stuff?
Jakob: I mean I know for North Korea, it’s like … he wants the nuclear weapons around because he views them as vital to his power. I'm just kind of fascinated by North Korea as a concept.
Paola: So, my story this week is one that I stumbled upon on Facebook. So it’s actually a very old story, it’s from Feb. 24. It’s a modern love story from the New York Times called “When Your Greatest Romance is a Friendship.” It opened my eyes, truly. So it’s basically about this guy Austin, who is in his forties, and he moves to this little rural town in the south, I'm not sure where in the south. And he meets this 80-year-old woman named Austin, and they’re like neighbors, and she asked him to come over one day. He moved to this town so he wouldn't know anyone so he could take time to dedicate to writing his book. But over time, he literally becomes best friends with this older woman, but it’s not in the sense where you watch those movies and it’s kind of this caretaker role they take on, it’s actually like any normal friendship. They would stay up late drinking having these late night talks about religion and all these … like very … very normal friendship. Then she starts getting sick, or whatever, and it’s obvious that she’s going to pass away soon. And then he gets to this part where she showed him… it’s just this part in the story, and I'm going to read the part where he goes “That night, I had an odd realization. Some of the greatest romances of my life have been friendships, and these friendships have been in many ways more mysterious than erotic love, more subtle, more selfish, more tuned to kindness.” I feel like as a society we’re all very … there’s a very big emphasis and obsession with romantic love, but there is so much more love in other types of relationships like familial, friendships.
Justin: But also you came away from that story with a totally different realization. Am I allowed to talk about this here?
Justin: Ok, so Paola comes to dinner one night, the other night. About how you had this great realization – that you read this story, and the way you interpreted it was… like the way she interpreted it was that she could find romantic love in her friendships. And just like, have more hookups with guys and flings and stuff. And I remember you being like “I should hook up with more people. I don’t see why I can’t separate that.” And I'm like, “I don’t think that’s what you were supposed to get out of that story.”
Paola: No, it’s just…
Jakob: Yeah, you were supposed to get the love of friendships as a concept.
Paola: I… I… I feel like in the moment, I realized that you can find fulfillment for that need for human connection in other ways that are not just this idealized one way.
Justin: All right, so it’s time for our personal stories and I guess I'm gonna start again. Um, I have a lot that’s happened to me, so this is hard to pick, but I'm gonna put someone on blast here. On Thursday, I had scheduled a phone interview with someone, and this is not just anyone. This is Will Butler, the keyboardist for Arcade Fire who went to Northwestern. And I was like, yeah. I’ll do a story on him because Arcade Fire is coming back and he’s doing cool things, I'm like “Why not?”
Jakob: And you get to interview him.
Justin: And I get to interview him, and I like music. So, this was the sketchiest shit. I scheduled this phone interview through Facebook messenger, right, because there was no other way to get ahold of him. So I Facebook messaged his Facebook page, and three days later I get a reply – “Sure, how about Oct. 12 at 1 p.m.?” And I'm like, amazing. You can call me. Here’s my number. And then a few weeks go by, it’s October 12 at 12:50 p.m., I'm walking into the library, finding a spot in Core to do this interview. I sit down, and I wait, I wait, I wait for like 15 minutes. No call. And now, I sent him another Facebook message because that’s the only way we know how to communicate, and I’ve gotten no reply, and it’s kind of shitty. And I was looking forward to this story. I don’t know now.
Paola: Boycott Arcade Fire.
Justin: No, it’s not gonna be boycott Arcade Fire. Although, I'm not listening to the new album because it’s trash.
Jakob: Ooh, hot take.
Justin: But like, it is. It is hot trash. Maybe I’ll get to interview Will Butler. If so, when I send him this story, I hope that he doesn’t go snooping around on northbynorthwestern.com and find this podcast. But if you end up listening ever, Will Butler, you should’ve called me the first time.
Jakob: So continuing in the theme of putting people on blast, my personal story this week involves both Justin and Paola. Because I'm sad to say that both of my two good friends here have been sucked in by the aura of astrology. And they are now obsessed with their horoscopes.
Paola: May I butt in and say that I was never sucked in? I have been an adamant believer of astrology all my life. This isn’t a recent event.
Justin: Can I point out that Jakob said astrology like Australia.
Jakob: Just comin’ out of me.
Justin: But yeah. To defend myself, or not to defend myself but to add more context, Paola got me into astrology a few weeks ago.
Jakob: Yeah, so basically, I can blame Paola.
Justin: It’s real.
Jakob: No it’s not.
Paola: Justin and I like to read our horoscopes now at dinner, before the week starts, and reconvene towards the end of the week to see if things came true or not.
Jakob: Ok, yeah. So here’s a typical Sunday dinner now, we’re going to be doing this in like an hour or so. I’ll be sitting there, having a nice conversation, and then Paola usually, sometimes Justin, will be like “Oh, we gotta check our horoscopes.” And then she’ll pull out her phone and read them for whoever’s there, including me, even though I don’t care. She’ll read them from one outlet, and then I’ll be like “Ok, great. We’re done. This is like 15 minutes, we can move on to other conversation.” And then Paola will be like, no. We need the horoscopes from this other magazine.
Justin: That’s not how it works, because Paola reads Free People and Cosmo. Cosmo comes out on Mondays, so it’s like she reads Free People and then I'm like let’s see if Madam Clairvoyant has posted hers, and if not then we’ll talk about it on Monday too.
Jakob: I don’t know. It’s just, I can’t handle the 30-odd minutes of horoscope content.
Justin: It’s not that long.
Jakob: It feels that long to me.
Justin: You know, there’s some shit happening with Jupiter for these next 13 months, and we are going to be on the come up. And it is Scorpio season.
Paola: It is Scorpio season! Tell… tell… tell ‘em what they gotta do.
Justin: Scorpio season is approaching. Stay hydrated, lock your doors, wear hot underwear. That’s what I'm going to be living by from now on.
Jakob: So to move on from this…
Jakob: Speaking of Paola’s personal life, Paola, what’s your story for this week? Your personal story?
Justin: What is your story for this week?
Paola: So I’ve been thinking about it, and I realized all my stories are actually kind of just sad. But I'm still sticking with that theme this week.
Jakob: The theme of your bullshit.
Paola: So on Tuesday, I sat down in Norris with Justin, Jakob, and Maggie.
Jakob: One of our usual work spots.
Paola: And I pulled up my laptop and I was gonna start transcribing my one-and-a-half hour, two-hour long interview, group interview, that I had for my Mag feature that I'm working on. And I go to my phone, which has been acting up lately, and I realized that I factory reset my phone. And I had a backup, but the backup was for the night before I had my interview. So I lost my interview off my phone, and I wanted to cry. I maybe shed a few tears when I laid my head down on the table, but we all split some Ben and Jerry’s and I felt better about it.
Jakob: Can I just jump in? I felt very bad for you. That’s something I hope never happens to me.
Jakob: So that’s the end of our show this week. The next Can’t Let Go will be out on Tuesday, as usual. You can find our show on northbynorthwestern.com and in the iTunes and the Google Play store. Just search Can’t Let Go or North by Northwestern and hit subscribe to get a notification whenever we release 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.
Justin: I'm Justin Curto.
Paola: I'm Paola De Varona.
Jakob: And this is NBN Audio.
Jakob: You believe in horoscopes! Don’t be like “I'm not knocking on wood.”
Jakob: Thank you.
Justin: You’re welcome.