Jakob Lazzaro, Justin Curto and Rachel Hawley can’t let go of Mr. Ratburn and fonts, James Charles and change, and bikes and hospitals. Stories featured in this episode hail from Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post and The Atlantic. Transcript below.
[Music: Little Lily Swing]
Jakob Lazzaro: Hello, and welcome back to Can't Let Go, the NBN podcast where we discuss the news stories and the personal stories from the past few weeks that we can just not get out of our heads. I'm, as always, your host Jakob Lazzaro, and today I’ve got two returning guests. One who has been on the show quite a lot – I bet you can guess who he is. Name’s Justin Curto, to my right. And one who was on the show a long time ago, but she is returning. It’s Rachel Hawley, everyone!
Rachel Hawley: Hey! I’m back.
Jakob: So Justin, as the returning friend of the pod as you like to call yourself, and we like to call you as well…
Justin Curto: You don’t like to call me that.
Rachel: Oh no.
Jakob: Well anyway, moving on. Friend of the pod, what’s your news story?
Justin: My news story is something I have become obsessed with in the past week or two, which is James Charles. Just full stop. To give some background, I don’t watch anything on YouTube so I especially don’t watch James Charles. I don’t know who Tati Westbrook is, or I didn’t until everything came out. But I had heard something about James Charles in April because he made a controversial comment about trans people and being gay but not totally gay because he’s into some trans people. It was weird. And I knew he had been controversial before for some reason, which looking back was when he said everyone in Africa had ebola.
Rachel: Just to back up a little bit. James Charles is the king of YouTube makeup, like beauty YouTube sphere, right?
Jakob: I thought it was Jeffree Star who was the king.
Justin: Jeffree Star is kind of like the king, but James Charles is like…
Jakob: The other king? The prince regent?
Justin: He’s like very rising in that world.
Jakob: Well, I do just want to say I do watch a lot of YouTube, not anything remotely related to makeup-tube though because that’s not my scene really.
Rachel: Jakob’s extremely online.
Jakob: Yeah, I am extremely online. Fortunately, and also unfortunately. It has its blessings and curses. Anyway, my point is I watch a lot of YouTube. And I have just been watching all this James Charles stuff flying past my head over the past few days, and I have not been wading into it. I don’t want to. But now, I’m glad you’re here so you can tell me what happens.
Rachel: Yeah, we’re going in deep. Whenever I tweet something that’s too deep into being online and I know no one’s going to get it, I’m like oh, well at least Jakob Lazzaro will hit the like.
Justin: Anyway, this is all building toward – he has become super embroiled in all sorts of controversy. So, our story begins at Coachella.
Justin: As they often do. What happened was James Charles went to Coachella, and the way I heard about this didn’t start with the vitamins. It started with this boy that James Charles went to Coachella with. People thought that James Charles had taken advantage of this guy and forced him to do things sexually that he wasn’t comfortable with, and then James Charles was like no, no, no. I never did that. But then the guy was like… All of this happens at Coachella. But apparently, underneath all this, there was also this moment when James Charles was promoting these gummy vitamin things. And they were the wrong brand of gummy vitamins, because there’s this woman named Tati Westbrook who has been I guess James Charles’s mentor since he started in makeup and she’s this other makeup YouTuber and she got him interested in makeup and all that, and she has this gummy vitamin brand.
Rachel: To clarify, it’s a competitor gummy.
Justin: Yeah, yeah. And he was like no, I just promoted them because they were really helping me with my sleep and being calmer because the security at Coachella was really stressing me out, because he’s a popular guy. But that came to a head with this video that Tati Westbrook makes last week.
Rachel: It’s like an hour long, right?
Justin: It’s 40 minutes, yeah.
Jakob: See, this is what I had heard about.
Justin: I haven’t seen the video; I’ve only read about it and intend to keep it that way because I enjoy just watching this from afar and piecing things together, it’s really fun. According to her in the video, she’s like I’m tired of having to defend James Charles and I’m tired of having to lie for him and things like that. She brings up this, like, taking advantage of guys thing along with the gummy vitamins and just feeling overall hurt by him. He has lost, so far according to this chart on Wikipedia, over three million subscribers while she has gained close to four million, and apparently that’s a big record for YouTube.
Jakob: Well, to provide a bit of a cynical perspective as someone who’s extremely online, especially in the YouTube community. You bring up the subscriber numbers, and I mean that’s great and all, but has a YouTuber ever been hashtag destroyed by a scandal? Because honestly I think no, in terms of… I mean there might be like one or two. But usually, what happens is this blows up for like a month, they lose subscribers, everybody forgets about it. You know, JonTron still has a big career, he still makes lots of money. PewDiePie still makes like a bajillion dollars or whatever. I’m gonna make a prediction that in a month, James Charles will still be making lots of money as a YouTube person, and everybody will have forgotten about this.
Rachel: Yeah, I’m interested in this woman who puts out a statement… I just… It’s very bold to put out a statement saying this guy coerces men into sexual relationships and also committed gummy vitamin treason.
Jakob: On a similar downer note, my news story. A few days ago, The Washington Post published this great, long, I guess for lack of a better word profile. But instead of being a profile of one person, it was a profile of a rural hospital in the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma. For those of you who don’t know, Oklahoma has a lot of problems, especially in the rural areas. Two of the big problems are that they have no money for their schools, so a lot of rural schools are on four day weeks, which is like, what. The other problem is that all the rural hospitals are closing because they don’t have any money. So this is a profile about a hospital, it’s called Fairfax Community Hospital and it’s in Osage County northeast of Tulsa, it’s in the middle of nowhere basically, and how the hospital is basically broke and how all the employees haven’t been paid for like six weeks but they’re still showing up to work because they all live in this small town and they don’t want their hospital to just die. And the whole long story is basically what’s gonna happen to the hospital because they don’t have any money – is it just going to close? Anyway, I just read this story and I was like, wow. This is really depressing, and healthcare in this country is so messed up. And that was why I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot.
Justin: It makes me think about not quite the same issue, but a similar thing that people always talk about in Kansas is that there are just no doctors in rural America either. All these kids who I went to high school with were like, I’m gonna go to med school and people were like oh, you know that’s great because we really need doctors out in western Kansas and all that because all these communities don’t have doctors and shit. And it’s just very, very dismal. I don’t know…
Rachel: Mr. Ratburn is gay.
Jakob: To lighten things up…
Rachel: He’s a gay man. A gay rat. He’s now married, as of the episode in the 22nd season of Arthur.
Jakob: One of the best PBS shows.
Rachel: Yeah, “Mr. Ratburn’s Special Someone.”
Jakob: Husband’s a pastry chef?
Rachel: Yeah. I believe so. A former frieNBN, Natalie Escobar, wrote about it for The Atlantic. But yeah, Mr. Ratburn is gay, and honestly… I did a deep dive into Arthur lore. I watched a lot of old videos. I read a lot of Wikipedia pages, because Arthur is something that has always confounded me.
Rachel: Confounded me, yes.
Jakob: Explain, because it’s a great show. I love Arthur.
Rachel: Yes. So context, I am creative director of North by Northwestern. I think a lot about art and illustration. The art direction of Arthur is absolutely nightmarish.
Rachel: It is a post-truth aesthetic. The main character of Arthur is an aardvark who doesn’t have a nose.
Jakob: Doesn’t he have two dots? That counts as a nose.
Rachel: Yeah, he has like a Voldemort nose. It makes no… The only thing in the real world that distinguishes the aardvark from other mammals is its nose. In that entire classroom, the main classroom of third graders in Arthur, there are only like two characters that can clearly be distinguished as the animals they are. It’s Buster, I guess there’s also Mr. Ratburn who is pretty clearly a rat, and there’s George who has antlers and so he’s a moose.
Jakob: So Arthur was books before it was a T.V. series.
Jakob: Like way in the way back time before the 1980s or whatever. And if you read some of the original, original books, all of the animals are anthropomorphic but they’re all drawn realistically. They probably changed the T.V. show aesthetic just because it looks less kind of scary, and it’s probably easier to animate if they all look relatively similar. Sidenote – anyone remember Postcards from Buster?
Rachel: The spinoff!
Jakob: the spinoff where Buster went to live with random American children for the week, and then it was him just animated on top of their live action lives. That was a great show.
Justin: But the story that Natalie wrote talked about that, because there were lesbians in Postcards from Buster in 2005.
Rachel: Yeah, and people got mad about it.
Jakob: Oh, I’m sure people got mad about it.
Rachel: It was a very peripheral reference to a bunny couple, a bunny family that had two moms. And people were mad, and now obviously I don’t think anyone cares that Mr. Ratburn is gay.
Jakob: Oh, I’m sure people care. I think less people care probably than they did in 2005.
Rachel: Yeah. This is from the official Wikipedia page for Arthur. “Prunella is a girl of un-obvious species.”
Rachel: “In 2011, PBS said she was a rat. But in 2013, Marc Brown” – that’s the creator of Arthur – “confirmed that she was in fact a poodle.”
Justin: Is Arthur camp?
Rachel: Is Arthur camp!
Justin: Like the idea that camp puts the…
Justin: My favorite bullet from the notes on camp is that camp puts things in quotation marks, you know? Like, it’s not a woman. It’s a “woman.”
Rachel: It’s not a poodle. It’s a “poodle.”
Justin: Okay, that’s it. Arthur’s not modern or postmodern. Arthur is camp.
[Music: “Believe in Yourself” by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers]
Jakob: Now it’s time, as always, for our personal stories. I’ll go first, because part of my secret agenda since April has been to turn my section of the personal stories of my podcast into the Jakob Lazzaro talks about his bike hour, because once again my personal story is about my bike.
Justin: I forgot about this.
Jakob: So as many of you know, about a month ago I bought a bike and I talked about it on the show because it is amazing and I love my bike. Then about a week ago, I took my bike up to my apartment, everything’s fine. Next day I get on my bike to go to work, bring it down in the elevator, wheel it outside, I have a flat tire. I’m like, well this sucks. Probably need to put some air in it, as I didn’t know it was flat at this point. So I walk my bike all the way to Allison, pump up my tire. It fills up, I’m like, lit. I ride to McTrib, where we’re recording this podcast, fun fact. By the time I get here, my tire is flat again. So at that point, I’m like, shit. I have a hole in my tire, what am I gonna do? At the end of all this, I’m with Justin. Tell him about my woe, and he’s like let’s look for the nail. So we look for the nail in the bike tire, we find it, we pull it out, we remember where it is…
Justin: You’re missing an integral part, which is that you did not know the bike tire had a tube inside. So I told you about that, and then I was like we can try to tape it up.
Justin: Cause I know how to fix a bike.
Jakob: Yes, he knows how to fix a bike because he’s the eagle scout, blah, blah, blah, et cetera, et cetera. So, Justin helps me, we take the bike to his apartment.
Rachel: Lead unburied.
Jakob: I go to Target. I buy the tape. I come back. We remove the tube from the tire without taking off the wheels. We tape it up, go to Plex, pump a bunch of air for like, an hour. Basically, it doesn’t fill up. I take my bike home, order a tube on Amazon, it gets there a few days later. I go back to Justin and borrow his wrench because I didn’t have one. My bike, since it is an old kind of workhorse bike, doesn’t have quick release wheels. It has bolt on wheels, so I have to use a wrench to take off the wheels. Since the bike is 25 years old, the nuts on the wheels are basically rusted shut. So I was only able to take one of them off, which means I couldn’t but the new tube on my wheel because I couldn’t take the back wheel off. Then I had to take my bike to the bike store and get them to do it, and it cost me 30 dollars because that was the labour for them to take my back wheel off, put the tube on and put it back together.
Justin: But it’s fixed?
Jakob: All in all, this took a week but my bike is fixed. Back with me now. Still ridin’. Hopefully, I don’t get any more nails because this was a pretty annoying process.
Justin: Watch where you’re biking.
Jakob: Yeah. Apparently, I need to do that.
Rachel: This is the most self-indulgent thing I could possibly come up with. It’s terrible, and you should all shame me.
Jakob: Okay. Well with that intro, let’s get on with your story!
Rachel: Yeah. So, a couple weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to write a story for The Outline about Gotham, which is a font – which is THE font. It is everywhere. Gotham is life. And I wrote the story, and then I didn't really think about it for a while. And then today, Brandy Jensen, who is my editor for that story and is Twitter famous, among other things, emailed me and was like I just want to let you know, since you’re a new writer. The story got 60,000 views!
Justin: Is that a lot?
Rachel: I guess, yeah!
Jakob: I mean, for an article about a font I think it’s pretty well.
Rachel: That’s the thing. I can’t believe there are 60,000 people who would want to read 1,500 words about a font.
Jakob: The real thing is, explain to me why Gotham is the best font
Rachel: It’s not the best font.
Jakob: Or why it’s the font of the 21st century.
Rachel: So, it’s a font that really… it's hard to explain this. But it really blends in. There are some fonts that become distinctly tied to specific things. Think about like, the two examples I give are the font that Apple uses and the font that Bernie Sanders uses. If you saw those anywhere else, you’d be like oh, that is the font from there. Gotham doesn’t do that. It has this ubiquity, and so it is everywhere. Spotify uses it. Netflix used to use it. Oh, my god. I can’t even think of all the places that use it. The Tribeca Film Festival uses it. AT&T uses it. The Obama campaign used it. It’s just a truly ubiquitous font.
Justin: I have a story, I guess.
Jakob: Don’t we all.
Justin: Everyone has a story, as the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications has taught me.
Justin: Anyway. My story is in less than two weeks, I will be off campus and I will be gone for probably nine months. On one hand, I’m very excited because I get to leave and I’m starting an internship early and we have this training period or whatever.
Rachel: Are you allowed to say what it is?
Justin: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m working at People Magazine for the summer.
Jakob: And then he’s gonna be at [REDACTED].
Justin: I’m not allowed to say that yet.
Jakob: Oh, shit.
Justin: Well, it’ll be public on May 17. I’m leaving in two weeks because I’m going to be working at People Magazine over the summer through the American Society of Magazine Editors internship, and we have this training period and it starts early because it’s built around people who go to semester schools. And then I’m going to be in New York for a whole six months because I’m there, and then I’m at my JR at a certain unnamed entertainment website. It’s gonna be really fun. And then, I’m thinking about doing another grant funded research project in the winter about emo music in the late 90s and early 2000s in Lawrence, Kansas, which means I wouldn’t be back here until late spring. And it’s been a really weird feeling, because on one hand I am so done with classes and shit here. I’m in some good classes, but I have this thing in my notes app that’s like here’s how many class meetings and how many hours of class I have left for the quarter, which I feel is something that only seniors do, right?
Rachel: I don’t feel like you need to be sentimental if that’s not what comes naturally.
Justin: Is it coming naturally if I’m like, I’m not sure if I should be sentimental? I don’t know.
Justin: For instance, I’m missing Dillo this year. Like, that’s dumb shit.
[Music: Little Lily Swing]
Justin: That’s going to wrap things up for this week and for the year, school year as we'll. This and all other NBN podcasts can be found in the iTunes store and in the Google Play store and on Spotify, go subscribe. Our show’s theme is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon, which we use under a Creative Commons Attribution License. I'm your host, Jakob Lazzaro.
Justin: I'm Justin Curto.
Jakob: Friend of the pod.
Rachel: I’m Rachel Hawley, acquaintance of the pod.
Jakob: And this is NBN Audio.
[Music: Little Lily Swing]
Rachel: Yeah, Papyrus is probably the go-to camp font.