LW355 - Word on the Street

Guests are Ken Jennings, John Roderick, Anastacia Renée, Emmy Favilla, and Laura Gibson. This show is hosted by Luke Burbank and has been recorded at the Neptune Theater in Seattle, Washington. The theme was Word on the Street.

It just so happens that these streets around the Neptune Theater are streets that Luke knows very well because he grew up here, not in the theater Phantom of the Opera style, but a couple of miles from here. He used to ride his bike around here all the time, also his skateboard regrettably for a couple of years, and his unicycle. He had a unicycle phase about the age 13-15 and he is not super proud of it, albeit at the time he was very proud of it, all 105 pounds of him, acne just starting to really come into bloom, unicycling down the Ave, he really thought he was living his best life, and at some point he saw a picture of him on the unicycle that his mom had taken and that was the day he put it in the front yard with a ”Free!” sign taped to it.

Luke continues to talk about his youth and how he came into unicycle riding, and how he as a 36 year old guy threw a guacamole at a unicycle rider in Cal Anderson Park.

Anastacia Renée (LW355)

Their first guest currently serves as the civic poet of Seattle. She is also a performance artist and published three books just in 2017, the vibrant and talented Anastacia Renée

She is only the second civic poet and gets to decide what she wants to do in the community. She continues to present her plans with her position.

When you wake up one day and you happen to be everything the president hates writing has been her saving grace and makes her an activist writer. She recites her poem called Zombie One

Well, I thought I would go like for me. OK, I'm going to read a zombie poem from this is Anastasia Renée, the civic poet of Seattle on Live Wire Zombie one.

Emmy Favella (LW355)

The next guest is Emmy Favella who was the copy chief for BuzzFeed.com and is the author of the book A World Without ”Whom”: The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age. She created a style guide in 2012 and she hired a copy editor because now they were actually a news outlet. They also have a chapter called How not to be a jerk. She writes in the book about how social media has changed punctuation. Millennials are killing periods because they can come off as aggressive, too serious, and too formal in a text message. Anyone who thinks that emojis are contributing to the demise of our language are so wrong! They are almost the most evolved form of punctuation that we have. She is pro Oxford comma.

Laura Gibson (LW355)

Their musical guest Laura Gibson is a singer who also happens to hold an MFA in fiction. Her latest record Empire Builder has been described as her best record to date. She is singing a brand-new song, but she doesn’t say the name of it.

Ken Jenning and John Roderick (LW355)

Their next guests are known, respectively, for being really good at music and really good at managing Alex Trebek's wild mood swings. They have combined forces on Omnibus, a podcast for the end of the world: Ken Jennings and John Roderick.

Everyone wants to know how Ken’s mind works and how it is possible for him to know as much as he does. He is very humble about it and says it is just a bunch of tricks and he wrote all the answers on his hand, but his mind really does work in an exceptional way. John’s way is to put everything into a story.

They are the intersection of the Venn diagram between Rock music and quiz-show-has-been. Ken is in a position where he can hang out with only the most erudite Rock musicians. It is an extremely narrow Venn diagram overlap. The premise of their podcast is to document and talk about obscure but real things that have happened in the world as a time capsule for people that may come in the future and it is a really fascinating podcast, but it is a little eerie listening to Ken giving a number serial number at the top of the episode and it does feel like some person from another planet in 1000 years is going through the wreckage of a Quizno's and they found this weird thing that is Omnibus and they are going to learn about our society from it.

Podcasting is a very ephemeral space, it is disposable. You listen to somebody yak for 45 minutes and like a conversation it is already half forgotten and you are on to the next thing. They really like the idea of creating an authoritative reference work out of this that might survive for millennia and maybe it is the thing that the cockroach people or the fishmen or whoever are listening to in the year 5000, crawling from the wreckage. It is a great way to explain things to a general audience because they presume that they need to explain everything to a super intelligent coral reef 2000 years from now. They have no sense of who their audience is, it could be the alien invaders, it could be the computer network that went sentient and launched the missiles. It is just a beacon and they are putting it out there into the world.

Who had the idea for the podcast? They were on an airplane heading to Atlanta to pitch a podcast without a great idea and John had the name, he wanted it to be an encyclopedia. They were talking about doing a podcast called The Worst, which was going to be all the worst stuff. They were on the plane and were questioning if they really liked this idea that they had already pitched and that they already liked. Somewhere over Champagne, Illinois they decided to come up with something new and by the time they landed they had the whole thing sketched out. What even does Omnibus mean?

The podcast covers real things, stories of skirmishes and odd events that maybe most people don't know about, but that they would like to preserve for future times. So far they have recorded 20 episodes of this, even only one is out. One of the fun things they learned during their research is that the man who invented chlorofluorocarbons also was the man who originally put lead in gasoline, a chemist who in the course of his career devised the two greatest atmospheric pollutants in the history of humankind. He got lead poisoning from working with leaded gas and in his retirement he came up with chlorofluorocarbons.

They both draw from their natural inclination to pursue rabbit holes. They were both kids that read the encyclopedia, you sit down, you pull a volume out of the shelf, you open it up and start reading and then just follow the encyclopedia where it would take you. Now, the Internet makes that a very different experience. They discover things all the time and part of their friendship is being able to understand the references the other one is making, it is part of the fun of having adult friends.

Ken is known for winning a bunch of Jeopardy episodes and he has written great trivia books, but he is still learning things in the creation of Omnibus. Jeopardy is testing knowledge that really is just a millimeter thick and very broad, so for a half hour /40 minute podcast you really have to delve a little and there is a lot of pleasure in following little Internet tangents and detours and rabbit holes.

Luke wonders why Alex Trebek has such a hard time talking to the contestants during that little interview segment. Ken has to skip it and cannot physically watch it. You are seeing a couple different things at work, mostly the fact that being very good at a television trivia show does not select for America's three most telegenic people on any given night. Luke wouldn’t even put it on the contestants, but thinks Alex has a non-ability to give a normal human response. When someone tells them that they have a cat sweater collection, he will say: ”I won't go there!” His response is always the last thing Luke expected him to say.

Ken would be extremely flattered if he were to be considered as being Alex Trebek’s replacement. He works 3-4 days a month, they pay him whatever he asks, and he is a sex symbol to every 85 year old woman in America. Ken would take the gig in a heartbeat! John adds that Ken's body man and wallet as they travel around the country, Ken is famous amid a demographic that John had no idea even had a concept of fame. They will walk into a Rock club and people hand him their coat, but when they go into a supermarket or a Hallmark store on Beacon Hill or a store that sells Beanie Babies, they mob Ken!

Some of the upcoming episodes of Omnibus are the teenage death ballads of the 1950s. People were just dying on wet asphalt in every single hit on the Top 10. They talked about all of the uncontacted peoples who remain. There are over 100 groups of uncontacted tribes living in a Paleolithic existence around the world. You wouldn't think there were so many, and a lot of them are not uncontacted, they are actually wearing Chicago Bulls 1986 T-shirts, a year that they didn't win because they have to make the shirts for both and the ones that they made for the team that didn't win end up in somewhere in Papua New Guinea. In the future they will all be wearing bowling shirts that have flames coming up from the bottom when Guy Fieri is finally off the air.

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