December 20, 2018

#133 Reply All's 2018 Year End Extravaganza

by Reply All

Background show artwork for Reply All



PJ VOGT: From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I’m PJ Vogt. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: And I’m Alex Goldman. 

PJ: Alex Goldman.


PJ: Why are we here?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Uh, this is our end of the year, spectacular extravaganza. 

PJ: OK. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: Which is an episode where we just kind of–we check up on some old stories, but also give ourselves permission to kind of do whatever we want. 

PJ: Yeah. It's sort of a–it's sort of a no-rules kind of situation.

ALEX GOLDMAN: It's Wacky Wednesday. 

PJ: Wacky Wednesday? What's Wacky Wednesday?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Harvey brought home a book from the library called Wacky Wednesday, which is written by Dr. Seuss but illustrated by someone else for some reason.


ALEX GOLDMAN: And the premise is like, it's this Wednesday where everything goes crazy but the person who illustrated it has no imagination. So like, the crazy thing is that like, there's a shoe on top of a building. 

PJ: That's Wacky Wednesday? 


PJ: There's a shoe on a building?

ALEX GOLDMAN: It's like–or like there's a baby carriage, but a tree's growing out of it. It's like the least wacky stuff you could imagine. It's so–

PJ: It just sounds like things you would see after a bomb went off in a city. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: You'd see a tree growing out of a–

PJ: You'd see like a tree wrapped around a baby- you'd see like–like it would be like impaled on a tree and there'd be a shoe on a house. Not to make it dark, but that's, that's what Wacky Wednesday sounds like. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: Well you really have–

PJ: (laughs)

ALEX GOLDMAN: You really have made it dark. 

PJ: OK, so what else happens on Wacky Wednesday?

ALEX GOLDMAN: I'm trying to remember what else happens on Wacky Wednesday. 

PJ: Dr. Seuss refuses to illustrate his own books.

ALEX GOLDMAN: It'll be like–there's like plane taking off backwards. It's–

PJ: You mean crashing?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Why are trying to make this so gross?

PJ: I'm not! I'm just trying to–


PJ: Gross? I'm just trying to understand why you–

ALEX GOLDMAN: Imagine, imagine a plane going in reverse, but taking off. 

PJ: It goes in the air butt first?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah, (laughing) imagine a plane going in the air butt first–

PJ: (Laughs) That's pretty wacky actually. OK, so this is kind of- this is our–this is our annual Wacky Wednesday episode. And there's someone here to help us with this. Reply All producer Jessica Yung.

JESSICA YUNG: Hi, guys. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: Hi, Jessica.

PJ: Jessica, what are you doing here?

JESSICA: So, today, I am gonna intro each update that we are going to be doing. 

PJ: Give me a–give me an example of what this would sound like. 

JESSICA: Like, up next, episode–!

ALL: (laughs)

PJ: What a listener can't see is that when you do that you–

ALEX GOLDMAN & PJ: Put your finger in the air.

PJ: And smile like a toothpaste model. 

JESSICA: (laughs)

PJ: It's like this huge smile. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: It reminded me of the people who do the safety instructions on the airplane.

PJ: Yeah!

JESSICA: Well the other day, I was walking down, and I was shopping for Christmas gifts and then I saw this guy outside like trying to get people to like do 20 dollar tattoos. And he did it with like so much enthusiasm and he had his like hand in the air, that I was like, "That's how you do it."

PJ: Wait–

ALEX GOLDMAN: Did you get a tattoo?

JESSICA: No, I thought about it though.

PJ: People were getting 20 dollar tattoos?

JESSICA: And the fact that that worked, you know? It was like so like, I don't know, convincing. 

PJ: So you want to be up here with the, with the persuasive technique of a guy who can sell a 20 dollar tattoo to stranger on the street.


PJ: OK. Do you want–

ALEX GOLDMAN: So far, so good. 

PJ: So far, so good. You want to do one more?

JESSICA: OK. First up!

ALL: (laugh)


JESSICA: First up Episode 130, "The Snapchat Thief."

ALEX: So you remember the episode The Snapchat Thief?

PJ: Yes.

ALEX: In that episode, a listener named Lizzie got in touch with us because her Snapchat account had been stolen, her Snapchat account was Lizard. 

PJ: She’d gotten the company to give it back, but she was being threatened. 

ALEX: Right.

ALEX: At this point did you feel like this hacker knew everything about you? 

LIZZIE: Umm-- I definitely was like feeling weird, and I like remember like maybe two days later, I like go to this yoga studio that's like two blocks from my house, and I just remember feeling like so nervous walking back from yoga. Um--

ALEX: So this consumed you you felt exposed everywhere

LIZZIE: I made my roommate sleep in my bed with me. 

ALEX: And so I started trying to look into who was threatening her and whether she was actually at any risk, and I stumbled in sort of...

PJ: Teenage hacker world.

ALEX: Right. And so after doing that story I was like, oh I’m very nervous about these hackers who like to steal people’s accounts and get their personal info, stealing my accounts and getting my personal info.

PJ: So what happened? 

ALEX: So I immediately did a thing where I hopped in their Discord just to see what they were talking about. 

PJ: If they were mad at you?

ALEX: If they were mad, or if they were like out to get me, or whatever. 

PJ: Don’t you think maybe they wouldn’t discuss it in the Discord since—

ALEX: Oh my god they discussed it so much. (PJ laughs) So there—there was like a variety of responses. 

PJ: What did they—did they like the podcast?

ALEX: Some of them did. There was a lot of like, can—can you believe how cringey it is that a forty-year-old stalked us for two months in our- in our–in our Discord, which—

PJ: They related to me. 

ALEX: Fair enough. 

ALEX & PJ: (laugh)

ALEX: There were a couple of people who were legitimately mad. 

PJ: And what- what—they were just mad because they felt exposed?

ALEX: Yeah. This person was like, “You think we should shut him down?” And I was like, oh that’s a little scary. 

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX: And then Maxime, one of the ringleaders of the hacker group I was watching says, “The podcast guy? No, why would we care?” And then Maxime is like, “there’s legit nothing bad in the podcast. Like there’s nothing bad about us. Like why would we go after him?”

PJ: That’s really well-adjusted. 

ALEX: Yeah I agree.

PJ: What a weird little cabal. 

ALEX: But a couple weeks after the episode came out, I got an email from Michael Bazzell.

PJ: Security expert.

ALEX: Security expert from the episode. 

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX: And he was like, “Hey, so, I just wanted to let you know that your social security number was bought (PJ gasps) on the internet.” And I was like, “How could you possibly know that someone bought my social security number?”

PJ: Did he have like an alert on it?

ALEX: So there—it’s actually pretty fascinating. There’s a website, which I’m not going to name here because no one should ever go to it. But it’s a place where you can buy social security numbers and personal information about people from various leaks. And, and basically the way the site works is, all of the social security numbers are hidden, and you have to search for names and pay for the name. It can be as cheap as a dollar eighty to get someone’s – 

PJ: That’s how much someone’s social security costs?

ALEX: Yeah. And once someone buys your social security number, it appears on a public list on that website that anyone can see. 

PJ: Oh crap. 

ALEX: He has a bot crawling that list for my social security number. 

PJ: (whispers) Oh.

ALEX: And once it became public, that means someone bought it. 

PJ: Not great. 

ALEX: Not awesome. And I was thinking like, what could they do with my social security number?

PJ: They could take the SATs for you. 

ALEX: (laughs) There’s no way they could do worse than I did. 

PJ: (laughs)

ALEX: But I was thinking like, you know, what can you do with, with a social security number? And I was like, they can’t start a new line of credit ‘cause I’ve frozen my credit. But they can, if they know my phone number, impersonate me to my phone company.

PJ: Right. 

ALEX: So, just to be safe, I told my phone company, that no one can transfer a phone on my account unless they go into the store. And I hope that that works. I guess we’ll see.


Quick PSA: after this episode, a lot of people sent in emails asking what they should do to be more secure online. Here are two easy things you can do: 1. Get a password manager, like Lastpass or Dashlane. Sorry that we say that in every episode, but you really need one. That’s why we do it.

And 2. Download an app called Google Authenticator, which is really just a much more secure way to do two-factor authentication than getting a text sent to your phone. Also just you know, don’t bother hackers. 


Episodes #127 & #128: The Crime Machines, parts 1 & 2

JESSICA: And now, number 127 and number 128, “The Crime Machine.”

PJ: So you remember Crime Machine was about—

ALEX: Crime Machine was about—it was about a guy named Jack Maple who essentially invented the sort of statistical analysis of crime in New York City, and then about how his invention after he passed away, um, totally became misused as a way to make the NYPD look a lot better at stopping crime than it was. 

PJ: Yeah and part of what we were trying to do with the story was actually just understand Jack Maple, like the guy who built this, and like what he actually wanted. And so, we spent a lot time listening to these tape recordings of him talking to this journalist named Chris Mitchell. And you can just hear like Jack's weirdo crime brain. Like, talking about stuff like how, the way he figured out where to put detectives in the city was by studying Napoleon's military strategies. 

JACK MAPLE: Because what did we learn from Napoleon? He didn't think much of the Admirals, right? And he got fucked at Trafalgar because of that. He didn’t use his detectives. 

CHRIS: Oh yeah, um.

JACK: You really think I’m crazy don’t you?

CHRIS: (laughs) No.

JACK: You do. 

CHRIS: You want me to–

JACK: You’re a little surprised about what?

PJ: So the guy interviewing Jack in those tapes, Chris Mitchell, he recorded those tapes 20 years ago, him and Jack actually became friends after that. And he emailed me when the story came out just to say that listening to the tapes again, it brought back a lot of memories for him. 

CHRIS MITCHELL: It’s, it’s funny that uh I have a memory of him being much more saintly than he comes across (laughs) ‘cause, ‘cause at his core he was such a good guy. Even the, you know, the motherfucking stuff on the, on the tapes is–was a surprise to me because I, you know, at the time I remember, but 20 years later or whatever, that all disappeared. 

PJ: And he told me this story about, he was like, Jack was just really charming and he could like sort of adapt his personality to the people around him in like a good way. And he said there was this one time where, um, they were hanging out at Chris’s house, and it was like holiday times. 

CHRIS: And, um, and we sat in my apartment dining room a little bit, and my daughter who’s about five came in and he immediately, instead of introducing himself as Jack Maple introduced himself as one of Santa’s elves. And she completely bought it. (PJ & CHRIS laugh) And so we finish up our business, and we walk out, and Santa’s elf had left his glock on the table. (PJ laughs) And he called me like three minutes later from the car saying, “I left my–I left my gun there, put it up on a high shelf.” 

PJ: (laughs) That’s perfect. 

PJ: So the reason why I was psyched to talk to Chris is because, like, you remember in the piece, Jack created the system to track crime, and for a while it really worked, and then eventually, people started abusing the system and actually it encouraged cops to not report crimes because they didn’t want to get in trouble. And I want … I never knew how aware Jack was before he died that his system had gone off the rails, and Chris had emailed me after the story to be like oh I have the answer to that. 

CHRIS: I mean, I know in 1998 we were already talking about that issue, that the numbers could be faked. And I mean I think you can tell from the original piece that Jack was furious about anything that is (laughs) that is unfair. So, so he, he had a plan that he was putting in place and I'm not sure how many cities he was able to do it. Essentially there would be people who would be doing undercover work going and reporting crimes, acting out the idea that a crime had happened. And then that would mean that the people on top would be able to check to see if those crimes showed up.

PJ: So it was like an audit. Like you would have someone to pretend to be a victim, file a report, and then see what happened in the system?

CHRIS: Yeah, exactly. It was certainly part of his concept of relentless follow up that he, he knew the system couldn’t just be put in place and that would, that would be it. The people running it had to always be trying to make it better. 

PJ: So he knew about the pitfall, and he had a plan at least to try to address it. And I liked that it was like let’s have a bunch of fake victims report fake crimes to catch cops that aren’t doing their jobs, that just felt like a Jack Maple plan. 

ALEX: Like the guys who used to come into the gas station I worked at to see if I would card for cigarettes. 

PJ: Exactly like the guys who used to come into the gas station that you used to work at to see if you would card for cigarettes. Did you ever get caught? 

ALEX: No, because I always carded for cigarettes. 

PJ: What if somebody looked kind of like an old person?

ALEX: I always carded for cigarettes because other people I’d worked with had gotten busted and the deal was that my boss, Mr. Fox, who was a pretty chill dude—loved the Kinks, loved Public Image Limited, cool guy. 

PJ: Uh-huh.

ALEX: He was like, “Sorry man. Like this ticket is yours, I’m not gonna deal with it.”

PJ: He made the employees pay for the tickets?

ALEX: Well the tickets are specifically written to the employees because they’re the ones who actually commit- commit the—

PJ: Cigarette fraud?

ALEX: Cigarette—cigarette fraud. 

PJ: Wow. And you never fell for it?

ALEX: No because I just had a blanket, always show me your ID rule–

PJ: Did people ever freak out?

ALEX: One guy threw a phone book at me (PJ laughs). Well I worked midnight to eight, and like people would show up drunk and be like, “I want a pack of Camels,” or whatever. And I’d be like, “I need to see your ID.” And the person was like, “I don’t have my ID.” 

PJ: Did it hit?

ALEX: Uh, yeah it hit me square in the face. 

PJ: Pretty funny to picture. 

ALEX: (laughs) Then I did the coolest thing I could think to do, which was drop down the bulletproof glass and lock the door to the cage I was in and start swearing at the guy. 

PJ: (laughs) How’d that go over?

ALEX: Uh, I felt really safe. 

PJ: Okay, well that’s my update. 




PJ: Hey, Damiano. How’s it going?


PJ: What are you doing here?

DAMIANO: Um, so we’ve reached the portion of the show called Lightning Round. 

PJ: Nice. 

DAMIANO: Do you guys remember Lightning Round? 

ALEX: Yes.

PJ: Uhh, we try to do a lot of updates real fast. And there’s–and it’s a competition for no reason. 

DAMIANO: (laughs) Exactly. So normally it’s the two of you guys competing against each other. 

PJ: Yeah.

DAMIANO: This year though I want to add someone. I want to add Producer Phia Bennin. And she’s going to represent, like, the producers of Reply All. 

PJ: Meaning what?

DAMIANO: Meaning, like, she can give updates on any of the things the producers worked on. So like anything I’ve worked on, anything Sruthi - who’s out sick this week - worked on, or Anna or Jessica. 

PJ: Okay. 

DAMIANO: She can also update whatever she wants. 

PJ: I hate this. 

ALEX: Yeah it seems weird– 

DAMIANO: I love it. Alright–

ALEX: I see–I hear some real host ego.

PJ: I just don’t like that she can do whatever she wants. Alright. 

DAMIANO: Phia Bennin, hi.

ALEX: Hi, Phia Bennin.

PJ: Phia’s here with a bottle of whiskey that like a pirate would be scared of (laughs). 

DAMIANO: It’s close to the size of her body–

ALEX: It’s huge.

PJ: Ugh. 

PHIA: I would like to have a shot before we do this. 

PJ: Okay!

DAMIANO: Are you just gettin’ pumped?

PHIA: I’m stressed. This is stressful, it makes me anxious. I think that some whiskey would help. 

PJ: Okay.

PHIA: Maybe that’s very unhealthy.

PJ: Uh, whatever. Um, I wouldn’t leave you- well I am–I do have a cold. Why would I do this to myself?

PHIA: I mean, that’s what like a hot toddy is. 

PJ: It’s a–

ALEX: A hot toddy is Jameson with a cold (laughs).

PJ: Alright let me get that hot toddy (ALEX laughing). Pour it directly into my cold Diet Snapple.

PHIA: Are you not gonna cheers me? RUDE!


PJ: We’re enemies! 

PHIA: So rude!

PJ: Cheers. Wow this really makes this taste like cough syrup. 

ALEX: You guys are so gross. 

PJ: I don’t disagree with you. 

DAMIANO: Do you feel readier?

PHIA: Okay, I feel two things right now. 

PJ: Hammered.

PHIA: (laughs) I feel very nervous--

DAMIANO: Really?

PHIA: --but I also think that I could win. 

ALEX: Oooh.

PJ: One of those was a feeling, one was more of a belief. 

PHIA: Okay, that’s fair–

ALEX: What’s the difference between a feeling and a belief?

PJ: You don’t know the difference between a feeling and a belief?

ALEX: Can we strike that from the record?

DAMIANO: Phia, is this your, is this your version of like intimidation tactics before the match?

PJ: (laughs) Yeah you’re- you’re like–you’re like pro-wrestling shit talk is to be like, “I feel nervous, but I believe I could win.” 

ALL: (laugh)

ALEX: I have a follow-up question, which is are we going--

PJ: What’s the difference between a thought and a belief?

ALEX: Alright, I already [inaudible]--

PJ: What’s the difference between a promise and a wish? (PHIA laughing)

ALEX: I would like to know the difference--

PJ: What’s the difference between a question and an answer?

PHIA: Oh, man. What’s the difference between a friend and an enemy? (PJ laughs)

ALEX: Oh, I know what enemies are. I’m very familiar with them. 

PHIA: Okay.

DAMIANO: Alright, guys. So the rules before we begin. 

PJ: Yeah.

DAMIANO: Normally we have a minute for Lighting Round. I’m gonna add 30 seconds, and we’re gonna go in a, just a clockwise formation. Alex--

PJ: I think listeners will know what that means. 

DAMIANO: --is sitting right in front of me. It’s almost like I was just gonna say what that meant (PJ laughs). Fucking dicks. Oh my god. Alright we’re gonna go clockwise, so it’s Alex, Phia, PJ. 

Also remember that I get to do whatever I want, and you have to listen to me. 

PJ: Ohh--

DAMIANO: Nope, I don’t really want to take questions either.

PJ: (laughs) Okay.

DAMIANO: Is everyone ready?

PJ: Yes.


PHIA: Yes. 

DAMIANO: On your marks. Alex, you’re first. (ALEX: OK.) Get set, go!


ALEX: Okay, so Voyage into Pizzagate. The guy who, one of the people who was the founding people at, oh my god, one of the people who was very, oh no!

PJ: Clocks ticking...

DAMIANO: Ugh, first ugh. 

PJ: This is like watching someone trip in the Olympics. 

ALEX: The person who bought, which was used as a repository for all sorts of Pizzagate conspiracy theories, eventually denounced it and now uses it as a website to denounce the conspiracy theory. 

PJ: That took 20 seconds?

PHIA: Okay, Susan from the past two updates episode, the woman who is--

PJ: Susan Brackney?

PHIA: Yeah, an owl watcher. Her dog, Franky No Pants, he died this year. 

PJ: Oh no.

PHIA: But she bought a house.


ALEX: Good for her.

PJ: That was a roller coaster.

DAMIANO: PJ, PJ, go. PJ, go, PJ--

PJ: Oh, uh, Sergeant Edwin Raymond from the Crime Machine episode, he had been up for a lieutenant promotion, and it seemed like his department was denying him. He just got it.


ALEX: Uhh, Facebook is still not listening to you, no matter what you think. But there, uh, some information, some documents leaked this year which show that they were collecting text message and phone number information from people who have android phones and they were talking about how creepy it was and chose to do it anyway–

PJ: It’s a lightning round–

DAMIANO: Alex, you’re falling behind! Do better.

PHIA: OK, Sruthi still orders everything from Amazon, but she heard this horrific report on next-day delivery, so she does 3-5-day delivery instead, and she said she still feels bad about it.

PJ: Uh, okay, you remember that episode “The Prophet” about Mexican elections?

PHIA: Mhm. 

ALEX: Yes. 

PJ: So the PRI, the ruling party, they finally lost an election. Obrador, the other guy, won. 

ALEX: Barry Crimmins, the comedian who ended up uh–

PJ: Uhhh.

ALEX: Stop! You’re making it much harder.

PJ: (laughs)

DAMIANO: No, he’s, he’s reflecting reality, you're really bad at this. 

PHIA: Should I go?

DAMIANO: Skipping you. Phia go, Phia go, Phia go.

PHIA: Okay, I now have a password manager. Alex had to set the whole thing up for me, and he knows like my super password and could give everything away. 

PJ: I bought a bunch of Bitcoin after we told people not to buy Bitcoin and that it was crazy to buy Bitcoin, and I lost some money. 

ALEX: Matt Logelin from the episode about how his wife was appearing in ads, uh, is no longer seeing his wife in ads after they said they would take them down. 

PHIA: Callie Burke, the woman who was gonna launch a rocket to Mars--

DAMIANO: Ten seconds.

PHIA: Did launch a rocket to Mars. 

PJ: Uhhh.

DAMIANO: Five seconds!

PJ: They still haven’t found the Phantom Caller, uhhh, Incels are still being really terrible on the Internet--

DAMIANO: Okay, time, time, time! [Music stops] Alright uh death match.

PJ: Death match–?


PHIA: We get to kill each other at the end?


ALEX: Wait, what did I do wrong? (laughs)

PJ: A lot. 

DAMIANO: Ready, set, go.


PHIA: Um a councilwoman from an area called San Juan Capistrano in her farewell speech said, “God bless America, God bless Q, God Bless San Juan Capistrano.”

PJ: Wait, she was talking about like QAnon Q?

PHIA: Yeah.

PJ: That is creepy. Uhh, Logan Paul tased a rat for some reason after having like tearfully apologized for putting bad stuff on the internet. And--

ALEX: The rat was dead.

PJ: Alex, you’re not in this round. And now he has a podcast. 

PHIA: Um, Soapy Soap changed their name to the Mad Optimist. 

PJ: I saw that. Uhh, I, uh– 

DAMIANO: 30 seconds of extra time.

PJ: One time I--

PHIA: Barry from Boy Wonder made a um is making a quote book. 

PJ: My uh dog uhh–

PHIA: Lizzie from Snapchat was on the Byte Back podcast after she donated to Byte Back, the nonprofit. 

PJ: I’m thinking about doing more internet shopping--

PHIA: Um--

PJ: --for Christmas.

PHIA: The Upper Breast Side, which is the (laughs) um, the store on the Upper West Side that people were donating their breast milk to, closed.

PJ: I have nothing. 

DAMIANO: Okay, time. [MUSIC stops] Okay, so, official standings: Alex Goldman. 

ALEX: Yeah, hi. 

DAMIANO: You didn’t like, like--

ALEX: I got a little flustered. 

DAMIANO: There’s not gonna a podium with three spots on it. (PJ laughs) You know what I mean?

ALEX: Anna was much nicer when--

PJ: It’s like the year when you just skip the bronze medal. 

DAMIANO: Yeah, there’s just like one step, a high step, and then a lower step, and that’s it. Cool, so you’re watching them get their medals (PJ laughs). PJ--

PJ: I’d be happy to just get silver here. 

DAMIANO: You did a pretty good job. 

PJ: Thank you. 

PHIA: I thought you did well too.

DAMIANO: I’m proud of you. You get, you get second place though, like clearly second place–

PJ: Yeah, no, I have no illusions here. 

DAMIANO: Phia Bennin. 

PHIA: Yes, Damiano Marchetti?

DAMIANO: You are this year’s 2018 Year Extra- Year–2018 Year-End Extravaganza gold medalist. 

PHIA: (whispers) Thank you.

DAMIANO: (whispers) Congratulations.

PHIA: I’m so happy.

DAMIANO: (whispers) The underclass.

PJ: (laughs) The underclass 

PHIA & DAMIANO: (laugh)

ALEX: Holy shit. 

PJ: Okay. 



JESSICA: Next up, episode 119, “No More Safe Harbor.”

Episode #119: No More Safe Harbor

PJ: Ok so this episode was about FOSTA/SESTA, these two laws that basically made it so that any website where people sell sex online can get in way more trouble than they used to. And according to people who supported this law, the reason they wanted to pass it was because they were trying to stop pimps, like sex traffickers, people who were using the internet to force people to sell sex against their will. Like their big target, like the website they particularly hated, was this website called Backpage, which was basically just like the Erotic Encounters on Craigslist but turned into its own website. 

ALEX: Right.

PJ: But like at the time, we talked to a bunch of sex workers and people who study sex work and what they were saying is like, this law is going to have really unintended consequences. Like, all these people who have been using the internet to sell sex and then actually protect themselves, a lot of those people are just going to be forced back onto the streets. In the original episode, I talked to this economist named Scott Cunningham who told me about it. 

PJ: Do you think people are going to die because of this law?

SCOTT: Yeah I do actually. If they end up having to go back to the streets, if they end up having to work with clients that they were not able to check out before or screen in any way they are going to die. They- there's going to be violence committed–there's going to be violence committed against them. There'll be no more blacklists, there will be no more whitelists, there'll be no references. I mean it’s not even clear how the market–what the new market's going to look like but I can't imagine that any of the safety infrastructure is going to be there.

PJ: So it’s been 8 months since we did that story. And I just wanted to see what had actually happened. So I called this person named Pike Long, she works with sex workers in San Francisco.

PIKE LONG: I am the deputy director of St. James Infirmary. We’re the first and only in 

the nation that I’m aware of, uh, peer-based occupational health and safety clinic for sex workers. And their partners. 

PJ: So, pike said just on a neighborhood level in SF, as soon as the law passed… 

Other thing that sex workers and advocates had predicted, 

Pike said that yeah, like, they are definitely seeing the effects of the laws. that a lot of people predicted, which is that pimps, like traffickers, would be helped by the law, she said that she had seen evidence of that too.

PIKE: So for example, somebody who maybe actually had gotten out of an abusive third-party situation, started out having a pimp or even if it wasn't abusive, but they didn't want a pimp taking a big cut of their money. Once they were able to get online and get their own business off the ground they were working for themselves and keeping all of it. Once FOSTA and SESTA happened a lot of pimps came back out of the woodwork and were like, hey, you need me now. How else are you going to find clients? How are you going to screen these clients? (PJ: Right) Who's going to protect you? Right? Suddenly these folks needed protection again when they had been doing just fine on their own previously. 

PJ: i guess we knew that this was goign to happen but it’s interesting hearing all the ways it actually did. 

PIKE: Yeah oh honey let me tell you and what I learned was what–when Backpage closed, you know, I guess I kind of had this naive like, oh well workers in the U.S. are screwed. But no. Backpage was the number one advertising venue for the entire world. There was like 120 countries (PJ: Woah.) where Backpage was the number one platform. It was massive. So what we heard from a lot of people—everywhere from like Malaysia to Australia to Africa, like South Africa especially was there, Uganda was there. Like, the same thing that we saw happening in the United States has happened ripple effect—like worldwide. This–the day Backpage went down, literally I would say probably millions of people’s lives were damaged instantaneously, like their ability to earn a living. 

PJ: The other place this rippled out that sorta surprised me was that since FOSTA/SESTA passed, all the big platforms - like Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr – they have all now gotten so scared about being FOSTA/SESTA compliant that they’ve shut down like huge parts of their websites because they’re worried they could get caught allowing people to sell sex. Like Craigslist lost their personals section. Tumblr just a few weeks ago, they said they were going to basically do a ban on essentially all adult content on their website. Which with Tumblr you’re like, oh, what will be left?

ALEX: Yeah, it's the entire website.


JESSICA: Next Up, episode 122, “The QAnon Code."

ALEX GOLDMAN: So, we have a segment on our show called "Yes, Yes, No" in which our boss, Alex Blumberg, comes to us with things from the Internet he doesn't understand and we try to explain them to him and we've had some wild ones this year. So we brought Alex Blumberg back into the studio. Alex, hello.


ALEX GOLDMAN: We brought you here because there have been a variety of developments from the Yes, Yes, Nos that we have–

PJ: The Yes, Yes, Nos, which became understandable, then more things happened and while you might think that you're a "yes." 

ALEX BLUMBERG: I got no'ed.

PJ: The, the internet returns to its natural state of confusion.

ALEX BLUMBERG: (Laughs) Got it.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Do you remember QAnon, Alex Blumberg?

ALEX BLUMBERG: I do remember QAnon. 

GOLDMAN: Qanon is a person or persons who has been posting on 4chan and 8chan for the past year, and their posts are super cryptic, but basically what they say is that a lot of very prominent politicians, like the obamas, the clintons are engaging in all the insanely corrupt behavior and Donald Trump is leading a clandestine campaign to have them all arrested. 


ALEX GOLDMAN: So, I spoke to Will Sommer from The Daily Beast who has done a lot of reporting about QAnon, far right conspiracy theories. And I just asked him like what has Q been posting and how have his followers been interpreting it

ALEX: Has anything that Q predicted come true? 

WILL: Well so a lot of these Q predictions are so incredibly vague. They’ll say like “Oh something big’s going to happen next week. You know, Mueller will indict someone or something will happen. And then Q will say “See I told you.” The latest one I was seeing was Q was predicting this big red wave in the midterms and that didn’t materialize. But then there was this earthquake in Alaska and people were like “Well that was the wave Q was talking about”

ALEX: Wait I’m sorry he can predict earthquakes too? 

WILL: Well so if you get a little into it there’s a lot of accusations that the deep state can control the weather and cause earthquakes and things like that. 

ALEX: And then, Will told me about this other thing that some Qanon folks believe 


ALEX GOLDMAN: Which adds an entire new dimension to this, which is really surprising. 


ALEX GOLDMAN: This summer, Q stopped posting for a while. And no one could figure out where he was, or they were, whoever posts as Q, people were worried that they’d been–

PJ: Renditioned

ALEX GOLDMAN: Renditioned, busted by the deep state, whatever. And in their place, someone popped up and started posting similarly cryptic things. Um, let me read the first post by this person. It says, “In 1909, we lost everything. My father caught on. 1st to the Bilderbergs, then he caught on the NASA. He demand–”

PJ: The NASA? 

ALEX GOLDMAN: It’s–I think it’s a typo. “He demanded to know who the grey's were and why they were here.” I assume that means, um, aliens. “They killed him. I strategically staged my own death, allied with the one person in this world whom I knew was honorable enough to trust, and we began building ‘The Plan’” quote-unquote. It is signed, “R”.

PJ: The letter after Q.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Good work, guys. 


ALEX GOLDMAN: The—the photo attached to this is a photo of Donald Trump and John F. Kennedy Jr. 

PJ: So they’re saying John F. Kennedy Jr. faked his own death because of the aliens?

ALEX GOLDMAN: John F. Kennedy Jr. faked his own death. And the reason that he did that is because he was going to get whacked by the deep state so that they could make way for Hillary Clinton’s political aspirations. And he is now posting these messages online under the pseudonym “R”.

ALEX BLUMBERG: That is a good twist. 

PJ: Yeah. 

ALEX BLUMBERG: I would never have thought that like the hero of the Q, QAnon conspiracy revolutionary band is John F. Kennedy Jr. who’s still alive. Didn’t he die, how did he–

PJ: He died in a plane crash. 

ALEX BLUMBERG: He died in a plane crash, right.

ALEX GOLDMAN: So people start seeing Q iconography everywhere related to the Kennedys. For example, take a look at this overhead view of the eternal flame, the gravesite of JFK. 

PJ: I can already, (ALEX BLUMBERG: Oh, man.) I don’t even need to do it. It’s in a circle and it’s a flame, so it’s a Q. Oh no, the road is shaped—it’s a circle that a road leads into. It doesn’t even look like a Q though, it looks like, it looks like a music note that’s bent. Tell them that. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: This is Alex Goldman from the Reply All podcast, can we chat? (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs) Because this seems silly. So—

ALEX BLUMBERG: I’m gonna need a little bit more proof (laughs).

PJ & ALEX GOLDMAN: (laugh)

PJ: It’s just like you can find real things in the world that do look like Qs. They’re not even trying. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: So the other thing that’s happened related to JFK.

PJ: The other thing that has happened related to JFK.

ALEX GOLDMAN: People start posting pictures from Trump rallies and saying, “take a look at this guy.” 

PJ: (Whispering) Oh god. 


ALEX GOLDMAN: This guy has been showing up at, at Trump rallies.

PJ: No one can know you’re alive, you’re gonna hide by going to Trump rallies. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: This person, this JFK Jr. person is named Vincent Fusca? Fyu-sca?. Um, here’s a picture of him. 

PJ: Wait which guy?

ALEX GOLDMAN: That’s–both of those are the same guy. 

PJ: No one has ever looked less like JFK Jr. He’s like, he’s a dude—he’s got long hair and a scraggly beard. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: If you think that that doesn’t look like him, just wait until you see this picture of Vincent Fusca’s face, superimposed over JFK’s face. 

PJ: Oh my god, (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs) two people have never looked less similar. Donald Trump looks more like JFK Jr. than Vincent Fusca. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: So, suddenly a bunch of people in the QAnon conspiracy galaxy, start talking about him nonstop. Like, making YouTube videos that say like, "Is Vincent Fusca actually JFK Jr.?" Um, here:


VIDEO GUY: We need to wake up. That's, that's not Vincent Fusca or Fusco. That's JFK Jr. Mind you it's been 19 years since we last saw him. But also lets not underestimate the hair the hat, sunglasses maybe possible facial reconstruction who knows. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: And Vincent Fusca has been directly asked “hey are you JFK Jr,” and he hasn’t confirmed or denied it. But he does take pictures with QBelievers all the time, and has kind of become like this fringe hero. 

ALEX BLUMBERG: That’s wild. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: So I was like, well I want to get in touch with Vincent Fusca. 

PJ: Okay.

ALEX GOLDMAN: I found a person with his name living in Pittsburgh, which is supposedly where he lives. 

PJ: Uh-huh

ALEX GOLDMAN: On Linkedin, and I sent a Linkedin message which said, “Hey, I’ve been reading about this conspiracy theory.” 

And...he got back to me. He called me. I was in an interview so I couldn’t pick up. But I’m pretty sure that I got the wrong guy because this is the voicemail I got. 

VINCENT FUSCA: Hi Alex, this is a person you Linkedin messaged about a theory about JFK Jr. You said theory. Do you know what a theory is? A theory means something that might be true. You actually said theory when it came to this bullshit fucking ridiculous story. I mean I can’t believe you fucking wasted your time to email me this shit. So I’ll give you this kind of interview here over the voicemail. Okay? Any fuckhead that thinks that this is fucking true should be pretty much locked up so that people like me who are intelligent, severely intelligent, can live in a better society. Yeah, you said theory, that really pissed me off. That’s your fucking interview. Don’t ever fucking contact me again with some bullshit like this. 


JESSICA: Next, episode number 126, Alex Jones Dramageddon.

Episode #126: Alex Jones Dramageddon

PJ: Ok we have another person in the studio now. Reply All producer Anna Foley. 

ANNA FOLEY: Hey guys. 



ANNA: If you remember, I came in to tell you about, uh, some drama that was going on in the Beauty YouTube community.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Oh, I remember–


PJ: The Beautube community. 


ANNA: Yes, Beautube. 


ANNA: So I have a, a small update for you. So do you remember I talked about this technique called a cut crease? 


PJ: It was a fancy thing you do on your eyes. And you–

ANNA: Yeah.

PJ: You were bringing this up because you were just literally explaining like what, some of why you loved Beautube, and it was like just like, tutorials. 

ANNA: I mean, I love Beautube because of the drama, but (laughs) I mean I watched a ton of tutorials on cut creases because like most of the time I can look at a, a look or like someone's face and kind of replicate it on my own. But like a cut crease I didn't even know where to start, so I had to watch a lot of tutorials. There are so many on there. 

VIDEO: Hey guys! So today I created this super glam cut crease ombre makeup…

VIDEO 2: So first thing I’m doing of course is priming my eyes…

VIDEO 3: I’m gonna be using that rusty kind of shade into the crease and I’m just putting that all over, making sure it’s highly, highly pigmented…

VIDEO 4: Alright you guys this is the finished look. I hope you guys enjoy this fun, yellow cut crease eye with top lashes, bottom lashes….

ANNA: So after watching literally hours of these tutorials, I am happy to report that I learned how to do a cut crease. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: Congratulations!

ALEX BLUMBERG: That’s awesome (laughs)!

ANNA: Thank you.

PJ: There’s something like that’s distinctly rewarding about learning something off the internet and then actually being able to do it–

ANNA: Yeah–

PJ: That feels very good. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: Can I see a picture?

ANNA: Sure.

PJ: It looks really good.

ANNA: Thank you. 

ALEX BLUMBERG: Let me see. 

PJ: I was picturing something less subtle. Like I don’t know, Alex, can you describe it?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Uh, yeah. It’s just like a—it’s like a dark line right where the fold of your eye and then, and then it just sort of like [bell chime?] gets gradually lighter out from there. 

ANNA: Mhm.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Like a sunrise. 

PJ: Well congratulations on learning a thing–

ANNA: Thank you.

PJ: That was difficult.

ANNA: Thank you. I was thinking though, that it would be very cool if we could all leave 2018 being able to do a cut crease. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: So, I beg your, I beg your–so you want us to do cut crease?

ANNA: Are you guys up to the challenge?

PJ: I feel like I could learn a cut crease. 

ANNA: Yeah?

ALEX GOLDMAN: I’ll give it a shot. 

ANNA: So, uh, I would like to give you all the weekend to learn—

PJ: Practice?


ANNA: To practice with your supplies. Watch the, watch the video. 

PJ: Are you going to judge?

ANNA: Yes. I think that we should all meet back here Monday morning and everybody can come in their cut crease. 

PJ: Alright. See you guys Monday. 

ANNA: See you Monday. 


ALEX GOLDMAN: Alright it’s 5:42 AM. I’m going to cut crease my eyes. Alright, this is going to be awesome. I have to take my glasses off, so I can’t see anything. 

PJ: Okay. I feel so stressed about this, this is so dumb. 

I’m taking the little brush guy, and putting it in the thing that looks like a paint palette, which is a natural shadow palette. Oh no, it looks likemy face looks like when they try to cover graffiti and they just make it uglier.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Alright now I have this microphone. Okay, I gotta watch the tutorial. 

VIDEO WOMAN: Hi everyone and welcome back to my channel. So today I am going to 

be showing you guys how to do this cut crease…(continues in background)

SAMIRA: Uh, Daddy?


CALVIN: You’re not doing that right?

ALEX BLUMBERG: I am. I’m doing it. 

SAMIRA: Putting makeup on is hard. 

ALEX BLUMBERG: It’s really hard. Alright. Here comes the concealer. I have no idea how much to put on of this stuff too.

SAMIRA: Just that’s probably good. 


SAMIRA: Okay. That is not a good line. I can see it.

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs) Oh my god. Okay that’s–I think that’s everything. What do you think?

SAMIRA: You’re probably not going to win this. 



ANNA: Good morning Alex

GOLDMAN: (laughs) Good morning, Anna. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: We are here. Both PJ and I are wearing sunglasses to obscure our makeup. Alex Blumberg has his hat pulled down over his face. And we are ready to do our big reveals. 

PJ: How did it go?

ALEX BLUMBERG: It’s so so hard. 

PJ: (off mic) Yes!

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah, it’s really hard. 

ALEX BLUMBERG: It was so hard–

PJ: Oh my god it’s so hard. It’s like painting a painting on your face. 


ANNA: Alright. Alex Blumberg, take it away–

ALEX BLUMBERG: OK, here we go. Are you ready?

ANNA: Yup.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Dun-dun-dun. Should I take off my—I’m going to take off my glasses. 

PJ: Yeah. 


PJ: You look pretty good!


ANNA: Yeah, you look pretty good. 

PJ: (laughs)


PJ: Yeah. 

ANNA: So Alex Blumberg kind of nailed the winged eyeliner. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: Oh wow. Damn son. 

PJ: Yeah, I bailed on that part I tried to do it like three times (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs) and it was not happening. 

ANNA: And then like you, can you close your eyes really quick? You kind of—you got the concealer. 

PJ: Yeah.

ANNA: Like you- you- you really–you put it in the right place, (ALEX BLUMBERG: Mhm.) it’s cutting your crease. (ALEX BLUMBERG: Mmm) You’ve got a little bit of glitter on the lid and a little bit of definition in the crease. 


ANNA: It looks, you know, it looks pretty good. 

ALEX BLUMBERG: Oh, you guys–

PJ: There was a stumble in that “it looks” that made me a little suspicious. 

ANNA: (laughs)

ALEX GOLDMAN: No I think it looks good. 

ALEX BLUMBERG: It looks insane. But thank you. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: I want to say something before I take my glasses off. Which is that like I was really hoping to get the cool black line right above my eye, and I had the like pencil that you’re supposed to draw it on with. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: This is very difficult and I like the idea of having a wing though. I want 

to have a wing. I want to have an eye wing. Gimme them eye wings. I can’t see anything ‘cause I don’t have a glasses on. But I got them eye wings! I got some eye wings! Yeah. What? What? The tip of my eyeliner broke off. What are you supposed to do about that?

ALEX GOLDMAN: So I just kind of had to smear it on. I think that like actually what ended up happening is I just kind of understate–it just kind of looks like kind of understated? Here. 

PJ: That is kind of understated. 

ANNA: It is. It’s very subtle. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: (laughs) I really tried. I did this for half an hour guys. I was caking stuff on there. 

ANNA: You just see like a subtle dark line extend towards the like end of your eyebrow.

PJ: Goldman, you look very subtle. 

ANNA: It also kind of looks like you wore mascara and a little bit of eyeliner, and then you jumped in a pool.

PJ: (laughs)


ANNA: You just forgot that you had makeup on, and then you went and (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs) had a great time splish splashing around. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: This is what I will say, I feel like I can wear mascara everyday. That shit is easy to put on and it makes me look—it makes my eyes pop. 

PJ: And then I would say Blumberg is on the like more dramatic, serving a look (ANNA: Uh huh), like Cleopatra night side of things, which I think is the side that I landed on so I think that’s the right side (laughs). 


PJ: OK, I didn’t do a good job.


PJ: (laughs) I just kept—it kept going wrong and then I kept putting more on. 

ANNA: Can you close your eyes and look at me? Okay. 

PJ: Uh oh. 

ANNA: So you’ve got- you’ve got—I think you have the most glitter out of everyone. 

PJ: That’s a—that’s a superlative. 

ALEX BLUMBERG: Did you use eyeliner?

PJ: Yes, and then I wiped it off, and then I put it back on. 


ANNA: You put it back on?

PJ: I couldn’t do the line. 

ANNA: So, do I have to rank you guys?

PJ/ALEXs: Yes, yeah. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: I’m afraid so

PJ: I think you should do 3rd place first. 

ANNA: Okay. Um, so I think just based on the assignment, which was a cut crease eye with like a little bit—like a dark shadow and then a light shadow, I think third place is going to have to go to you, Alex Goldman [Alex sighs]. Just because subtlety is like an art in and of itself, but a cut crease is not subtle. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: (whispering) I wasn’t trying to be subtle the point broke off my pencil. 

PJ: What a loser excuse. 



ANNA: OK. I think if we’re like–if we’re keeping with that criteria and it’s like–

PJ: I know where this is going–

ANNA: What are the elements of the cut crease.

PJ: You gotta have the line! (ANNA laughs) You gotta have the Cleopatra line!


ANNA: You gotta have the Cleopatra line. 

PJ: Well can I just say the point broke off my pencil?

ALEX GOLDMAN: You could say it but it would be a lie. You had all the tools, you just did a bad job. 

PJ: I’m not gonna loser lament this. I’m happy to have silver medal, it’s great.

ANNA: Your mascara is very nice. 

PJ: Thank you. 

ANNA: And first place is—


PJ & ANNA: (laugh)


PJ: The beautiful Alex Blumberg. 

ANNA: How does it feel?

ALEX BLUMBERG: It feels- itch–itchy. Can I take it off now?

PJ: (laughs)

[MUSIC – ‘Lazy Rivers’]

PJ: If you would like to see pictures of our beautiful makeup contest, we’re going to put them in our newsletter, which is weekly. You can subscribe to it at We’ll also put them on our Instagram.


Episode #82: Hello?

JESSICA: Episode 82, “Hello.”

PJ: OK so, back in 2016, we decided to take phone calls from listeners for 48 hours. And one of the calls we got - it was towards the end - it was from this woman, who, she was originally from India, but she was living in Basel, Switzerland. And the reason she’s called was she’d just had her first kiss. 

WOMAN1: So I’m 24 and I kissed a guy for the first time like a month ago maybe. 

PJ: Congratulations! That’s really exciting. 

WOMAN1: I agree. But then, it was not nice. I did not like it. So now I’m wondering um… like how do i know i’m straight? I dont’ know that. So, um… whenever I have talked to my dad especially in obtuse terms about this… he he he is very homophobic, so things are strained at home right now because I feel like I cannot be honest about my stuff. 

We talked for a really long time without really solving anything. Like her dad was her best friend, she didn't wanna lie to him, and she also just wanted the space to even like figure out if she was bisexual. It was just very hard to solve. Anyway, that was two years ago. 

[Skype ringing]

WOMAN1: Hello?

PJ/ALEX: Hello.

WOMAN1: Oh, hi. Alex–

ALEX: Hi, how’s it going–?

PJ: How’s it going–?

WOMAN1: Uh, it’s going good. I did not expect to talk to you guys straightaway. 

ALEX: (laughs) uh, well here we are.

WOMAN1: Yes. It’s nice to hear your voice.

ALEX: So it’s been two years since we talked?

WOMAN1: Yes. Yes. Yes. 

PJ: So what’s happened since then?

WOMAN1: A lot has happened since then. I gave things a lot of thought and I decided okay maybe I cannot date women straight away but I can try dating more men and seeing how I like that. 

PJ: Uh-huh. 

WOMAN1: And, um, some of them went okay. And basically I found out at least that it was just one terrible kiss and not all kisses have to be like that. 

ALEX: That’s a relief.

PJ: That’s a great thing to find out. 

WOMAN1: Yes. 

PJ: (laughs) Wait, so now that you’ve kissed more people, was your first kiss the worst kiss that you’ve had, or is it just one of the less good ones and there were worse than that one?

WOMAN1: I think it, it was one of the less good ones. I think it’sI find men like to dominate kisses whereas, I don’t know (laughs) maybe it’s too much detail.

PJ: (laughing) You mean the thing where it’s just like, oh my god your whole tongue is in my mouth for some reason. 

WOMAN1: Yeah. It’s like, “here’s a mouth and let me just snog it.” 

PJ: (laughs)

WOMAN1: You need to give people room to breathe. And I don’t–I had so little experience that I could not say no to this, and I thought maybe this is just how people did it. And turns out no, you can be more gentle about it. And about the–I mean I feel reasonably confident that I am bisexual. But I’m also reasonably confident that I will never act on that side of me. 

PJ: Really?

WOMAN1: Yeah. Because I gave a lot of thought to what you said and I agree my relationship with my dad will never be that close again. 

PJ: Mm.

ALEX: I’m sorry–

WOMAN1: But I have–no it’s okay because I have like come to realize I think I don’t know, over the two–last two years I started to realize like your parents are people too. And they are like, they made mistakes too. 

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX: Yeah–

WOMAN1: And, and not everything has to match what you think. Um, so, and yeah, so I couldn’tI didn’t have the courage to talk to my dad about this directly, but I did talk to my sister about this. 

ALEX: And how did she take it? How did she react?

WOMAN1: She did not react very well to that. 

PJ: Ugh. 

ALEX: I’m sorry.

WOMAN1: Yeah.

PJ: What kind of bad reaction?

WOMAN1: In the sense that it was more like, okay, fine, even if you are bisexual, what will you do about it? You cannot act on this because in our comm–in our community, people don’t do this. It’sher words were basically like, just because you read about it, you now know that you have more options and that’s why you think like this. And, I was like, okay if a person from my own generation has reactions like this, what can I expect from older generations? 

ALEX: Right–

WOMAN1: I don’t know if that’s fair because older generations can be progressive too, but I don’t know. It justI was very disappointed for a month or two because I felt like she should have understood. And–

PJ: Yeah–

WOMAN1: Yeah. And when she did not I was like, okay. So the chances of convincing everyone about this are very close to zero. Yeah. 

ALEX: I understand what you’re saying. Do you feel at peace with the idea of this? Like thatthat this is sort of proscribed and, and like, your family is important to you and this is a sacrifice you’re willing to make. Like, do you feel okay about it?

WOMAN1: Um, now, yes. Yes. Um, it’s okay, yeah. I know now what I am sacrificing, but what I’m getting to keep in return, so I’m, I’m okay with it, yeah. 

PJ: And maybe things will change over time. I feel like sometimes I’ve like made peace with stuff and later been like, eh, actually I’m going to change it. 

WOMAN1: (laughs) Like what?

PJ: Um, I'm somebody where I have like a relationship with my parents where there's lots of things they don't want me to do. Like, my mom worries a lot. This isn't the same scale of importance as your stuff, but she was like, it was very important to her that I never get a motorcycle. 

WOMAN1: (laughs)

PJ: She was just like, "I'll worry too much. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." And I was like, "Well, I don't want to upset my mom or upset my relationship with my mom." And then after a couple decades of being alive, I was like, "Oh wait, I can just not tell her."

WOMAN1: (laughs)

PJ: Which worked out great. And the other thing that was crazy about it was like, she came to visit me and she was like, you know, every time my mom comes to visit, she starts messing with my apartment, messing with–she starts cleaning and making it nicer than it is–

WOMAN 1: Mhm (laughs)

ALEX: (laughs)

PJ: And so she was doing that and she came out of like my closet holding a motorcycle helmet. 

WOMAN1: (laughs)

ALEX GOLDMAN: (gasps) Did she come out–was she like fuming?

PJ: She was–she looked surprised and curious. And I think I–I could be misremembering this, but I think that I started to make up a story and then I was like, "Oh, that's the motorcycle helmet for the motorcycle that I have that I don't tell you about because you would freak out about it." 

ALEX GOLDMAN: And how did she deal?

PJ: She wasn't–not as bad as I thought. Like I think there's something about–not that it always happens like this at all. 

WOMAN1: Mmm.

PJ: But it was easier to be like, I'm doing this and I've been it for a couple years and I–you know then it would've been if–it was easier to get forgiveness than permission, in that case–

WOMAN1: Hmm.

PJ: I'm not saying it's the same thing. But–


PJ: It taught me my strategy. 

WOMAN1: Right, right. Maybe, yeah, maybe I, I still need to do a bit more growing up and by the time I reach thirty I can be like, I don't need permission anymore. (laughs) I can just, yeah.

PJ: It just does sound nice that it feels like you’re less–you feel less anxiety. Like you don’t feel as much pain as you were feeling before. 

WOMAN1: Oh yeah, oh yeah. It’sI don’t know how to explain it. I just feel more settled. And- I– it likedoes it happen to you when your professional life is also in flux then it starts to infect everything?

PJ: Yes.

ALEX: Yeah.

WOMAN1: And yeah. And I was like at that point right there then thatthis was also happening when I was just finishing up my master’s and I was like, I don’t know what to do and everything feels urgh. 

PJ: Yes.

ALEX: Right.

WOMAN1: Right and then I started my phD and it’s like, no this is work I really enjoy and I like doing it and I am good at it, so that side of me is very happy. So it infects the rest and I’m like maybe it’s okay if I find my–if I take my own time, you know finding the right person. It’s fine.

PJ: Totally.

ALEX: Right.

PJ: Thank you for talking to us. 

ALEX: Yeah thanks so much for talking. 

WOMAN1: No worries, thank you for taking the time out to talk to me. 

PJ: Can we check in again in like a year?

WOMAN1: Of course. 



TIM HOWARD: Hello, hello.

PJ: Hey, Tim.

TIM: Hey, guys. How's it going?

PJ: Good, how are you?

ALEX: Oh, it's going great.

TIM: Good, um, I'm Tim.

ALEX: Hi, Tim.

TIM: And, um–

PJ: Tim, you don't need to introduce yourself to us. You edit the show.

TIM: Well I think maybe I guess what I'm suggesting is that not everybody who's listening has any idea who I am. 

PJ: Not everybody understands that there's a Wizard of Oz behind the curtain pulling our strings like little marionettes.

TIM: Um, hi. 

PJ & ALEX: (laugh)

TIM: So, OK, anyway. I wanted to actually have the honor to co-introduce with you guys the last segment of our year-end extravaganza. And also I feel like it–I don't know for personal reasons it really speaks to me this year, much more than like I, I would've possibly ever imagined.

PJ: Tim, just for like listener benefit, do you want to say, we're not currently in the same room. Like, do you want to say where you are?

TIM: Right. So, I'm in, I'm in Berlin. I got here about seven months ago. Where I am is, is kind of, kind of funny. I never would've expect to end up in this particular room.

PJ: (laughs)

TIM: I work in a co-work space in this old, it's called an Altbau, which is like the German word for like old construction. So I show up, I show up at this space every day as everybody else is getting ready to go home. Because I'm working on, you know, New York hours–

PJ: New York time.

TIM: Literally nobody here… all the lights were off.

TIM: And then I go over to the back of the room, where there's this door with this giant metal bar across it. And then I open the door and it goes into this like abandoned stairwell. A freezing abandoned stairwell. And then, right there on the right there's this little door that goes into what was once a water closet or like a toilet.

PJ: It's like something a lot of people would call a toilet but what you call your home. 

TIM: Yeah, but it's really- I–I actually really love it. It's really–I don't know I like tiny little secluded spaces–

PJ: Yeah–

TIM: And actually like at the moment I have to like–I take a blanket, and I wrap it around my lower half because it's so fucking cold in here (laughs).

PJ: (laughs)

TIM: And like if I open this door here [door clicks open] well it's just totally dark. Hello (echo)? Ohh (echo).

ALEX & PJ: (laugh)

TIM: There's just–it just echoes down many floors. [door clicks shut] Yeah, so anyway and then I come here, and then I like turn on my computer, and I actually really enjoy just thinking about the idea that like I'm here in this dark and cold little space. It feels like a little perch. And that like these–I like to think about the cables that are traveling like thousands of miles at the bottom of the ocean and how there's like billions of little sea creatures like running over these cables for us to connect to each other and then, you know, make our stories. I don't know if it's true, but–

ALEX: It is true, there are gigantic undersea cables. And they go right past that giant monster that makes the big bloop.

PJ: The big bloop?

ALEX: You don't know about the big bloop?

PJ: No.

ALEX: There- all these–what are people who study the ocean? Oceanographers. 

PJ: Sure.

ALEX: So, they started hearing this thing from like a part of the ocean that is way too deep to–way too deep to explore.

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX: They started hearing the sound on–using like whatever sophisticated techniques they use to collect sound from the ocean floor. And they were like, we think it's an animal, but we've never heard anything like it, and it's insanely like- it's–it sounds like it's coming from something insanely big.

PJ: Huh–

ALEX: And it's called the big bloop. 

PJ: Because the sound itself is a big bloop?

TIM: (laughs)

ALEX: Yeah.

PJ: OK, here it is. 


PJ: Do you hear the bloop?

TIM: I heard like a tummy rumbling. 

ALEX: Like a bla-bloop?

PJ: Yeah–

ALEX: Really–?

PJ: It sounds like the sound a fish tank makes sometimes. 

TIM: That's awesome. 

ALEX: Bla-bloop.


ALEX: So they’ve actually decided that this is probably not the sound of an undersea creature, but actually like ice shifting way under the ocean. But I prefer to believe that it is a giant terrifying sea creature. 

TIM: Man, anyway, yeah, I mean sorry to get all romantic about the, the cables–

PJ: No, actually. I feel like both of those things, both like the place where you work from and the place where the big bloop emanates from are–they're like perfectly appropriate to unobtainium, right?

TIM: Exactly. So that's like, that's our last segment of the extravaganza. So, a couple months ago, we put out a call to listeners just saying like, hey send us your recordings from your most like remote, unexpected, could be lonely places or maybe it's actually just like a really kind of a personal place where you are. And people sent us an insane number of recordings and some of them are just stories and then some of them are actually just sounds with no explanation but that are in their own right just really, really just satisfying. So, um, that's what I'm going to play for you guys now.

PJ: Cool. Thanks, Tim. 

TIM: Cool, alright. 

[Crickets chirping]

CHRIS PRAIRIE: Hey, Alex and PJ. This is Chris Prairie calling from the middle of the Cactus Eagle Ultra-Marathon Trail Race, deep in the heart of the Texas hill country. Well, currently I'm on top of a ridge in the middle of this really rugged and beautiful terrain. It's about 1:30 in the morning. There's a very bright, shining moon, stars are out, not a cloud in the sky. Let you kind of listen to what I'm hearing, hear all the bugs and stuff making noise and hearing my footsteps and pretty much what I've been hearing for the last eighteen hours or so. 

[Footsteps, crickets chirping]


MAN 1: I'm speaking to you from the epicenter of opioid addiction. I'm in Central Ohio. It's dreary outside. My day off and I know that by two or three o'clock I'll start having brain zaps and tomorrow morning my legs will become weak and tired as I'm going up and down the stairs and I'll just feel exhausted and annoyed at everything, like my bones are hungry. And I just got married and I have no idea how to talk to my wife about this because it's so embarrassing and disappointing and lonely. That's where I'm at.

WOMAN 1: Wow, this feels really dangerous. I'm on a footbridge with my dog and we're crossing this footbridge. And he and I are kind of scared right now because it's wooden and it feels like it's going to fall. Anyway, you'll be able to hear the roosters [crows calling] that get abandoned here. I can see like five of them by a river–creek. [rooster crowing] Hi guys. [roosters crowing]

WOMAN 2: Hello, I'm in the Singapore Botanic Gardens and I'm next to the lake. Ooh the wind's blowing [wind blowing].

MAN 3: [ocean and wind sounds] You're listening to Arabian Sea from the ancient coast of Calicut, the bottom of India. [ocean and wind sounds]


WOMAN 3: I'm calling from the bedroom of my apartment in Sacramento. I, um, about five years ago was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and it has pretty much kept me confined to my room for the majority of the time and it can be extremely isolating, which is why I listen to podcasts to a feel a little bit less alone. And so, I'm sitting on my bed with my two cats and this is, this is the sound of my bedroom [room tone]. That's what I hear for most of the time.


WOMAN 4: So I'm sitting in a glass booth in the middle of a parking lot on the state fair grounds in Minnesota, Saint Paul. But nobody has shown up for this event and I've been sitting here for two hours. Heaters not working in my booth, so I still have my coat on, my nose is a little cold and there're leaves in the booth. I wonder if anyone will hear this. 

MAN 4: Good day, Alex and PJ. That place you were talking about, I'm calling from it now. Physically I'm in a place called the Mullum Mullum Trail walking over a wooden bridge, faded planks, you can probably hear the birds. It's Melbourne, Australia sort of in the outer suburbs and I'm leaning on the wood and I'm looking over at a, at a creek. 

But the place I'm in is because I've just been running, and I’ve been running every morning because I'm waking up with this emptiness, this loneliness, this loss in my stomach because three weeks ago now my son was downstairs, he's fifteen, he was fifteen. And he was downstairs, playing Fortnite probably and he came upstairs and it was a Saturday morning and he said, "I'm feeling a bit dizzy." And we looked into his eyes and his eyes were going all over the place and he said he started to feel numb and he was losing his balance and he sat on the couch. And I held him while my wife called ambulance. And we spent two weeks in a intensive care unit at The Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne and he was unconscious and on life support. 

And after two weeks of testing and everything like that, they identified that his–it wasn't really life support, the treatment they were giving him was really just prolonging his death. And so last Sunday that was removed and my fifteen-year-old son died on the 4th of November. This is a very lonely place. It's a very difficult place. I've been referring to it as the Upside Down. My son, Collier, loved Stranger Things. And this is exactly–it exactly feels like that. It's the world–it's the same world, it's just remarkably different. And it's remarkably darker and it's a bit scary because I don't know what happens next. Thanks. 

[frog, bird sounds]

[call to prayer]


WOMAN 5: Honestly, it feels a little rude to be talking. It is so quiet. I'm pretty much on top of the world right now. I can see mountains for miles and miles and miles. 

MAN 5: I'm not at the end of the world yet because I gotta make it up those hills, but pretty damn close. I'm currently in Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia. Just out for a little hike searching for the Ethiopian wolf, which is an endangered species. The reason I'm feeling isolated is because I'm currently riding a bicycle from Cairo, Egypt down to Cape Town, South Africa. About a month before I left I met a girl I want to fall in love with. She's back in Canada though and I'm out walking through the wilderness. That's not working out too well for either of us, but hopefully she's a patient woman. 

WOMAN 6: Hey guys. I'm actually on guard duty right now on a base in the middle of the desert in Israel. I serve in the IDF right now. All around me is a bunch of desert mountains and a fence with barbed wire. It gets pretty boring here, but I find ways to keep busy. Sometimes listening to podcasts, technically I should be listening to the sound of ATVs to make sure nobody's try to sneak in to steal things. 

MAN 6: Um, it's 2:30 AM in South Africa and I'm speaking kind of quietly because I don't want to wake up my girlfriend who's sleeping next to me. I started testosterone around six months ago and basically everything about it has been good except that now it just takes me a whole lot longer to fall asleep. So before I got to basically always fall asleep first in her caring arms and now, now I kind of just need to lie awake with my thoughts for a while. And I don't like those thoughts. I don't like that I end up feeling so alone when there's someone right next to me, because I don't want to wake her up. [snoring]


PJ: Thank you to everybody who sent us a recording. We’re actually still taking them, so if you find yourself out there in one of those places, record a minute of it. You can email them to us at, subject line: unobtanium. Thanks for hanging out with us this year, we’ll see you in 2019. 

MAN 7: Hey, Alex and PJ. I'm on a train in the South of India going from Kannur on the West Coast across to Chennai on the East Coast. It's an overnight train. It's 9:25 p.m. at the moment. I’m locked in the toilet speaking into my phone like a mad man. I don’t know if you can hear me...[fades out]


Reply All is hosted by PJ Vogt and me, Alex Goldman. We’re produced by Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Phia Bennin, Damiano Marchetti, Anna Foley and Jessica Yung. Our show’s edited by Tim Howard. We are mixed by Rick Kwan. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Our intern is Heather Schröering. Our theme song is by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. 

Special thanks this week to Paris Martineu, Bill Thomas, Jia Tolintino, Aaron Lammer, Josephine Coatsworth, Julie Foley, Mendi Stubson, Kashmir Hill and Seth Abramovitch.    

Matt Lieber is when you’re folding your laundry and you find five bucks in one of your pants pockets.

You can listen to the show on Spotify, iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. We’ll see ya in the new year.