October 27, 2016

#80 Flash!

by Reply All

Background show artwork for Reply All
This week, a bitter Yes Yes No rivalry, and the return of 10 Minutes on Craigslist. Someone has gone missing.

Further Reading

The original tweet.



ALEX GOLDMAN: From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I’m Alex Goldman.

PJ VOGT: And I’m PJ Vogt.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Welcome once again to Yes Yes No, the segment on the show where our boss, Alex Blumberg, uh, delivers tweets to us that he does not understand, and then we explain them to him, and he is by turns delighted or like really angry that he spent the time to get them explained to him.

PJ: Angry?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Sometimes he leaves feeling really sad about them.

ALEX BLUMBERG: I’m right here, you could ask me how I feel.

PJ: How do you usually feel?

ALEX BLUMBERG: I usually feel angry and delighted.

PJ: What a cocktail of emotion.

ALEX GOLDMAN: So far he has never given us a tweet that we could not decipher.

PJ: Yeah, it’s not like Blumberg’s Jason Mantzoukas, or anything like that.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Ohhh, Mantzoukas.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah, we had a special guest, comedian Jason Mantzoukas, we had him in March. He is the only person who’s been able to stump us with a Yes Yes No. Um, and Alex Blumberg, you’re a little jealous about that, right?


ALEX GOLDMAN: You’re jealous.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Why would I be jealous of somebody like Jason Mantzoukas? Who has, like — there’s nothing to be jealous of, like … I mean, let’s be honest fellas, right? Like I mean, how many times — he’s been on the show once, he got lucky that one time. But nobody can recap like me, right?

PJ: Nobody can recap like you.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Alright then.

ALEX GOLDMAN: It’s true.

ALEX BLUMBERG: OK, so here’s what I got. This is from twitter user Anime Dad.

ALEX GOLDMAN: I like it already.

PJ: Big fan. [laughs]

ALEX BLUMBERG: Uhh, what, what — the handle is @Zoomyramen. Z-o-o-m-y Ramen. And the tweet is a picture of — it’s like that typical sort of like electoral map, you know, it’s that black and white map of the United States with all the states outlined, but the state names aren’t there. So it’s like, you know, that map that we’ve all seen. But instead of all the states being colored either red or blue, most of the states are still white and just a couple of them have been colored in red or blue, just like a small handful, just like seven. Uh ... looks like Minnesota’s red, but Michigan’s blue, um ...

ALEX GOLDMAN: That's not Michigan. That's Wisconsin, man.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Oh that's right. Sorry! That's not Michigan. I was like, “Where's the thumb?”

PJ: That is the wrong thing to get wrong to Alex Goldman.


ALEX GOLDMAN: So offended!

PJ: He's like a single-issue voter, and it's just Michigan.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And it's just like whether you have any cultural literacy about Michigan.

ALEX BLUMBERG: All of the sudden I was on the spot, I was like none of the state names have names, and then they were like, "Oh my god, I have to like, there's 50 of them, I have to do it just by — shape." Anyway, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Minnesota's red. Wisconsin's blue.

And then, um, and then — OK so you get the idea, right? It's like a — all white outline states, just a couple of them red and blue, and then the tweet actually reads: "What it'd look like if only Tim Buckley voted in the election."


ALEX BLUMBERG: And. 558 retweets. 834 likes.

PJ: [laughs] Well obviously.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Thousands of people who are in the know, and I'm not one of them.

PJ: Hmm.

ALEX GOLDMAN: So? PJ Vogt, do you understand this tweet?

PJ: Halfway.


PJ: Alex Goldman, do you understand this tweet?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Uh, yes. Alex Blumberg, do you understand this tweet?


ALEX GOLDMAN: Uh, hey, Jason Mantzoukas, do you understand this tweet?


JASON MANTZOUKAS: I do not. This is a no for me!

ALL: [laugh]

ALEX BLUMBERG: [laughs] I've been set up!

JASON MANTZOUKAS: But here's what I did know. Here's what I did know. I knew that was Wisconsin. Or I knew that was Michigan. Goddamnit!

ALEX BLUMBERG: [laughs] Wisconsin.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Blumberg. C'mon man. Don't you know the map?

ALL: [laughter]

PJ: So I think we probably should've said is that we hid Jason Mantzoukas in another studio. It's sort of like a Montel thing.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Yeah! I'm your father!

ALL: [laughter]

ALEX GOLDMAN: Alright, so PJ, you said you sort of understand this. I'm wondering if you can go ahead and —

PJ: Go as far as I can go?

ALEX GOLDMAN: And take us to where, where your comprehension sort of fails you.

PJ: OK, so there's a — there's a guy named Nate Silver.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Maybe you've heard of him.

ALEX BLUMBERG: I know about that.

PJ: Nate Silver, or somebody at 538 tweeted out a thing. I think it —

ALEX GOLDMAN: It was Nate Silver.

PJ: It was Nate Silver. Tweeted out this thing where he was like, "Here's what the electoral map would look like if only women voted." And I think he also tweeted out one that was like, "And if only men voted."


PJ: And it was like overwhelmingly women are voting for Clinton. Actually overwhelmingly like men are voting for Trump. Or at least on that electoral map like they would win.


PJ: And so then people thought it would be funny to tweet a lot of other electoral maps, like this guy Leon tweeted one that was like, "Here's what it would look like if only Leon voted." And it was just like one state going to him as a write-in candidate.

ALEX GOLDMAN: There was one that was, "Here's what the American electoral map would look like if only dogs voted,” and it was just a grey map because dogs are colorblind.



PJ: Somebody tweeted —

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughing) That's a good one.

PJ: Somebody tweeted, I think Casey Johnston tweeted, "Here's what the electoral map would look like if only people who found these jokes funny voted," and it was just like New York. But I don't understand anything — like I don't understand this. I understand that this is one of those. But I don't understand this. And I don't know who Tim Buckley is. And I thought —

JASON MANTZOUKAS: And also how's Tim Buckley able to vote in all of these states? Guys! This is voter fraud.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah! Yeah how he is able to vote in all of these states and why is he voting both Republican and Democrat?

ALEX BLUMBERG: And who is he?

ALEX GOLDMAN: And what does this mean?



JASON MANTZOUKAS: And how do 560 people know?!


JASON MANTZOUKAS: Or, and, 838 - and 34 people like?

PJ: Well, I think some of those likes are people being like, "I think I get it." But I think all the retweets those people have to know.

ALEX BLUMBERG: It's an aspirational like?

PJ: At least some of them. I feel like I've done that like. It's like laughing at a joke that you don't get and hoping no one notices.

ALEX BLUMBERG: [laughs] Really?

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX GOLDMAN: You really, you've really done that?

PJ: Oh yeah. Yeah yeah yeah.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Wait what's the last, what's the last tweet you aspirationally liked?

PJ: Let me check.

ALEX BLUMBERG: This is really good.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Do you see all the social dynamics you don't have to deal with because you're not on Twitter, Jason?

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Ugh, this sounds miserable. This frankly sounds miserable.

ALEX BLUMBERG: It’s awful. [laughs]

PJ: OK do you want to know the last thing I pretended to understand?



PJ: OK, October 15th, which was three days ago from when we’re recording, I tweeted a tweet that was like — Obama was just like ripping on Trump in this way that was like very stand-up comedy feeling, and I tweeted, "Obama's having a lot of fun," and I tweeted the video. And then someone retweeted and said, "Was waiting for the #MNFcmonman reference and here it is ..."

And I was like "Yeah! Haha. Favorite that joke."


ALEX GOLDMAN: I have no idea what that means either.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: But what if that was like, what if that was racist or something?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah, seriously!?

JASON MANTZOUKAS: What if that had some sort of inherent —

ALEX GOLDMAN: What if “MNF C’mon Man” is a faction of like the Nazi Party or something.


PJ: OK. Lemme search it.

ALEX BLUMBERG: That is dangerous, favoriting things you don't understand on the internet.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Yeah and you're like, "Thumbs up bro, you get it!"

ALL: [laugh]

PJ: Well I'm also — like, the problem is not Twitter. The problem is my broken personality. Like I feel like a lot of the time when I laugh I’m saying like "Please don't hit me." And so the favorites are basically the same. It's like, "Yay!" Oooh, I found it on my phone — #MNF is a foot ... ball ... thing?

ALEX BLUMBERG: [laughter]

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Oh boy. Oh no. This is only going to get more embarrassing for PJ, I fear.

PJ: Oh no.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah you were like, "Yeah! Go sports people!"

PJ: [laughs]

JM: Yeah!

PJ: Well you guys watch Monday Night ... #MondayNightFootball, so you guys know that they always say "C'mon on man!"


ALEX BLUMBERG: It's a Monday Night Football reference.

ALEX GOLDMAN: MNF! Oh, I get it!

JASON MANTZOUKAS: By the way, the idea that, that, that MNF is so clearly Monday Night Football and none of us knew it — means, means, means we must be on a podcast.

ALL: [Laughter]

ALEX BLUMBERG: And like, our entire audience is like, are you pranking us right now?

ALEX GOLDMAN: People are breaking their computers over their legs in rage.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Like, "You are embarrassing yourselves."

PJ: Yeah, all the people who thought we were cool sports guys are really disappointed right now. [laughs]

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Yeah! Jokes on you assholes. We're here to talk about Gilmore Girls.

ALL: [laughter]

ALEX GOLDMAN: Uh … So again this tweet reads, "What it'd look like if Tim Buckley voted in the election.” And it’s a map. And the important about the tweet isn’t what states are and what are blue, or even what states are highlighted — the important thing is the pattern that the red and blue states create.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Wait. OK. It's like red blue, red blue.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Is there a pattern that I'm supposed to be discerning?

ALEX GOLDMAN: You're not — you would not know it unless you know what it's referencing. But once you —


ALEX GOLDMAN: — recognize this pattern, you will forever ... you will forever see it on the Internet.

PJ: Once you recognize it — when you say pattern?

ALEX GOLDMAN: It - it is - it is a visual reference to something else.

PJ: Red red blue, red blue, blue, red.

ALEX GOLDMAN: You're overthinking it.

PJ: Red white.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Just let — [laughs] I should probably just explain.

PJ: Wait hold on.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Is it a mouth?

JASON MANTZOUKAS: There are red and blues that are together, and then there's a single Idaho red. Are the red and blues together — signifies something that is supposed to be like, and now Idaho's all alone?

ALEX GOLDMAN: [laughs] Um, it is so interesting watching you. Like you guys don't have primary information that will help you understand.

PJ: Wait, wait, wait, wait.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Wait. Is Pennsylvania? I'm sorry, not Pennsylvania—is Tennessee and Kentucky?


ALL: [laughter]


ALEX GOLDMAN: His geography's really bad.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Tennessee and Kentucky.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: This is like, this is embarrassing.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Is that a mouth?



PJ: Is it the Windows logo?

ALEX GOLDMAN: [laughs]

ALEX BLUMBERG: Is it the flag of France?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Guys. Seriously. Without primary information, you just are not gonna get this. OK. So Tim Buckley is this guy who draws an online comic that's called Ctrl+Alt+Delete and it's like a comic about video games.


ALEX GOLDMAN: And the premise of the comic is that there's two guys who sit around and play video games and like, make fun of each other. And there's — it's basically like the knock-off version of a much more popular comic called Penny Arcade.

PJ: Which is also about two guys who hang around playing video games making fun of each other?


PJ: Who would want to listen to two guys just making fun of each other all day.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah I know, it's a ter- it's a terrible premise for anything.


ALEX GOLDMAN: So. It's this comic that existed for many, many years, not particularly funny but like it just kind of like, did its thing.

PJ: Is it necessary to know that you don't like it to understand this, or are you just editorializing it about it?

ALEX BLUMBERG: And how, how not funny is it? Like Marmaduke not funny?

Or is it like — ?

PJ: Andy Borowitz not funny?



PJ: [laughs]

JASON MANTZOUKAS: I love how we're just taking shots over here. Just taking shots.


ALEX GOLDMAN: It's just — it's important to know that the internet's opinion of it was generally pretty low.


ALEX GOLDMAN: OK, so like an example of a Ctrl+Alt+Delete comic is Batman throws a batarang at a bad guy, and instead of knocking him out, it sticks in his head and kills him, and then Batman kind of makes a “whoopsie” face. That’s a Ctrl+Alt+Delete comic.


ALEX GOLDMAN: So in 2008 the guy who wrote it, Tim Buckley, he did this strip that was just a dramatic, dramatic tone shift.

PJ: What happened?

ALEX GOLDMAN: The strip was called "Loss." And I will show you guys — it is a four-panel wordless comic.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Oh boy. This is sad.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Go ahead and describe it.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: O-K. Four, you said, four panel comic. First panel: guy walking into emergency room. It's wordless. The whole thing is wordless.

Panel two: the receptionist is directing him towards something.

Panel three: He's talking to a doctor. Uh, the — and the man's expression is consistently like, mouth open, furrowed brow, worried. Now he's talking to a doctor and he seems even more worried and the doctor does not seem reassuring.

And then fourth panel, he's standing next to a woman's bed who's sitting on her side, crying ... um, and he is — looks very nervous and um, upset. Right? He looks nervous.


JASON MANTZOUKAS: Um ... my assumption on this comic is that she has had a miscarriage.

ALEX GOLDMAN: That is correct.

PJ: Wow.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Boom! How's that feel?

PJ: [laughs]

JASON MANTZOUKAS: How ‘bout that Blumberg? How ‘bout that? Boom! I understood that comic.



ALEX BLUMBERG: Factually you're correct, tonally?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah, you're a little off man.

ALEX BLUMBERG: You might be off a little bit.


ALL: [Laughter]

ALEX GOLDMAN: So this comic comes along. There's this jarring tone shift that is nothing like the comic that came before it.

PJ: So it's, it's like all of the sudden Marmaduke or something turned into like a real story that you cared about — one day, for one day only.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Right. There were like two follow-up strips, which were the main character and all of his all of his friends sitting in the hospital being like, "Yeah, I'm really sad."

PJ: Did he explain what was happening?

ALEX GOLDMAN: He did, he wrote like a sort of personal thing underneath the comic, about like, you know, "I was in a relationship and there was a miscarriage that ended our relationship and this is like, something that felt important to me to get off my chest."

PJ: Huh.

ALEX GOLDMAN: So he did these three strips, and then the next strip is like, some kids playing Dungeons & Dragons. It just, it like goes away, never to be mentioned again, comic is silly again. And the internet just found this to be like really weird, tonally, kind of, and it was just like ripe for making fun of.

PJ: Wait why? It was funny cause the — cause the man who's not sad was sad? Or it was funny because the man that they made fun of for not being funny was sad?

ALEX BLUMBERG: I get why they're making fun of it!

ALEX GOLDMAN: What — explain.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Here's this guy who is doing this thing that a lot of people think is just like, just fine, nothing fancy, nothing great. And then he breaks format, in a very public way that could be construed as self-important, to make a statement strip.


ALEX BLUMBERG: And if it was like, if there was like some precedent for it, or some like explanation for it or something like that, I think people would've probably been OK with it. But there's — because of the way he did it and the way it just sort of dropped in and went away, there was like a whiff of self-importance or grandiosity to it.

PJ: Ohhhhhh.

ALEX BLUMBERG: And — and! It was the statement was just sort of like, again, the same kind of ... “fine” that the strip was before? So it's like, it's not the most powerful thing that's ever been written about miscarriage. It's not the most — and I mean, it feels like, there's a certain — I think the internet hates any whiff of self-importance, or like, sort of like, hypocritical, sort of like, motivation?

PJ: Yeah.


ALEX BLUMBERG: And there's some of that in there, I feel like.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And the other thing that people really didn't like was the idea that, um, this female character was simply used as like emotional motivation for a male character to feel sad.

PJ: Right.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And then the next two comics are like, the guy, the guy and his friends talking about how hard it is. You don't get any ...

PJ: OK, OK, OK, alright cool, I'm on board with this cyberbullying.


PJ: Or at least I can understand it.


PJ: I'm not too sad to proceed.

ALEX GOLDMAN: So, once this thing came out, immediately the internet took it and started making fun of it. And they did it by like making just endless parodies of it —

PJ: Uh huh —

ALEX: And it turns out that this thing is actually pretty easy to parody. All it takes is like, you take a four-panel image, and you recreate the way that the characters were standing in the comic. So it’s like one person in the first panel, a person talking to the receptionist in the second panel, a person talking to a doctor in the third panel, and in the fourth panel, like, someone’s standing over a bed.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Uh huh, OK. [laughs]

ALEX GOLDMAN: Things like that.

ALEX BLUMBERG: It looks nothing like the comic, by the way. Oh here's one with The Simpsons.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah, like, one with stills from The Simpsons.


PJ: Milhouse is in the role of the woman.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Right. Uh, and —

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Oh, poor Milhouse.

PJ: I actually feel bad for Tim Buckley because like, the thing that he was going for, which was making this thing that was like, stark and iconic, also makes it super easy to parody. Because like, you can plug in like, Bart in a hallway, Bart by a — you know what I mean?


PJ: Because it was simple, it was easier to parody.


PJ: Uh huh. Anyway.

ALEX BLUMBERG: OK, OK so that's where it goes, so then —

PJ: I have a guess! It gets more abstract?

ALEX GOLDMAN: It gets way more abstract, to the point where it's like, it's like — rather than having characters in these positions, it's like, as long as they're objects roughly in the correct positions.



ALEX GOLDMAN: Then, then, then it like —

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Oh wow, so now I get it.

ALEX BLUMBERG: This I do love! (laughing) The internet! How far away can we go from the reference object and still like, be tethered to it?


PJ: Yeah cause this is just—


PJ: This one is like a 1950s clip-art of a person with red hair holding a hot dog in four panels.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And the hot dogs are roughly positioned in the shapes — in like the locations where the characters would be standing in the original comic.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: And when there, when there's need for one hot dog, because — cause everything corresponds to the number of people in the panels, so there's, position one has one hot dog, oh wow-ee —


JASON MANTZOUKAS: This is bananas.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah, so there's like.

ALEX: It's like, it's crazy.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Oh wow, here's a good, here's a great one, which is the - the Hemingway's short story. "For sale, baby shoes, never worn."

ALEX GOLDMAN: It's the - the word "for" is the first panel. "Sale" is the second. And then "baby shoes," "never worn." And they're like, the words are written vertically to represent people, except the last word "worn" which is written horizontally to represent the person laying down.

PJ: Like it's basically to the point where it's four panels that could be anything?

ALEX BLUMBERG: It's just so long as they are roughly, roughly, roughly in the same position.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Wow-ee. One of them is just the tubes or the whatever, the pipes from Mario Brothers.

ALL: [Laughter]

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Holy shit! What are people up to?!


JASON MANTZOUKAS: This is, this is my problem with the internet. This is like, you've just sent me one thing that is, like, represents an appalling amount of work by people to just make and remake this same joke, which itself is insane.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah. So, so coming back to the tweet, the tweet in question, which is a tweet by Anime Dad, also known as @ZoomyRamen, it says, "What it'd look like if only Tim Buckley voted in this election."

And there are certain states within the United States that are highlighted either red or blue. And I'm wondering, Alex and Jason, if you can summarize this tweet for us.

ALEX BLUMBERG: I got it now, yes. Jason, you want to do the honors?

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Sure. Um, so, so, this, uh, uh, uh, again, Anime Dad, "What it'd look like if Tim Buckley voted in the election," and then the electoral map is colored in, um, to represent the panels of the “Loss” comic of Tim Buckley's ... oh, Alex will you remind me what it's called?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Ctrl+Alt+Delete?

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Ctrl+Alt+Delete. Um, the “Loss,” um, um, strip of Ctrl+Alt+Delete, wherein each, uh panel from top-right to bottom-right would be … uh, Idaho is alone, because there's one figure in that ...

ALEX BLUMBERG: Sit back, Mantzoukas, let me show you how this is done.

ALL: [laugh]

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Go go, oh boy, wow.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Alright. [laughs] Uh, the tweet in question, from, uh, Anime Dad, is um, we now know to be one more iteration in an eight-year-old internet joke, which started with a comic strip written by Tim Buckley, uh, which is called Ctrl+Alt+Delete. And it's a comic strip about kids who play video games, and it's sort of funny.

And then, he came out with this strip out of nowhere, that was called "Loss," and it just deals with like, somebody walking through the doors of the emergency room, talking to the person at the counter, next panel's talking to a doctor, and then finally arriving to the side of a bed where this woman's on her side crying, and it's about, um, a miscarriage. So that, for reasons that are complicated to get into right now, attracted the ire of the internet, the internet began to mock it, and in the way that the internet does, it mocked it first by replacing figures in the boxes of the cartoon, and so the - the - the comic strip figures who were there became replaced by other, other, other figures.

And then it gradually sort of like went further and further and further into abstraction, until it reached its sort of logical absurdist conclusion where it was just all that you had to do to represent this strip was to have one thing, and then two things, and then two things, and then two things arranged differently. And that is what we see in this electoral map, where Idaho is panel one, Wisconsin and Minnesota are panel one, New Mexico and Arizona are panel three, and Tennessee and Kentucky are panel four. Phew.

ALEX GOLDMAN: I think we're at Yes Yes Yes Yes.


PJ: (Whispers) Yes yes yes yes.

ALEX BLUMBERG: But seriously! You know, normally after these I feel sort of gross. And this one I feel like, this was like – this is a genius-level tweet. It's like about —


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah. Yeah. It's taking, it's taking these two, uh ... He's taking these two sort of like, very, very disparate memes and he's put them together in this very clever way, drawing on vast swaths of arcane knowledge to do so.

It's just — it's like - it's like brilliant literary criticism. Or it's like - it's like, uh, you know, like James Joyce, where every single word of every single one of his poems is like drawing on this myth from Greek mythology or this like, sort of like, thing from history. It's the same thing, it's just like drawing on different sort of storehouses of knowledge.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: So I just - I just want to make sure — you just compared Anime Dad to James Joyce.

ALL: [Laughter]

JM: That's the world that we're living in right now, Blumberg?

ALEX BLUMBERG: [laughs] Yes. I stand by that.

JASON MANTZOUKAS: Cool. Cool. Cool. Yeah yeah yeah.

PJ: Coming up after the break, the triumphant return of 10 Minutes on Craigslist, the segment where we find Craiglist ads we’re curious about and go find the people who posted them.


PJ: Craigslist: Santa Rosa, California. Lost & found. Post title: Lost tortoise. Flash has escaped.



PJ: Reporter Damiano Marchetti.

[Sound of door opening]

DAMIANO: How’s it going?


MIKE: Hey, how’s it going?

DAMIANO: Hi, I’m Damiano. Mike?

MIKE: Damiano, I’m Mike. This is Tricia.


DAMIANO: Tricia, really nice —

TRICIA: Hello.

DAMIANO: — to meet you.

TRICIA: Nice to meet you too.

MIKE: This is Ben.

DAMIANO: What’s up, Ben?


DAMIANO: How you doing?

MIKE: Shake his hand, buddy. Come on now.

[Mic handling sounds]

DAMIANO: Who got the turtle originally?

MIKE: My, um ... my dad’s friend from work had two tortoises that had a litter. We got the runt. It was about the size of a quarter.

DAMIANO: How old were you?

MIKE: In 1980, I was, uh, 11.


MIKE: Yeah.

DAMIANO: That’s —

MIKE: [chuckles]

DAMIANO: (laughing) — a long time to have a pet.

MIKE: Yeah. Yeah, we’re super sad. I hope he finds his way back somehow. And —

DAMIANO: Will you read the first ad that you put up?

MIKE: Yeah.

DAMIANO: (whispering) It’s right here.

MIKE: Lost tortoise: Flash has escaped. Last seen near Gregory Court in the Rincon Valley area. If you have seen this large tortoise, we would appreciate his return. He has been our pet for 36 years. He does not come when you call him. Thank you.

DAMIANO: What does he look like?

MIKE: He’s about a foot long or maybe 14 inches long and he’s pretty big and heavy. Like it takes two hands to pick him up.

TRISHA: He’s like the color of a stone. Um … And he’s - he’s large and he goes faster than you would think.

MIKE: Trudging along —

DAMIANO: [laughs]

MIKE: — like a miniature dinosaur.

DM: What do you think his personality was?

GRANDMA: Oh he’s kinda, “Ooh, wow, I kinda like this world.” You know I come out and he’s got his neck and going like this, like that. He’s kinda jazzy, huh! [laughs] After sleeping for a long time, I can’t believe it. He sleeps for a long time and then he comes out all ready for the world again like nothing happened.

DAMIANO: Can you show me the — where he escaped?

MIKE: Yeah, right around the corner.

DAMIANO: We’re walking into the back yard.

BENNY: This is his, like, little territory.

TRICIA: [laughs]

BENNY: He would get himself like stuck in the weirdest spots, like behind there, he’d just be chillin’, or behind the wood, or just like stuck somewhere. But, mostly, he just, like, roamed around until we fed him. Most —

DAMIANO: What did he eat?

BENNY: He ate — he eats broccoli, radish leaves, um, rose petals, uh … he likes dandelions.

TRICIA: He loves watermelon.

BENNY: He loves watermelon.

MIKE: Watermelon —


MIKE: — he loves watermelon.

[walking sounds]

BENNY: Yeah.

[sound of latch opening, door being shaken and then opening, grinding against the ground as it does]

MIKE: He made his way out of the gate. He can really push on it and then gets himself out.

DAMIANO: He’s that strong?

MIKE: Yeah, he’s really persistent.

DAMIANO: Are all these scrapings from him?

TRISHA: That’s from him …

MIKE: You could come see what he did to our screen.

[walking sounds]

MIKE: We call him “The Screen Wrecker,” ‘cause he - he just gets up against —

DAMIANO: Oh my god!

MIKE: — the glass and he just shoves his shell back and forth trying to get into the room. ‘Cause he likes being inside.

DAMIANO: It’s like completely frayed.

MIKE: Yeah.

DAMIANO: And ripped away.

MIKE: Just destroyed.

DAMIANO: Oh, ‘cause he wants to go inside?

MIKE: Yeah. If he gets inside, he’ll find his way into a closet and take a nap.

DAMIANO: [quietly laughing]

MIKE: Relax a little bit.

DAMIANO: [quietly laughing]

MIKE: He sleeps for nine months out of the year. In a box in the garage. So —

DAMIANO: Really?

MIKE: Yeah.

DAMIANO: He just doesn’t — he, like, hibernates?

MIKE: Hibernates.

DAMIANO: And he won’t — he has quite a personality. He’s like one of those always greener on the other side people.

MIKE: He wants to —

TRICIA: He‘s relentless.

MIKE: — seems like he - he’s a, yeah, he wants to always go somewhere else, it seems like. We think he’s looking for a girlfriend. He’s 36 —

BENNY: He’s only [indistinct].

MIKE: — and he’s never had a girlfriend.

DAMIANO: So, Mike just told me something a little crazy, which is that a couple of days ago the mailman called them and was like, “I think I found your tortoise.” So they went to look, the mailman pulls out a tortoise and it’s not their tortoise. It was, like, somebody else’s lost tortoise. And so now they have that person’s tortoise.

MIKE: So we took that tortoise just ‘cause we didn’t want to, like — we wanted to keep it safe until we found that person’s owner. So there’s, like, multiple people out there with lost tortoises, apparently.

So the last one we … we posted two days ago was that, “We lost our tortoise and in the process of looking for him we found someone else’s lost tortoise, which is too weird. So if you live in Rincon Valley and you have lost a tortoise contact us, this one may be yours.”

DAMIANO: And no one’s gotten back to you.

MIKE: No one’s gotten back to us yet.

BENNY: And the mailman said he found it by the street, but that was right by a couple of houses, so we should probably go ask like around there.

DAMIANO: OK, we just got to where the mailman found the tortoise, and there’s like this house right here, we’re gonna go knock on the door and see if they know anything about it.

[car beep, outside sounds]

TRICIA: They might have a tortoise.

BENNY: Just —



DAMIANO: Hi, um, I’m a reporter and I’m trying to help this family because we found a tortoise here on the corner of your road.


DAMIANO: And we were wondering if — if it was your tortoise —


DAMIANO: — if you knew anything about it.


DAMIANO: Oh, ok.

ELDERLY WOMAN: I d- I wonder how she got here. Maybe some- uh, she’s somebody's pet maybe?

DAMIANO: That’s what we were thinking.

BENNY: Yeah.

ELDERLY WOMAN: Thinking. I … the people across the street, they have cats and chickens. Well you do — I don’t know what you want to do, but it’s not mine.

DAMIANO: It’s not yours. OK.


DAMIANO: Well we were just checking. Thank you very much.

ELDERLY WOMAN: You’re welcome.

TRICIA: Yeah, thank you.



BENNY: Thanks.


[walking away]

BENNY: (whispering) Gazebo.

DAMIANO: Benny what are we gonna do right now?

BENNY: Um, we’re gonna drive to the reptile rescue thing and drop off the tortoise, and talk to him, the guy, at there.

[car pulling up, pulling brake]

DAMIANO: Just got to the Sonoma County Reptile Center. Here to drop off the tortoise that the family found and to see if they know anything about Flash, their tortoise.

[seat belt unbuckles]


[Car door close, walking on gravel]

DAMIANO: Hows it’s going?

[dog barking, chickens clucking]

AL WOLF: Good.

DAMIANO: My name’s Damiano.

AL: Hi, I’m Al.

DAMIANO: What was your name?

AL: I’m Al Wolf. I’m the director of Sonoma County Reptile Rescue. We have about 200 snakes here. We have about 40 tortoises. Um, many turtles, a bunch of lizards, a bunch of other critters. And, like, in the bucket I just bought three more rattlesnakes. Yeah, and that’s five for the day.

DM: What do you do with ‘em?

AL: We let them go at people’s houses that ask questions.

DAMIANO: [laughs]

AL: Yeah. And if you get bit go to the hospital. You know, t happens to me occasionally.

DAMIANO: You’ve been bit before?

AL: 13 times. I hate to count it, but you do.

[dull jangling]

AL: Follow through my zoo here.

TRICIA: Oh my goodness. [indistinct]

BENNY: It’s so [indistinct].

DAMIANO: We’re walking to the back of the reptile center.

[dull jangling, animal sounds, squawking]

AL: Well. And this whole yard is set up for tortoises, OK? And —

[loud squawking, dull jangling]

AL: Hey little guy.

[jangling, dog barking]

AL: This is set up for box turtles, Russian tortoises, and Greek tortoises.

[dog barks]

AL: There’s two box turtles right there, box turtle there, a Greek tortoise over there. There’ll be, probably, I think, 47 tortoises just in this pen.


DAMIANO: And you live here?

AL: I live here too. People think this is paradise, but, um, do you think having 12 kids is paradise? I don’t know — you know, I have hundreds of kids. [laughs] It’s tough. I get up in the morning start feeding. I come home, I’ll be feeding mice and stuff to all the snakes tonight. You know, we have thawed out frozen mice. So they get fed, and then tomorrow anything left over gets fed to the box turtles and the water turtles. They get all the extra thawed out frozen mice. So they’re meat eaters.

TRICIA: [indistinct] He keeps hiding under here.

DAMIANO: So right now Trisha is taking out the tortoise to show Al.

AL: It’s a Russian tortoise and it’s a boy tortoise.

TRICIA: OK, ‘cause of the tail?


AL: Yeah. The long tail is the boy, the short little button tail is a girl. The Russian tortoises, they’re from what we call all the “-stan” states, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan. People get ‘em as pets, they put em in the backyard not realizing they climb really well and they dig really well.


AL: Out they go, and that’s it.

TRICIA: So I - I - I posted, um, online that I brought the tortoise here.

AL: OK, good.

TRICIA: So hopefully somebody will —

AL: Yeah, you’ll —

TRICIA: Call and —

AL: — you’ll get the call.

TRICIA: — yeah.

[wind sounds]

TRICIA: So what are the prospects for our tortoise?

AL: Well, again, it’s gonna live as long as a person.

TRICIA: But, like —

AL: Oh, you’ll find it.

TRICIA: — lost.

AL: In your neighborhood, there’s a good chance you’ve walked by your tortoise five times already.

DAMIANO: [laughs] No!

AL: Yeah. Makes you feel that way, but that — they’re designed to hide. I mean, we had one, uh, drive down off Roblar Road, and I saw this lost tortoise sign. Desert tortoise. And I went, “Hmm...” And I saw it up there for like six-eight weeks and finally I got a call from Blank Road, which is just over the hill. And I — it’s a desert tortoise.

Oh, they were tickled pink. And it had been gone for about three months.

DAMIANO: So, you say everyone gets their tortoises back for the most part?

AL: Um, I would say about 95 percent.

[doorbell, door opening]

DAMIANO: How’s it going?




DAMIANO: I’m trying to help your neighbours find their tortoise, their lost tortoise.

TRICIA: [laughs]

DAMIANO: You might know about it.

NEIGHBOR: Oh yeah. Come on through, it’s kind of messy.

[knocking on doors, grass crunching]

DAMIANO: Well, it doesn’t look like he’s here. Does it? What do you think?

BENNY: Well, it depends, ‘cause most of the time when he escapes, he goes down to the end of the —

DAMIANO: Down that way.

BENNY: — court. So, he probably was like, “Oh, that’s where I usually go. Why don’t I go a different way this time?”

NEIGHBOR and TRICIA: [indistinct conversation] Under this tree, and under the grapes …


[knocking on door]

NEIGHBOR 3: Hello?

DAMIANO: How’s it going? Trying to find — help your neighbors find their - their lost tortoise.

[more rustling]

BENNY: Last night, [indistinct] said he saw a cat gathering with, like, nine cats just in a circle. Probably like an oddly-shaped circle.

MIKE: Flash?

TRICIA: I wonder … we thought maybe he went down the gutter there, but we, yeah, we looked, and —

BENNY: Why don’t we just ...

PJ: Flash the tortoise has been missing since September 8th. He’s brownish-green and weighs between eight and ten pounds. He has a scratch on his shell and is missing a toe on one of his front feet. He was last seen near Gregory Court in the Rincon Valley area. If you have any information about Flash’s whereabouts, please email tortoise@gimletmedia.com.

TRICIA: So I was looking under the big … under this tree ...

Reply All is hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. We were produced by Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Phia Bennin, Chloe Prasinos and Damiano Marchetti. Our executive producer is Tim Howard. We were edited by Peter Clowney. Production assistance from Thane Fay. We were mixed by Rick Kwan.

Matt Lieber is money you find in a winter coat.

Special thanks to Kevin de Queiroz at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, he helped us fact check some of our tortoise facts. And special thanks to Thom Cote.

Our theme song is by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder, our ad music is by Build Buildings. You can listen to the show however you would like to listen to the show. Thanks for listening, we’ll see you next week.