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Art, Commerce, And Frankly Irresponsible Apple Consumption, With Kathryn Xu

Ripe red apples at the farmer market.
Olena Malik

It is a strange thing to know that a coworker you respect is more or less the same age as your pet. You will not have to listen very long to this week's episode to hear that Kathryn Xu and I discovered this, together, at last winter's Defector holiday party; you will not have to listen very closely to notice that we are both still processing this information. But if this is strange, and once again it is quite strange, it is also one of the fun things about working at Defector. If everyone I worked with grew up at more or less the same time as me, doing more or less the same stuff, the site would be dull, just a bunch of people grousing about the Mets player development shortcomings and how sandwiches are too expensive these days. (The podcast, in this case, would sound more or less like the ones Drew and I do together.)

Thanks to having people like Kathryn on the team, though, we can do episodes that touch upon K-Pop's Moneyball era, F1 racing, hot pot best practices, and MLB free agency. Here, I can prove it:

Much of this is stuff that I don't necessarily know or even care that much about, although one of the things I've admired about Kathryn's writing here, as in her bit on the hypercapitalist enterprise that is K-Pop, is her ability to not just make this stuff interesting, but to connect it to the broader systems and structures and social manias that influence not just the stuff I do care about, but basically everything else. And so it was that our K-Pop chat, which led off the episode after the customary exchange of "here is how disgustingly I lived in my 20s" niceties, wound up touching on not only the confluence between art and commerce, but the weird striations of fame and various varieties of authority and artifice that enforce it, as well as the new types of fandom weirdness that this hothouse environment creates. I wouldn't say that I was happy to learn about Company Stans, who support given entertainment companies in the same way that some baseball fans wind up rocking with their GMs over the players, but I think it clarified some things. Also Drew talked about singing Eric Carmen's "Hungry Eyes" in seventh grade, but did not sing it.

The episode gets sportsier from there, as we talked about the two elite unsigned free agent pitchers still waiting for MLB jobs and the plausible-deniability aspect of this kind of free agency fuckery, and then about F1, Kathryn's other big beat. I know as little or less about this topic as I do about K-Pop, but Drew and Kathryn had some interesting insights on the quest for parity in this incredibly top-heavy and plutocratic sport, and what the strange saga of Kate Wagner's published-and-deleted (and re-published, at Escape Collective) Road And Track feature reveals about how F1 thinks about itself, and wants to be thought about.

From there, it was food-related material, although we did treat listeners to a look inside Defector's editorial process vis-a-vis Kathryn's instant-classic post on proper hot pot methods. This was going very well until I brought up how much Donald Trump loves white rice, but we recovered thanks to Funbag questions sent us off on fruit-related reveries—we celebrate the stuff in all its forms—and a discussion of forgotten Hollywood gambits and the bygone days of easy/weird air travel. We ended with Drew's latest Fanatics Experience, a typically botched bit of commerce so ridiculous that it would be criminal to spoil it here, although I will say that nothing in that experience changed Drew's longstanding opinion on the ubiquitous and flub-prone retailer. Kathryn was an able copilot through all of this. My pet turtle might well be older than her, and is almost certainly less trustworthy, but she's a much more gracious and patient guest.

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