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12/28/2020 - Benedict Cumberbatch Plays Every Part (New Year's Special)
27th December 2020 • Mark and Carrie • Mark and Carrie
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Mark Blyth, political economist at Brown's Watson Institute, and political scientist Carrie Nordlund share their take on the news.

On this episode: Mark and Carrie's abiding memories of 2020; what aspects of pandemic life will go away in 2021, and what parts will stick around; the stock market vs. the real economy; presidential power and corporate power in the United States; race, class, electoral politics, and the Democrats confusion over who they want to be when they grow up; Biden's ready to make America great again, and the rest of the world isn't too eager; Britain's Brexit wins, herring and all; movies from the 80s.

You can learn more about Watson’s other podcasts here.


[MUSIC PLAYING] MARK BLYTH: Hello, everyone. It's the Mark & Carrie Show End-of-Year Christmas New Year's Looking Backwards Looking Forward Extravaganza. And we've got no script. Usually, what we do is 24 hours before, we'll put together a Google Doc. And it'll have on, Trump, Brexit, EU, vaccine, pandemic, right? It hasn't changed for nine months. And we were about to do that again. And I thought, no, I can't. I can't do this.

So we're going to try something new. I'm going to ask Carrie a question to get us started. We're going to just see where this goes. Carrie, what is your abiding memory of Twenty-Twenty? 20 years from now, when you tell your children or grandchildren or great aunts or whatever is about Twenty-Twenty, what is the abiding memory of Twenty-Twenty going to be?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I was in Oxford in the UK, and I was with Sam, my partner, and this is, like, maybe end of February, early March, and he says to me, I think my office is going to shut down. And I'm, like, that's insane. I can't even imagine a world in which your office would shut down. And our big nod to the emerging COVID pandemic at that point was not to go to London, and stay in Oxford instead. And of course, we thought this was really safe and crazy, too, to not go into London.

And so I guess that's my memory of that-- the world-- I just couldn't imagine a world where things had shut down, and offices were closed, and people were working from home. And then I remember leaving my office on campus at the time and thinking that we're going to be gone for a whole two weeks or something and some insane amount of time like that.

And here we are, however many months later. So I think that's just the total shift in thinking about just my daily life and everything connected to it, and that it shifted so quickly. And I just-- in that moment-- couldn't even imagine that it would move as quickly as it did.

MARK BLYTH: So here's the follow-up question because that's just the set-up for the other part. How much do you think of what we knew before is going to come back? How much mean reversion is built into this? Or have things really changed?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, I mean, I think that's probably the question. I mean, you talk to epidemiologists and public health people, and they're like, you know, say, we never could have predicted this. And they say, well, we did say that this was going to happen. We've been saying this is going to happen for a long time.

MARK BLYTH: There's going to be two waves. The second one's going to be worse-- yet nobody listens.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right, exactly. And so there's another one-- there's another COVID happening that's going to happen. And are we going to be prepared for it in any way? And the answer to that is probably not. It's the Churchill quote, Americans will do the right thing after they've exhausted every other option. I mean, so you feel like we should be ready. But I don't-- I mean, the cynical part of me says, no. Will the infrastructure be any different? Probably not. Will our human reaction to things? Probably not. So I mean, this has been a big experiment in doing everything the same once we go back to-- if there's ever a return to normal.

MARK BLYTH: So I had cause to look into a few things I didn't usually look at trying to figure out whether we're going to go back to normal or not-- what does that look like. And of course, one of the big casualties from this-- which still gets reported as one of the casualties, of course, is retail, right? So basically, you know, Amazon's hired the 10 billion workers from different planets in order to meet demand-- slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean.

And the mall's dead. Nobody's going. Foot traffic's down, et cetera, et cetera. So the largest mall owner in the United States, called the Simon Property Group-- I think that's their name. And the minute the vaccine was announced, their stock rebounded like you wouldn't believe.

And all the airlines that were completely trashed-- they were down 40%-- they regained practically about 80% of their value in some cases. Now there's second-wave fluctuations, et cetera, right? But it just tells me we're going to try and get back to where we were as soon as possible. And then I'll try to imagine-- this is my abiding memory. I was time to remember what it was like to be, for example, in a crowded pub.


MARK BLYTH: Right? Like, in a really busy restaurant, standing next to people who aren't wearing masks-- lots of them-- and not caring, right? So I wonder how much of the behavioral response has been encoded. Is that going to be weird? You're going to change fundamentally? Or whether we're just going to wipe out and just go back to exactly where we were before the minute we have some kind of vaccine level of acceptable risk.

I don't know. It's a tough one. I was thinking about-- I used to fly all the time. I practically lived on planes, right? And I haven't done it for months, and months, and months. And at first, I was like, oh, thank god because airports are not fun places. And you get tired, and you get older, and it's just crap traveling all the time. And I was, like, woo-hoo! This is great. And now, basically, I'm like, god, I could-- I'd really like to go somewhere.

So I'm finding this a strange moment, this end of the year because, in a sense, we've priced in the vaccine. We've priced it in. It's going to go. It's going to be over, et cetera. Forget about the next one coming down the line, right? But it's still months away. And we're going to go through a very long, hard winter.

And we still have people denying the virus is a virus and various things like this, and pointing out the true statistic but drawing their own inference from it, that there's basically been 400 people under the age of, I think, it's something like 40 in Britain who have actually died of the virus, and as all terrible or whatever. And yeah, but the inference-- because the correct inference is that often this is like your economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of your health care system.

And that's the fundamental lesson that we should have learned from this-- if you blow up your health care system, you don't have an economy. And that's what this whole thing has been about and continues to be. So I don't know. I don't know how much we've changed. I'm in a very philosophical mood this morning. I don't know why. But I'm trying to figure it out. And in one sense, we're trying to get back to normal. We've still got a long way to go. And will it really be normal when we get there? I suppose that's the question I'm asking.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and on the stock market point, I mean, you brought this up a few episodes back. And you said it really well, and now, of course, I can't remember it. But the stock market is-- it measures emotions and maybe versus what's going on the ground. I don't know. I probably just totally hacked it to death.

But so I saw the same stuff about the stock market. And then I wonder, is that just the anticipation of things versus the reality of things? And is there some other indicator out there? Some other metric that we have that's a better-- that measures things in a better way. And I don't know what that is.

MARK BLYTH: And at the same time, we do have the stimulus bill, as it's called. I hate that name stimulus. It implies like somebody's dead, and you're trying to bring them back to life, right?


MARK BLYTH: It's like, you need a coffee. Have a stimulus, right? It should really just be called disaster insurance because if you don't support the economy when it's up with something like this, you'll destroy about 40% of it. And then you'll have an even bigger hole, and you'll end up even more in debt. So they put this thing through with all the bits in it that Trump didn't like and all that sort of stuff. But stock markets were still-- this is a constant theme of Twenty-Twenty.

The stock market's still roaring ahead. And millions of Americans are losing their benefits, and their homes, and their rentals, and their futures. And we seem to be systematically unable to get to grips with that. That divorce has run right through Twenty-Twenty. And it's a terrible thing we acknowledge, and then and move on.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and I'm being more philosophical as well now. I mean, thinking-- I mean, that was another thing that I've thought a lot about is that COVID really has torn off any of the thin veneer between what actually makes this country run.

I mean, it's the frontline workers in whatever way we define them-- the people who deliver the take out, the Uber drivers that California decided to not recognize as real employees, the delivery people, the people picking up our groceries in Instacart, you know, that I'm able to outsource my risk to them. And they get very little benefits out of that. And that's what makes this country run. It's not Jamie Dimon and the other CEOs of fancy places. I mean, it's the people running around on the messenger bikes that are doing this.

MARK BLYTH: No, absolutely. So let me ask another question then, to move the conversation ahead. So what's the defining news story for you? What's the thing that came up in the news, where you go, oh, yeah, that's Twenty-twenty for me?

ay or another, that since the:

And that is presidents doing what they would like when they would like. And the presidential pardons are-- the most recent round of them-- are exactly that. There usually is a protocol, but the president can pardon whoever he wants. And the President just did that, and people are grousing about it. But the president has done that. We've set it up. The Congress has set it up. American voters have set it up so that the president can do that.

And I have tossed, and turned, and yelled about all the bad things that President Trump has done. But institutionally, that's the way it happens. And no president-- Joe Biden is not going to step into office and say, oh, I don't want this stuff anymore, like, give all that stuff back to Congress. He's going to continue to grow that until Congress or the Supreme Court starts to eat away at that.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, that's a good one. So I was thinking about this before we came on. I was thinking, you know, what other stories did it for me? And it's really right at the end of the year. It's two things that happened around the election. And I think we spoke about one of them, at least, but maybe not the other one. And they both happened in California. So the first one you alluded to was that basically, Uber and a bunch of other firms got together, and for the cost of $200 million in advertising, got to write to the labor law of California, which is basically, on its own, a G7 economy.

So I mean, if you want to talk about presidential power, let's think about corporate power, right? They basically said, hey, what labor law would we really like? Let's go write it, and then let's tell everybody it's awesome toast, and then we'll chuck loads of money at it, and then we'll do a proposition, and we'll basically get what we want. And you know, this is hugely significant in terms of inequality, fragilization of people's lives, benefits, et cetera, et cetera. This is really bad precedent for the labor market right across the board. And the Democrats are absolutely silent on it-- absolutely silent about it, right?

And the second one that they're silent about also happened in California. We haven't spoken about this. I want your take on this. What happened with the Affirmative Action proposition in California at the time of the election?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I didn't pay any attention to this. So that says a lot.

MARK BLYTH: You didn't pay any attention to this, did you? No, no, no. California voters-- basically, as far as I understand it, White people in California went yeah, OK, well, let's institutionalize more affirmative action and government hiring in universities and things like that. We're fine with it. It turned out, minorities voted against it in droves.

So again, just as Trump managed to increase his vote in all the people that he's insulted during the election, whether it's women, whether it's Latinos, whether it's African-Americans, right? The same thing happens here, whereby the Democrats and all their allies get together and chuck tons of money at a proposition on something that they deeply care about.

And then the people they're meant to be representing are like, no thanks. We don't want this. We don't actually want this. And there's that disconnect again. So the Democrats are just, again, intensely disappointing. You've got the fragilization of labor markets and one of the largest labor markets in the United States standing a dangerous president, while they're talking about, we're going to reign in Google and all this stuff. It's bullshit. They've just got to write their own labor law, right?

On the other hand, you know, what they really care about is a politics of inclusion and diversity, which their own base deeply cares about. But it seems that the people who they're selling this to, the people who are the targets of this inclusion diversity are actually rejecting it. What do you do with that info?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I feel like a real heel now having paid no attention to affirmative action. But I think my first instinct is that people want to feel like they're getting ahead on their own merits and that you don't want to think, oh, I got into Brown because I'm the one person from middle-of-nowhere with xyz characteristics. But in fact, I got in because of my own intellectual power and merit, you know, all of that sort of stuff. And you don't want to be the one-- oh, we know why she got in, or she got the job, or whatever that is.

MARK BLYTH: But then, there's another one, as well, which is competition amongst minority groups themselves. I mean, if you think about the Harvard Law suit by Asian-Americans, right? Essentially, their argument is, yeah, we're 6% or 7% of the population. We're about 20% of some school admissions. We should be 50%, given how well we perform. Why, on Earth, would that group sign up to something that gives benefits to someone else that would take away their opportunities?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and that wraps around onto your point then. So if they are competing with Latinx and the African-American community, will they actually give 50% or not? So is it the competition among those particular groups? I mean, right after 9/11, when there is all of the profiling going on of Arab-Americans, I mean, African-Americans were pretty quiet on that. And some cynics said, well, they were just happy that the spotlight wasn't on them anymore, at least for a little bit. So I mean, you do wonder-- the tension that exists between groups, in terms of political power.

MARK BLYTH: No, and again, my point in mentioning this, to circle back to the election, again, is the Democratic misreading of their public. I think it's just another example of this. Again, the election story was essentially, let's try and build a winning coalition by excluding the entire American White working class. And they just did it. But they did it by the thinnest of majorities in half a dozen states because basically, they're trying to exclude 80 million people from your coalition. Their electoral politics, I think, are not just-- I'm beginning to feel that they're fundamentally misguided. It turns out that minorities can be conservative too-- a margin.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes. Well, and maybe that we have talked about in the past, that identity isn't just-- like, my racial identity isn't the thing that I think about most all the time every day, and that there's other stuff that I consider in my political calculus, economic calculus, et cetera. And I do wonder, to your point, about the Democratic party. I mean, I was listening to some end-of-the-year stuff.

And they said, you know, President Trump did and said terrible things, but he also gave money to Historically Black Colleges and Universities in amounts that President Obama never did. And so he said and did lots of terrible stuff, but there's stuff that he actually did that weren't just empty words but actually followed up on-- there's follow through on things. So there's a little bit of that I wonder, that's going on as well, that people are looking around and thinking, yeah, he said a lot of stuff, but he actually did some stuff that others-- the Democrats-- didn't do.

MARK BLYTH: So push this forward a little bit. Now the Democrats are in power. They might even get Georgia and therefore, get control of the Senate. At that point, what happens? What do they do? What do they effectively stand for, right? You know, you're relatively close to these people and what they're thinking. What's the plan? Because I don't really see one. I see, like, Trump's a bad person. OK, so you run on that. Turns out, nobody really cared. You just about made it over the finish line. Trump's gone, right? Maybe. He still hasn't left yet. But let's say, he's gone. What's next? What, exactly, is the plan?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, this is such a good question because even in the building of the COVID relief bill-- I won't use the word stimulus-- you had a core set of senators, Republicans and Democrats, and House members that worked on this thing over Zoom calls. According to the Washington Post, there was a 3-hour Zoom call, where they just hacked at this thing and wrote the policy. And one of the congressmen said that he'd never been part of actually writing policy before. He'd just been part of the political bickering.

So the point that I'm trying to make is that even if Democrats pick up those Georgia seats-- and I do not think that will happen. All the money that's being raised, I think, is really interesting. But we also saw, in November, that Democrats raised a shitload of money, and they didn't win. That you actually are going to have to have a core set of senators work together to move things along. Whether they win or not, the margins are so slim for Republicans or Democrats, that in order to move things forward, you will have to have that core group.

The House is harder to tell because, of course, the Democrats have the majority. But I think it's going to be really tough-going for President Biden unless he can work his magic in the Senate because it doesn't appear as if Leader McConnell, who will likely still be leader, will whee and deal in the ways that a lot of Democrats are hoping for.

So I don't think there is a plan. I think it's, to your point, like, bash on Trump. He's terrible. Probably, that will go on for another part of Twenty-Twenty-one. Look at all this. We're trying to undo all the terrible stuff. But I don't know that there's an overall big-picture plan on how to actually move stuff along because it touches on polarization, and everyone hates everybody, and on and on.

MARK BLYTH: So there's a weird sort of echo of Twenty-Sixteen here in the sense that what you had to Senator Clinton's campaign was it's my turn, right? There may be policies associated. But essentially, you guys get it, right? We're the technocrats. We understand how the world works. Trust us. After all, we oversaw Iran-Iraq, rather the financial crisis. You know, everything's going great. So vote for me.

And Biden seems to be like a throwback beyond even that to a kind of world that simply doesn't exist in terms of the politics. There's a center somewhere waiting to be found where we all agree on the right stuff, whatever that is. And if we just get in, we'll be fine. We'll stumble onto these things to do that will heal America. And I just don't see any content to this stuff.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and Joe Biden is a weird president. If we were talking in Twenty-Sixteen, and we talked about Joe Biden being the next president. I mean, he's just a weird candidate for the times, as well. You know, although, people are like, he's a moderate, and blah, blah, blah. But I just don't see that. He just seems like a placeholder. I mean, AOC recently said, you know, we're not going back to brunch.

And I think that can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. But I think from the perspective of progressive politics, they're not going to-- I mean, the progressive wing of the Democratic party is not just going to write him a blank check or a free pass or whatever and allow him to do what he wants. I mean, that infighting, I think, will become more intense.

MARK BLYTH: And if they don't have a majority in Congress, then it doesn't really matter. I mean, you can do all the infighting you want, but you still can't pass anything, right? So there's a problem there. So which then pivots to when you see all the Biden appointments, you see John Kerry and all these people coming out of the woodwork, right, and this-- I was talking to my friend Mathias, who lives in DC about this-- this collective sigh of relief as all of the people who run the foreign policy establishment are like, now we can get back to leading the world.

And it's like, there's a new memo, and the memo says, the rest of the world got on quite fine without you. There's this amazing sort of-- you see it in the press all the time, in the mainstream press, just this sort of-- America's back, and we're going to restore American leadership. And nobody's bothering to ask anyone if it's required. Again, it's this throwback to like, the indispensable nation. It's like, no. The

EU managed to deal with the Brits quite well. We can go on to that in a minute. Russia still plays funny buggers and will continue to. China's set to overtake the US as the biggest economy in three year's time. And you know, eventually, people will get tired of the dollar and tired of your polarization, and you'll eventually pay a price. So you know, what exactly is the leadership that you're offering us? A bigger Navy? Nobody needs it. What are you for?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Three years, China will overtake the US?

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, the latest estimates because they didn't screw up COVID. They invented it, but they didn't screw it up.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, wow, that's incredible. I just read this book about the China-Tibet relations, and just thinking about China's-- I mean, how it is that they have total control over their country and their citizens, and just the wiping away of any different cultural norms and what it is that they want, and thinking about the leaders as well. And then to think of them as being the most powerful economy. I mean, yeah, we'll be the tenants.

MARK BLYTH: And you know, what will happen is the EU will do its usual thing, will talk a good game on human rights, and do absolutely nothing about it, and continue to sell cars to the Chinese until they can make their own. That's it, right? They will simply roll over and make a deal. So in a sense, there is a case for American leadership, if it means the UK are about these liberal values, et cetera.

But the extent to which the United States itself as a credible partner in any of these endeavors after the way that they behaved in Iraq and all the rest of it-- come on. Forget it. Really? I mean, nobody's buying this anymore. I mean, so there was an interesting post that I saw. I've been offline. I've been trying to just chill out for a while.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, I saw your Tweet.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, I know. It's like, I need to get off. I'm breaking the rules for this, basically. But of course, for you. But anyway, where the hell was I going? Oh, yeah. That's it. So one of the guys, at least, Lieutenant Carl-- I forget what his name is. He was one of the whistle blowers on Iraq and the whole thing about the giant Russian hack, right? And he immediately says, false flag. This is all nonsense.

They're looking for a reason to go after Russia. This is WMD all over again. And I hadn't even thought of that. And then I thought for a minute. And I thought, well, of course, because even if I don't believe that that's true, you've got record. There's a track record of basically bullshitting your way into a war because you want one.

So why not actually be very, very skeptical of these claims again? And when it came out last week, or whatever it was, I automatically took it as absolutely, this is it. Russians are at it again-- bad, naughty Russians, right? And the Russians are like, honestly, lads, it's not us, And of course, yes, well, you know, it's you and all the rest of us, right? And it's like, well, wait-- remember WMD? So these are the people that are coming back to restore leadership.

CARRIE NORDLUND: They're the exact same people.

MARK BLYTH: They're the exact people.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, like-- yes, not even figuratively.

MARK BLYTH: I mean, there's a reason that Trump was elected, right? [LAUGHS]

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes. Because we don't-- I mean, John Kerry, like, great Senator, but maybe he just should retire. [INAUDIBLE]

MARK BLYTH: I know. Maybe, they all should. I mean, for god's sake, the entire world is now run by-- the American World-- it's run by 80-year-olds.



CARRIE NORDLUND: Yep. Speaking of 80-year-olds, I mean, the UK has had a tough go of it over this year. I mean, Harry and Meghan, and now we're on like super COVID, and no one wants British citizens, and those lines at the train stations, I mean, it's just-- it's a tiny country.

MARK BLYTH: I know, we've really managed to screw up. So anyway, the great success that's Brexit, right? I mean, just-- it's just awful. I mean, I'll break it down in the simplest possible terms. The United Kingdom has, like the United States, a huge trade deficit with the EU. They sell us stuff. And I think it's something like $120 billion surplus in stuff. We don't make stuff. We do services.

So we sell them about $50 billion in services. The agreement-- this wonderful agreement that Boris has just done-- this marvelous, marvelous agreement, right, that basically, it says, no quotas no tariffs on goods. So basically, the people who sell stuff to Britain just got a massive win, right? There is no agreement on services. That is pending. And that's everything that Britain sells to the EU.

You just got screwed, and you're pretending that it was awesome, and it's the best thing ever. Because you won on fish. You managed to keep more herring that you don't eat. I mean, it's just-- it's little-- and all the Brexit mob are like, we did it. We showed them, whatever. It's like, holy crap. And even if you take the better estimates of what this will cost-- it's 4% of GDP over a five-year period, whatever, right? It hurts, but it's not that bad. Well, the problem is those are averages, as we know, are incredibly misleading.

If you're a rich person living in London, then, yeah, you'll pay a little bit more for your foie Gras, or whatever you're importing from France. Your life's not going to fundamentally change. If Nissan decides to shut up shop, the city of Sunderland closes down. You know-- very asymmetric, the way that these costs will be distributed. And of course, they're going to hurt the communities that have suffered the most already.

So they've done themselves some damage. I read a great piece by an Irish bloke. I'll put it out into it when I go back on next week. But it's this wonderful summary of the whole thing. And he basically says at the end of it, what you've really done is you've just made your life infinitely more complex because they're the elephant, and you're the flea. And the elephant will continue to do things in the room, and you will have to adjust to it.

And what people don't really realize is once you've struck the deal, the negotiations are continuing because things change. And apparently, if you get the Brexit document, the first 16 pages is just laying out all of these committees that need to be established and staffed on a full-time basis for actually implementing and monitoring these agreements. So this equivalent of a Eurostar every day of British bureaucrats, zipping up to Brussels just to keep this thing on track. Your transactions costs have just gone through the roof. It's just-- and it's we've done brilliant! It's just, like, oh, God Almighty. I mean, really.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Here's my philosophical question. In whatever future time period, is there Brin? Like, the UK wants back in to the EU?

MARK BLYTH: Yeah-- I mean, there's a funny parallel to the United States here, right? So let's think-- America's the indispensable nation, and the world needs American leadership. And of course, we're like, no. We don't. We're fine. Now that's the way that Britain found itself after World War II. So it fought two big wars. It was basically in hock to everybody, particularly India, who it tried to cheat on, and the United States in terms of volume terms through land lease.

And it was trying to keep this Imperial myth going, right, blah, blah, blah. And then the Suez Crisis comes along. They get their ass kicked. The Americans do a run around the pound. And that's the end of that. There's no more Imperial ambition. Decolonization follows almost instantly from that. And then basically, there's this 10-year pivot where they try and figure out who they are, when they're, what do you want to be when you're a grown-up? And the answer was become a big player in Europe, right? That was the only other alternative.

So eventually in:

I mean, you're literally now rounding error. And by the time that the Scots are off and you get the final breakup of Britain and the reunification of Ireland, I mean, imagine that you were a Russian foreign policy hawk and you wanted to weaken your opponents, basically destroying the United Kingdom, the only nuclear power apart from the United States in Europe, right, the only one with a half-decent Navy and a half-decent military would be a pretty amazing achievement, and yet, they've managed to do it to themselves.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right, right, without any-- with Russia really not having to do anything.

MARK BLYTH: Well, so we know-- who knows? I mean, apparently some of the Brexit money-- well, maybe, may have had Russian sources on it. Who knows?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, jeez. Well, that will be part of the HBO movie.

MARK BLYTH: Yes, absolutely. With Benedict Cumberbatch playing everyone, again. It would just Benedict. He will play everyone-- that's it. Just one actor, and he'll play everyone. He'll be brilliant at all of them.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, on that point as we start to wrap things up, maybe we can end on the classic, like, TV, book, movie, et cetera. Do you have any recommendations?

MARK BLYTH: I still haven't I still haven't finished The Crown. I'm still in season 4 The weird thing about being in season 4 is I actually remember those events. I mean, I may have been-- oh, yeah, absolutely. And that makes it weird in a sense that I loved the second season because it was all these little moments in British history that you've read about but you didn't experience-- the Profumo scandal, the whole-- what was the story about Johnson basically being charmed by Princess Margaret-- all this nonsense, right?

And that was thoroughly enjoyable and getting into aspects that you didn't really hear a lot about. But now you're getting into this, like, it's the Diana-fest, this Diana, and Thatcher, and the Queen. Like, it's the three-crazy-women triangle. And they're just playing that over, and over. And that was, in a sense, when I grew up. So it's very weird watching that.

And there's a big debate in Britain about, well, it's not authentic. And they're saying all these things. And none of it happened and all that. I totally believe that Diana basically roller-skated through the palace, telling everyone to go get lost. I think that's entirely plausible. No, other things, as I mentioned, a few of them. But go ahead.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Are you watching The Mandalorian or did you watch The Mandalorian?

MARK BLYTH: Oh, I watched The Mandalorian. Yes, I did. I did-- Sergio Leone in space.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, I really enjoyed it for nostalgic purposes mostly but I also liked it because it was a very simple-- there was no complicated plot, like Game of Thrones. I couldn't keep track of everybody. And it was just simple simple. Things wrapped up at the end of 30 minutes. Like, I could just leave it and not, you know.

MARK BLYTH: And then could always wrap up an episode just by saying, this is the way. [LAUGHTER] That was it. Just-- this is the way. It is the way. OK, [INAUDIBLE] but no more. It is-- can we do this? Is it the way? It's the way. Right, that's it. So yeah, that was good.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, really liked that. Oh, and then-- I guess, this was my big thing over the last couple weeks is bingeing Mandalorian. I have not watched The Crown. I find The Crown to be slow. And I don't-- it's hard for me to invest in the characters. And I guess I should-- I watched, I think, the second or the third season. But it's just-- I don't know. There's something about it that was just-- I needed more-- maybe more shooting or something.

MARK BLYTH: There's something interesting that they do. The first two seasons makes you like them. You begin to realize that they're in kind of impossible position, right? They are who they are. They are, themselves, an institution. The rules don't apply to them, but there are other strictures in their lives that means that they're-- in a sense, they're puppets on a stage.

as you move further into the:

CARRIE NORDLUND: If they had more blasters, maybe, and, like, Tuscan Raiders, I might be more into it-- maybe just a little bit more action.

MARK BLYTH: I'm gearing up, finally, to watch Succession.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, yeah-- no, that's a good one. I'll be curious to hear--

MARK BLYTH: So I don't if I've mentioned this. My brother, Laurie, who lives in New Zealand, went to school with the main actor.


MARK BLYTH: Brian Cox.


MARK BLYTH: Yeah, the dad. Yeah, he went to school-- my brother's pretty old. I'm pretty old. But yeah, he went to school with Brian Cox. And so there was a that. And then there's an episode, actually, the character, so he comes from Dundee, my hometown. I never really realized this. And there's an episode in the second season called Dundee about him going home to Dundee.

And I asked a friend of mine who watched it, I says, you know, is this worth it? And he says, look, I've been telling you from the start, watch this. Because this guy is basically a billionaire from Dundee who happens to live in America. That's all you need to know. I was like, OK, I'm in. I'm in. We're going to do it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, I thought that was a great show, so I'll be curious about what you think of it.

MARK BLYTH: Exactly. Oh, did you watch Wonder Woman '84?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I did watch it. Did you?

MARK BLYTH: Of course I did. Because you're in lockdown. There's nothing else to do. And there's sort of a platform. Yeah, well, out of 10, what would you give it?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I found it very entertaining. But there are so many pot holes, so if I really think about it too hard, then it becomes crap. But if I just watched it without thinking, I thought it was pretty good. So maybe eight.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, yeah, I'd go for that as well. So I did something interesting. I encourage viewers to do this as well-- or listeners-- and see if you get the same thing. Go back and watch some classic '80s movies. So of course, the new Christmas movie is now no longer It's a Wonderful Life. It's Die Hard, right, which really works for a variety of reasons. It's the best Christmas movie, right? But we decided to go watch-- you ready-- Beverly Hills Cop.


MARK BLYTH: Now here's the thing. When Beverly Hills Cop came out, this was huge, right? And I remember thinking it was the coolest, the funniest, the most amazing-- totally brilliant. You watch it these days, you're like, oh, my god. This is flat and lame. We have just moved on so far. They're like, wow, that was cutting-edge. The knife must have been really blunt.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right. Well, I'm going to go back and watch Beverly Hills Cop because I got stuck in Love, Actually for, you know, and, you know, imagine Hugh Grant as prime minister.

MARK BLYTH: Yes. Yeah, that's the other awful Christmas alternative. Yes, Love, Actually.


MARK BLYTH: Yes. All right.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Any New Year's resolutions?

MARK BLYTH: Yes. I'm going to-- I'm built a gym over Christmas.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, holy cow-- OK.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, with a lifting rack. So it's serious. Because basically, I was just getting fat, and lardy, and drinking too much.


MARK BLYTH: I do this every year, basically. I do have a detox cleanse period. But this year, I'm going to see how long I can really keep it going.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, I saw your star turn in the Big Brown video teaching. It was nice to see you in the classroom.

MARK BLYTH: Yes, with a face mask on, exactly. Yes, all masked up. We will continue face-to-face. They found one person who was daft enough to teach face-to-face during a pandemic, and it was me.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well thank you all for listening.

MARK BLYTH: We'll be back in Twenty-Twenty-One to explore the dynamics of American leadership that nobody wants, life after Trump-- there is no life after Trump. He will still be around. And basically, the Democrats not really deciding what they want to do and to become grown ups. That's pretty much it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: A non-global Britain-- a Britain that no one wants either.

MARK BLYTH: Yes. Now we'll see all those trade deals they will sign with Mesopotamia and the Nile Delta.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Thank you, everybody.






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