Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected
Podcasts Servant of Pod with Nick Quah
Avery Trufelman: Articles Of Interest

Avery Trufelman’s Articles of Interest is a show that explores fundamental ideas about fashion: What is its significance? Why do we give it value? How does it materially impact the world? In this episode, Nick talks with Avery about her work, which combines storytelling with a strong and evolving worldview. He also pulls apart the latest news with Ashley Carman, senior reporter for The Verge.

This Is Not A Drake Podcast

Boom/Bust: The Rise and Fall of HQ Trivia

New Sounds

Lucinda Williams - Fruits of My Labor

Avery Trufelman: Articles of Interest

Season 1, Episode 3

Avery Trufelman

Everything has fashion, cars have fashion, buildings have fashion, our cities have fashion, literature has fashion; everything has cycles of taste. [music] And clothing is just the most visible. Like that's when you look at an old photograph, that's how you can tell when it was taken by what they were wearing.

Nick Quah

From LAist studios, this is Servant of Pod. I'm Nick Quah.

Nick Quah

Avery Trufelman has questions about fashion. Why is it significant? Why do we give it value? And how does it materially impact the world? So she made a podcast to find some answers. [music]

It's always busy In podcast land, but last week turned out to be busier than usual. Two stories that stood out to me in particular: the first, Spotify announced another wave of content deals, one of Kim Kardashian West and one of Warner Brothers. That second deal opens up a pathway for Spotify to develop podcasts around characters from the DC comic book universe. The second story, last week several podcasters, mostly podcasters of color, took to social media to raise the issue of intellectual property and ownership over shows they produce. This kicked up broader conversations about how podcast companies should be structuring their relationships with creators, and whether podcasting is replicating unfair practices from other media industries. To talk through these stories is Ashley Carman, senior reporter at The Verge and the host of Why'd You Push That Button? Ashley, welcome to the show.

Ashley Carman

Thanks! Thanks for having me.

Nick Quah

So I want to take the story about ownership and IP first. So I think, we saw a couple of things last week. The most prominent example I think, is the host of Another Round which is this really popular BuzzFeed podcast (is no longer active right now). It's been talked about as like a big part of podcasting history at this point. They took to Twitter to pressure BuzzFeed to give back the rights to their back catalogue. And that kicked up questions about who owns what, what is the role of a media company in these relationships of creators? There were also a couple of examples of other podcasters that took to Twitter or social media to you know, sound these concerns: The Nod which is a Gimlet show hosted by Eric Eddings and Brittany Luse, it's also a Quibi show now, and also KPCC's former staffer Misha Euceph, she hosted a show called Tell Them, I Am. She also brought up the sort of conversations around not just ownership in IP, but also what it means to get adequate support for media companies. When you see all these stories, what is the larger story here that you're you're thinking about?

Ashley Carman

It's so interesting to me, because when you work for a media company, you know, unfortunately, unless you've worked out a very special contract, that the work you produce for them is probably owned by them. And what gets really complicated, and I think this is especially true with podcasting, that's why we're seeing this now is that the host of podcasts make the show, right? So like, because it's so intimate, because you build a connection with the hosts; that is where we're having these issues. Because you might know that you have this IP that's owed to the company, right? But at the same time, you're like, I built this because you would have nothing without me. And I think that's where this is becoming so complicated.

Nick Quah

A couple of weeks ago there was a story around this podcast by Barstool Sports called Call Her Daddy, which is, you know, I think they started out at a very sort of basic contract that paid them X amount of money, but I don't think they had any ownership of the show. And it was one of those situations where the host got really, really popular. And it was this one of the situations where they had to be a restructuring of what the prior arrangement was. And so we saw this kind of weird standoff between the company and the host in that situation. We're going to see a whole lot more of this as we move forward.

Ashley Carman

People don't realize is when you say "back catalogue", that doesn't just mean they're sending you the mp3's to your show. That's one thing, that could be that. But I have a feeling, what we are talking about here is the RSS feed and control over that feed, which companies are not going to want to just hand over that feed because it can be used for marketing in the future, they can totally change that feed around, which already has subscribers. So you can see why the companies here that tension exists, why they don't want to just fork over a feed.

Nick Quah

Right. One of the interesting qualities about last week's stories in particular, is how these were stories about creators of color. And how I think part of the feeling is that when they were in those institutions, they weren't provided the adequate support that they felt like they would have gotten if they were white, or if they were, you know, for more “brand name” or something. And so this ties back into the larger questions about racial equity that ties very much into the moment that we have right now. How do you think these contracts and regions should be structured moving forward?

Ashley Carman

I mean, if people haven't read the Twitter threads, Jonah Peretti kind of hinted at the idea—

Nick Quah

that's the CEO of BuzzFeed.

Ashley Carman

Yeah. He hinted at the idea that their feed could be licensed, which is interesting. But, I do think going forward, there has to be—definitely clauses in like in the event that you put our show on hiatus or cancel it, we get access to our back catalogue and we own the feed. I mean, that is what people want. Or we can pay a set fee, and we get that feed, something like that, because a licensing agreement means you're ongoing, you're going to have to keep paying for it. And that that doesn't seem like a long term solution. So I do think going forward, there needs to be a tacit agreement that maybe you get access to your feed if they cancel the show. They had first rights, you know, they got the first go at it if they don't want it anymore—okay, I want to shop it around.

Nick Quah

Yeah, and just to tie a bow and a story. I think the larger anxiety that's that's creeping in, as well as that, you know, is podcasting gonna look like other, you know, media industries or entertainment industries that have historically been the creator unfriendly for the longest time and I think podcasting being a relatively new medium, and also a medium that came out of the spirit of everybody is an independent worker and to get to own your stuff. I think there's a lot of worry that as these bigger companies sort of make their plays into space, we're going to see sort of these sort of bad contracts and bad arrangements float around, and that becomes industry norm. That's not something that creators are very happy about or, you know-they would want to push back against that?

Ashley Carman

Well and podcasters are so outspoken that I actually think podcasting could end up affecting the TV industry, for example, because when TV shows get cancelled occasionally see a backlash; but I feel like a lot of times, it's kind of quiet, it's like, oh, dang, and the fans are upset, and then the screenwriters go off and work on new projects, and so to the talent. But I feel like we might end up in a world where the podcasters are influencing TV and you see, maybe the TV deals start becoming more flexible as well.

Nick Quah

Oh, we can only hope. [laughs] Sticking to the subject of big companies and big companies spend a lot of money Spotify, you know, they announced last week two major content deals one with Kim Kardashian West of Keeping Up With The Kardashians and many other multi hyphenate things. She was on contract to produce an exclusive show for Spotify about—I guess wrongful convictions the way that it was phrased to me. And the second deal is with Warner Brothers and DC Comics or just DC in general, that opens up the pathway for or Spotify to develop shows around the wide universe of DC comic book characters, but also there's a potential pathway here for other Warner Bros. properties as well. This, of course, continues Spotify's run at, you know, very spendy, buzzy, exclusive licensing content deals. What do you think about the situation?

Ashley Carman

What was most interesting to me about the DC deal specifically, is the idea that they're going for kids content. I'm going to assume some stuff is relatively kid friendly, or at least young adult, let's say teenagers. So I think that's an interesting place to watch. Because, as of right now, a lot of the acquisition work has been around, you know, quality narrative shows, big names for adults. We haven't seen them really strive to kind of capture that younger market, and why that younger market is so critical is because if you can lock a kid in to Spotify at 16, it stands a good chance that they're going to stay on Spotify as an adult. And they just launched their kids app to which is worth now here so they know kids are going to be an important demographic going forward.

Nick Quah

What's your feel on the Kim Kardashian West podcasts? To me where it's the most interesting is that is in this overlap between true crime and celebrity podcast. There's a lot of juice there.

Ashley Carman

It is so interesting their branding it on their Parcast, which is one of their acquisitions.

Nick Quah

I did not know that that is stunning! Parcast being one of the acquisitions for Spotify. It specializes in the sort of like pulpy, true crime-ish, true crime adjacent shows; interesting acquisition, I think it also has turned out to be one of the more effective ones in the company. Here's the thing like, do you think people actually want to listen to this stuff?

Ashley Carman

I do. Well, more than the Joe Rogan Show, my friends were like, "Wait, Kim K is getting a show?" And I was like "Yeah," and they're like, "Okay, I'm listening." I was like, "Really? It's about criminal justice reform." And they're like, "YES." I was like, "Okay." [laughs] I know you're skeptical of the exclusive deals. So I'm curious to hear your take because I do think that it could work especially because the products free.

Nick Quah

Yeah, everything looks great on—like the strategy looks sound to me on paper, but like, you know, we haven't really seen the first of these original exclusive shows come out yet. And so I really want to see if the first one takes because that would tell us infinitely about what it's going to look like. Last thing on this, does this raise any red flags to you in terms of like, the ongoing narrative about centralization, as you know, Spotify as podcast monopoly?

Ashley Carman

I mean, it does bum me out a little bit, but not necessarily just because oh, all this content is going to live on one platform. For me, I'm more concerned about the ad side of things. That's why I'm very interested in their ad technology, because as soon as they start doing all this ad targeting which they've started. I just think podcasts are going to be more like the web in which your ads are specifically targeted to you, which could be a good thing for creators, you know, advertisers will be willing to spend more, but I think they might be willing to spend more only on Spotify shows. And that's, that's where I start to worry.

Nick Quah

Okay, thanks so much Ashley, before I let you go. Any podcast recommendations this week?

Ashley Carman

So the podcast I've been listening to is Boom/Bust, it's the HQ podcast show, from The Ringer—so a Spotify show! [giggles]

Nick Quah

A Spotify show! [giggles]

Ashley Carman

I've really enjoyed it, and I would recommend people check it out.

Nick Quah

Awesome! And the podcast recommendation for me this week: I'm really enjoying This Is Not A Drake Podcast, it's from the CBC. It's not about Drake, it tells a story of the history of hip hop in Canada and history playing pop in general, through the lens of Drake. It's by Ty Harper, a really talented music journalist over in CBC and I'm utterly fascinated by the show thats the, This Is Not A Drake podcast. Ashley, thank you so much for joining us.

Ashley Carman

Thank you, Nick.

Nick Quah

So before we get to the interview, I just want to be up front here. I've known Avery Trufelman for a while. In fact, we were in college together. And on top of that, she was in a student play that I had co-directed.

Avery Trufelman

Well, first of all, I'm insulted that you couldn't see my future as a podcaster from my performance in the student play. And it's funny in some ways I'm like, Well, our roles are still so similar like I'm still performing and you're, you're you're behind the scenes.

Nick Quah

Barking orders! [laughs]

Avery Trufelman

Well, not anymore. You're a podcaster now.

Nick Quah

Frankly, I never thought we'd end up in the same business a decade later. But I wanted to bring Avery to the show for two reasons. First of all, she had just wrapped up the latest season of a show Articles of Interest. And second, I think Avery is representative of a segment in podcasting that's really interesting. Singular producers that integrate a strong worldview into their storytelling.

Avery Trufelman

The weird thing is, I think I'm from—this is another way that I feel like an old—I think I'm from kind of the last generation of people who wanted to work in radio. I could have never known that podcasting was gonna be a thing. I always wanted to work in radio, because my parents met working in radio and they always—they met working at WNYC and they spoke about it really fondly. I mean, just like the adventures my mom was able to go on, recording classical music concerts for QXR and, you know, the events my dad was able to organize. They just had such a ball. They talk-and they both worked at WNYC for a long time, like, like a decade at least.

Nick Quah

I did not know that they both worked for WNYC. That's crazy.

Avery Trufelman

Yeah, that's how they met. And so they were always like, that's a job. They were always really supportive and it wasn't, you know-now everyone's like, "Oh, podcasting!" Well, not everyone. I shouldn't say everyone. But now there's this idea that there's money in the banana stand, especially when you look at the news about, you know, Call Her Daddy and Joe Rogan. Everyone's like, "Oh, it's a goldmine. Ding. Ding. Ding!" And my parents always knew you're not going to get rich, but it's a job, like you can live on it, and it's fun. So yeah, that's just a long way of saying like, I was a radio person and I really loved everything about radio because if I can get a little like, woo-woo for a second radio is cosmic! You know, literally radio waves, and that everything emits a sound that you can listen to the sounds of like celestial bodies via radio waves! You can listen to the sound of a flie's wing via radio wave like that everything is kind of humming and coalescing in this harmonious universe that's just above our ears, like so beautiful! And I also really loved how democratic it was. I grew up listening to Brian Lehrer being like "New Yorkers: Turn on you're...call in and tell us what you see outside your window." You know, one of my first internships that was definitely—I mean, I applied for it, and I got it—but there was no way there wasn't some nepotism in there, was at WNYC working for New Sounds, which is just like an incredible, incredible show. John Schaefer is one of the most extraordinary interviewers ever. He totally ruined what I thought working in radio was like, that guy's just like, you hardly needed to prep him. He's a genius. But we would open up the phone lines and that was part of my job as an intern was to regulate the phone lines. And I remember one day we're having some debate about like Lady Gaga. Is she a fad? Is she high art? And someone called them was like, "Yeah, it was Stephanie's teacher in the second grade." It was just like, wow, people are amazing. And you can open up the phone lines and have this extremely democratic exchange without getting biased by how anyone looks or where they are, and it's open to everyone. And like, I loved listening to the BBC and how there was a different host every time that it was really about the the news and the stories, and not about how pretty the presenter is. And of course, there are a lot of things about podcasting that I love. I love the variety. I love that you can cuss. I love that the timing is different, but I really do miss that era. Remember when we were all like, "What does Lakshmi Singh look like? I guess we'll never know." [laughs] Like, you know, you'd see like pictures of your favorite persona and just get shocked by what they actually look like. And now that's not really an option. But now podcasters are just turning into personalities. I mean, most obvious examples Michael Barbaro, like extremely distinctive in the fact that it's the same person, one host hosting a daily show every day like that's, I mean, just a crazy amount of effort. But it felt like there's a little cult of personality around him and people recognize him on the street. And I don't know if that ever happens to Sylvia Poggioli. So that was just a long way of saying, I started to work in radio and I thought that was what I was going to do in this podcasting thing totally took me by surprise in the most delightful lucky lucky lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky lucky lucky lucky way.

Nick Quah

I'm actually super curious about is like, there's like a ton of romanticism, is I think the word that you use [Avery laughs] and you know, maybe I'm gonna show a bit of my cards here like, I do feel that, but I feel like so it kind of crusty now, [laughs] You know, watching the amount of money coming in and a discourse around, the possibilities change when that happens. And also, with respect to public radio, I think a lot of the stuff that I've been sort of—the stories have been writing and that the narratives that have been sort of trying to pin down, has largely been about like the power structures of public radio. I'm curious from the perspective of somebody who is sort of public radio adjacent, but very much in this sort of, like podcast world: Has the romanticism kind of dulled? Or, do you still feel strongly about these things the same way that you did say, you know, a couple years ago before you started working for 99pi?

Avery Trufelman

Oh, yeah. I mean, look, I get jaded as much as the next person. I'm a notorious hater, but—

Nick Quah

You are? [giggles]

Avery Trufelman

Oh, yeah! Yeah, I hate because I love. Like, I I just expect a lot. Because that's, that's just the way the world works, right? Like you think you've heard it all and then something comes along, that just changes your mind entirely and you didn't realize that things could sound like that. I remember, you know, I had that feeling, listening—you know, you listen to Radiolab and This American Life and when I was listening to Radiolab and This American Life when I was a kid, and I was just like, wow, I didn't realize radio could sound like that. And then that became a bit of a formula. And then Nickey Kapur, my friend from college, was like, have you heard of podcasting? And then you know, I listened to Love and Radio, and The Memory Palace, and 99% Invisible, and back then Too Much Information. And I was just like, I didn't realize radio, you know, podcasting could sound like THIS, especially Love and Radio, that really blew my mind and just like, addicted to the new and fascinating ways that people were finding to tell stories. And then you know, podcasting gets a little bit more codified a little bit more formulaic, which is, you know, no one's fault. It's just what happens when there's a demand for regular-regular programming, but then something comes along like Richard's Famous Food Podcasts, or—

Nick Quah

Great Show!

Avery Trufelman

—Imaginary Advice, just like your—there's always that capacity for wonder. And it's gre—the Paris Review podcast. And I'm really excited to try to take more risks as well. I mean, I know it's a bit of a cliche that everyone's, oh, you got to be more creative and take more risk. But yeah, I'm perpetually inspired by the things that are possible in podcasting, and I really think we've, like barely, barely, barely scratched the surface.

Nick Quah

When she launched the first season of Articles of Interest, Avery had already spent a few years at 99%, Invisible, the popular podcast about the hidden world of design. She cut her teeth on that show, and it was there that she got the opportunity to treat fashion as seriously as art.

Avery Trufelman

Because it's alienating. It's intimidating. And, you know, it's almost like looking at the world of high art. If you look at a Rothko on the wall you're you know, and you haven't been thinking about it for years, you're just like, what does that have to do with my life? What is that expensive thing on the wall have to do with with my daily existence. And, I mean in a weird way, I've been thinking about this concept before I came to 99% Invisible and so the stars all just aligned and this really, really serendipitous way. But when I was 16, my grandma lived in San Francisco and my aunt still lives in San Francisco, so I came out to the Bay Area all the time, when I was a kid. And when I was 16, I went to an exhibit at the de Young Museum, which was one of the first places where I saw fashion treated seriously like art. And there's something so powerful about that because especially when you're 16, and you think you're fat, and you think you're hairy, and you think you're ugly, and you look at all the pictures of live, beautiful pore-less, flawless models, and you're like, I can't relate to this at all like this, you know, you just kind of shut it down. You're like this is not for me, but there's something about seeing fashion on mannequins, just the clothes themselves without the music without Anna Wintour in the front row. You could really admire them for the pieces of craftsmanship that they were. And this exhibit that I went to see was about Vivienne Westwood, who I'd never heard of before. And just making that connection, realizing that someone had to invent punk. You know it—that just blew my mind because it seems so grassroots. And it was one of those early like baby moments before I started working at 99% Invisible, before I was listening to podcasts, actually. I was like, wow, the built world is constructed, like this thing that I thought would have happened in any alternative universe that people would eventually start ripping their shirts and putting it back together with safety pins, like someone had to invent that. And it wasn't just anyone. It was a fashion designer in a high end shop selling this shit for like thousands—well, not thousands, but maybe hundreds of dollars. And it was in that moment where something clicked. I was like, oh, this is what fashion is for. You know, the people who saw those clothes in that shop probably thought they were ridiculous like that Rothko on the wall. They were like, what does this have to do with me? This is absurd. This is expensive. It doesn't matter, blah, blah, blah. And then, decades later, we've all been influenced by punk fashion. Like every single one of us. It has changed the world. It has changed what we consider to be beautiful. It has changed what we consider to be acceptable. It has changed what we consider to be cool. And it just made me really angry, that we weren't talking about it, but we thought it wasn't worth talking about because we dismiss it as frivolous or superficial or snobby or expensive, because it really, really, really affects us all. And it changes so quickly. Like fashion—everything has fashion cars have fashion buildings have fashion or city Have fashion literature has fashion, everything has cycles of taste. And clothing is just the most visible. Like that's—when you look at an old photograph that's how you can tell when it was taken, by what they were wearing. Like that is how we mark ourselves as participants of our era, and of our time. And it's a beautiful thing. And it's a fun thing. And it's an interesting thing, and I want people to feel nerdy about it. Like they feel nerdy about typography or urban planning.

Nick Quah

So you use a word that I think really sort of jumped out to me and it's something that I'm really curious about. So, you use the word— you feel angry about some of the under-telling of those stories. And I think there is, sort of, I don't wanna use the word anarchistic, but it's like that let's rip everything apart kind of sensibility to the show, in particular—

Avery Trufelman

Aww, thank you.

Nick Quah

—in particular is this sort of nothing is real kind of quality to this which is very 2020 there's a clip in an episode about diamonds, which I think kind of speaks to this a little bit.

[CLIP from Articles of Interest]

Avery Trufelman

When I visited the diamond district, I asked a couple jewelers to look at a pair of lab grown diamond earrings. I know for a fact that these earrings are lab grown, they were sent to me by a lab grown diamond company. And these two diamond sellers with booths across from each other took turns testing each earring. And I am fairly certain that they both got it wrong.

Diamond Seller

That one.

Avery Trufelman

He said that one's a jackpot, because both jewelers told me that one earring was quote-unquote "real" and the other was lab grown. One diamond seller offered to buy the real diamond for between five hundred to a thousand dollars.

Diamond Seller

Five hundred to a thousand dollars is not—

Avery Trufelman

—nothing to sneeze at.

Diamond Seller

That shouldn't be right?

Diamond Seller

And then the other one, you'd sell at a very low price.

Avery Trufelman

Like what's a really low price for that one like—

Avery Trufelman

I don't know if you could hear that. But he said the lab grown diamond would only be worth about one hundred dollars. So one earring was supposedly worth 10 times more than the other. And again, I can't emphasize enough that this pair of earrings came from the same laboratory. We value diamonds for their perceived worth so much more than anything about the way they actually look. [music]

Nick Quah

So I think that clip perfectly, I think encapsulates something I think a lot about when I listen to the show, which is I'm just so pissed that all this kind of feels like lies to me. [laughs] And that, it's just sort of the social construction aspect, a lot of these notions of beauty/fashion value. It feels like it's taking something away from you. It's It feels like it's taking a certain kind of freedom. But, my sense is that like you didn't— you kind of took that anger and kind of rebuilt it up into something more productive, a little bit curious as to how you think through artifice, when it comes to something like fashion.

Avery Trufelman

I don't know. I just seen something—I've seen the truth of something that couldn't be unseen with season one, because season one really examined the basics of clothing and I was someone—I mean, I love to go thrift shopping. I love to dress really outlandish. You knew me in college, I think I wore like a first stole for my entire freshman year. Like, I enjoyed it, almost as a joke and as a lark and as a costume. But I never really dig into it in a nerdy way. And when you dig down into fashion, you do get a lot of artifice. And what's more, you know, what's at the center of fashion, it's slavery. Like it all comes back to slavery and imperialism. Like that is one of the foundations of America's our need for cotton. And our need for indigo. Almost every story when you drill down to it is about colonialism, imperialism, slavery, like there's suffering. I mean, even now, if you think about fast fashion, and Bangladeshi sweatshops that are operating under conditions that we haven't tolerated since a Triangle Shirtwaist fire. It's so tied up with suppression, and powerlessness. And it's so ironic, or maybe fitting that clothing is a form of power for people who don't have it. That people who can't control the environments they live in, or the marriages they're placed in or the lives they have use clothes as a means of seizing that power back. And I just love this idea that fashion is this kind of two sided coin, that is a tool and a means of oppression and also a tool and a means of liberation in this really subtle way. But at the end of the day, it ultimately made me very upset, season one and I didn't buy anything for a long time and I was like, ugh I hate clothing. I walked away from that series, absolutely hating it. And I just felt like I would walk down any major street and just see the sheer number of clothing stores, these huge towering Forever 21's and H&M's just filled to the brim with this stuff we are gonna throw away and people just like mindlessly shopping. I guess it wasn't like The Matrix. It was kind of like they live. I just, I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe I ever participated in this system, so unquestioningly. So yeah, season one actually made me quite furious at the end. And it was funny because there were a few times where I'll give talks, and people kind of wouldn't get it. They'll be like, "Oh, so what are your fashion predictions for next season? You're a fashion podcaster." and I was like, "Nah, man, like, I hate clothes. Don't ask me about clothes."

Nick Quah

So why would she makea second season? More in a minute. [music]

Nick Quah

If making the first season of Articles Of Interest made Avery furious, making the second was a rediscovery. Season two is all about luxury, Prada bags, men's suits, perfume, a subject that every knows carries some serious baggage.

Avery Trufelman

Like that world is for very very very few people. And I definitely came into season two with season one energy I was like I'm gonna tear all the shit down, nothing matters, like perfumes a joke, suits are joke, wedding dresses are joke, diamonds are joke, like fuck it all. I'm gonna burn it all down ma-ha-ha. And then as I dove into it and read more, like I realized these aren't just about rich people things or dreams that were aspirations that were spoon fed to us, like we have all taken them on. These are our dreams and aspirations, like it matters. I don't want to make fun of anyone who wants a diamond. That's a really—and I think that's the thing with the story. In a weird way, I find a lot of comfort in that artifice. To know that diamonds really aren't about money. They are about love. They are about this core need and this core desire we have to feel loved and accepted. And that is what gives diamonds their actual tangible value. And there's no point in tearing it down making fun of anyone for wanting to be loved. In season two, I guess the idea was a bit of like, "yes, and." To see the ways that we have been trained and taught to desire these expensive, ridiculous things, but to understand that there is real weight to them. There's a real reason. I mean, I used to make fun of people who cared about designer logos who wanted, you know, Prada emblazoned across their chest. And now, after talking to Dapper Dan, who basically equated them to these holy insignia, you know; like in the same way that people used to wear scarabs in ancient Egypt, or cockle shells, just like any—or hamza's or ankh's like these holy symbols have carried great weight throughout human history, and now these logos are just an updated version of that. And that blew my mind. And now I really want a knock-off Gucci belt, and I'm so excited to go to New York and go to Canal Street so I can get a knock-off Gucci belt. Like I get it now, for all of these,—for perfume, I get it, I totally get it. And I think they're beautiful. And I love them. And I love fashion again.

Nick Quah

This sort of phrasing issues that like luxury is this thing that that is so limited—or not limited, but it's only accessible to a small number of people; but the trickle down effects is just massive. And I remember just like growing up in Malaysia and seeing a lot of people wearing knock-off versions of that, as it as an emulation and a way to sort of thought of the value, and the personal identity and stuff. And I think even right now, that sort of thing—tension of sort of working through is, there is a romanticism to the reclamation of this, but I can't quite square that romanticism with a sense of—with the anger essentially. I don't quite know how to productively live. And I think that's sort of one of the things that I think you're really sort of brings out really, interestingly. I think is really fitting in sort of the spirit of the times, which I do find—I found a challenge and like, how do I live in this world? Like I can't quite fit in it, in a way that feels clean, or in a way that feels morally pure. And even though it said, it's kind of sounds kind of dumb, but like, like, well, everything is kind of screwed dirty anyway, so why not approach with apathy? Yeah, where do you fall on the question of apathy?

Avery Trufelman

You know, it's funny, that's such a good question. And it's something I've been thinking about a lot, and it has way less to do—I mean, it has everything to do with the time we are living in now. And it's something that really scares me. Because, so after season one, I can't tell you how much season one changed my life and like made me extremely furious. So I stopped buying clothes. I went zero waste. I tried to—I mean, I wasn't like those influencers with like the little jar, you know, like this is all the junk I produced over a course of a year. But I just got really into waste and systems and I went vegan. And I developed what I thought-I mean, this is very Bay area, right? Like I know this doesn't fix anything. This is just entirely a form of self soothing, like talking about... [laughs] Like, this is definitely a version of like a quirky character, rather than a system. But I developed a lifestyle that I was like, I can live with this. I was like, I'm only gonna shop at the farmers market. I'm not gonna buy new clothes, I'm gonna repair everything. You know, I was a bit obsessive. And then this happened, then COVID happened and I can't live that way. And also, I kind of slid back down Maslow's Hierarchy, like I I just need to get enough food to live on for a week and I don't drive. So I walked to the Trader Joe's and use just a bunch of plastic like more waste. I'm generating more waste than I ever thought I'd be able to. And the other night I was like, you know what, I really want a tuna melt and I'm sad. So I'm going to eat a tuna melt, and I hadn't had fish in a while. Like all of these consumer habits, you know, because I think in America, we're taught that this is our voice, right? Like our dollar is our vote, the way we consume is—our lifestyle is our values is the way we live, or the choices we make. Like that's kind of the gospel we're taught, and all of these habits that I worked so hard to form, that we're very much inspired by Articles Of Interest, had to go out the window. You know, we worked so hard to train everyone to bring their reusable bags to the grocery store. And now you legally can't, like now you you cannot use your reusable bags if you if you go to the grocery store. And those examples might sound stupid, but there are all these other examples that I think loom way larger, and way scarier. Like yes, of course a lot of people are talking about, you know, will we be able to vote. But I think even the idea of like the Me To movement, we're going to look back at that as something that was like entirely pre-viral, because of job scarcity and money scarcity. I was talking to a friend of mine who worked at a yoga studio in 2008 when, you know, so hard to get a job, and she realized there was a lot of sexual harassment happening in the yoga studio, but she didn't want to say anything because she wanted to keep her job. You know, we're going to be so scared to criticize our places of employment now in this new strange reality. And also, you know, I'm scared about it in terms of, I mean, this is kind of scary to say, but like, I'm scared about what it will do for podcast advertising. Because soon, beggars can't be choosers anymore. I think it's not going to be you know, I have really strong core values and beliefs about what I want to show for and what I want to advertise for. And I don't think I'll be able to have choices. I think we'll just be expected to take whatever money we can get. And so I don't have an answer. I think I'm really really scared for this like quiet, insidious, moral unwinding, that will happen. But at the same time, I think season two helps me because it has taught me to value luxurious things, which sounds stupid. But I think it's teaching me to invest more in beautiful clothes and beautiful art. So I think examining the idea of luxury, and what is precious, and what we value, and what it means to us is going to really help me. I mean, it's so privileged, right? It's so privileged to be like, it makes me want to buy more nice things. But I don't know. I just I don't know what kind of power we have right now. I don't I don't know how to live. I mean, that question that you raised, like, how do I—how do I get by as a decent person? I don't know.

Nick Quah

We typically try to end each of these episodes by asking: What are you listening to these days?

Avery Trufelman

Mm hmm. I've been listening to a lot of music. I love podcasts, but I've been recently just getting very, very into music. Just like lying on my floor and listening to music. You know, like this moment has that angsty teenage feeling and I just want to release, and listening to music feels like I'm a teenager again. I can just like feel my heart soaring. It feels so romantic.

Nick Quah

Well, the name, the favorite-your favorite track from the mix that you listened to yesterday. Let's go with that.

Avery Trufelman

I mean the song that really jives with the feeling of completing a project and having to learn to sit with it, especially in this moment where everything feels like weird and sad and I'm trying to feel satisfied, and i'm trying to feel happy; but I'm lonely, and I'm hungry, and I'm excited, and I'm aimless, and I'm lazy and the song is Fruits Of My Labor by Lucinda Williams.

Nick Quah

Ohh, good pick.

Avery Trufelman

That song. I mean, that's just like [music] looking at the sunset sitting on my floor, drinking a gin and tonic. That's my quarantine. Like, that's what I'm trying to do.

Nick Quah

Avery, thanks so much for taking time to talk to me. I really appreciate this conversation.

Avery Trufelman

Oh my God, thank you so much. Thank you for listening, and thank you for your thoughtful questions. It's really, it's really a gift.

Nick Quah

Avery Trufelman. Season two of Articles Of Interest is up now.

Nick Quah

Servant of Pod is written and hosted by me, Nick Quah. You can check out more episodes at LAist.com/servantofpod. Web Design by Andy Cheatwood and the digital marketing teams at Southern California Public Radio. Logo and Branding by Leo G., Thanks to the team at LAist Studios, including: Kristen Hayford, Taylor Coffman, Kristin Muller and Leo G. Servant of Pod is a production of Laist Studios.

This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.