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This week, Loaf and Janet receive a message from a battle cruiser, discuss how to make an informed decision on whether or not to get a Todavian brain parasite, counsel a teenage girl on her universe bending powers, and dabble in diplomacy with Frankie.
Janet: Hello everyone! Welcome back to another episode of Solutions to Problems, where we provide aid to soothe your various worriments. I’m Janet, here with my dear friend and co-host, Loaf, supporter of the losing team Spider Monkeys. SUCK IT. To send in a question, you can contact us through our e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or whisper your request to your nearest sentient mail carrier and hope it’s calibrated to your local language. How are you liking your hat, Loaf?
Loaf: It is very purple. And large. I still can’t believe Flim Wilkerson got vaporized in the third quarter! I don’t think any of us were expecting that.
Janet: No, of course not. Completely, 100% unexpected. What excellent fortune! I mean, for me, of course.
Loaf: Not for Flim Wilkerson, obviously. It is amazing how specific your bets were though.
Janet: Ohhh, anyone could’ve guessed that you would be 3 down in the last quarter with 2 minutes and 33 seconds on the clock, without involving time travel or anything! Totally reasonable. Completely. Reasonable.
Loaf: Ummm… yes. You hear that, Agent Nassif? Totally reasonable. Anyway, before we get into our letters today, I actually have a follow-up from one of our letter-writers. This is something we want to start doing, where someone can write in and update us on how our advice helped them. Ok, so let’s roll the tape:
Greetings, Human broadcaster, and other broadcaster of a species not known to us. I am Narflebock, of the Grapnofalian battle cruiser Eviscerator. I wanted to thank you for capitulating to our demands and returning to the appellation “Loaf.” Now that I see that your species is so easily cowed, I have decided to conquer it! I am currently mobilizing a huge Grapnofalian fleet to take not only your radio station, but your entire planet. Annnd, Loaf, when we have quite conquered the humans, we will find your homeworld and come for it as well! I Look forward to displaying your antlers on my wall as a trophy. Mwa ha ha. Narflebock out.
Loaf: I’m glad we were able to help him learn something new about humans - namely, how easily conquered you are. I hope it works out for him. I mean, I hope things in general work out for him, but maybe not necessarily in a way where both our homeworlds get conquered?
Janet: Hm, yeah. I mean, humans have always been pretty great at conquering themselves, so I’m sure it’ll work out fine. Maybe.
Loaf: Anyway, I’m sure it’s nothing we have to worry about. We have missiles and that sort of thing, right?
Janet: Sure? I don’t know. That’s like, politics or something. Uh, why don't we open today’s first letter? Well, technically second letter. Does a follow up letter count as a letter? Whatever. Let’s solution some problems. One problem. This one.
The phone rings.
Dear Loaf and Janet,
My son has been trying to make it as a musician since he graduated from college. Recently, his band has found some small amount of commercial success. They went on tour and recorded a jingle for a soft drink company. But now that he's finally making money, he feels like his creativity has stalled out. Yesterday he told me he wanted to go to Todavia and get a Todavian Brain parasite put in! I know a lot of people think brain parasites make you more creative, but they also literally eat your brain. What can I do to convince my son it isn't worth it?
Loaf: That takes me back. Did I ever tell you about the time I was in a band, Janet?
Janet: No, you haven’t, but I’m assuming you’re about to, though!
Loaf: We were called *long dolphin noise* We were originally going to be called UHUHUHUH but we decided that was a little pretentious. For a while we were Abacus Bluffs, then we were *different weird noise* then we thought about being Flemulean Cool-Aid Brigade. But we settled on *long noise* as a reference to that old proverb, you know *even longer noise*
Janet: Oh, yeah. How clever. Of course, it’s a reference to that thing. Nice, nice. So, as a fellow musician, maybe you can lend some ~creative advice~ for our letter writer to send on to her son!
Loaf: I played the Sicovian slide whistle and provided backing vocals. Our lead singer was my friend *slightly different dolphin noise* and our drummer was the great Octopus Jess, who went on to become the drummer for Surreal Cereal. You know Surreal Cereal? Great band. Anyway-
Janet: GREAT, HOW GREAT FOR YOU! SO TALENTED. Now, to our letter writer, there’s not a lot you can do because your son is an adult. If you’ve already sat him down and had a talk explaining your concerns, mainly in regards to the inevitable brain damage, I’m not sure you have many options left. While Todavian brain parasites do stimulate creativity, it also tends to follow the style of a Todavian brain parasite. Is your son aware it may change the genre of his music to Todavian folk songs? A little scare like that might just be what it takes to jolt him to his senses.
Loaf: You might think all Todavian brain parasites know how to play is folk music, thanks to that documentary about Leaf Milberry. But actually brain parasites can be very versatile. My friend Colin had one for a while that wrote the hook for that famous pop song, what was it, 'Love me through your ears? He didn’t end up getting any credit for it though. It was a sad story.
Janet: Ummm, do you think he should get the brain parasite?
Loaf: I think he should take the time to really think about it and make a rational decision. But the fact is, human lives are tragically short whatever they do. On a galactic scale, there’s not a huge amount of difference between 25 years and a hundred. Great music, on the other hand, can last for eons.
Janet: Is it really his music, though, if a brain parasite helped him write it? Can we really call it his art if he had to enter into a parasitic relationship just to generate it? Well. I guess that’s not the best way to put that considering how most break up albums go, hehe. Anyway.
Loaf: Actually there was a really interesting court case about that a few years back. It was about screenplays though, not songs. I think they decided that the host does actually own the copyright, but the brain parasite has to get a story credit, so they’re entitled to some percentage of the residuals?
Janet: Huh. Well, I’m glad the law had something to say on what I assumed was a rhetorical question. So, the answer is kind of. Is your son comfortable with the rest of his music only being ‘kind of’ his?
Loaf: And a dramatic reduction in his lifespan, not to mention radical changes to his personality? It’s certainly not for everyone. But in the end it’s his decision. All you can do as his mother is make sure it’s an informed one.
Janet: What a reasonable answer, Loaf.
Loaf: I’m a reasonable guy. Most of the time.
Janet: You weren’t reasonable about supporting the Spiiider Monkeyys.
Loaf: Now Janet, I may be wearing this ridiculous hat, but the Spider Monkeys are still my team. As soon as they replace or reconstitute the rest of their roster. Do we have another letter?
Janet: We have two, in fact, but first, a message from our LOVELY SPONSORS. Are you alive? Great! You must need to buy things. Yes, even you, in your hippy commune, are not absolved from the clutches of our capitalistic society. What if you could do all your buying of things just BY BLINKING? What, you say? Blinking? Yes, my friends. American Express has done away with older technologies like fingerprint implants and earpiece purchasing. Go to your nearest American Express outpost today and ask for EYE-PAY. Pay with your eyes! The procedure only lasts 10 minutes and probably won’t induce permanent damage your eyesight, we think. EYE-PAY comes in a variety of colors, and uses only the best organic, gluten free metalloids.
Loaf: And if your species doesn’t have eyelids, no problem! American Express will work to find a solution that works for your anatomy. Because everyone should be able to part with their hard-earned currency with as little effort as possible! Effort gives you time to think, and you might think “Maybe I don’t really need that thing” and American Express doesn’t want that to happen. So sign up for EYE-PAY today!
Janet: I already have mine installed! Let's move on to our next letter.
Loaf: Yes, let’s do that.
The phone rings.
Secretly a teenage god
Dear Janet and Loaf,
My whole life I’ve known I was adopted, but my parents have always been very secretive about my real parents. I always assumed my biological parents were human, like my adoptive parents. Recently, I’ve been going through a lot of changes - hair’s growing, I’m getting acne, tons of gross stuff like that. CRUSHES. Also, I’m starting to develop the ability to bend time and space to my will and alter the very fabric of reality.
At first this was really cool, but now people won’t stop asking me for stuff! I feel like I don’t know who’s really my friend and who just wants me to give them superpowers or teleport them to distant worlds or cure their incurable cancer or whatever. Like this girl Abby was always super mean to me, but suddenly she’s being really nice to me now that I’m basically a god. It just feels really disingenuous, like I want to turn her into a snail, and I know I could, but like, I shouldn’t, but like, I still kinda want to? I dunno, it’s hard. Honestly, right now I sort of want it all to just go away, at least until I finish high school.
Sincerely I guess?
Teenage Dream but Not Really
Janet: Golly! That's a really exciting problem to have. It seems like the obvious solution to me is to use your powers to make everyone forget that you even have powers.
Loaf: That would solve the problem, I guess. She could also use her powers to get rid of her powers, but what would be the fun in that?
Janet: Oh, she definitely shouldn’t do that. If she doesn’t want to use her abilities to manipulate everyone in her life, I suppose she could start politely declining people’s requests and seeing how they react.
Loaf: Worst case scenario, she can wipe their memories or turn them into snails.
Janet: I don’t know if we should be encouraging teenagers to turn their peers into snails. It would be kind of her to acquiesce to certain requests, like curing incurable cancers, but she doesn’t have an obligation to help everyone with their problems. Although, on that note, if she wants to do some good, I can think of a particular battle cruiser I’d like to see turned into a snail! Haha.
Loaf: Can we please stop talking about snails? It’s making me really hungry.
Janet: Oh, sure, sure. She could turn it into a tree, also. It’s always difficult to navigate puberty, and I’m sure puberty with unlimited power is full of its own pitfalls! Treat this as a learning experience. How do your friends act when you don’t give them superpowers? Who isn’t constantly asking for universe bending favors? Learning to identify your real supporters is a skill that really comes in handy, even as an adult.
Loaf: Absolutely. And another note, one thing they say about absolute power is that it corrupts absolutely. It might be good to develop some sort of moral code to help you decide when it’s acceptable to use your powers on someone. You are kind of exempt from all societal rules now, since no one is capable of enforcing them, but that doesn’t mean you should just do whatever you want. A philosophy class could be helpful here. Maybe you can audit one at the local community college.
Janet: A great point, Loaf. Otherwise, you just start breaking rules all the time and see the time space continuum as a toy to be manipulated at your will, you know? Slippery slopes, hm.
Loaf: Yes. All of the omnipotent beings I’ve encountered have been aware of this, and I’m grateful for that. It’s kept me from being teleported anywhere or transformed into anything unusual. Well, for the most part. Never make a big game bet against an omnipotent being though. I mean if you think this hat is bad -
Janet: It's a great. Hat. You look great in that hat. Amazing. I think we have one more letter to get to today, don’t we?
Loaf: We do indeed, Janet. Let’s hear it.
The phone rings.
Dear Loaf and Janet,
I’m a Blarble from the Andromeda system. My particular colony specializes in cultivating a rare species of flower that’s useful for many applications, including medicine and dyes, once it’s been processed. It’s also, of course, favored by many for its gorgeous decorative properties and calming presence. Recently, we began receiving large orders from one of our neighboring civilizations in the same system. We were overjoyed to be getting so much new business, until our contact on the other planet let it slip that they were using our flowers to produce a powerful nerve agent. As a pacifist species, we’re devastated that our beautiful plants are being used for something so harmful! On the other hand, the extra cash we’ve received has really allowed us to upgrade our business. We’re also nervous to end the trade agreement in case they decide to attack us and take control of our greenhouses. We’re not prepared to go to war over our flowers, but we also don’t want to give up on our ideals. What should we do?
Put out over Plants
Janet: Ummmm. Well. I don’t know if this is really the kind of problem we provide solutions for.
Loaf: We’re usually more about, uh, smaller scale problems? Ones not involving the fate of entire worlds. But I guess we can give it a go.
Janet: Are they sure maybe they don’t just have a crush on a coworker or something? Clashing with a girlfriend’s parent?
Loaf: No, Janet, I’m pretty sure they want us to dictate their planet’s foreign policy. I’m wondering if the station can get sued if we try and they end up getting blown up though. Can we get a representative from the Legal department in here? Frankie!
The door opens.
Frankie: Well, we don’t have a specific Legal person. I mean, the broadcasting corporation hires a law firm to handle issues as they come up. But they’re not, like, in the studio at all times waiting for you to call them. That would be ridiculously expensive.
Janet: So.. do you know the legal thing or not?
Frankie: I think if a planet asks us for advice, they probably can’t sue us for giving them bad advice. Ah - but just in case, we can put a disclaimer in saying this program is for entertainment only and not intended as a way of averting interstellar war.
Janet: Huh, that seems like a good idea. You can go now.
Frankie: Well, actually, I wrote my dissertation on Blarble diplomacy and I think I can-
Janet: Ah- you can go now, Frankie.
Loaf: You’re not the on-air talent Frankie. I'm sorry. I didn’t write your contract.
Frankie sighs and leaves.
Loaf: So what do you think, Janet? Should we try and solve this problem?
Janet: Oh, heck no. Like, they could die. I would suggest redirecting them to a different supplier, maybe, but that might still be against their philosophy or just not possible.
Loaf: Yeah, I feel like I would need to know a lot more about the players here. Depending on what species they’re dealing with, the reaction to cutting off the sale could range from “I’m sorry to hear that” to sending a murder sphere to evaporate their planet!
Janet: I’m gonna say - call an ambassador? Is that a thing in Blarble world? Frankie, stop waving through the glass.
Loaf: Janet, you’re better at human body language than I am. What is Frankie trying to communicate?
Janet: Uh, she’s just saying “I know things” at the glass. The waving is just to attract our attention.
Loaf: I’m torn. On the one hand, she might have useful contributions to make. On the other hand, the show is Janet and Loaf, not Janet and Loaf and Frankie. We don’t want her thinking she’s a co-host now.
Janet: Oh, gosh no. WE’RE NOT AN EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM FRANKIE. People aren't listening to learn things.
Loaf: I’m sorry flower people, but we’re not the ones to help you. Invest in a diplomatic corps. Or battle cruisers. Wait, you’re pacifists. Right. I forgot. I don’t know. Maybe that teenage girl from the last letter can help you. Good luck anyway. Are we, uh, set for today Janet?
Janet: Uhhh, yeah. No more letters for today. We did our three.
Loaf: Right, well, I’m going to leave you with a recording of *extended dolphin noise* hit single “We just wanna smash it.” Play us out.
Weird alien music begins to play.
Janet: OH, um, maybe we shouldn't-
Loaf: Listen, listen - I love this part.
Janet: Yeah, um, I think that’s all the time we have for today, gentle listeners. Tune in next time for more solutions to problems! *Weird noise* Is this- is this song gonna keep going? Are you gonna keep playing this? This is kind of painful to listen to.
Loaf: I’m sorry Janet. Let’s just play the first 18 minutes or so, alright?
Janet: Ooookay, goodnight everyone!
Music fades out.
Solutions to Problems is written by, and features the voices of Austin Hendricks and Nathan Comstock. It is produced, and musically scored by Michael F. Gill. Our theme is by Thomas Dwyer. The voice of Frankie is Valerie Loveland. The voice of Narflebock is Marten Dollinger. This episode's letters were read by Carol Hornbeck, Phoenix Bunke, and Jackie Bhandari. The song I am speaking over right now was written by Patrick Shaughnessy. You can check out his excellent writing, music, programming, and other creative works at www.okayideas.com, including a chiptune version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado. You can find out more information about us at www.stppodcast.com. And if you like the show, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, we would loooove to stare at your words.
Last episode's cryptic question was: In which ancient capitol would you find Avogadro’s number, a post-transition metal, a trigonometric function, and a gemstone believer to be the embodiment of the evil eye? You are correct if you guessed the city of Constantinople, for Avogadro’s number is also know as Avogadro’s constant, one of the post transition metals is tin, a trigonometric function is Tan, and the evil eye gemstone is opal. All of these clues can be found in the word Constantinople. If you got that right, listen for the distant applause of a hundred guinea pigs clapping in unison. It’s there, I promise.
Today’s cryptic question is: First, the most valuable Indian cuisine in American sports. Second, a fictional flamboyant correspondent. Third, a spider-webbed singer an accent away from Lady Gaga. Why would a former Clinton aid and current morning show co-host be next? The answer, as well as more questions, on our next episode
Frankie: I KNOW THINGS.