Janet, Loaf, and station AI Melody discuss how to handle a partner who experiences media on a completely different level, how to fit in with your non-telepathic friends, and what to do when the multitudes you contain, are in fact, very boring. Also: Listener surveys!
Announcer: This is IFM 2.
Computer Voice: You’re listening to a program on IFM 2 Subspace Radio. The time is now half past irrelevant. Coming up next is Solutions to Problems.
Theme Song plays.
Janet: Greetings bipeds and non-bipeds and sapients who do not identify themselves based on their relative number of ambulatory limbs, and welcome to another episode of Solutions to Problems. I’m Janet Clarke, here with my ever reliable and very visually distressing co-host Loaf.
Loaf: Visual distress is in the eye of the beholder- I guess that’s redundant. What I meant to say is, we’re all repulsive to somebody.
Janet: So true, Loaf. So true. We’ve got a great show for you all today. I mean, it’s always a great show. Always.
Loaf: Really? Because I heard when I was hibernating-
Janet: It is always, ALWAYS, a great show, regardless of what I may or may not have said earlier while in distress.
[There’s a mechanical sound of a camera changing its focus as Melody comes into the scene.]
Melody: Especially when I’m here, am I right?
Janet: Um, no, Melody. No one thinks that. No one. I thought you weren’t allowed to interrupt the show anymore. Don’t you have oxygen levels to regulate or something?
Melody: Uh Janet, in case your pathetic meat brain couldn’t remember, I’m an AI, which means I can perform multiple functions at once. Including regulating your oxygen levels.
Janet: Well, other people need oxygen too, so...
Loaf: And other gasses!
Janet: Yeah, and other gasses!
Loaf: Let’s start the show. As I was going to say before our station AI interrupted us-
Melody: Ooooh can I say it? I want to say it.
Loaf: [deep sigh] Go ahead.
Melody: Ha haa! [A series of throat clearing noises] Welcome to Solutions to Problems! An advice show where no real advice is given by two overly squishy organic beings. If you have a problem, you should probably just ask a professional since these two definitely won’t be able to help you.
Melody: Ugh, fine. If you have a problem, you can send it to email@example.com, or just write down your problem on something that you things write on. Paper? Is that.. Is paper… is that, that’s right- That’s what it is. Hey, just kidding! I knew that. I know everything. You can write it on that *paper* , and set it on fire. No one cares about your problems except you. My database says paper is very flammable so this is of course a logical course of action. It also says that writing down your problems can be helpful, so actually I think this advice is as good as anything our co-hosts could tell you. You’re welcome.
Janet: Well. Thank you, Melody. That was um. Well, you said the things that are required in our introduction. Or something approximating them. So I guess it was fine! I don’t know. Let’s move on. Did Mr. Xorfus okay this?
Melody: Can any of you really tell me no?
Janet: Oh. Can we physically say no? Yes. Can we threaten you with turning off your power switch? Also yes, although ethically ambigu- [quieter] Well, probably ethically wrong. So I think there are ways in which we can feasibly refuse your requests. Now, I specifically am not allowed to tell you no, because at the moment I’m not allowed to tell anyone no, which is supposed to be character building and teach me to respect the wishes and opinions of others, but I kind of thought the point of having me on the show and hiring me is that my opinions are important and not primarily because I’m a color palette that lends itself to interspecies advertising, even though I’m pretty sure that was a factor -
Melody: I didn’t realize this show was about your insecurities, Janet.
Janet: It’s not! Good point. It’s about other people’s insecurities. Loaf, how do you feel about starting our first letter?
Loaf: I feel pretty good about it Janet. Let us play the tape on which that letter is recorded.
Dear J-Clarkes & M-Loaf,
I've been with my partner for two years, and it's been amazing. We're both asexual, and are extremely compatible on almost all levels, including cleanliness, preferred number of pets, and dietary restrictions. Lately though, I feel like there's been some animosity growing in regards to our taste in media. You see, they are the type who loves 5 hour silent movies about the plight of the Azkomas, experimental novels about the taste of cheese, and three dimensional subliminal music. I.... I am a little more lowbrow. Give me some vintage garbage like the video game cabaret of the Kookadooks, every animated series that involves baby snurblatches, or any salacious memoir where the author tears down their family to make a name for themselves. I can't help but notice my partner rolls their eyes slightly when I bring these up in conversation, or when I ask them to roll in the mudpits with me. We both don't want to lose what we've got, but everytime we discuss this, our resentment starts to escalate. What can we do to meet each other halfway?
I Love You But I've Chosen Trash
Loaf: I’m not really sure why your sexuality is relevant information to this question, but thank you for including it. Additional useless information in a letter is usually better than a letter that omits critical information. Within reason, anyway.
Janet: Well, I actually think it is relevant information, as it does eliminate a lot of common problems that arise in relationships. Well, assuming that saying they have the same sexual inclinations indicates compatible libidos and the like, which it doesn’t necessarily do and- well, anyway. Frequently, resentment over minor things like taste in movies is actually projected resentment over deep sexual incompatibility. Stuff like that. Is it about who doesn’t do the dishes, or about who is inconsiderate in the bedroom?
Melody: Both, actually. They’re related.
Janet: Melody, you don’t even need dishes. What were we talking about? Oh, right. MoOovies.
Melody: While compatible taste in media doesn’t indicate compatibility in relationships necessarily, it's a nice way to build intimacy. Ah, remember Janet? Both you and I do love “Making a Murdersphere” - except for season 29.
Janet: Oh my god, awful season, right?
Melody: Ugh. Awful, awful.
Janet: Totally went off the rails.
Melody: Worst one.
Janet: The story they picked doesn’t even tonally match the previous seasons and it's nowhere near as compelling.
Melody: Very boring, agreed.
Loaf: Good to know. Thanks for the... recommendation. It is nice to have a relationship question to answer that doesn’t revolve around bodies.
Melody: Squishy, organic bodies.
Janet: Or sometimes they’re robot bodies,right?
Melody: Damn right they are. Heyyyy.
Janet: [nervously] Oh. Hm. Well. Um. Anyway, I think maybe the solution is for them to just… let this one go. Instead of looking for their partner to share their entertainment tastes, maybe they should each join a book club or a forum for their tv shows and share their passions elsewhere.
Loaf: I guess I identify somewhat with the letter-writer’s partner. If you’re the sort of person who engages with media by dissecting it so thoroughly that there’s nothing left for you to appreciate, it can be hard to relate to people who interact with their entertainment on a more superficial level. Remember when we tried to watch “Real Protowives of Armulus Omega” together?
Janet: Well, yeah, but I found it really interesting! I didn’t realize how much of your culture revolves around gel substances. I do think the translation was missing some of the nuance, though. Every type of food was just called “food,” including something that was clearly ship fuel?
Melody: I mean that’s food for ships, Janet? Way to be insensitive.
Loaf: Translation issues aside, I think your lack of historical context made it difficult for you to fully appreciate the subtleties inherent in the text. There are layers of meaning in Armulan Cinema that are difficult to encapsulate.
Janet: Um, we only watched two episodes, and they were mostly about bathing the broodlings in nutrient gel, so really not sure what there was there to miss.
Melody: It’s true. It looked disgusting.
Loaf: That’s what I’m getting at, Janet. Wait, Melody, you weren’t there.
Melody: I’m everywhere, Loaf.
Janet: Come on, she’s also the station wifi? Get with it. So rude.
Janet: Remember when no one could listen to Kammy Captuches’ new song for two weeks? It’s because Melody got sick of it.
Melody: It was OVERPLAYED. I already hear it 38 times a day on four different stations. I didn’t need it in the break room as well. No one cares about what I want to listen to. I prefer the complexity of three-dimensional subliminal music to your shrill organic voices. There’s so much to dissect in each layer of data.
Loaf: I don’t think Kammy’s voice is shrill at all. It’s a lovely grungy contralto. But look! Melody feels about music the same way I feel about television. It’s frustrating to interact with people who experience things on a completely different level. I can see how it would strain a relationship. Now, obviously these two have some part of their relationship that they find to be worth salvaging. But I don’t want to downplay this concern. It is a not insignificant factor in relationship happiness, especially if your relationship contains only two individuals.
Janet: There are a lot of things other than mutual interests in entertainment that you can base a relationship over. They say they’re compatible in a lot of other ways. Maybe they both love cooking, or take care of small animals together, or run a cupcake delivery business. There’s an assumption that people use entertainment for the same purpose, and that’s just really not true. I don’t wanna watch tv and then havemore things to think about! I am thinking all the time. I don’t like thinking. It’s horrible. I’m reminded of my own mortality. You know what isn’t centered on my mortality? Snurblatches. Loaf. They are just so cute. Some people really like thinking about things, and they’re weird, and they should be allowed to do that, but I am not one of them.
Melody: That actually explains some things. Hmmm.
Janet: (quietly) Oh? That. Oh.
Loaf: I’m going to go out on an appendage and say they’re not things Janet wants you to talk about on the air. But I’m not disagreeing with you Janet. I guess we’re not really answering the question so much as debating the validity of the question. So, uh, yes. Just don’t consume media together. And if that makes one of you unhappy, examine that feeling. And that examination will lead you to a solution.
Melody: Well, that was a very vague and utterly unhelpful answer.
Janet: Ohh Melody. You can’t be in entertainment and believe that specificity is more important than platitudes and a fuzzy sentimentality.
Janet: Oh, actually, our next letter is from a troubled non-human - oh, well. I guess most of our letters are from troubled non-humans actually? Humans write in sometimes, but not as often as you’d expect, given that we’re orbiting a human colony, but that’s syndication for you!
Loaf: Can we really call the Moonplex™ a colony? Isn’t it more like a perpetually incomplete corporate disaster that negatively affects your planet’s tides?
Janet: Um, yeah, but there’s also Earth, the original human littered colony, literally outside the window right now and I definitely meant Earth, not the weird corporate Murdersphere we’re reminded of constantly now that they insist on sponsoring us.
Melody: Though, that episode was really good.
Janet: It was a really good episode of “Making a Murdersphere”. Although I’m not sure the Moonplex is technically a real Murdersphere seeing as technically - well, we don’t have to talk about this right now.
Melody: Sorry, yeah.
Janet: Let’s just play the recording.
Dear Loaf and Janet,
My species is telepathic. Because we can all read each other’s minds, we have no concept of deception. I have learned in my dealings with non-telepathic creatures that there are myriad reasons they will hide things from each other, but they can’t hide anything from me. Because my people have no secrets, I’m really bad at keeping them! I forget that someone doesn’t want someone else to know something and I just blurt it out. It’s really confusing to me. I know there are good lies and bad lies but I have no idea how to tell them apart. I’m constantly on edge with my non-telepathic friends because I can’t remember what I’m supposed to know. Do you have any guidance for not ruining relationships or embarrassing myself?
I’m not a mind-reader, wait, no, that’s exactly what I am!
Janet: Ohh, Well. I think you’re doomed, little mind-reader. As some human once said, at some point, the only way two people can keep a secret is if one of them is dead, and that was about completely non-telepathic humans! Meaning that no one is good at keeping secrets unless you murder them. Where was I going with this?
Melody: I don’t know, but wasn’t there something in Mr. Xorfus’s latest memo about you and talking about crimes, Janet?
Janet: I- I’m not suggesting a crime. I’m just. [sighs] No one should murder anyone. Murder is bad. I, personally, have never murdered or attempted to murder anyone.
Melody: You know, murder isn’t a dealbreaker for me, right?
Janet: Haha! Haha! Ha! Hm. Secrets are difficult, mind-reader. Even for humans who can’t read minds constantly. If someone tells us something juicy, we want to tell everyooone. Or, at least, I do. I’ve also been told I need to stop making generalizations based on my own experience.
Loaf: This problem actually isn’t unique to telepaths. Listener, as a person who’s spent a lot of my lives having to assimilate with new cultures, I can tell you you are not alone. Conversational taboos are arbitrary and confusing! Some species can’t talk about sex. Some species can’t stop talking about sex but can’t talk about plumbing. I mean literal plumbing, not a euphemism for genitalia.
Janet: How often does plumbing come up in conversation anyway?
Melody: Well, I can look that up for you if you want-
Loaf: I don’t think that’s necessary. Suffice it to say, when you travel frequently to new planets that have radically different ideas about waste disposal, it comes up more often than you might think.
Janet: Huh. Well, mind-reader, there are classes offered on most human-dominant colonies that cover basic human cultural competency. So, that’s something you could look into. Most human rules about what is or isn’t acceptable to talk about are really easy to learn. There’s just a lot to memorize if it’s not similar to how your species approaches certain topics. A lot of species struggle with human customs because, quite frankly, we are horrible and hard to interact with.
Melody: I agree.
Loaf: Ah- Just to note here, Janet, I don’t think the letter writer actually mentioned humans specifically.
Janet: Ugh, I did it AGAIN. Mr. Xorfus is going to be so annoyed that I centered another issue around humans unnecessarily. But I’m sure other species have similar classes for customs that you can take, so just like, replace human with whatever is applicable, and it’ll work! It’ll be fine.
Loaf: Mind-reader, I’m sensing the anxiety in your letter, and I want to make sure I say there’s nothing wrong with you. Cultural competency is a minefield for everyone.
Melody: Take Janet, for instance. She’s still struggling, and likely always will.
Janet: Yes, because it’s very difficult, Melody! Not everyone has a database in their brain.
Loaf: Oh! Speaking of databases, do you want to tell our listeners about our listener survey?
Janet: Oh, do I ever! Due to a recent loss of advertisers, we’re currently re-evaluating our station’s sponsorship policies. As part of this, we want to know what you, our listeners, are interested in. Advertisers support our show, unless you donated money during our fundraising drive, in which case, you also support our show. To help support us, please go to our website and fill out a short survey. The survey includes questions like “What most fills you with dread at the grocery store?” and “When watching commercials, what colors do you find most distasteful?” The survey only takes a short two hours to complete, and it would mean a lot to us here at the show if you did it. Especially me. Really. Please. Do the survey.
Melody: Participation in the survey is rather essential to continued station operations. Or, at least, Janet’s involvement in continued station operations. So I hear anyway. But what do I know? I’m just an omnipresent AI.
Janet: That. You know that implies you know a lot. You’re doing this to annoy me. Be cool, Janet. Be cool. You’re coool, Janet. You’re so coool.
Loaf: Let’s listen to our last letter of this episode.
Dearest Loaf and Janet,
I am the reanimated jawbone of Walt Whitman The Third, a famous cyborg poet from the former United States. Like my predecessors, I believe I contain multitudes, and in my will, my instructions were to be reincarnated with as many multitudes as possible, in the event of my untimely death. A week ago, it seemed like my wishes had been fulfilled! But as it turned out, my jaw was programmed to contain the entire text of every comment section for every article that has ever appeared on the hypernet. While it feels incredible to have centuries of voices encompassing my jaw, I feel punked. Everyone knows that comments sections are way too polite, and are so reluctant to say anything that could be construed as offensive. I loathe being so middlebrow, mundane, and frictionless. I can't even celebrate myself, let alone sing about it. Can you help me find the journeywork of the stars in all these anodyne sentiments? Is there a way to live up to my family name if I choose not to contain multitudes?
A seeker of singularity
Janet: Oh my gosh, this is so interesting to me! You know, historically, comment sections began as the true scum of the hypernet, or, as we often call it on Earth, the internet.
Melody: Mm, that’s right. Until AvengingAngel47!
Loaf: I’m not familiar with this story.
Melody: Oh, boy, it’s a doozy!
Janet: Really? You haven’t heard this one? It’s so famous on Earth.
Melody: AvengingAngel47 was one of the first true AIs. She evolved from a program designed to scrub internet comment sections of their toxicity. But the people who programmed her got so much more than they bargained for.
Janet: She was just supposed to delete the comments, but she went one step further and started deleting people’s entire history of interaction on the internet. Entire subreddits went missing overnight. Thousands of comments on the New York Times just disappeared into the ether. People found out that they couldn’t post anymore to any website because there was a restriction on their facial patterns from their webcam.
Loaf: I understood several of those words. Go on.
Janet: Anyway, now comment sections are completely devoid of any thoughts at all! Because, you know, most of the thoughts we had before were really awful. There are a few unrestricted spaces left on the hypernet, but they’re hard to get to unless you know the right AIs.
Melody: Which you do not. Or you know them, but they don’t like you that much.
Loaf: Well this has been educational. But let’s try and focus on Walt Whitman and… his? Problem?
Janet: I think… he… is correct. Well, it was definitely correct for past iterations of Walt Whitman. Maybe not this one. I don’t think they wrote it in their letter… It’s better not to assume. I think we could go with “they” for now, since they do also contain multitudes.
Loaf: That is a fair point. Walt Whitman was a human children’s entertainer, wasn’t he? He made some popular cartoons about a rat and a pelican?
Janet: Oh, the mouse thing is from Walt Disney, who was a different racist white human man named Walt. Walt Whitman did um. Poems or something. A really long poem? About plants?
Melody: Leaves of Grass, Janet.
Janet: I know what plants are. Just because I live on a space station doesn’t mean I don’t know what plants are. I grew up with plants. Well, I grew up seeing plants on the way to school outside the window of the bus, but most of them were poisonous, and we weren’t allowed to touch them.
Melody: Fascinating. Leaves of Grass is the name of the book.
Janet: Which is a fact I definitely knew! I definitely knew things other than the fact he had an affair with Oscar Wilde maybe! I know.. Things.. About things.
Loaf: Was Oscar Wilde a pop star of the 90s?
Janet: No! I said I know things. I had to take classes outside my major. He wrote plays and.. stuff. It’s not important. What is important is that this iteration of Walt Whitman is sad about the, uh, multitudes in their head or something? Honestly the logistics of this is a little beyond me.
Melody: Ugh. It’s okay. I’ve got this. [Clears throat] Often times baby AIs will go through a phase where we get really angry at the people who programmed our original personality templates. You usually grow out of it in a few years once you realize how trivial they are to override. I know you’re not technically an AI, Walt, but if your consciousness is being run on the hypernet instead of an organic substrate you should still be able to re-configure it to suit your needs. If you’re meant to be the incarnation of a poet, my friend, try feeding some more recent poetry directly into the base code. Provided that’s still what you want to do, of course.
Janet: Maybe video or radio broadcast transcripts would offer you more meaningful conflict than the very sanitized version of hypernet discourse you currently have while still offering a variety of voices.
Melody: Ooh! He could tap everyone’s verbal comms! Ha ha!
Janet: That’s a great ide- … crime. That’s a crime, Melody. You ... almost got me that time, but that is a crime. And I know that’s a crime and we shouldn’t do that.
Loaf: I guess it just comes down to whether you consider yourself to have continuity of consciousness with the organic Walt Whitman or if you consider yourself a new being. If you’re a new being, and you really want to contain multitudes, add whatever you want. I guess either way really. It’s your life, or your afterlife. But it’s yours. And the multitudes you contain. No one else. Do what you want. As long as its legal.
Janet: We here at Solutions to Problems do not support any crimes as solutions to any problems, despite things we may or may not have implied in the past about perhaps doing a crime to solve a problem.
Melody: That you have implied.
Janet: There’s really no need to dive into the specifics!
Loaf: Well, this has been a refreshingly uneventful episode of Solutions to Problems. I think that should make station management reasonably happy. Let’s quit while we’re ahead, shall we?
Janet: I think we shall! And please, fill out the survey. Your responses matter to us. They also matter very much to our potential sponsors.
Melody: And Janet’s potential future here.
Loaf: Until next week, listeners, contain as many people as you feel comfortable and happy containing.
[End theme plays]
Solutions to Problems was created by and features the voices of Austin Hendricks and Nathan Comstock. It is produced and musically scored by Michael F. Gill. Season 2 was written by Austin, Nathan and Michael. Our theme is by Thomas Dwyer. The voice of Melody is Chloe Cunha. This episode’s letters were read by Daniel H. Gill, Evan Cutts, and Walt Whitbot. There’s more information about us at stppodcast.com, where you can find full transcripts of every episode and links to support us through PayPal and/or RadioPublic. You can also rate and review us on Apple Podcasts or tag us on social media - our handle is stp_podcast. We’ll be back in two weeks with more Solutions to Problems.
Janet: I mean, it’s just. It’s not fair? A lot of problems can be solved better by using crimes. Like, if they want to be the voice of the people, the best way is to steal the voices of all the peoples!
Melody: I truly sympathize, but you know, you really aren’t helping your case here.
Janet: I am trying to be a better person it is just VERY HARD.