Episode 108: Casper was Dead the Whole Time

The Overthinkers tackle Salt, fashion, psychology, superheroes, and autobiography.

Matthew Wrather hosts with Natalie Baseman, Peter Fenzel, Josh McNeil, and Jordan Stokes to overthink Salt, roles written for men but played by women, the irony of high fashion, backstory and psychological determinism, a portrait of the artist as a young superhero, autobiographies of comedians, maelstrom, and ridiculous predictions for the new season of Mad Men.


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15 Comments on “Episode 108: Casper was Dead the Whole Time”

  1. inmate #

    In order of discussion, my answers:

    I listen on my laptop, as soon as the podcast goes up on iTunes/this site (but I’d rather listen live, so when are you going to get back to that?).

    To me, a perfectly serviceable movie is something that balances the good and the bad. Something that is around a 50 on Metacritic, but not a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing.

    Wasn’t “Waugh” what Calvin always screams when Hobbes attacks?

    Listening to this, I realized that the “Strong Character, Female” is almost exemplified by the Austin Powers movies. Austin himself is the sex symbol while the female accomplice is a much more realistic person/fictional spy.

    The relationships need to be Female, but not Girly.

    I didn’t have anything to add after the Bourne stuff.
    Wasn’t “Waugh” what Calvin always screams when Hobbes attacks?

    Listening to this, I realized that the “Strong Character, Female” is almost exemplified by the Austin Powers movies. Austin himself is the sex symbol while the female accomplice is a much more realistic person/fictional spy.


  2. Sylvia #

    I listen to the podcast on my iPod while at work.


  3. Shawn Pitre #

    I listen while walking home, it makes Monday morning FUN!

    And….what did you all think of Salt?

    *expects 1/2 hour tangent on the merits of ankle high socks*


  4. cat #

    I mostly listen at my computer because listening on my iPod in quiet study spaces and walking down the street results in inappropriate bursts of laughter that make the people around me think I’m crazy.

    On Backstory and Psychological Determinism: Usually, my opinion is that execution trumps the actual plot/material. I don’t care as much about the story as much as I care about how well it’s told. Backstory can be included in a way that feels genuine but often it’s part of laziness in writing and execution.

    On Parts Played By Women Written For Men: I foresee an article. And a chart. Parts Played By Women Written For Men. Parts Played by Women as Women “Playing”/Disguised as Men. Parts Played By Men Written For Women. etc.


  5. Chris #

    I’ve read both Steve Martin and Craig Ferguson’s books, and I did enjoy them both. Ferguson’s book is funnier, and his career and life was more, shall we say, dynamic, but Martin’s book is better written I think. I would recommend either.

    Additionally, while it isn’t an autobiography, the book “Lost in the Funhouse” about Andy Kaufman is very interesting. Also, the book “And Here’s the Kicker” is an excellent comedy book featuring interviews with a plethora of comedy writers. It is quite a bit focused on the actual art of writing comedy, but there is a fair amount of autobiographical stuff in there as well. It’s like 15 or 16 mini-autobiographies.

    Also, the most successful eater of souls is Luigi in Luigi’s Mansion, although instead of eating them a la Pac-Man he sucks them into some sort of vacuum cleaner.


  6. fenzel #


    Ah, luigi’s mansion!! How I love that game. True story – one summer I lived with some of the other overthinkers – they would play my copy of luigi’s mansion while I was asleep.

    As I always used to say, “I’m-a Luigi! I’m-a stuck in a house! This-a weekend, I out-sella the Halo three-a to one!”


  7. Chatworth Osborne Jr. #

    Am I the only one that relishes the discussion of clothing and consumerism?

    I really want to hear/read thoughts involving a theory of value with the commmodification of items through efficient mass production. Ellen Shell’s Cheap makes the claim that people who pay less expect less. The discount garment is treated shabbily and disposably, despite being beyond serviceable.

    My iPod is a fine example of this. It’s a little miracle box that would be unthinkable a decade back: a technological marvel that in the Tony Stark realm, priceless stuff. But it’s a gizmo that cost under $200, and there will be an improved version any day (planned obsolescence), and the battery is gonna croak so I treat the thing rather shabbily.

    The issue of clothing fit is also interesting, as tailored clothing is almost extinct. I have a few custom-made garments, and they are sublime to wear because the fit is perfect – really makes one realize what daily inconvenience we endure with sized clothing that never really fits.

    A hilarity of modern times is that, while people generally tolerate ill-fitting clothing for the economy of it, they are duped by the scam of ‘designer’ branding and pay extra for it. Clearly there are people that choose items with the logo over items that may be their size. This can be attributed to a sad desire for status, a class envy, but it reflects a lack of discernment in quality of construction, materials, and fit.

    I believe it was Mr. Fenzel with the astute observations on the form of certain clothing items, particularly those American mainstays of jeans and t-shirt. I would very much like him to unpack this in the future


  8. Natalie #

    @Chris Thanks for the “Lost in the Funhouse” recommendation. I just put a hold on it at the library!


  9. Gab #

    (This may be a double, in which case, sorry- Chrome was being idiotic.)

    I tend to listen from my computer as I’m doing something like sorting laundry or paying bills or getting ready to go somewhere or somesuch. This morning, for example, I was making postage labels and packing away my books. I have way too many books…

    I read somewhere that very, very little of _Salt_ was changed after Cruise left the project and Jolie attached herself. The first name, yes, but plot and dialogue-wise, not so much.

    The discussion about the theoretical coffee maker is resonant of the throwaway/consumer nature of our society. The idea of, “It’s just fifteen bucks,” is pretty common, and items are often tossed instead of repaired or made operable again. I was reminded of how a number of dormmates when I was an undergrad would buy new printers instead of ink cartridges when their current printers ran out of ink. Our economy is consumer-based, so things are made to feed that consumer mentality of, “I need more, I must *get* more,” etc. Rather than put the effort into fixing things, our need for “stuff” and instant gratification draws us to replace them. So instead of patching the jeans, we toss them (or maybe donate them) and buy new ones. Ironically, though, when the distress to something comes from us, the consumer, it’s bad and must be replaced, yet we spend extra money when it comes from the manufacturer. (Social experiment I did when an undergrad, for sh*ts and giggles: I wore a pair of jeans I had accidentally spilled bleach on to class and a few meetings/events, and I got LOTS of compliments on how cute they were; I lied sometimes and said I got them at this or that high-end department store, and a few times the person I was talking to would say they saw them there, too, they should have bought them, they’ll have to go back, etc. It’s all about social capital and showing off your status via the things you have and places you get them.) But anyhoo, enough circumlocution, my point is the idea of throwing something away is a lot more difficult for other cultures to grasp, even between classes here in the States. People that grew up on food stamps feel terrible cutting the fatty parts off of their steak or throwing away that last 1/4-serving of green beans at the end of the meal that nobody is going to touch *anyway*. The same sort of thing could be said about objects, like your coffeepot- a family in poverty will do everything it can to keep that coffee pot going for as long as possible, even if that means it still leaks a little every time. I’m not judging, either, although I realize I sound somewhat accusatory- I’m not trying to be. I’m just saying, it’s easy to forget how easy we have it, even when we aren’t the richest in the world or country. Just being able to type this puts me on a much higher socio-economic level than some of the people a few houses down, and I’m grateful for that. It makes me sad, too. And I kind of wish this _homo economicus_ we have become would take a step back and stop being so insta-reward-driven and such. I’d like to be able to fix my own car (someday- need a car first), my own toaster, etc., but the way our market economy works now, it’s just not feasible, and that is kind of crummy. So that person in the developing nation or low-income family here will *never* be able to get that coffee pot going because it was *made* to be thrown away and replaced with another one. Which leads to further problems- the way things are made to expire forces people with lower incomes to replace them, and that money could (and, it’s debatable, perhaps should) go elsewhere, making the American Dream of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps that much harder- how can I buy bootstraps when I have to replace this damn vacuum or whatever?


  10. Chatworth Osborne Jr. #

    Gab, if you don’t have a tinkerer friend, you should always disassemble any broken device and nose around a bit. In the cases of coffeemakers and vacuums, the internals are pretty bare and simple. If the heating element or the motor are shot, amateur repair is hopeless, but so often things are rendered useless by a power switch that just needed some dust blown out of it or something simple.

    The first few times won’t be promising, plastic cases are easy to break until you get the knack on how to peel them apart just right. It eventually pays off when you can fix the thing for free in less time than it would take to get to a store.


    • Gab #

      Heh, well, I’ll let you know when I finally do save the time in
      “fixing” it myself- I’m still in the un-promising stage, and not for lack of trying. Electric kettles= deceptive little buggars, for example.


  11. Megan from Lombard #

    I download the podcast first thing Monday morning so I can listen to it during the school year when I’m in-between classes, in the library, or at the end of the day as I’m getting ready for sleep (I have to say that the dulcet tones of Matt and Lee have lulled me to sleep more than once…which is a good thing).

    On the subject of comedy books- before I hated Leno, I started to read his book ‘Leading with my Chin’ but found it so slow and dry that I stopped reading it; I wouldn’t recomend reading it.

    Have any of the podcasters (or anyone who frequents the site) read Bill Engvall’s book ‘Just a Guy: Notes from a Blue Collar Life’? It goes in the same vein of the other comedy novels that the panel talked about, in chronological order and if you’ve ever heard his comedy it reads just like it. Also, I after hearing the rave reviews I plan to get both Drew Cary and Craig Ferguson’s books (I’ve actually been thinking about getting the latter’s for awhile).

    According to the ‘Treasury of Royal Scandals’ in the 9th Century there was a female pope,Pope Joan, who was disguised as a man and her secret was revealed only when on the way to Mass she gave birth to a son and died on the spot (but it’s been suggested that the theory was disproved by Calvinist David Blondel who suggested that the myth rose out of the fact that a mother and daughter from the powerful Theophylact family ruled the papacy during a period in the 10th Century which was known as the ‘Reign of Harlots’).


  12. Wade #

    I usually listen to the podcast on my iPod while I’m at the gym. I like being able to exercise my mind and body at the same time. Plus it makes my long slog on the treadmill seem that much shorter.

    But I, too, have to ask: *DID* any of you see the movie Salt? I was kind of hoping for some sort of discussion on the movie’s obsession with Cold War paranoia 20 years after the fact, but instead I got a maelstrom of other equally interesting topics (and a number of book recommendations to boot). Not complaining. Just sayin’.


    • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

      I was the lone podcaster who did see Salt (ha! get it? sea salt?), so I didn’t really have anyone on the panel to bounce ideas off of, other than to reflect that it was a, shall we say, imperfectly serviceable action movie.

      I do agree with you, though: When did the Russians qua Russians become villains again? We talked about this on a past episode—I forget which—but I though the Reagan-era Russian villains had been supplanted by Clinton-era drug dealer villains and finally by terrorists and other stateless or extra-governmental actors (as in the final Bourne movie).

      Salt Spoiler Alert: I suppose the answer is that the conspiracy in Salt was a holdover, since it involved sleeper agents. The whole fake American thing was put in motion back when Maverick and Goose were still in flight school and commies could still be stock villains.


  13. Jay Allbritton #

    I listen to this and other podcasts just about everywhere I go. I have no car, and I live alone and without cable. Podcasts make up about 90% of my entertainment. The other 10% is divided between Netflix and reading books. With many of my favorite podcasts slowing production for the summer, my demand for fill-in podcasts has become so voracious that I am systematically catching up on the entire Overthinking It back catalog. I am listening to you good people, on average, about three hours a day. Last night I went to sleep listening to #60 and awoke to #70. So, you are quite literally haunting my dreams. The show is great. Thanks for all the great entertainment.


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