The picnic is three friends—Adam, Erikk, and Nick—talking about culture, politics, and morality. Their conversations cut at weird diagonals across the preening, pedagogical grain of standard podcast style. The joy of them rests in their sincerely close (and wildly well-read) readings of a huge range of subjects—Jeff Sessions, threaded tweets, the effects of self-promotion on one’s art, the nature of obligation—combined with their tendency to careen from searching banter to escalating riffs of totally unbeholden satire. Every episode is very great, and I think the only way to do them justice would be to post a full transcript here. Original thinking slaloms around mutual mockery and what you sense under the jabs and insights is the love these friends feel for one another.
Nick has always been dry, saturnine, the weirdest of the three, while Adam has the militant, Stevensonian attitude toward life, that even if it kills you there’s magnificence in continuing to live it; Erikk is sort of the glue between them. (These qualities manifest even in the sound of their voices. Adam’s is a constant, scratchy, barely-achieved triumph over hoarseness. Erikk’s is smooth, kind, emollient. Nick’s is chthonic, like he’s just emerged from a bug city to prosecute the world.)
While the episodes’ subject matter and mode vary, they all illustrate conversation as a serious, subtle pursuit. Often, when we speak of “conversation,” we mean it in a superficial sense: people speaking in close proximity — the utilitarian expressions of “small talk” and “networking,” the kinds of “conversations” I was usually reduced to in my attempts to make friends in Minneapolis. It’s no accident that The Relentless Picnic‘s “lost episodes” (conversations pre-microphones) included a discussion about a Platonic dialogue, a form that embodies conversation as a serious philosophical project. In certain conversations, what’s said emerges not from the participants as separate beings, but from what happens between them. This is not our ordinary mode of interacting with one another. Social media amplifies the most reductive aspect of conversation — we focus on expressing ourselves at the expense of listening to someone else. But a listener of The Relentless Picnic, like the reader of a dialogue, is not only able to consider each speaker’s point in turn but is also able to linger in that contemplative space between speech acts, where the real, generative drama of conversation unfolds.
After an episode or two spent getting on their super specific wavelength, I’ve decided these guys aren’t full of shit.
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You spoke into the void.
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