Talk Hole: Of Dogs and Men
Talk Hole is the bi-weekly spoken column of New York’s alt-comedy darlings Eric Schwartau and Steven Phillips-Horst, offering their oracular powers of cultural analysis on all corners of the zeitgeist (high, low, top, bottom). From a call in Brooklyn, Schwartau and P-H (as Steven is lovingly referred) prove talk is chic and drop references to hot trends, hotter temperatures, and scalding political debates. This time around, they’re all talk, no bite, discussing dogs, pot, pods, and the end of man. Who let the boys out?
ERIC SCHWARTAU: [Sees Steven with professional looking microphone] Stop with the microphone.
STEVEN P-H: Can you hear me?
SCHWARTAU: I can’t be having you doing a podcast while I’m doing a call.
P-H: This is a column. It’s a podcast of text experience.
SCHWARTAU: Amplify textual voices.
P-H: Where’s your new bundle of joy?
SCHWARTAU: Opal is being bundled by my boyfriend in the dog-centered part of the apartment.
P-H: You have a co-species space and then a members-only space. A VIP room.
SCHWARTAU: It’s the Beatrice Inn circa 2008 in here. We occasionally let her in so she can see how the other half lives. In this analogy she’s me and I’m Kirsten Dunst, who I saw when I went to Beatrice as a 7-year old.
P-H: Don’t trigger me, you know I never got into Beatrice. I assume Opal is the unwelcome guest in the DJ booth?
SCHWARTAU: Wagging her tail a little too conspicuously.
P-H: That’s the problem with dogs, they can’t do blasé.
SCHWARTAU: It’s a little jarring for us. We don’t typically have a lot of women in the bedroom—but we’re learning and we’re listening.
P-H: As Kamala would say, let’s have that dogversation.
SCHWARTAU: For context, I’m fostering a dog, since some readers may not know what’s going on every second of my life.
P-H: For people who aren’t reading the news.
SCHWARTAU: My foster saga wasn’t on Gawker.
P-H: Wow, Gawker. There’s a name I haven’t heard in a while. I just had a flashback to reading breathless reportage about Anderson Cooper’s sexuality in my high school bedroom while I dreamed of becoming a New York media celebrity, which of course I no longer aspire to.
SCHWARTAU: Because you’ve already made it, babe! Your dreams are coming true.
P-H: I think once a dream “comes true” it’s no longer a dream. It’s just a banal, quotidien reality you come to resent.
SCHWARTAU: I dreamed of leaving my home and carving a life separate from my parents and yet I am currently acting exactly like my mom with poop bags and treats in every pocket talking in a baby voice to the dog.
P-H: Please don’t say p***. Say “shit.” The dog may be a baby but I’m not.
SCHWARTAU: And yet unlike Opal, you never got into Beatrice.
P_H: So is the dog fostering antisocial behaviour, or more social vibes?
SCHWARTAU: I guess antisocial because I don’t have time for humans now with all my canine-rearing.
P-H: But in that sense it’s almost anti-narcissist—because you have to focus on the dog and not your clout.
SCHWARTAU: I don’t think I’ve tweeted since I got the dog. I’m a caretaker now, not some happy-go-lucky vagabond. I’m a master and commander.
P-H: You’re captain of a ship that never leaves port.
SCHWARTAU: I walk outside and for the entire hour-long walk I look at the trash-covered street to make sure she doesn’t choke on a chicken bone. It’s highlighted how absolutely disgusting human beings are. I understand why people get a dog then leave New York—every piece of broken glass feels like a landmine.
P-H: It’s like how having a baby makes you see the world through a child’s eyes. Having a dog makes you see the world through a dog’s eyes. You’re actually quite close to the ground.
SCHWARTAU: Exactly. I’m like, is there a trash committee I can join somewhere? Can we talk about the trash in Bushwick?
P-H: No one’s talking about trash.
SCHWARTAU: I miss grass. Speaking of green—weed is legal, which brings us to our topics. I wrote a long list of topics, because now I’m a caretaker, and I’m taking care of this column.
P-H: I have a long list of topics, too, okay? Welcome to the non-VIP club. It took a dog to finally make you feel responsible for your commitments in life.
SCHWARTAU: I also wrote the list so I wouldn’t talk about the dog the whole time.
P-H: Yet here we are, 10 minutes in and it’s dog, dog, dog. You are your mother.
SCHWARTAU: I find it very disturbing that I have not thought about sex once since I got the dog.
P-h: As someone who’s been in a relationship for three years, I only have sex when it’s with myself and it’s 6AM and I can’t fall asleep.
SCHWARTAU: Masturbation as a tool to relax your body is really the most resourceful way to use it.
P-h: To use masturbation or your body?
SCHWARTAU: It takes two to Tenga.
P-H: Yeah, the mind is the body’s killswitch, because the mind is just blah blah blah—it’s talk radio up there.
SCHWARTAU: I’m sure people jerk off to Red Scare. Porn is kind of horny ASMR in that there’s very little plot—it’s all primitive noises and repetitive actions.
P-H: This brings me to my topics: evolution and the domestication of the human race. Dicks are getting smaller, sperm counts are going down, mass shootings are coming back—the last gasp of the aggressive male as he is finally weeded out of society. Speaking of, thank you, Cuomo, for legalizing pot to distract from your #MeToo scandal.
SCHWARTAU: I’m so excited to try it for the first time.
P-H: As a huge fan of the law, I love when things are legal.
SCHWARTAU: When things are legal, that’s when I start doing them.
P-H: The obvious implication is that it’s not cool or fun anymore.
SCHWARTAU: I mean, High Maintenance has been on for a while.
P-H: Smoking weed hasn’t really felt illicit since Gawker folded.
SCHWARTAU: Dealers have punch cards now. It’s like going to the coffee shop.
P-H: They have Instagram accounts! It’s been a far cry from the so-called black market for quite some time.
SCHWARTAU: If doggo-owning, microbrew-loving Colorado is any indication, it’s definitely on the white market now.
P-H: Kids today will never know the struggle of having to pretend to be friends with your dealer. Of sitting on his gross leather couch for 45 minutes while you pack a bowl together and talk about Phish, or his uncle’s recent knee surgery. Now they buy it through an app, and a bespoke pastel box is delivered to their door for $39.95 a month. It’s, dare I say it, antisocial.
SCHWARTAU: I think the solution here is if we could create social events around the legal commerce of weed. A retail and congregation space. You might even call it a bar.
P-H: You’re referring to what we call the Amsterdam Complex.
SCHWARTAU: I had such a terrible time in Amsterdam. I was there on a layover alone. I bought some insanely strong weed and watched throngs of British teens in novelty sunglasses attempt a pub crawl like a herd of snaggle-toothed warthogs, bursting into the street, squealing before retreating to the next watering hole.
P-H: The moral of this story is don’t travel alone.
SCHWARTAU: It’s actually don’t be British.
P-H: But youth tourism is a much smaller piece of the overall cultural pie in the Netherlands. Most Dutch are fairly calm and not hedonistic about weed. As you know, I studied in Amsterdam for a semester in college.
SCHWARTAU: Oh great, here comes Emily in Amsterdam.
P-H: It was a cultural immersion program! And I will say this: Dutch people are boring.
SCHWARTAU: I relate to Dutch people, not just because they’re boring but for their dry sense of humor. Like, they make jokes with furniture, which I love. They have a witty, quiet sensibility.
P-H: That’s what happens when your country has high GDP per capita. Your humor comes in the form of furniture.
SCHWARTAU: There was this company Droog—
P-H: I’m familiar with Droog. It’s a pretty established store.
SCHWARTAU: Again, thank you, Emily—
P-H: I’m an anthropologist! As I was saying, the stereotype of the Dutch is that they’re pacified by their centuries-long battle with the water because their country is mostly below sea level. So all the dikes are what keep them from sinking, but also keep them boring.
SCHWARTAU: The dikes keep us up, but they also keep us down.
P-H: And despite their impressive height, Dutch men are not that aggressive because they’ve been fighting Mother Nature for eons and now they’re exhausted.
SCHWARTAU: I will remind you we are living in a place that was once called New Amsterdam. The Dutch get out a lot. They travel.
P-H: But not like France or England did. The Dutch were more of a C+ student in colonization class.
SCHWARTAU: I just watched a really good French movie about a plantation owner in Africa at the end of colonisation—it was a Claire Denis movie called White Material—and this white woman played by Isabelle Huppert just couldn’t believe her time there was over. There’s a civil war, her entire family gets killed, and she’s just like “We need to do the coffee harvest!”
P-H: Which brings us back to weed. The NorCal farmers are in denial about the fact that Philip Morris is about to colonize them.
SCHWARTAU: Weed isn’t cottagecore anymore.
P-H: It’s Big Cottage now. I actually watched a France-themed movie in a cinema on Saturday.
SCHWARTAU: Mais non! You’re a frontline consumer.
P-H: Oui, I went to the movies for the first time in a year. And I fell asleep.
SCHWARTAU: A movie is also a tool—it’s naptime.
P-H: It was about Michelle Pfeiffer being a rich divorcée who moves to Paris. It was fun and campy but ultimately kind of bad. I think because it was an American movie?
SCHWARTAU: French films are very psychologically diverse, psychosexual. They’re very concerned with the mind.
P-H: Whereas are American films are so simple and moralistic. They want to make sure a child can understand it.
SCHWARTAU: Or a dog.
P-H: This kind of reminds me of the book I’m reading for my podcast, Naturally Tan by Tan France. I imagine a dog could get the gist.
SCHWARTAU: Only four words on the cover and two of them are “tan.”
P-H: And the other is France, yet it’s an American book. Really makes you not think.
SCHWARTAU: Queer Eye is definitely a dog whistle for dogs.
P-H: It’s very pro dog culture. A lot of the moralizing of Queer Eye stems from the idea that taking care of a dog is analogous to taking care of yourself, and therefore the world. That any effort you put into anything is fungible.
SCHWARTAU: It’s about taking control of something. I’ve started listening to dog training podcasts and this other one called Celebrity Book Club—is that a dogcast?
P-H: We’re doing ads for BarkBox, so yes.
SCHWARTAU: The dog needs to know you’re the one in control and if the dog doesn’t know that you’re in control, it will think it’s in control and dogs don’t want to be in control because it’s stressful.
P-H: Sounds very binary.
SCHWARTAU: In the words of Oprah, were you heeling or were you heeled?
P-H: As I’ve said before, 90% of the world are bottoms—including dogs. They just want to be dominated.
SCHWARTAU: Just because you’re an Amsterdam expert doesn’t make you a dog expert. At best you’re an armchair philosopher.
P-H: I prefer “accent chair philosopher.”
SCHWARTAU: Sounds better than “podcaster.”
P-H: I was just reading this article in the New Yorker from two years ago—
SCHWARTAU: Which is how long it takes to read a New Yorker article.
P-H: It was about how humans have basically self-domesticated. There’s all this evolutionary evidence that we’ve adapted the same way animals do when they become domesticated. Thinner bones. Shorter faces. Less differences between males and females.
SCHWARTAU: That tracks with what I’ve been seeing on the Urban Outfitters app.
P-H: We’re less aggressive. We’re all Dutch now, smoking legal weed and apologizing. We don’t roughhouse like animals are supposed to. The article suggests it’s actually capital punishment over the last few millenia that has been slowly weeding out the most aggressive men from society.
SCHWARTAU: From the death penalty to death drops—this is how masculinity ends.
P-H: Not with a bang, but a gay whimper.
SCHWARTAU: Isn’t the person who kills the aggressive person being pretty aggressive?
P-H: Brilliant point, Eric. But when it’s the state doing the killing—and not to get too Foucault here, but with a machine like the electric chair or guillotine—that aggression is dispersed among a variety of actors. Of course back in the day, swinging an axe required some serious aggro energy. Although some of the swords, I believe, were quite sharp and well-smithied and didn’t require a whole lot of swinging.
SCHWARTAU: The penitentiary is mightier than the sword.
P-H: That’s a Kamala Harris quote, right?
SCHWARTAU: Ultimately, I think we should give vasectomies to all podcasters.
P-H: Listen, it’s never been my plan to pass on my genetics—I wouldn’t do that to the gene pool.
SCHWARTAU: Maintaining a pool is a lot of work.
P-H: I do see a lot of people getting dogs. You’re the fourth person in my Instagram stories to have gotten a dog in the past week.
SCHWARTAU: Imagine if you could get them on Amazon.
P-H: The timing is odd. The pandemic is ending—why does everyone want a domestic anchor now? Maybe they don’t want the pandemic to end.
SCHWARTAU: People don’t actually want to “go back to the office.” That’s a PMC myth. They want to continue working from home, but the lack of desk salads, sexual harassment seminars, and CBD-infused water cooler conversations about DMX’s death leaves them adrift. They need a sense of purpose. Enter the dog.
P-H: PMC > CBD > DMX is my post-pandemic travel itinerary.
SCHWARTAU: CBD airport has a great captain’s lounge, but the WiFi is a little too relaxed.
P-H: Speaking of captains, did you see Nick is leaving Interview?
SCHWARTAU: I did. The ship is adrift.
P-H: Who’s the First Mate? Are we next in line?
SCHWARTAU: They’re gonna toss us a jagged stick that says editor-in-chief to fight to the death over.
P-H: Do they want a more aggressive dog or a more well-trained domesticated dog?
SCHWARTAU: Who’s who?
P-H: Well, I go to the gym 5 times a week now. Does that make me domesticated because I’m a Blink serf or aggressive because I’m getting ripped upper back muscles?
SCHWARTAU: It depends on what you’re doing with the back muscles.
P-H: Mostly wearing wife beaters as I walk through Chinatown.
SCHWARTAU: New York is back! Or, upper back at least.
P-H: People keep saying this, but I’m not so sure. I feel like it could easily flip from “back” to “over.”
SCHWARTAU: I feel like you can’t generalize about a megacity of 18 million people.
P-H: I’m sorry, you’re right. New York contains multitudes. There’s love, despair, dogs, cats, ups, downs, backs, fronts, baby booms, baby zooms, zoomers canceling boomers over Zoom, boomers canceling zoomers’ Zoom subscriptions….
SCHWARTAU: I guess I’m saying a city being alive or dead is subjective.
P-H: Which is it for you?
SCHWARTAU: The answer is locked in Andy Warhol’s sarcophagus buried deep under Dimes Square.
P-H: Or it’s trapped in a safe in the highest penthouse at 432 Park, but you have to become the housekeeper to a Goldman Sachs divorcée and slowly gain her trust over the course of several years until she tells you the combo.
SCHWARTAU: That’s also where the old Pyramid Club sign is going, which I wanted to mention because it closed, but also because I want to plug The Drag Explosion, a book I am famously thanked in. I was flipping through, looking at photos of RuPaul at the Pyramid Club in the ‘90s, but at the same time, I was seeing all these “RIP Pyramid Club” remembrance posts from people our age, and I was just like, where’s the ‘90s club kid land acknowledgment?
P-H: Thank you. It’s iconic because of the ‘90s. Their heyday isn’t when you went to a party there in 2011.
SCHWARTAU: Every generation thinks they own the world, which I guess they do, eventually.
P-H: I’m not sure they will for that much longer. There was just this bombshell report that says sperm count across human males has fallen 59% since 1973, and by 2040 it’ll reach zero!
SCHWARTAU: My sperm count seems fine.
P-H: I think you’re thinking of semen, which is different.
SCHWARTAU: The sperm count is roughly determined by how white and goopy it is?
P-H: It’s not actually visible to the human eye. Only dogs can see it. It’s a dog whistle.
SCHWARTAU: I don’t think you can see a dog whistle.
P-H: Semen is the water and the sperm are the boats. And you can never be sure how many there are in there.
SCHWARTAU: This is just like The Handmaid’s Tale.
P-H: Or Children of Men, if you don’t have your ex’s Hulu password.
SCHWARTAU: I heard you lose sperm count when you watch Handmaid’s Tale.
P-H: That’s true. Because firing up your Girlboss+ FireStick involves touching plastic—which is what is causing the spermageddon. It’s chemical pollution.
SCHWARTAU: Every time someone says the word “girlboss,” a little sperm dies.
P-H: The most terrifying part is that the damage is already done when you’re a child. There are so many BPAs in your toys, your Barbies, your Tonka trucks, your non-binary magician’s wand—your sperm is already canceled by age 3. And even if we don’t grow up with access to wands, our parents were using Vo5 shampoo for years, passing on the end of civilization to the fetus without our consent.
SCHWARTAU: And girlbosses use Vo5. Case closed.
P-H: And the culprit remains a consumer society that just wants us trapped in our homes, ordering plastic anti-anxiety massagers for our dogs, who are so traumatized by the trash in Bushwick.
SCHWARTAU: My massager is made of ivory, actually.
P-H: Locally sourced, I hope.
SCHWARTAU: From Bushwick elephants.
P-H: So you’re not worried about the end of the human race?
SCHWARTAU: Honestly, I really could care less about sperm count. As long as we cum at the same time, everyone’s happy.
P-H: Can we say around the same time? Feels like a lot of pressure to go simultaneous.
SCHWARTAU: You don’t have to cum at the same time to have a baby, right?
P-H: I don’t think the woman has to cum for there to be a baby. Otherwise the human race would have died a long time ago, sweetheart.
SCHWARTAU: What if you couldn’t have a baby unless you both came at the same time? I feel like that would solve a lot of issues with men.
P-H: What does this have to do with plastics?
SCHWARTAU: I don’t necessarily believe this plastic mumbo jumbo you’re talking about. Tell me how it makes my sperm count go down.
P-H: It’s exposure to chemicals over time.
SCHWARTAU: According to a New Yorker article you read a fifth of in 2012.
P-H: No, this I read in The Guardian, which is British, so it has to be true.
SCHWARTAU: We should ban The Guardian before we ban plastic. Um, you’re typing. Who are you talking to?
P-H: I’m literally sending you a link to the article! I have not talked to anyone on my team this entire time.
SCHWARTAU: I’m being such a dog owner. I see a behavior I don’t like, and I correct.
P-H: Down! Sit! Heel! Ignore your publicist!
SCHWARTAU: I wanted to talk a little bit about copywriting since we both do it and we’ve never really discussed this.
P-H: Not sure I want to give you my trade secrets.
SCHWARTAU: Let me start by saying everyone is always writing words, so with copy, you’re just writing words surrounded by more words.
P-H: This is not the direction I thought you were going with.
SCHWARTAU: I’m saying that behind one word of copy, there are so many more emails and meetings and discussions all composed of more words.
P-H: It begs the question of what a word means when it sounds weird. I’ve been writing copy for a financial company that shall remain nameless, but we’ll just say it rhymes with “Oregon Family.” I was trying to make this headline work—“invest nimbly.” I love the meaning of nimble—being quick, incisive with good reflexes—but the sound of “nimbly” just felt so tongue-tied and British and old.
SCHWARTAU: What about “swift”?
P-H: Swift isn’t right. Swift only references speed; it doesn’t reference the agility required to react to changes in the volatile market!
SCHWARTAU: Swift is a fast current, on course toward its destiny.
P-H: You don’t want to rush into something, Eric. You want to make smart decisions, not just fast ones.
SCHWARTAU: Swift sounds intelligent to me.
P-H: Again, it literally only references speed.
SCHWARTAU: It’s not about the right decision, it’s about making a decision.
P-H: Wow. There’s a completely new concept for an investing strategy. You should start a financial firm built on that ethos: “It’s not the right decision, it’s a decision.”
SCHWARTAU: That’s already my Grindr investing mantra.
P-H: It could be an app. Schwift by Schwartau.
SCHWARTAU: Swift: Your money, our revenue stream. This is how language builds trust. If I could get people to trust me, even while making bad decisions, I could rule the world.
P-H: Well, don’t get too comfortable. Soon there won’t be any humans left to rule.
SCHWARTAU: I don’t need to have a long reign. Just a deal on Shark Tank.
P-H: As Mark Cuban would say, “Done.”
SCHWARTAU: Done. Like this column.
P-H: Like men!
SCHWARTAU: Like Prince Philip.
P-H: RIP. Another man down.
SCHWARTAU: Next stop, the human race.
P-H: Ciao. See you at the weed bar.