Indonesia Wakes And Up And Smells Its Own Coffee — Then Drinks It


Mirza Luqman Effendy of Brewphobia in South Jakarta prepares coffee for a cupping session.

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The Indonesian island of Java has long been synonymous with coffee. But it’s only in the past decade or so that Indonesians have begun to wake up and smell the coffee — their own, that is.

Big changes are brewing in the country’s coffee industry, as demand from a rising middle class fuels entrepreneurship and connoisseurship.

The trend is clear at places like the Anomali Coffee shop in South Jakarta. It roasts its coffee just inside the entrance on the ground floor.

If you walk into the roasting room at just the right moment, as the heat caramelizes the sugars in the coffee beans, it smells like someone is baking cookies.

Get close to the roasting machine, and you can hear the beans snap and pop. “It is the bean expanding because of the heat of the core,” explains Anomali’s founder Irvan Helmi.

Freshly roasted Indonesian coffee beans at the Anomali Coffee shop in South Jakarta.

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Freshly roasted Indonesian coffee beans at the Anomali Coffee shop in South Jakarta.

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Anomali Coffee includes a trading company that wholesales to hotels and other businesses. It also has a barista training academy.

And upstairs from the roasting ovens is one of its seven cafes. On a table, bags of beans from a half-dozen single origins are on sale. A blackboard ranks the beans in terms of their acidity and body.

“In Toraja, you also have a medium body, chocolaty and caramel, herbs,” Irvan says, picking up a bag of beans from Sulawesi Island.

Indonesia’s more than 17,000 islands teem with cultural diversity, and more plant and animal species than researchers can catalog.

Little wonder, then, that from Aceh in the west to Papua in the east, the archipelago has more coffees than Irvan’s tasters can get around to tasting.

“From Aceh alone, we have more than 100 samples each season,” Irvan says. “Can you imagine?”

Packaged Indonesian coffee beans for sale at the Anomali Coffee shop in South Jakarta.

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Anomali sells coffees from nine single origins at a time. Irvan reckons he has sourced coffee from about 100 single origins since founding his company a decade ago.

“We put a score on it for each season,” he says, “and we select which coffee we want to bring for our customers.”

Then comes a slew of different procedures and techniques, from the way the beans are dried and hulled to the time and temperature at which the they’re roasted, and the way they are ground and brewed to bring out their characteristic flavors.

Irvan notes that Indonesian coffees are known for their “earthiness” and body. Indonesians often drink these coffees black, and therefore, he says, they don’t need the dark roast and acidity needed to be tasted above all the milk and syrup added to them in Western-style cafes.

Colonialists started growing coffee in what was then the Dutch East Indies in the 17th century. After parasites decimated plantations of Arabica beans in the 1880s, the Dutch introduced the hardier Robusta variety, which continues to account for most of Indonesia’s crop today.

Indonesia is the world’s fourth-largest producer of coffee after Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia, and it exports more than it consumes.

Irvan Helmi, founder of Anomali Coffee, stands outside his South Jakarta shop, which specializes in single-source coffees from around the Indonesian archipelago.

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Irvan Helmi, founder of Anomali Coffee, stands outside his South Jakarta shop, which specializes in single-source coffees from around the Indonesian archipelago.

Yosef Riadi for NPR

But Irvan explains that this has been changing in recent years, as demand from Indonesia’s growing middle class has taken off, and improved logistics have helped build a thriving, archipelago-wide market.

And that’s where Irvan saw his chance.

“The mission becomes clear,” he declares, “to promote Indonesian coffee as a curator.”

Irvan acknowledges the contribution of Starbucks to the Indonesian market. He jokingly calls the Seattle-based chain his “marketing department,” as it has the financial muscle to penetrate new and remote cities and give local consumers an introduction to authentic espressos, cappuccinos and the like.

Irvan says most coffee companies blend different coffees together to make a consistent product. But each of Anomali’s coffees comes from a single origin.

“We don’t care about consistency,” he sniffs. “If it’s a high quality, we want it.”

So you could say that each of their coffees is, well, an anomaly. “That’s the big difference between Anomali and the mass market,” he says. “And we’re very proud of it.”

Mirza Luqman Effendy, a friend and colleague of Irvan’s who runs a café called Brewphobia (something he got over a long time ago), explains to me that younger Indonesians have different tastes in coffee from their parents’ generation.

Mirza Luqman Effendy, founder of the Brewphobia coffee shop in South Jakarta, is seen through the window in his shop.

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Mirza Luqman Effendy, founder of the Brewphobia coffee shop in South Jakarta, is seen through the window in his shop.

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“The fact is, my father is a coffee addict,” Mirza says. “He really likes very intense coffee, like Robusta, roasted very dark, and then basically he drinks coffee with putting some sugar and ginger.”

He says that recipe is way too old-school for him: “My father’s coffee is just like … coffee. You cannot taste any attributes besides the coffee taste.”

But Mirza tastes so much more in a cup than just coffee. He hones in on the attributes of each bean, the notes of citrus and spice, the feel on his palate and the lingering aftertaste.

Of course, it’s young people like Irvan and Mirza, sharing their passion for coffee, that drives the coffee scene in many countries.

But with its rich variety of beans and long history of cultivation, Indonesia is building a coffee culture — and a pride in it — that is truly homegrown.

Bill Paxton, Prolific Actor And Star Of ‘Titanic’ And ‘Apollo 13,’ Dies At 61


Bill Paxton attends the People’s Choice Awards in Los Angeles last month.

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Bill Paxton attends the People’s Choice Awards in Los Angeles last month.

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Updated at 12:38 p.m. ET

Bill Paxton, prolific actor and big-screen fixture for decades, has died at the age of 61. In a statement released to media outlets Sunday, a family representative says Paxton died of complications from surgery.

“A loving husband and father, Bill began his career in Hollywood working on films in the art department and went on to have an illustrious career spanning four decades as a beloved and prolific actor and filmmaker,” the statement reads.

“Bill’s passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable.”

Paxton was perhaps best known for his marquee roles in Hollywood blockbusters. From below the sea, as in Titanic, to out of this world, as in Aliens and Apollo 13, Paxton starred in dozens of films and even directed a handful himself.

More recently, Paxton had been focusing on the small screen. His role as a polygamist in HBO’s Big Love earned him Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. And Paxton played the lead in the television spin-off of the film Training Day, which launched on CBS earlier this month. As a corrupt LAPD detective, Paxton tackled the kind of moral ambiguity that characterized some of his most memorable roles.

Based on the reaction from many of his colleagues, those who worked with the beloved actor felt no such ambivalence about the man himself.

What may risk going unnoticed, though, is the sheer effort Paxton would put into his roles. In a 2009 interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, Paxton explained his process while filming Big Love.

“I live kind of a monastic existence. I usually stay in a hotel,” Paxton said, noting that he would spend his evenings memorizing his lines for the next day. “Every night I have five or six pages I have to learn. I don’t know if my memory is starting to fail me, but I really have to get it down cold the night before.”

Paxton added: “My technique is kind of like the errant schoolboy who has to stay after school and write ‘I will not talk in class’ on the chalkboard. I write it over and over, again and again, until I find I understand the character I’m playing.”

And though he left Texas when he was still in his teens to pursue his acting career, Paxton said he carried some crucial lessons with him that he’d learned from his father, who was a hardwood salesman.

“Look, I’ve been an actor most of my adult life, and you certainly have to know how to sell yourself to get on in this profession. … But it’s not a phony thing. My dad sold a good product — you know, these hardwoods were used to make everything from musical instruments to beautiful furniture and every use in between.

“He had integrity about the thing he was selling,” Paxton continued. “And I certainly picked that up from him.”

‘The Americans’ Showrunners On Writing Cold War-Era Drama Amid New Russian Relations




MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We’re going to finish up the show today by talking again about the U.S.’s complicated history with Russia. President Trump’s warm words for Russian President Vladimir Putin are giving a lot of Americans whiplash not just because of allegations that Russians tried to interfere in U.S. elections to help him, but also because many remember when the Russians were considered dangerous adversaries. We thought it would be interesting to get perspective from people who are living in both of those worlds at the same time, in a way.

Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields are the co-showrunners of “The Americans.” It’s a critical favorite on the FX Network starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. They play Elizabeth and Philip, Russian spies working under deep cover in the Washington, D.C. area but also trying to raise two children in a, quote unquote, “normal” American family.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “THE AMERICANS”)

HOLLY TAYLOR: (As Paige Jennings) You’re spies?

KERI RUSSELL: (As Elizabeth Jennings) We serve our country. We wanted to tell you this for such a long time.

TAYLOR: (As Paige Jennings) But you didn’t.

MATTHEW RHYS: (As Philip Jennings) No. No, you’re right. We didn’t.

MARTIN: I also wanted to mention that “The Americans” creator Joe Weisberg worked as a case officer at the CIA in the early 1990s in the agency’s Soviet Eastern-European division. And with the show about to begin its fifth season on the air, we thought we’d begin our conversation by talking about what it’s like to write a drama about the Cold War and then see current U.S.-Russia relations in the news every week. This is executive producer Joel Fields answering.

JOEL FIELDS: In terms of the process of writing the show, it is strange. We, on the one hand, write the show very much in a bubble. And it’s very much about the early ’80s. And we don’t let outside events impact the show. But for viewers, of course, it’ll be a different experience watching it. And for us, the themes of the show are very much about the nature of being an enemy and the nature of having an enemy and how human it is to make up enemies. And it’s sad to be in the middle of this show, frankly, and realize that we’ve come full circle in five seasons of making the show.

JOE WEISBERG: I find it extremely odd. For me, it’s sort of how is this all happening again? When we started this show, the Soviet Union was gone. We were not in any kind of serious conflict with Russia. And it seemed like a good time to tell a story about those old bygone days. And how in a few short years Russia has turned into an enemy again makes very little sense.

MARTIN: Mr. Weisberg, do you mind if I ask you – you were in the CIA for a few years in the ’90s. This was after the Berlin Wall fell. I was covering the White House at the time, so I kind of remember the complicated feelings that a lot of people had. On the one hand, this is something that they said – a day that they always hoped would come. On the other hand, there was a lot of fear about the chaos they knew it would bring, right?

WEISBERG: Yeah.

MARTIN: And I was wondering what the intelligence community thought about Russia at that time.

WEISBERG: I remember two very specific things. And I was there from ’90 to ’94, so the wall had fallen but the Soviet Union had not collapsed when I was first there. And there was a question about what the CIA should be doing. Should it be trying to hasten the fall of the Soviet Union? Should it be trying to attack and sort of destroy the KGB now that it was in a lot of trouble? And there was kind of a divide, as I remember it.

I mean, by the way, I was a pretty low-level guy, so this is very anecdotal about sort of things I picked up and heard. I remember one guy saying, this is our chance to destroy the KGB when it’s at their weakest. And I remember asking myself if the CIA really had that kind of capability that could – it could suddenly just do things to destroy the KGB.

But the other thing that I remember that was – that was interesting was that as soon as the Soviet Union collapsed, there was an immediate sense in the CIA – and I’m sure it was throughout the intelligence community – of what do we do now? And there was this kind of casting about and memos flying all over the place and people trying to almost come up with a new mission.

MARTIN: You know, so these days, as we said earlier, there’s this political divide over how people think about Russia. I mean, President Trump has been openly supportive of the Russian leader. On the other hand, mainly Democrats, but not just Democrats point to evidence of Russia’s tampering with U.S. elections as having helped hand Trump the White House. And, you know, there’s this interesting thing going on in public opinion.

There was a poll in September of 2016 conducted by The Economist and YouGov which showed that 37 percent of Republicans viewed Vladimir Putin favorably at that time, up from 10 percent of Republicans just two years earlier. And as – I was wondering what the two of you think about that. Mr. Weisberg, you want to start and then I’ll hear from Joel?

WEISBERG: Well, I think that Americans as a whole tend not to look at the Russian side from their perspective at all. So let’s just look at the issue with the elections. I certainly don’t think that Russia should have interfered with our elections. I wish they hadn’t done it. I don’t think any country should do that. But I think it’s not that hard to understand.

I think that we have been the leader in imposing economic sanctions on their country, which have been devastating to their economy. It’s not that surprising that the country under the sanctions might try to do something to get the guy elected who’s going to end the sanctions.

And not only that, but I am fairly confident that if there were some sort of an analogous situation, most of our population would support doing the same thing in that situation. So I just think it’s important to sort of take a step back and try to see the other perspective on these things.

FIELDS: I would have a different analysis than Joe of all of that. Although I appreciate the thoughtful analysis there, I see things differently. But what I mostly see for us in writing “The Americans” is I feel very grateful that the show is set in the early ’80s and that we’re able to write something that is about the emotional and political truth and drama of living through that time and let people take away from it what they will allegorically about this time. And one thing that’s great about writing in the past is it forces you, either consciously or subconsciously or both, to remember that things are going to look very different in the future.

MARTIN: Joe, I wanted to ask you, since I think you raised this topic – what do you think is the benefit of thinking about the other point of view?

WEISBERG: I think the best thing it does is it really opens you up to the world and opens you up to seeing other points of view. And ultimately, what that does is open you up to seeing yourself. And I don’t mean that so much personally as collectively or as a nation. So if you can understand other people, if you can understand Philip and Elizabeth, if you can stop seeing them as the enemy but see them as people like you, then you can start to understand their country, all the people there in the government and the things they did. And you can stop seeing them as just these crazy people doing these terrible things who are always wrong and you’re always right.

And then you start examining yourself and see that you, like them, are complex. You’re complicated. You and your country do right things. You do wrong things. And you can sort of get off your pedestal, stop being so self-righteous, and you would start to behave a little more reasonably and responsibly in the world.

MARTIN: Mr. Fields, what about you?

FIELDS: I think we’re definitely trying to save the world, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: OK. Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields are the showrunners of “The Americans.” Season five premieres on March 7 on the FX network. And they were kind enough to join us from their writing room really in the middle of actual writing. So thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

WEISBERG: Our pleasure, thank you.

FIELDS: Thanks, Michel, anything to get away from writing.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tattoo Artist Covers Up Racist Insignia For Free: ‘Enough Hate In This World’




MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We all make mistakes, right? And who among us doesn’t want a second chance? Well, that’s what tattoo artist Dave Cutlip is doing. He’s offering cover-ups of racist or gang-related tattoos free of charge. Dave’s the owner of Southside Tattoo in Brooklyn Park, Md. He posted his offer on Facebook last month. He wrote, “sometimes people make bad choices, and sometimes people change. We believe that there is enough hate in this world, and we want to make a difference,” unquote.

This generous act caught our attention, so we called up Dave to find out more about why he decided to do this. He joins us from his shop, which is just south of Baltimore.

Dave Cutlip, thanks so much for speaking with us, especially on this busy day for you.

DAVE CUTLIP: Oh, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.

MARTIN: So first of all, tattoos aren’t cheap. They can cost hundreds of dollars, right? And getting one removed can cost even more.

CUTLIP: Absolutely. They actually can cost up into the thousands.

MARTIN: So what made you decide to make this offer?

CUTLIP: I had someone come in, and they had some tattoos on their face. I couldn’t help him, but I figured – well, if I can’t help him, maybe I can help somebody else.

MARTIN: So you posted your offer on Facebook last month. I understand you’ve already had quite a reaction. Can you tell us a little bit more or maybe even share some of the stories of the people who’ve come in?

CUTLIP: Yeah. A lot of them were in the prison, or they were just, you know, in bad neighborhoods. And one particular guy was working in a coffee shop, and he was trying to get a job with Amazon. And Amazon wouldn’t hire him because he had white power tattooed on his arms.

MARTIN: Do you think that some of these folks – have they actually had a change of heart, or are they just trying to cover up what they still believe?

CUTLIP: You know, I’d like to think that they definitely have a change of heart. There’s no question I’m getting people that are trying to get something for free. However, I believe in my heart that the people that I’m helping are actually doing something. The main thing for me was if I could just help one person, then maybe that person will help somebody else and then it just catch on from there.

MARTIN: Is there a throughline to the people who’ve come to you for help? Is it that these are things that they got when they were young?

CUTLIP: Yeah. As a matter of fact, like, one guy – he had a confederate flag with a noose at the bottom. And he said that growing up where he grew up, that’s how things were and now that he has a job and has kids that he doesn’t believe in that anymore, and I definitely believed him.

MARTIN: (Laughter) So before we let you go, I understand that this has kind of taken off already – that you’ve got a GoFundMe campaign started to connect other tattoo artists around the country who may want to replicate what you’ve done. What’s been the response so far?

CUTLIP: To be honest with you, I never expected it to do what it did. And now that it has done what it’s done, if we can just erase hate one tattoo at a time, then we’re all doing something.

MARTIN: That’s Dave Cutlip, tattoo artist and owner of Southside Tattoos (ph) in Brooklyn Park, Md. Dave and his team are offering free tattoo cover-ups of racist or gang-affiliated tattoos.

Dave, thanks so much for joining us.

CUTLIP: You’re quite welcome. It was my pleasure.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

‘Take The Cannoli': 45 Years Spent Quoting ‘The Godfather’


From left to right, Salvatore Corsitto as Bonasera, James Caan as Santino ‘Sonny’ Corleone and Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in ‘The Godfather’.

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From left to right, Salvatore Corsitto as Bonasera, James Caan as Santino ‘Sonny’ Corleone and Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in ‘The Godfather’.

Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The Academy Awards are Sunday night. But that’s just what we call a peg for what I really want to talk about.

This spring marks the 45th anniversary of The Godfather.

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

Francis Coppola’s film is smartly scripted, beautifully acted and gorgeously directed. It’s one of those special films you can see every few years and notice something new each time. It’s an opera, really, where the arias are story lines about love, blood and America.

I think an important part of why The Godfather has become a part of popular culture, almost half a century after it was made, is that you can find a line from the film for most any occasion.

“It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.” See? That’s what Michael Corleone told Sonny when he said he would whack Sollozzo, The Turk, who ordered the hit on Vito Corleone.

Some of us have been quoting The Godfather most our lives. We can have whole conversations, just with lines from the film.

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

“He held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract. That’s a true story.”

“I never wanted this for you. I work my whole life. I don’t apologize. I took care of my family. But I thought when it was your time, you’d hold the strings. Senator … Governor. …”

“Presidents and senators don’t have men killed.”

“Oh. Who’s being naive now?”

“It’s an old Sicilian message. It means he sleeps with the fishes.”

“What are you worried about? If I wanted to kill you you’d be dead already.”

“Do you know who I am? I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!”

“I want someone who’s good, and I mean very good, to plant that gun. I don’t want my brother coming out of that toilet with just his d*** in his hands.”

“You’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides against the family again. Ever.”

“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”

“Today I settle all family business, so don’t tell me that you’re innocent.”

“You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you, or my boy to me?”

“Certainly he can present a bill for such services; after all … we are not communists.”

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

‘Dear Friend’ Is An Fraught And Unusual Memoir


First, know that Yiyun Li is not exactly a comforting author. Those who have read her fiction may recognize her tone: calm, but not soothing, matter-of-fact, yet dreamlike; a voice dedicated to seeing the world clearly and without sentimentality. Across two collections of short stories and two novels, this voice is both chilly and elegant, like a 19th-century Russian novelist, or a snowfall. Paired with Li’s legion of characters — often near-biblically afflicted with a deep powerlessness — the overall effect can leave you with a mix of wonder, awe, and pain. In Li’s first nonfiction book, Dear Friend, from My Life, I Write to You in Your Life, this voice speaks to us in fortissimo.

Collected over two years that saw Li hospitalized for depression and suicidal ideations, Dear Friend is a memoir, albeit an unusual one. She does not attempt to follow the plot of her life – which is as dramatic as any of her invented characters’ lives – as much as she allows herself to drift from memory to memory, letting her thoughts extend like far reaching spokes that span both literary references and personal memories.

Her favorite novelists form an army of introspectives and exiles, all sharing her attitudes toward solitude and self-destruction in varying degrees: Stefan Zewig, Maxim Gorky, Søren Kierkegaard, William Trevor, Ivan Turgenev, Katherine Mansfield, and Breece D’J Pancake, among others, lend Li dignity in her despair.

Some writings, like those of Mansfield, give her dark nourishment (“I devoured her words like thirst-quenching poison,” she writes) while others provide more diplomatic fuel for her spirit — of a Stefan Zweig novella, she says “This is the cruelty of melodrama—like suicide, it neither doubts nor justifies its right to be.” These voices sustain her, articulating her dour, private pains into a shared but private language.

Like suicide, language seems to be a fraught concept for Li. In January 2017, an excerpted chapter of the book ran in the New Yorker, under the title, “To Speak is to Blunder.” It is the most dramatic and vexed passage, addressing her readers and critics about what she calls her recent “private salvation” – her decision to renounce her native language completely.

Here, memories flicker in overdrive: Images from her childhood in communist Beijing strike against recollections of her first hospitalization. Memories of her mother’s scorn press against passages by Nabokov and Marianne Moore. Visions of Iowa City, her immigrant home, live alongside Chinese songs sung by her sister long ago.

In the face of opposition from friends, instructors, and family, Li puts away the Chinese parts of herself. Though she has never written in Chinese, and though many of her fictional characters are indeed Chinese, she vows never to write — or think — in her native Mandarin again.

Li does not pretend to naiveté about how this act will be received: “It’s the absoluteness of my abandonment of Chinese, undertaken with such determination that it is a kind of suicide.” To seal away an entire lifetime of experience is costly, not only socially, but personally. “I am not the only casualty in this war against myself,” she notes.

Yet there is a sense of relief here. Regardless of the criticism — and she notes that both Chinese and American authors have seen her as disloyal — Li’s is a deeply personal decision, one that makes her life livable by helping her build a new identity — one that we will ostensibly see in her literature to come.

If there is a nucleus at the center of this sprawling, pensive work, it is its title. Written by Katherine Mansfield in a personal journal, the phrase “Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life” is not so much an introduction as a declaration of intent. “I cried when I read the line,” Li notes. “What a long way it is from one life to another, yet why write if not for that distance?”

For all of her logical twists and spiraling narratives, it is hard not to think like Li after reading her book. There is a magical property to her voice, one to absorb and admire in its absolution. I found myself, Li-like, sewing images of my own past to the passages and authors I respected, sustained by the personal language and private history I had created over time. Li had accomplished what she had set out to do: She had reached me.

‘The Americans’ Showrunners On Writing Cold War-Era Drama Amid New Russian Relations




MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We’re going to finish up the show today by talking again about the U.S.’s complicated history with Russia. President Trump’s warm words for Russian President Vladimir Putin are giving a lot of Americans whiplash not just because of allegations that Russians tried to interfere in U.S. elections to help him, but also because many remember when the Russians were considered dangerous adversaries. We thought it would be interesting to get perspective from people who are living in both of those worlds at the same time, in a way.

Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields are the co-showrunners of “The Americans.” It’s a critical favorite on the FX Network starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. They play Elizabeth and Philip, Russian spies working under deep cover in the Washington, D.C. area but also trying to raise two children in a, quote unquote, “normal” American family.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “THE AMERICANS”)

HOLLY TAYLOR: (As Paige Jennings) You’re spies?

KERI RUSSELL: (As Elizabeth Jennings) We serve our country. We wanted to tell you this for such a long time.

TAYLOR: (As Paige Jennings) But you didn’t.

MATTHEW RHYS: (As Philip Jennings) No. No, you’re right. We didn’t.

MARTIN: I also wanted to mention that “The Americans” creator Joe Weisberg worked as a case officer at the CIA in the early 1990s in the agency’s Soviet Eastern-European division. And with the show about to begin its fifth season on the air, we thought we’d begin our conversation by talking about what it’s like to write a drama about the Cold War and then see current U.S.-Russia relations in the news every week. This is executive producer Joel Fields answering.

JOEL FIELDS: In terms of the process of writing the show, it is strange. We, on the one hand, write the show very much in a bubble. And it’s very much about the early ’80s. And we don’t let outside events impact the show. But for viewers, of course, it’ll be a different experience watching it. And for us, the themes of the show are very much about the nature of being an enemy and the nature of having an enemy and how human it is to make up enemies. And it’s sad to be in the middle of this show, frankly, and realize that we’ve come full circle in five seasons of making the show.

JOE WEISBERG: I find it extremely odd. For me, it’s sort of how is this all happening again? When we started this show, the Soviet Union was gone. We were not in any kind of serious conflict with Russia. And it seemed like a good time to tell a story about those old bygone days. And how in a few short years Russia has turned into an enemy again makes very little sense.

MARTIN: Mr. Weisberg, do you mind if I ask you – you were in the CIA for a few years in the ’90s. This was after the Berlin Wall fell. I was covering the White House at the time, so I kind of remember the complicated feelings that a lot of people had. On the one hand, this is something that they said – a day that they always hoped would come. On the other hand, there was a lot of fear about the chaos they knew it would bring, right?

WEISBERG: Yeah.

MARTIN: And I was wondering what the intelligence community thought about Russia at that time.

WEISBERG: I remember two very specific things. And I was there from ’90 to ’94, so the wall had fallen but the Soviet Union had not collapsed when I was first there. And there was a question about what the CIA should be doing. Should it be trying to hasten the fall of the Soviet Union? Should it be trying to attack and sort of destroy the KGB now that it was in a lot of trouble? And there was kind of a divide, as I remember it.

I mean, by the way, I was a pretty low-level guy, so this is very anecdotal about sort of things I picked up and heard. I remember one guy saying, this is our chance to destroy the KGB when it’s at their weakest. And I remember asking myself if the CIA really had that kind of capability that could – it could suddenly just do things to destroy the KGB.

But the other thing that I remember that was – that was interesting was that as soon as the Soviet Union collapsed, there was an immediate sense in the CIA – and I’m sure it was throughout the intelligence community – of what do we do now? And there was this kind of casting about and memos flying all over the place and people trying to almost come up with a new mission.

MARTIN: You know, so these days, as we said earlier, there’s this political divide over how people think about Russia. I mean, President Trump has been openly supportive of the Russian leader. On the other hand, mainly Democrats, but not just Democrats point to evidence of Russia’s tampering with U.S. elections as having helped hand Trump the White House. And, you know, there’s this interesting thing going on in public opinion.

There was a poll in September of 2016 conducted by The Economist and YouGov which showed that 37 percent of Republicans viewed Vladimir Putin favorably at that time, up from 10 percent of Republicans just two years earlier. And as – I was wondering what the two of you think about that. Mr. Weisberg, you want to start and then I’ll hear from Joel?

WEISBERG: Well, I think that Americans as a whole tend not to look at the Russian side from their perspective at all. So let’s just look at the issue with the elections. I certainly don’t think that Russia should have interfered with our elections. I wish they hadn’t done it. I don’t think any country should do that. But I think it’s not that hard to understand.

I think that we have been the leader in imposing economic sanctions on their country, which have been devastating to their economy. It’s not that surprising that the country under the sanctions might try to do something to get the guy elected who’s going to end the sanctions.

And not only that, but I am fairly confident that if there were some sort of an analogous situation, most of our population would support doing the same thing in that situation. So I just think it’s important to sort of take a step back and try to see the other perspective on these things.

FIELDS: I would have a different analysis than Joe of all of that. Although I appreciate the thoughtful analysis there, I see things differently. But what I mostly see for us in writing “The Americans” is I feel very grateful that the show is set in the early ’80s and that we’re able to write something that is about the emotional and political truth and drama of living through that time and let people take away from it what they will allegorically about this time. And one thing that’s great about writing in the past is it forces you, either consciously or subconsciously or both, to remember that things are going to look very different in the future.

MARTIN: Joe, I wanted to ask you, since I think you raised this topic – what do you think is the benefit of thinking about the other point of view?

WEISBERG: I think the best thing it does is it really opens you up to the world and opens you up to seeing other points of view. And ultimately, what that does is open you up to seeing yourself. And I don’t mean that so much personally as collectively or as a nation. So if you can understand other people, if you can understand Philip and Elizabeth, if you can stop seeing them as the enemy but see them as people like you, then you can start to understand their country, all the people there in the government and the things they did. And you can stop seeing them as just these crazy people doing these terrible things who are always wrong and you’re always right.

And then you start examining yourself and see that you, like them, are complex. You’re complicated. You and your country do right things. You do wrong things. And you can sort of get off your pedestal, stop being so self-righteous, and you would start to behave a little more reasonably and responsibly in the world.

MARTIN: Mr. Fields, what about you?

FIELDS: I think we’re definitely trying to save the world, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: OK. Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields are the showrunners of “The Americans.” Season five premieres on March 7 on the FX network. And they were kind enough to join us from their writing room really in the middle of actual writing. So thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

WEISBERG: Our pleasure, thank you.

FIELDS: Thanks, Michel, anything to get away from writing.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tattoo Artist Covers Up Racist Insignia For Free: ‘Enough Hate In This World’




MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We all make mistakes, right? And who among us doesn’t want a second chance? Well, that’s what tattoo artist Dave Cutlip is doing. He’s offering cover-ups of racist or gang-related tattoos free of charge. Dave’s the owner of Southside Tattoo in Brooklyn Park, Md. He posted his offer on Facebook last month. He wrote, “sometimes people make bad choices, and sometimes people change. We believe that there is enough hate in this world, and we want to make a difference,” unquote.

This generous act caught our attention, so we called up Dave to find out more about why he decided to do this. He joins us from his shop, which is just south of Baltimore.

Dave Cutlip, thanks so much for speaking with us, especially on this busy day for you.

DAVE CUTLIP: Oh, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.

MARTIN: So first of all, tattoos aren’t cheap. They can cost hundreds of dollars, right? And getting one removed can cost even more.

CUTLIP: Absolutely. They actually can cost up into the thousands.

MARTIN: So what made you decide to make this offer?

CUTLIP: I had someone come in, and they had some tattoos on their face. I couldn’t help him, but I figured – well, if I can’t help him, maybe I can help somebody else.

MARTIN: So you posted your offer on Facebook last month. I understand you’ve already had quite a reaction. Can you tell us a little bit more or maybe even share some of the stories of the people who’ve come in?

CUTLIP: Yeah. A lot of them were in the prison, or they were just, you know, in bad neighborhoods. And one particular guy was working in a coffee shop, and he was trying to get a job with Amazon. And Amazon wouldn’t hire him because he had white power tattooed on his arms.

MARTIN: Do you think that some of these folks – have they actually had a change of heart, or are they just trying to cover up what they still believe?

CUTLIP: You know, I’d like to think that they definitely have a change of heart. There’s no question I’m getting people that are trying to get something for free. However, I believe in my heart that the people that I’m helping are actually doing something. The main thing for me was if I could just help one person, then maybe that person will help somebody else and then it just catch on from there.

MARTIN: Is there a throughline to the people who’ve come to you for help? Is it that these are things that they got when they were young?

CUTLIP: Yeah. As a matter of fact, like, one guy – he had a confederate flag with a noose at the bottom. And he said that growing up where he grew up, that’s how things were and now that he has a job and has kids that he doesn’t believe in that anymore, and I definitely believed him.

MARTIN: (Laughter) So before we let you go, I understand that this has kind of taken off already – that you’ve got a GoFundMe campaign started to connect other tattoo artists around the country who may want to replicate what you’ve done. What’s been the response so far?

CUTLIP: To be honest with you, I never expected it to do what it did. And now that it has done what it’s done, if we can just erase hate one tattoo at a time, then we’re all doing something.

MARTIN: That’s Dave Cutlip, tattoo artist and owner of Southside Tattoos (ph) in Brooklyn Park, Md. Dave and his team are offering free tattoo cover-ups of racist or gang-affiliated tattoos.

Dave, thanks so much for joining us.

CUTLIP: You’re quite welcome. It was my pleasure.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.