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Flashes in the Pan: ‘Tink Thank’

| Monday, November 11, 2019

Nicole Simon | The Observer

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth part in a series featuring local artists in the tri-campus community.

It started — like so many plans these days — as a text conversation. Juniors Gabriel Krut and Henry Stone and sophomore James Cullinane found each other through the types of media they like to consume and the stimulating conversations they inspired. They had been joking about the idea of starting a think tank in their group chat when one of them finally said, “Why not?” And a podcast was born.

The creators of the new podcast “Tink Thank” invited me to conduct this interview on the soundstage in the Debartolo Performing Arts Center where they regularly record their weekly podcast. Seated comfortably in armchairs on the cozy living room set, we discussed their new extracurricular endeavor as podcast hosts.

“Tink Thank” relies, successfully, on the relationship between the three men. Each brings an engaging persona to the podcast (and to our conversation): Krut, the practically encyclopedic referencer of readings and historical fact; Cullinane, the down-to-earth philosopher; and Stone, the one-liner-filled quipster. When I inquired about the title of their podcast, they cited their original concept of the podcast as a think tank, and consider it now a mainly self-satisfying quip.

“It’s arbitrary, like The Beatles, or any other comparable group,” Stone jokes.

The men laugh, but their dynamic may not be so different from that of the famous rock group — they’re just missing a Ringo. 

The structure of the hour-long podcast is in many ways simple: each host brings in a piece of media inspired by the theme of the episode and they let the conversation evolve from there. This organic structure reveals what is most important for podcast listeners to know going in: that “Tink Thank” is at its essence a conversation. It is a conversation between the hosts and the listeners, between the hosts themselves and in many ways between the world we live in and the media that emerges from it. From philosophical video games to Shakespeare to meme pages on Facebook, no type of media is off-limits for analysis and conversation.

“There’s no performance,” Krut explains. “There’s a degree of structure … but content-wise it doesn’t differ that much from the way that we would normally talk.”

Cullinane jumps in: they’ve been having meaningful, intellectually challenging conversations in private —“Now we’re trying to do it intentionally.”

The greatest strength of “Tink Thank” as a podcast is its interest in exploring media through a social and philosophical lens. In contrast to the sometimes wandering but always entertaining humor of the show’s hosts, the real heart of “Tink Thank” is its genuine interest in our world and its perception of art. Its first episode is titled “Rules of the Universe,” but Krut says rather astutely in this episode that “Rules of the Universe” is really the theme of every episode.

“We didn’t in any way shape or form imply that we knew what they were,” he clarifies.

But the hosts hope to explore similar, potentially unanswerable questions through conversations about media.

“Any piece of media that you create is based off of your experience and the experience of those around you,” Krut says.

Cullinane is interested in the rules of the universe for what it says about art and its creators.

“In terms of media … there has been a creation” of a universe, he elaborates. The goal of their podcast’s examination of fictional universes is to “take this created world and be like, all right, how does this work?” And then, as they go on to explain, how does it reflect on our own universe?

“Science fiction is based very heavily on present reality. We forecast what our current fears are, what our inspirations are,” Krut says. “Even though it is deliberately engineered to be an alternate universe … it’s obviously mirroring our own.”

Will the question of the rules of the universe ever be answered? As of now, they don’t know. Krut sees this as a boon for their podcast: “It’s nice that success is not too defined. It lets us play.”

As students, I wondered how Krut, Stone and Cullinane have the time to produce a weekly podcast in addition to their already busy schedules. Their response was that they’re already having these conversations — “Tink Thank” just allows them a formal venue for it. Stone observes that it is “rare that people set aside time to do stuff like this.” Krut hopes that “Tink Thank” can encourage other students to engage with each other and with the world around them.

“If there is some sort of message or encouragement for listeners it’s to have conversations with your friends about things that you’re both interested in,” he says. “Don’t think you can’t have meaningful, furthering conversations with your friends because you don’t ‘know enough’ yet.”

Before we part ways, I ask the hosts what they want their listeners to know. 

“We don’t claim to be sole proprietors of the only correct view of the world or of a topic … don’t take anything we say as gospel,” Krut responds. Stone jumps in with a caveat: “I claim to be an expert.”

Cullinane’s message is to other students who hope to turn their experiences and discussions into something concrete. “This type of idea is thrown around all the time in conversation between friends. ‘What if we just do that thing?’” His experience in creating “Tink Thank” confirms his belief in the ability of students to materialize their creative inclinations. “If you ever have the impulse … do it!”

Stone says the future of “Tink Thank” would preferably be “endless episodes forever and ever,” but that for now they’re going to continue the conversation.

“We’re just gonna stumble into episodes,” he said.

“Until we can’t anymore!” Krut finishes.

Check out the Scenecast interview of Krut, Stone and Cullinane for a taste of what “Tink Thank” is all about. “Tink Thank” is available to stream on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Podcast, Google Play Music, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Episode 2, “Pyramids,” is up now.

To get in touch with the creators of “Tink Thank” contact [email protected] or follow @tinkthankshow on Instagram and Twitter.

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