The political implications of the Winter Olympics in China : It's Been a Minute It's hard to believe the Winter Olympics have begun in Beijing, our second COVID Games. Sam talks to NPR correspondent Emily Feng about the political implications of this year's Olympics, the crackdowns on activists, and diplomatic boycotts.

Then, Sam talks to Hiwote Getaneh and Jesse Baker, producers of the podcast This Is Dating, a show about first dates. They talk about what the show taught the two of them about love and dating and offer up some advice of their own.

You can follow us on Twitter @NPRItsBeenAMin and email us at samsanders@npr.org.

It's all politics at the Winter Olympics, plus 'This Is Dating'

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SAM SANDERS, HOST:

Our editor is coming soon, but I got to say I spent the last, like, 20 minutes before our interview listening to the NBC Olympics theme song. People forget it was written by John Williams. It's a classic.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: I had no idea.

SANDERS: That one the (vocalizing). That one?

FENG: When you sing it like that, I do feel the dramatic flair that I associate with John Williams.

SANDERS: Don't you feel it? Don't you feel it?

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

AUNT BETTY: Hey, y'all, this is Sam's Aunt Betty. This week, the Winter Olympics in China and listening in on first dates. All right. Let's start the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: Hey, y'all. You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders, and I wish you a happy Olympics. Here we are again, just a few months after the last one, entering another Olympic Games in another pandemic year with yet another chance to ask, why are we doing this again? And also, how exactly can I watch this? Which app? What time? What paywall?

China is hosting the Winter Olympics this year. And, you know, the last time Beijing hosted the Games in 2008, things felt different, some would even say fun. Ah, fun - I can recall that word.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FENG: During the Summer Olympics, the entire city was out in the streets. They were partying for like two months straight.

SANDERS: Wow.

This is NPR Beijing correspondent Emily Feng.

FENG: The beach volleyball tournaments were in this park right next to my house.

SANDERS: Oh, wow.

FENG: Beers were, like, 80, cents. People would go out there and just day drink all day and watch beach volleyball. It was amazing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: Flash forward to now...

FENG: To be completely honest, the Olympics is not my jam.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In Beijing, a single case of the highly transmissible omicron coronavirus variant sparking an immediate lockdown and mass testing...

SANDERS: So 2022.

FENG: At first, I was kind of excited because I thought I would be there in the stands, and it would be the party that it was in 2008 - like, you know, the apres-ski version of that this time around. Unfortunately, the coronavirus swung into action, and it's just become a much more - I mean, it was always a political, but it's been even more political event than usual.

SANDERS: Right before the opening ceremony, I called up Emily in Beijing to talk through some of the political implications of this year's Olympics - the crackdowns on activists and diplomatic boycotts, and also just all the weird COVID stuff everyone's having to go through to make these games happen. And, of course, I asked Emily several times if there is any way, right now, that these Olympics are worth all the hassle.

I mean, I've read the stories. I'm sure some of our listeners have seen them as well. It's like a locked-down compound. They're calling it like a bubble or something. But I want you to start, just to describe as vividly as you can for folks who can only hear you, what is this Olympic compound in China going to look and feel like over the next few weeks for these games? It's perhaps the strictest Olympics that we've ever seen.

FENG: I think so. So everything is happening inside what Chinese authorities are calling closed loops, and they're not...

SANDERS: Which in and of itself sounds threatening (laughter).

FENG: Yeah.

SANDERS: That's not a phrase I want to hear - closed loop.

FENG: Yeah. Don't exit the closed loop. And these loops are kind of conceptual. So, like, they're not literally loops. It's just a series of facilities and canteens and hotels all across Beijing and on the outskirts of Beijing that are linked together by special vehicles that the public are not supposed to approach or touch. And so everything will happen inside these facilities, meaning if there are infections - and there have been; there have been just over 200 or so - that all of that COVID transmission...

SANDERS: Already?

FENG: Yeah - among people arriving, among people who are already inside these closed loops. But if these infections happen, that they stay within the loops and they don't infect the rest of the greater Chinese population, which is terrified of COVID. So you get this strange disconnect where a major international sporting event is happening in Beijing, but living in the city, you would be forgiven if you did not know the Olympics were taking place. There's basically no signage. There's been very few public events celebrating the games. There's just basically no publicity around it.

SANDERS: Yeah. What is the craziest part of the bubble, or the closed loop as they're calling it? For me, the craziest tidbit that I've seen about this is that if official Olympic vehicles that are going from one closed loop to another get into a car accident, like, on the streets of China, locals have been told to not stop. Don't help them. Don't assist. There's a special Olympic ambulance service. You can't be involved at all.

FENG: That caused a lot of...

SANDERS: Wow.

FENG: That was sensational in China, because people, rightly so, questioned that policy (laughter). I think the funniest thing for me are the robots that are serving people food in these canteens. I've heard the food is overall like, not bad, but...

SANDERS: OK.

FENG: ...Robots are robots. They're not perfect yet (laughter). And there have been some glitches where people have just not gotten the food they've ordered.

SANDERS: So, OK, there's all of this drama with the closed loop-ness of it all for the Olympics in China, but on top of that, the athletes and officials coming to these games - they've been asked to use an Olympic app that China made. And for a while now, folks have been saying, be careful of that app, and perhaps bring a burner phone. What's going on there?

FENG: Let's start with the burner phone. It's...

SANDERS: OK.

FENG: ...Pretty well-known that China does a lot of digital surveillance, so it's smart to bring a burner phone and just to toss it when you get back home. About the app - this is a health app that authorities are asking every athlete, every journalist coming to Beijing to download because they have so many COVID requirements. So you've got to get multiple tests before and after you land. Sometimes people have connecting flights, and China has a really strict protocol for making sure you have all the health tests necessary before you enter these closed loops in Beijing.

So to keep track of all of that, they introduced this app in an effort to be helpful. But it turns out that when you look at the code for this app - according to Citizen Lab, which is a nonprofit that looks at digital surveillance. It's very reliable. They do excellent research on surveillance all over the world, not just China. They examined the code, and they found that it was basically not encrypted. So it was very easy for whoever made this app, a Chinese software firm, to look at everything that people were uploading into the app - their travel history, their personal health information, the chat records that they have with their other teammates and with these health officials. And that within the app, they found these protocols that, if activated, could monitor conversations happening within the app and then pinpoint specific, sensitive key words or phrases - so things like Xinjiang or Tibet, which are these regions where China has been accused of human rights atrocities, but also certain political leaders, Chinese political leaders that have since fallen out of favor in China.

SANDERS: Wow. I'm going to say it again, Emily. Why in the world are we having these Olympics? This just feels like it makes no sense.

FENG: This is a question I would love to ask the Chinese leadership if they ever took interviews, which they don't.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

FENG: Because you got to ask - what does China get out of the Olympics? They are spending a lot of money on the Games, more than they planned because of all the COVID prevention policies they've got to take into a place. There's a risk that there is a COVID outbreak and they terrify their domestic population, which has been trained to be scared of the virus. They are under huge diplomatic pressure because a number of countries, including the U.S., are boycotting the Games over China's human rights abuses. So I'm not sure what they get out of it.

That being said, if they cancelled, in their eyes it would be a huge failure. They're very proud of the fact that Beijing is the only city in history to host both a Summer and Winter Olympics, and they're really eager to pull it off during a global coronavirus pandemic and show that they did this better than Tokyo, which was host to the Summer Olympics last year.

SANDERS: So you mentioned some boycotts at this Olympics. In fact, America is doing a diplomatic boycott of the Games. Who is boycotting the Games, and what are they boycotting for?

FENG: So the U.S. started a diplomatic boycott. A number of countries, including Canada, France, Australia and so on have joined in. They are protesting human rights abuses in the country, namely the fact that since 2017, China has been arresting and detaining hundreds of thousands of historically Muslim ethnic minorities in a region called Xinjiang, which is to China's west. Many of these people have been let go, but they've been expanding prisons. There's still a very strong surveillance and police state over there and a strong history of discrimination against these ethnic minorities. So because of these abuses, which I and other journalists have documented, the U.S. has sanctioned China. And now they've said they won't send officials to attend the opening ceremony or any of the official events for the Olympics. And China's reaction has basically been, well, we never invited you anyways.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

FENG: But deep down, they really care, and their actions speak otherwise.

SANDERS: Well, and in the run up to the Games, the Chinese government has been cracking down really hard on political dissent and activism. I assume that has a chilling effect on excitement for the Games amongst locals. What have those crackdowns looked like?

FENG: This is not new. This is something China does before every major political event, even domestic ones. So they go around. They make sure that anyone who's troublesome is not physically in Beijing or that they're blocked from traveling to Beijing and making trouble. They do that by sending people on essentially, like, forced vacations, often paid - just, you know, get out of the way until the Beijing...

SANDERS: Wait. They pay you?

FENG: ...Olympics are over. Yeah.

SANDERS: OK.

FENG: But you're watched all the time by police. There have been street police on every single corner. They're being much more rigorous about what's being said online. There have been tightened COVID controls as well. And you've heard a lot of grumbling about how the Olympics are making life that much harder in the capital, which has already been an incredibly strict place - I can tell you personally - to live during a COVID pandemic.

SANDERS: Wow. Wow. You know, I am wondering, just as, like, a human of the world - is it ethical to watch these Olympics given the human rights abuses, given the way that Chinese locals are being treated in the run up to these Games, given the thought I had that, like, maybe this shouldn't happen at all from, like, a public health perspective? I don't know. Give me some guidance on how to ethically watch this Olympics, should I even choose to do so. And also...

FENG: OK, that's a tough question.

SANDERS: ...Same question for you. How are you...

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: I love the tough questions, Emily.

FENG: Well, I'm going to watch for news purposes. There might be something that happens, and I'll have to cover it. But for the ordinary viewer, I would say, go ahead and watch it with that boulder of salt that you've just mentioned. The Games are happening no matter what, but there should be a real reckoning about how these Games are run, how these bids are designated and what it means for a country to host these Games.

Should there be stronger requirements for, say, an autocratic country like China to host an international sporting event like this? They were not asked to make any improvements to their domestic political structure, to freedom of speech, to rampant media censorship here - unlike the 2008 Summer Olympics, where they actually did make some superficial changes, at least. So I think there's a real reckoning about whether or not the Olympic Games still have the same significance they did before, whether the International Olympic Committee is as impartial and fair as they claim to be. It is clearly an organization with serious ethical issues that has strong interests to make sure the Games happen despite being obligated to autocratic countries like Russia and China, which have hosted the last two Winter Games.

In a sign of just how deeply connected the IOC and the Chinese regime have been for these Winter Olympics, Xi Jinping received the director of the IOC, Thomas Bach, a few days ago. And Thomas Bach became the first foreign official to meet with the Chinese leader in more than two years because Xi Jinping has been in his own little bubble for coronavirus prevention reasons. He hasn't left the country. He hasn't seen foreign leaders, but he did see Thomas Bach, who was allowed to cut the cue and skip quarantine to meet the Chinese leader. That's huge in China, and people take note. They realize that this is now a political event more than anything for the Chinese leadership.

So I wonder what the discussion will be around the next Olympic Games and whether it will have the kind of prestige. Personally, I don't think it should. We should be watching world championships, and we should not be giving the Olympic Games to host countries with human rights abuses on their political record.

SANDERS: Yeah. You know what I might do instead? I might just fire up that NBC John Williams "Olympic Theme" and replay some old, good Simone Biles footage (laughter). That's the place I want to live at right now, I think.

FENG: That sounds like great self-care.

SANDERS: I might not watch the Olympics. Right? It's about self-care, Emily. You get it. You get it (laughter). Hey, well, thank you for this chat. I learned a lot from it, and I'm sure that our listeners did as well. I hope you stay safe and well rested in China as you cover these Games.

FENG: Thank you, Sam.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: Thanks, again, to NPR's Emily Feng in Beijing. All right. Listeners, coming up, we talk dating and what happens when you record a series of first dates from willing volunteers. I should be clear about that - willing volunteers.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: Have you ever really thought about just how many reality TV shows there are out in the world that deal with dating? So many - "The Bachelor"...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BACHELOR")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Will you accept this rose?

SANDERS: ..."The Bachelorette"...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BACHELORETTE")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Will you accept this rose?

SANDERS: ..."Love Island"...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOVE ISLAND")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: I've got a text (laughter).

SANDERS: ..."Temptation Island." There's a show called "FBOY Island" - all the islands. I can recall watching "Love Connection" reruns as a kid.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOVE CONNECTION")

CHUCK WOOLERY: So I could hear everything that happened on their date. We'll do that. Two and two, we'll be right back at you.

SANDERS: There are dozens and dozens of reality TV shows all about dating, but I've never heard a podcast try this format until this week - a reality show about first dates where you hear the first date.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST "THIS IS DATING")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: What animal best represents how you typically show up in bed?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: I would say a tortoise. Why a tortoise? 'Cause I like to take things slow.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: "This Is Dating," a series of recorded first dates.

SANDERS: The show is called "This Is Dating." Hiwote Getaneh and Jesse Baker are two of the producers.

Hello.

HIWOTE GETANEH: Hey, Sam.

JESSE BAKER: Hi.

SANDERS: How are y'all?

GETANEH: Good. How are you?

SANDERS: And this show is pretty addictive, in part because it feels a lot more thoughtful and nicer than most reality dating shows I see on TV. This is by design. Jesse and Hiwote, when they were making this podcast, they thought really carefully about what reality TV tropes they wanted to avoid, as well as which ones to embrace.

GETANEH: The show that most resonated was "Dating Around." You see one person go on three different dates and the camera cuts from one date to the other. So, like, you see this one person go from drinks to dinner to, you know, the after-dinner drinks with such ease that you feel like you're watching a movie, not really - it doesn't feel like a reality show.

SANDERS: I brought Jesse and Hiwote on to talk about how they did it and what making the show taught the two of them about love and dating. They also shared a little first date advice because they're now kind of experts on the art and science of the first date.

There is this very intentional way that you're prompting conversations that give just more of a depth than you would hear in reality TV shows about dating. Besides having this dating coach talk with folks before the date, when you have the couples go on the date, y'all offer not just color commentary but a set of icebreaker questions that you've selected for them to go through to lead to a meaty conversation. Can you tell our listeners a few of those questions that you've picked for some of the dates?

GETANEH: Yeah. So usually we try to go from, you know, like icebreaker-y (ph) things like...

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THIS IS DATING")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: OK. The question is...

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Are you ticklish?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #8: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: And I've never done research on ticklishness, but I think it like, may just be, like, a mindset or, like, I think there must be a mental thing...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #8: Totally.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: Because sometimes I'm ticklish, and...

BAKER: Hiwote and I normally, like, the day before a date, would sit down and kind of go through what we know about the two people going on the date so we could both provide questions that are kind of fun but also give them a chance to explore a part of something we knew about them that the other didn't. So it was sort of like gateway to interesting conversation.

GETANEH: I feel like it's questions that you can choose to answer as vulnerably or as, you know, high level as you want to. But the idea behind the questions is that, over the course of the date, we try to get you to a place of genuine connection. So the questions do get a little bit more intimate and encourage you to be a little bit more vulnerable. And the question that has yielded the best answers is usually - what do you usually not confess on a first date? Or - what do you usually not tell your first date? And tell it to me now (laughter).

SANDERS: Oh.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THIS IS DATING")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #9: So, OK, maybe I will share that I love karaoke (laughter). That I have never shared on a first date because a lot of people don't like karaoke, and I, like, aggressively like karaoke. I'm actually in a karaoke club.

SANDERS: Well, then, to you both, what is a thing...

GETANEH: Oh, God.

SANDERS: ...That y'all would have never confessed on a first date but, after this experience of making a dating show, you might be more open to confess on a first date?

BAKER: Oh, man. This is going to be harder than the quiz coming up.

(LAUGHTER)

GETANEH: I think I've realized, working on the show, that everyone worries a little bit, or, I guess, to differing degrees, about their desirability. And I would never talk about that on a first date, and it's partly because I think, you know, there aren't as many stakes in the game on a first date. So you want the other person to think you're attractive or that you're smart or that whatever, but you don't care too, too much. But, you know, at the core, you do want the people you meet and the people that you like to think you're desirable.

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah. For people listening who are maybe in first-date land right now, what is the, like, one first-date life hack you can give them right now that will just improve their first-date game - period - across the board?

GETANEH: I think doing something instead of sitting across from each other asking questions is, like, is a game changer. Because even though, you know, on some level, it might seem like that's what you're doing when you're on a Zoom date for a dating show, you are engaged in this secondary activity that both - that's new for both of you. They're usually not sitting the entire date. Like, on one date, we told them to bring, you know, a specific lists of ingredients. And then on the date, they made drinks together. On another date, they did a scavenger hunt. So I just think not sitting still and expecting the other person to answer your questions is probably the right way to go.

BAKER: Yeah.

SANDERS: I like that.

BAKER: And I would say coming in with an open mind and forgetting that you didn't like the T-shirt that they wore in the picture on their, you know, Hinge profile - like, come in, and clear your mind. And, like, screw expectations. Like, the only - what you want to get to with a first date is a second date. This doesn't have to be the love of your life, but if you can get to a second date, I think you've done well.

GETANEH: Yeah.

SANDERS: Did making this show at all change the way the two of you think about love and dating or conceptualize it?

GETANEH: So much. I think - so - yeah. I mean, it's just made me so much more compassionate and not put so much pressure on myself or the other person.

BAKER: You know, Hiwote is the active dater as far as the producers go. I mean, she's the person who is actively going on dates, swiping right and left and doing all of that and where the rest of us are in a kind of different space working on the show. And it was important to us to show growth from the actual daters. But the thing that ends up happening kind of because she was working on the show is you also start to hear growth in Hiwote's life. And there's an episode towards the end of the season that happened much like this, where we all jumped on a Zoom to do an edit. And she starts playing a voice memo, as one does...

(LAUGHTER)

BAKER: ...That she sent to a man the previous day, and then we just, like, totally dissected that.

SANDERS: Wow.

BAKER: So yeah. So there's a lot of growth with the staff and not just the daters.

SANDERS: I love that. Right. Yeah.

BAKER: Yeah.

GETANEH: Sam, Jesse and I met in this very cute way. We met on the train in New York after a book-signing event.

SANDERS: Aww.

BAKER: Hiwote said, I have a podcast. Would you listen to it? - on the train. And I was like, yeah, I'll listen to it. What's it called? And then she followed up, and she said, can we get a coffee? And we met for coffee in the neighborhood. And I asked, what are you doing this weekend? She said, well, tomorrow's my birthday. And I'm like, shut up. Tomorrow is my birthday.

(LAUGHTER)

BAKER: So...

SANDERS: I love it.

BAKER: Yeah. I was like, not only does...

SANDERS: This is the greatest first date story, this right here.

GETANEH: Yeah. Exactly.

BAKER: Right? Right?

GETANEH: Yeah. But - and I bring this up because I think that there is, like - there is chemistry, even in, like, nonromantic relationships, that I don't take for granted because I hear how much people want it when I'm, you know, talking to them for the dating show, like, when I'm screening them or even when they're actual characters on the show. Chemistry is, like, a thing that comes up for people over and over again. And I think for us, a big thing we think about is, like, is this a thing you can cultivate? Or is it something that just happens magically?

SANDERS: Yeah. Speaking of magically, I'm going to ask you both to stick around and play a magical game with me after the break.

GETANEH: Oh, God.

SANDERS: It is called Who Said That? Will y'all oblige me?

GETANEH: I guess.

BAKER: Absolutely. Let's do this.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: This can't be harder than a first date. Playing Who Said That cannot be harder than a first date. You know I'm right.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GETANEH: Who said that?

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders, joined for Who Said That right now by two hosts of an incredibly addictive new podcast called "This Is Dating." I'll let y'all tell our listeners who you are.

GETANEH: I'm Hiwote Getaneh, and I'm a producer on the show "This Is Dating."

BAKER: And I am Jesse Baker, and I work alongside Hiwote.

SANDERS: Before we start the game, can I tell y'all what has been my favorite icebreaker question, not just for first dates but for, like, meeting new friends, just for meeting new people, period? I stole it from a friend, Jamie (ph), years ago, but it works like clockwork.

BAKER: We're going to steal it from you, just FYI.

SANDERS: Oh, do it. Do it. And, Jamie, thank you for the question. You meet someone new. You want to figure out what their vibe is, what they like, et cetera. This is what I ask them. You are given unlimited budget, and you have three months to open a bar anywhere in the world. Where is the bar? What is it called? What is the vibe? And what is the signature cocktail? And why?

GETANEH: Oh, my God. That is good.

SANDERS: And this question tells you where they like to travel and if they travel, what kind of vibe they like and want to hang out in and, like, what they think about drinks and such, which is often a part of first-date conversation.

GETANEH: I love this. Mine would be a mocktail bar in Zanzibar.

BAKER: Wow.

SANDERS: Jesse, what's yours?

BAKER: I've always wanted to open a newsstand that, at night, you could come and hang out and read a paper, and we just had magazines from all over the world, so no matter which language you speak, you could find something riveting. And it's not news necessarily, but it'd be these, like, long profile, beautiful, glossy magazines. The cocktail would definitely be tequila based. It would be called The Stand - like, the newsstand.

SANDERS: Oh, my goodness.

GETANEH: Wow. That is so good and so Jesse.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: I would do a dive bar, probably in West LA, that feels like the garage you used to sneak into with your friends during high school...

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: ...At the friend's house whose parents didn't care, and you would steal their alcohol and make crappy cocktails and, like, play Nelly.

GETANEH: Oh, my God.

SANDERS: And I would call this bar Senior Year.

GETANEH: (Laughter) That's so good.

BAKER: You need your cocktails, like, just to be in the refrigerator. Like, you just have all these old fridges that you would have in your garage, and people could, like, open it up and grab a beer or whatever they were drinking.

GETANEH: And the whole place has really bad lighting.

SANDERS: And, like, Capri Sun would be a part of a lot of the cocktails.

(LAUGHTER)

GETANEH: Everyone's hungover the next day.

BAKER: Oh, my God.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. With that, we're supposed to play a game now. Let's get to that. We're going to play Who Said That?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA")

KANDI BURRUSS: Who had been saying that?

PORSHA WILLIAMS: Who said that?

KENYA MOORE: Who said that?

SANDERS: The game is really simple. I share three quotes from the week of news. You got to guess who said it or just get some keywords that show that you have some idea what I'm talking about. There are no buzzers. Just yell out the answer as soon as you know it. You don't have to wait till I finish the quote.

GETANEH: OK.

SANDERS: Here we go. And this is a fill-in-the-blank.

Congrats to - blank. But on behalf of all the diaspora aunties, it's snowing, baby. Please put that belly away before you catch a womb cold.

GETANEH: (Laughter) Congrats to Rihanna.

(SOUNDBITE OF VICTORY TUNE)

SANDERS: Yes. Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: So that quote is about Rihanna. This was a Twitter user, Rawiya. They were talking about a photo shoot that Rihanna and ASAP Rocky, her soon to be co-parent, posted over the weekend showing off her new pregnancy bump. Did y'all see these photos?

BAKER: Yeah. Where was she in the world?

SANDERS: Snowy New York City...

BAKER: Oh.

SANDERS: Yeah.

GETANEH: On 125th and 12th Avenue.

SANDERS: You knew - oh, you know the location. Wow.

GETANEH: I used to live there. I'm so amazed that that's where they had their shoot.

SANDERS: How did you feel when you saw the photos in your hood?

GETANEH: So happy. Like, it's so - it's very funny, actually, because I was telling my sister - I was like, I feel as happy for Rihanna as I did when you got pregnant. It makes no sense...

(LAUGHTER)

GETANEH: So yeah.

SANDERS: I had some beef with the photo shoot. And I love Rihanna. I love Rihanna. But like, all right, it's - it was snowy and cold in New York City, and she's wearing this big pink puffer jacket, but it's opened up with the belly exposed. And then...

GETANEH: It's a couple seconds, though...

BAKER: Wait. Wait, no, I'm sorry, but, Sam, how many babies have you been pregnant with?

SANDERS: Well...

GETANEH: (Laughter) Uh oh.

BAKER: Because you get hella hot. You get really hot when you're pregnant. I mean, like, you are sweating all the time. And you got all those hormones pumping, so you know what? She and the baby were totally fine. She was probably burning up. And if she could have been naked, she probably would've wanted to - seriously.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Well, on top of the pink puffer with the belly out, she was also wearing these, like, faded jeans where, like, they were oversized in a way that, like, the bottom of the jeans were just dragging on the street. And I was like, Rihanna, your jeans are going to get dirty.

(LAUGHTER)

GETANEH: I love that all of your concerns are like very practical concerns.

(LAUGHTER)

GETANEH: The baby will be cold. Your pants will be dirty.

SANDERS: That said, I am so happy that Rihanna doesn't care at all what fans like me want and is living her life. She's like, oh, you want a new album? I don't care. Here's a baby.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: And you know what, Rihanna? Live your life, as you sing in that song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIVE YOUR LIFE")

RIHANNA: (Singing) Just live your life. Hey, ay, ay, ay. No telling where it'll take you.

SANDERS: I'm proud of you. I'm proud of you. Who got that point?

GETANEH: I did.

BAKER: Yeah. She knew the block and the avenue, so like...

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: That's true.

BAKER: ...Bonus points there. Like, I don't think I can win this because she already has three points.

SANDERS: All right. Here is the next quote. It's also a fill-in-the-blank. We will work hard on getting us a new weather prognosticator for next year. Until then, please check out what all of blank's cousins have to say on February 2.

BAKER: Is it Phil?

(SOUNDBITE OF BUZZER)

SANDERS: It's the main groundhog's cousin. Punxsutawney Phil has a cousin. Do you know his name? It's a New Jersey cousin.

GETANEH: Oh, God.

BAKER: A New Jersey cousin - I missed this story.

SANDERS: I want to give someone the point. Let me just try to...

BAKER: Can you tell us what the name rhymes with? And then we'll just keep guessing.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Rhymes with smell.

BAKER: Mel?

(SOUNDBITE OF VICTORY TUNE)

SANDERS: Yes. (Laughter) Yes.

BAKER: Wow.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Yes. You got it. So this story is so funny but sad. So I didn't know until this week there's more than one Groundhog Day groundhog. We think of Punxsutawney Phil as the guy. And he is, but Phil has a New Jersey cousin named Mel, who is also a groundhog used to predict whether there'll be an early spring or an extra long winter. This week, the day before Groundhog's Day, Mel died.

BAKER: Oh, my God.

SANDERS: And because it's winter and the other groundhogs are hibernating, this town in New Jersey was like, yeah, we're not doing Groundhog's Day this year because we can't get another one. Sorry. R.I.P. Mel.

GETANEH: Wow.

SANDERS: Is that an omen?

GETANEH: That's really sad.

SANDERS: Six more weeks of spring? Six more weeks of winter? Ha-ha - six more months of anxiety.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: You're welcome, America. It feels to me in the same category as, like, the annual White House Turkey Pardon, where I'm just like, leave those animals alone.

GETANEH: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Like, send them to a wildlife refuge or whatever. Like, leave them alone.

Anyhoo, last one. Jesse got that point?

GETANEH: Yeah.

BAKER: I mean, you spoon fed it to me. But thank you. Yes, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Last quote. This is also a fill-in-the-blank. This is a fill-in-the-blank kind of week. I'm OK with it. So you could save copy of the website right now, unplug your computer from the internet and play blank every day for years.

BAKER: I mean, are we talking about Wordle?

(SOUNDBITE OF VICTORY TUNE)

GETANEH: Yeah.

SANDERS: Yes.

BAKER: We have to be, yeah.

SANDERS: It's Wordle. It's Wordle. Wordle has become a recurring bit on this show. Most of the team that makes IT'S BEEN A MINUTE is obsessed. And there's a new Wordle headline it feels like every day. The headline this week is that Wordle, the word game taking the nation by storm, it is - gosh, probably two or three weeks after becoming a hit, it's been purchased by The New York Times for low seven figures. And I got to say, as a Wordler, I didn't know how to feel about it. How do y'all feel about it?

GETANEH: I'm nervous about the paywall.

SANDERS: Right? Well, here's the thing about this quote. This was an internet person saying, along with other internet people, oh, hold up. You can actually save the game to your computer right now. This quote came from Twitter user Aaron Rieke. And he said that Wordle, because it was made public and downloadable from the start, you can just right click and save the code for Wordle to your computer right now and then open up that code in a browser window and play yourself in perpetuity.

GETANEH: That's genius.

SANDERS: Right?

GETANEH: That's amazing.

SANDERS: Right?

GETANEH: Yeah, I love that.

SANDERS: So congratulations to The New York Times. You purchased a game for millions of dollars that I'm going to keep playing for free. Congratulations. You played yourself.

GETANEH: (Laughter).

BAKER: You and everyone listening to this just right-clicked on Wordle.

GETANEH: Yeah. Yeah.

BAKER: So it's all over for The New York Times.

SANDERS: (Laughter) I mean, I say this like I'm going to ever right-click and download some HTML code. That is not my vibe.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: That is not my energy. I'm not doing that. Will y'all do it?

BAKER: I won't. But I'm going to say that I would love to. But, you know, I have to say, my least favorite word - or, like, one of my least favorite words of all time was the answer - I'm not going to say what it was, but you guys can probably all tell - this week.

SANDERS: If it's a previous day, you can say it. Was it moist?

BAKER: Yes, it was moist. I don't even like that word when it's talking about cake. Like, I just - I don't want to talk about moist. It's just - no.

GETANEH: No one likes moist.

BAKER: No one likes moist.

GETANEH: Yeah.

SANDERS: It is true. No one likes moist.

BAKER: No.

SANDERS: Moist is a word that folks don't like to hear. I don't know why people would say the word moist over and over on a podcast. Like, moist? That's a word that no one wants to hear repeatedly. Moist? Gosh, I hate the word moist.

GETANEH: One more time, Sam. One more time.

SANDERS: Moist.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: On that note - Jesse, you won.

BAKER: Oh, my gosh. Thank you. I - do I get a tote bag or a T-shirt or a coffee mug?

SANDERS: You get to give a speech. Go ahead.

BAKER: Oh, no, that is my least nightmare. I do not want to give the speech, but I do want the tote bag, please.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: All I know is I would hope that my prize for playing this game with y'all would be the chance at a second date with you both on this show sometime soon. I love y'all's show and love chatting with you. Will you come back sometime?

GETANEH: We would love that.

BAKER: Any time. Any time, Sam. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, " LIVE YOUR LIFE")

RIHANNA: (Singing) Living my life, my life.

SANDERS: Thanks again to Hiwote Getaneh and Jesse Baker. They are the producers of "This Is Dating." The show is out right now wherever you get your podcasts.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIVE YOUR LIFE")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Vocalizing).

AUNT BETTY: Now it's time to end the show as we always do. Every week, listeners share the best thing that happened to them all week. We encourage folks to brag, and they do. Let's hear a few of those submissions.

LILY: Hi, Sam. This is Lily (ph) from Coarsegold, Calif., and the best part of my week has been watching a group of my sixth-grade students welcome a new-to-them-in-their-class student into the fold this week. And even today, when I walked through the cafeteria, seeing the student at the center of a very full table, when, historically, the student has sat alone or asked his teacher to go eat lunch with them, it just made my heart smile.

SANDRA KABIR: Hey, Sam and Aunt Betty. It's Sandra Kabir (ph) from Macon, Ga., and the best thing that happened to me this week was I signed the purchase and sale agreement on my first commercial property. It's a historic African American church which has been blighted for over two decades. We're looking to rehabilitate it and turn it into a coffee shop honoring the memory of what it used to be.

CRYSTAL: Hi, Sam. This is Crystal (ph).

ELLIE: And Ellie (ph).

CRYSTAL: And we're calling from Ventura, Calif. And the best part of our week was we got married at the Santa Barbara Hall of Records. And now I have a wife.

ELLIE: Yeah, (speaking Spanish).

CAMILLE: Hi, Sam. This is Camille (ph) and my 1-year-old Flora (ph) in Tacoma, Wash. The best part of my week is Flora telling me what she wants to listen to on our run. Flora, what do you want to listen to?

FLORA: Sandy.

CAMILLE: Sam Sandy. Do you want to listen to Sam Sandy?

FLORA: Sandy.

CAMILLE: Sandy. We love you, Sam. Have a great week.

LILY: Thank you for the work that you do on your show. I love it.

CRYSTAL: Thanks, Sam.

SANDERS: Thanks again to those listeners you heard there - Lily, Tonja, Crystal and Ellie, and Camille and Flora. I want to share briefly, dear listeners, the best part of my week. It was scary, but then it became funny. I was out walking the dog maybe Monday or Tuesday of this week, and there's one house I pass by a lot where the owners have their multiple dogs just, like, in the front yard. And they're always barking when we walk by. And it's a big dog and then a smaller dog and a tiny, old Chihuahua. Well, I'm walking my dog, and the tiny Chihuahua barks and barks and barks and pushes against the fence until it gets out the side of the fence. And I'm scared to death. I'm freaking out. I start yanking my dog, and I'm like, we got to go. We got to run. And then three seconds into running, I realize it's an old Chihuahua. That old Chihuahua is not going to do anything. I muster up the courage, I stop running, I turn around, and I just look at that Chihuahua. And it goes back home, and everything was OK. (Laughter) And what started off as me thinking I had to run for my life was just kind of funny and cute. Best part of my week.

All right, listeners, don't forget you can share the best part of your week at any point throughout any week. Just record yourself, maybe even on your phone, and send that voice memo to me via email - samsanders@npr.org. That's samsanders@npr.org.

All right, this week's episode was produced by Jinae West, Anjuli Sastry Krbechek, Andrea Gutierrez and Liam McBain. Our intern is Aja Drain. And I was actually on the phone with Aja when I had that scare with the old, tiny Chihuahua. We both got a good laugh. Our fearless editor is Jordana Hochman, and our big boss is NPR's senior VP of programming, Anya Grundmann. All right, listeners, till next time. Be good yourselves. I'm Sam Sanders. We'll talk soon.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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