Jonathan V. Last, executive editor of The Bulwark, is known as “JVL.” Jay (S.) Nordlinger is not known as “JSN” – but we will call him that just for the purposes of this episode. Jay and Jonathan worked together at The Weekly Standard many years ago – indeed, in the last century. On this podcast, Jay asks Jonathan the pregnant question: What does the “V” stand for? They go on to Jonathan’s university, Johns Hopkins, which Jonathan excoriates in no uncertain terms. Then they talk about George Will, whom Jonathan first started reading when he was in seventh grade. He grew up to attend a ballgame with Will and, as a bonus, Tony La Russa. At Jay’s prodding, Jonathan further talks about presidential politics, Star Wars, Star Trek, design, presidents, athletes, musicians, novelists, and more. A tour with JVL is a rich and interesting one indeed. Jay calls him one of his favorite journalists and favorite people in America.

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The baseball master talks to Jay about a slew of issues: How was the 2019 season? What about the (current) playoffs? Who are the future Hall of Famers? Is the Hall selective enough? What reforms of the game would be advisable? What about the relative paucity of black American players? What about the preeminence of Latin American players? What is the role of managers? And of GMs? And of owners?

All this and more – including a blast against the NBA. The master, George Will, is at the top of his game.

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Today, Jay turns “Q&A” into an old-fashioned “Need to Know,” with his “friend, colleague, heroine, and podcast partner,” as he puts it: Mona Charen. They talk Trump-Ukraine-impeachment, of course. And then Greta (the teen climate-change activist), China, Turkey, Egypt, etc. A lot of laughs, a little yelling, and some keen analysis.

At the beginning, Jay asks Mona a potentially sensitive question: What is your middle name? He has never known …

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Tanya Chan is a legislator from Hong Kong and a democracy leader. She has just given testimony before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva (as an invitee of UN Watch, a non-governmental organization accredited at the U.N.). Chan talks with Jay about the democracy movement in Hong Kong. What does it want? What is its current mood? Who calls the shots in the city, the local government or the Party rulers in Beijing? What about police brutality? What about American flags in the streets? What about the relationship between Hong Kong and Taiwan? How about Chan personally – does she feel like a Hong Konger, like a Chinese woman, or some combination? Jay asks her all this and more. She is a brave woman, Tanya Chan. Earlier this year, she was sentenced to prison, although this sentence was suspended, owing to health: She was operated for a brain tumor. An interesting, candid, and indeed brave woman, in this “Q&A.”

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At some point in this conversation, the guys get into “The Super Bowl Shuffle” – from the Chicago Bears in the 1980s. That leads to other music associated with particular teams: “Another One Bites the Dust” and the Detroit Lions; “We Are Fam-i-ly” and the Pittsburgh Pirates. This is a sportscast, with David French and Vivek Dave (hosted by Jay). We’ve got college football: Nick Saban and them. We’ve got the NFL: Andrew Luck, Antonio Brown, Tom Brady … We’ve got Major League Baseball, and the Red Sox in particular. And we have tennis – including the wonderful young Canadian woman who, after she had beaten Serena Williams in the U.S. Open, apologized to the crowd. MCTE (Most Canadian Thing Ever). And, oh yes: all of that music, not excluding the shuffle.

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As Jay says in his introduction, John Relyea is a wonderful singer, a wonderful guy – and, it turns out, a wonderful conversationalist. You will enjoy getting to know this Canadian bass-baritone, who has many insights, observations, and stories, related amiably.

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One of Jay’s favorite conductors – and favorite conductor-interviewees – is Manfred Honeck, the Austrian who leads the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He played in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for some years. His brother Rainer is still there: as a concertmaster. Jay had a conversation with Maestro Honeck – Manfred Honeck – at the Salzburg Festival last week. They discussed music and his life. Honeck grew up in a family of nine children; their mother died when he was seven. There was very, very little money in the house – but the father loved music, and insisted his children play. Which they did. Manfred Honeck can not only play, and conduct, he can also dance. At some point in this conversation, he gets up and demonstrates a dance in Schubert. An exceptional individual, Maestro Manfred Honeck.

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René Pape is one of the greatest singers of our time, a living legend. He is a bass from Germany – East Germany. He and Jay talk a little bit about that. They also talk about a range of other issues, as they sit outside in Salzburg, with bells occasionally ringing out. Pape does a little singing, just quietly: “Follow Me,” by John Denver. A very interesting person, René Pape, and great company, as you will find.

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As Jay says, Anne-Sophie Mutter is not just one of the great violinists of our time, she is one of the great musicians of our time. She is also a fascinating – fascinating – interviewee. Smart as a whip, for one thing. From the Salzburg Festival, she and Jay talk about a number of things, including a number of personalities: André Previn (to whom she was married), Herbert von Karajan (who launched her career), John Williams (the famed movie composer, with whom she has made a new album), and more. She ends with a sweet, moving tribute to her man – and the universe’s man – Bach.

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Sir John Tomlinson is a veteran, marvelous singer, a bass. He is now appearing at the Salzburg Festival. As Jay says, Sir John speaks almost as beautifully as he sings. In this conversation, they talk about the vocal life and many other things. Sir John does some singing, including the beginning of “Boris Godunov.” All free of charge. A splendid listen, the whole thing.

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Jay is at the Salzburg Festival, performing his annual tasks, which include a series of conversations for the Salzburg Festival Society. One of the guests in the series is Rosa Feola, a soprano from Italy. She is a delightful, sparkling woman, as you will hear. Also an interesting one – as you will also hear. As a bonus, Rosa does a little singing – a little demonstrating. You will eat her up, as Jay and the audience in Salzburg did.

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That’s the way Lou Cannon was once described on television. (Jay can’t remember exactly by whom, but he thinks it was Al Hunt.) Cannon, the veteran journalist and author, has written a slew of books about Reagan, beginning in the 1960s. Jay wanted to talk to him about the recent eruption over Reagan and race. (Jay himself wrote about the issue – quoting Cannon at length – here.) In addition to this question, Cannon discusses the Tea Party movement (2009-16), Donald Trump, and the Democratic presidential field.

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No, not the Mafia, although the Mafia certainly is one – any mob that forms in politics and society. Kevin Williamson is the author of a new book: “The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics.” He and his friend Jay talk about this, among other issues, such as conservatism, libertarianism, economics, immigration, cars, music, and novels. You may not like every word – but then, you might. Listen in.

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If you want an expert on the Republican party, look to Tim Alberta, the author of the sensational new book American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump. Jay puts him through his paces, and Alberta is in excellent form. He even jabs Jay at the end of the podcast about college football — in response to which, Jay can only smile weakly, dreaming of the approaching season.

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Mona Charen joins Jay for a “Need to Know”-style hour. As of old, they go back and forth – about the flood (not the Noah-related one, but the recent one in Washington, D.C.); the left-wing nuttiness of the Democratic party; troubles – further troubles – in RightWorld; Jeffrey Epstein; the British ambassador; Nancy Reagan; “Miss” and “Mrs.” and “Ms.”; the late Lee Iacocca; and yet more things under the sun.

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George Will once pointed out to George McGovern that he, McGovern, had become a noun, and an ism: “McGovernism.” The same has happened to David French: “David Frenchism.” What is that? French himself discusses it, with Jay. They talk about a slew of things, in a conversation both leisurely and vigorous: Independence Day; Justin Amash and the Republican party; climate change; Antifa and masks; Trump and dictators; Nike and Arizona; Oberlin College and a bakery (it’s always a bakery, isn’t it?); the NBA; Iran; the Tuskegee Airmen … You have a pair of Frenchistas, talking over the world.

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Listeners may recall that Jay is a great fan of “University Challenge,” the British quiz show. He has had “UC” contestants as guests on “Q&A” before: the great David Landon Cole and Eric Monkman, who sparked Monkmania, which still has not abated. This time, his guest is Freddy Leo, a standout from the season just past (2018-19). Amazing young man. Is “Freddy Leo” his real name or a stage name? It’s his name, actually – another amazing thing about the guy.

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It truly is dazzling, for those who are prepared to be dazzled by it. This episode gives you NBA talk from two of Jay’s regular gurus, David French and Vivek Dave, and a special guest star, Sopan Deb, newly named an NBA writer for the New York Times. (He had been a culture writer before.) Talk ranges from Steph to KD to LeBron and so on and so forth. A wonderful subject, professional basketball, from three guys who really, really know it.

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Mike Brown is the editor of the Rockdale Reporter, in Central Texas. He is one of Jay’s favorite newspapermen and writers. Jay and Kevin Williamson took a road trip to visit Mike and the Reporter – and sat down for a podcast in the bargain. You will very much like getting to know Mike Brown. (Jay and Kevin aren’t bad either.)

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Gerard Schwarz is a leading conductor, and he started out as a leading trumpeter. He is also one of the best talkers about music – best teachers of music – you will ever encounter. Jay asks him to talk about everything from recordings to composers to Louis Armstrong to the future. This is a rich and fascinating hour (and even includes a little singing, at no extra charge).

N.B. The maestro’s volume is low, owing to a technological glitch. But if you can stick with him, using headphones or what have you, it will be well worth it.

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