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JournalistI am John Cassidy, a staff writer at The New Yorker. Ask me your questions at 4 P.M. E.S.T.

Feb 6th 2017 by JohnCassidyTNY • 21 Questions • 482 Points

EDIT: Thanks everyone for your questions! I have to get back to my duties as ref, but make sure to watch Puppy Bowl XIII this Sunday, February 5 at 3 PM ET/12 PM PT on Animal Planet!

Hi everybody! I'm returning this year to be the official referee for The 13th edition of Animal Planet’s PUPPY BOWL premiering this Sunday, February 5 starting at 3 PM ET/12 PM PT. You can check out some the adorable stars competing in the big game here! In case you missed last year's AMA, here's a little bit about me: I had a relationship with ANIMAL PLANET before this - I was the host of a few one hour specials for the network. I'd also worked as a narrator for Discovery in the past. The guy who had the job before me moved on to another network, so there was an opening, I had to submit an audition tape after they approached me - so I went into dog parks in NYC and recorded myself officiating football games with random dogs (much to the consternation of the owners) and I also recorded some hijinx with my sister's dogs in their backyards. Anyways, it wound up being a fun tape, and I did a testimonial straight to camera about how this was my dream job, and it was my AMERICAN IDOL moment - and I got it!

My proof is here: https://twitter.com/Danschachner/status/827214318194262016

So here I am, ready to answer your questions about the world's cutest game. AMA!

Q:

What books and individuals influence you?

What would you recommend for individuals to do to improve their knowledge of economics - even for people with degrees in economics?

Any advice for people wanting to make a living studying economics/policy?

Thanks for the AMA

A:

What is the most delicious confection you have made?


Q:

The refing in the Puppy Bowl seems to always be blind. I always see unnecessary cuteness fouls that are never flagged! What is your stance on this?

A:

Ah, a bit of respite from Trump and politics! Thanks. When I was a student, I studied history and economics, and as a graduate I specialized in economics, so I read a lot of pretty technical stuff. I do have some interest in economic theory, but the books and articles that really stayed with me were the ones that went beyond individual theories and looked at the big picture. An obvious one is Keynes's "General Theory." On the left, Paul Sweezey's "Theory of Capitalist Development, which was an effort to combine Keynesian short run theory with Marx's long run analysis, is a tour de force that I still go back to. On the right, Milton's Friedman's "Capitalism and Freedom," is seminal and still central. All of these books are pretty old. If you want something newer and more up to date, the best textbook I've seen is by my old tutor, David Soskice and his longtime collaborator Wendy Carlin. It's called "Macroeconomics," I think. And if you want a history that covers a lot of ground and also includes the financial crisis and its aftermath, I would immodestly recommend my own book, "How Markets Fail." Hope that's helpful. As for advice, I would just plunge in and take some courses. There are some good online ones now, which are a good way of testing whether you really have a taste for a subject.


Q:

My favorite individual piece is definitely our Tahitian salted caramel. As far as cakes/entremets go, any combination of chocolate and hazelnut. Can't go wrong.

A:

You have to pick your battles. I agree there is a plethora of cuteness at all times, but if I threw a flag down that often we'd never get the actual game going!


Q:

The obvious ludicrousness aside, just how different is this administration from earlier administrations? In what way has the paradigm for administration and governance truly changed?

A:

Sid, who's a good dog? Who's a good dog?


Q:

Can you mail me a paw print from some of the puppies? I want their autographs

A:

Hi everyone, thanks for tuning in. That's an excellent question, which I haven't thought about the way you formulated it. I've thought quite a bit about how different Trump is from previous presidents, and I don't there is any doubt that he represents something new. In terms of experience, outlook, and temperament, there has never been a president like him before. In terms of the administration as a whole, it's a bit different. If you take away Trump and some of the people immediately surrounding him, such as Steve Bannon and Stephe Miller, this administration could pass for a normal Republican administration. A very conservative one, certainly--Pence, Price, Pruitt, and DeVos are all right wing even by the standards of today's GOP. But you also have generals and business leaders playing a big role, which we've seen in the past. The question is how the two parallel administrations gets along--or, equivalently, how Trump deals with his cabinet .I don't think we know the answer to that yet.


Q:

tail wagging intensifies

A:

Haha paw print autographs are a great idea! We will get some done next year !


Q:

Is there a method to Trump's madness? Do you think he deliberately does outrageous but meaningless things to distract from policy moves regarding banks and Wall Street?

A:

is willy wonka an accurate depiction of the candy industry?


Q:

You heard it from me first! I expect to be one of the first to get one!! ;)

A:

I think there is certainly a method to some of what Trump does. Quite often when a negative story is dominating the news cycle, he tweets out something outrageous to try and change the subject. At the same time, though, I do not think he is wholly in control of his anger and venting. For example, his attacks over the weekend on the federal judge who halted his travel ban. I don't think that served any purpose other than to make him feel better, unnerve some Republicans, and, quite possibly, damage his administration's chances of winning its appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. As for his favors to Wall Street, I don't think he has done much to disguise them. Setting aside the fiduciary duty rule, which is important in itself, the executive order he signed on Friday didn't actually do very much. It was an instruction to the Treasury Department and other agencies to look into how to row back regulation and dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act. He could have issued that order quietly, but he chose to broadcast it. Which, I agree, is pretty amazing given that, on the campaign stump, he said bankers had "gotten away with murder" and depicted Hillary Clinton as a stooge for Goldman Sachs.


Q:

100%, down to the chocolate rivers and oompah loompahs. It might as well have been a documentary.

A:

Will do! Tweet me your info! @danschachner


Q:

Do you have any thoughts on how to explain to certain groups of voters that Trump, his administration, his policies and executive orders, etc. are opposite of their interests? How do you reach people who have their fingers in their ears?

A:

How does one innovate in the chocolate business? Isn't it all, more or less, just chocolate? I understand you can always put things in the chocolate (crunchy, chewy, fruity elements, etc.) or make varying degrees of dark chocolate, but how did you set your chocolate apart from the zillions of other chocolates out there?


Q:

Has any of the players have gotten so upset with your ruling that they took a bite out of you?

A:

I'm not sure there are many Trump voters reading the New Yorker, but your question is a serious one, especially for the Democratic Party. I think the first thing to do is to acknowledge that although many of Trump's policies--tax cuts for the rich, rollback of financial regulations etc--will hurt working class and middle class people, he did, during the campaign, tap into some legitimate concerns about globalization and trade. I keep going back to the fact that the average hourly wage of non-supervisory workers is lower today, in real terms, than it was in 1973. On top of that, there is now a good deal of empirical evidence that trade with China has taken a pretty heavy toll on manufacturing jobs. So, Trump knew what he was doing when he played the nationalist/protectionist card. The problem, of course, is explaining why his cures won't work, and may well end up harming the victims. If I could do that, I'd give up journalism and run for office! Just joking. But I think the first step is acknowledging that some of the Trump voters have legitimate grievances and trying to speak to them in their language: they aren't all just racist deplorables.


Q:

Isn't it all, more or less, just chocolate?

That's definitely true to an extent, but when we started our company there were very few people paying as much attention to aesthetic appeal as they were to taste. I've always had a passion for artistry and used that to initially make my chocolate stand apart - handpainting designs on pieces, using bright colors instead of various shades of brown, toying around with different moulds. Nowadays that's fairly par for the course, but back in 2001 it was something new and people responded really positively to it.

The other thing we pride ourselves on doing differently is omitting the use of preservatives. It really does make a difference!

A:

Yes Ginger in PBX used her teeth on my leg. She wound up stripping my sock off! We think she was upset about having to repeat 1st down but she to this day will not confirm that.


Q:

Why is every news outlet just bashing trump?

Honestly seems like the greatest thing to ever happen to your ratings(or is that the answer in the question)

A:

Hi! Executive chef here. Just curious- what were you traveling to do 40 weeks out of the year?


Q:

Did she get fined or just have her treat taken away?

A:

I don't think it's fair to say every news outlet is bashing Trump. If you watch Fox News or read some of the pro-Trump sites, the coverage has generally been pretty favorable. But even they have had some critical coverage of issues like the travel ban, which has been a fiasco, obviously. The point you raise about news outlets preaching to their choirs for commercial purposes is a legitimate one, and I think it extends across the political spectrum. One of the things news organizations, especially broadcast news organization, have found in the past decade--not just with Trump--is that the center ground is shrinking, and that shifting to one side is good business. Fox obviously led the way, and MSNBC made a play to be the liberal equivalent. CNN, despite Trump's rants, has played things pretty straight, I think. In terms of print, I think the people at the Times and the Washington Post have been pretty upfront that they have seen a surge in subscriptions since Trump became president. Not being a fan of the president--I know, you guessed--I think that is a healthy thing. In additions, though, I do think news organizations, and magazines like ours, should get out there into the country and report the opinions of Trump supporters as well as Trump critics. But I don't think that means they should go easy on Trump when he's doing things like attacking federal judges.


Q:

Every time a new Ritz would open up I would fly out to help open their pastry kitchen - creating menus, hiring/training the staff, and overseeing all pastry operations until everything was running smoothly, then it was rinse & repeat. Very hectic but I got to travel to some amazing places.

A:

No fines bc these pups don't have bank accounts (yet). So yeah, took away the treat.


Q:

Big fan of you and The New Yorker on the whole, but I wanted to know, what do you view your (and the magazine's) role to be at this point, when so many of your readers are already in agreement with you? Your journalism is fantastic, but I worry that everyone who reads it is just as liberal and Trump-hating as I am, so to some extent it ends up being little more than preaching to the choir.

A:

That sounds awesome! Glad you've been able to find stability and success in the chocolate business!


Q:

Who's a good boy?

A:

I touched on this earlier, and it is a concern. Again, I just try and call them as I see them, and then move onto the next piece. But I do think it is important not to just toe a particular party line. For example, I'm not convinced that the Democrats saying upfront that they would filibuster the Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination regardless of how his hearings go is in the best interests of the anti-Trump forces, and I tried to point that out in a post last week.


Q:

Thank you chef!!

A:

Me?


Q:

Would you ever consider making cannabis infused chocolates?

P.S. the dark chocolate bars are my favorite affordable treat, but you create some DREAMY truffles! A perk to southwest Florida!

A:

Who's a good boy?


Q:

Any favorite dark bar?? I'm a really big fan of our raspberry inclusion bar myself.

And if it were legal here I'd certainly consider it, although I don't know the first thing about cooking with cannabis so I'm sure there'd have to be a lot of trial and error involved to find a ratio that tasted good and still provided all the medical benefits..

A:

Or a belly rub at least?


Q:

Why does american chocolate taste so bad compared to european?

A:

Are there any puppies on the DL that should be ready to play by the time the big game starts?


Q:

It's all about the ingredients used. A lot like wine production. You can't get good wine out of bad grapes just like you can't get good chocolate out of bad cacao. There's a lot of great American chocolatiers who get this right, but I'm assuming the chocolate you're referring to comes from the ones who only care about their bottom line and chock their product full of excess sugar/artificial ingredients/etc.

A:

We actually have a "backup" lineup that is ready when the Starting lineup is done. You can see them on Animalplanet.com: http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/puppy-bowl/photos/puppy-bowl-xiii-back-up-pups/


Q:

I'm a Neapolitan, customer and huge fan Norman! Thanks for the AMA. Also, your frozen delights don't get the credit they deserve in this AMA, big ups buddy!

Butyric acid is a byproduct compound formed from the anaerobic fermentation of milk fats. Incidentally, cheap chocolates use more of milk fats by volume, that's why their waxy AND why they have that almost noticeably "off" scent to them. The name comes from butter since this is where the compound was initially isolated from.

My organic chemistry teacher synthesized this in a lab and proceeded to break the vile it was in. The human nose is incredably attuned to this smell since it's a dead giveaway to rotten milk products- that anerobic fermentation aluded to above. Parts per billion are noticable, so when he broke it in a lab he pretty much broke the lab to lol. Hope that helps.

A:

I just wanna say you live the dream life and you are my idol. I'm wondering, what's the process that the puppies have to go through before going on the field?


Q:

I really don't know! That metallic-y taste?

A:

We all huddle together for a quick locker room pep talk, or 'pup' talk as I call it. Then we hit the field!!

Seriously tho, once puppies arrive on set from our partner shelters / rescue centers, they are examined by a vet, then if healthy they goto a puppy playpen area in order to wait for their turn on the field!


Q:

What is your Alma Matter and how big of a role has it played in your success? Also as someone who wants to own a restaurant one day, what advice would you give to me or anyone looking to enter into the hospitality/ foodservice industry?

A:

I noticed this year is Puppy Bowl 13. Are any of the players being overly superstitious?


Q:

I only made it through about a week of community college before realizing it wasn't for me, but I owe all my professional success to the years I spent studying pastry in Paris prior to working at the Ritz. I would never have grown as a chef if I hadn't had that opportunity to learn from some of the most talented pastry chefs in world.

A:

Good question. So far no one has said anything. I think because 13 in dog years is actually 91.


Q:

My mom used to mail me your chocolates when I lived in Europe, but they rarely made the trip intact. How should we have packaged them? I may have some requests from the former roommates.

Thank you for making such delicious things!

A:

how come I can't get the puppy bowls on dvd?


Q:

Thank YOU for supporting us - the novelty seriously never wears off of hearing that people like our product!

If I had a good answer for that we'd definitely be looking to expand internationally but shipping a highly perishable product is tough. I think your best bet would be to follow our process for shipping to the geographical extremes of the US (Hawaii, Alaska, and, for us, California): get an insulated box, fill with as many freezer packs as you can afford to pay for, and ship it as quickly as possible. It won't be very cheap but after 2 days the packs start to melt, putting your chocolate in jeopardy. This is why we push every customer to select 2 day/overnight shipping - paying expensive shipping fees isn't fun, but melted chocolate is definitely worse.


Q:

How did you figure out initially what to charge for your chocolates? I have been making chocolates as a hobby for years, and this year I had people approach me to ask how much I'd charge for them. I was stumped as to how to price them. Congratulations on 15 years of working for yourself!

A:

Are the dog dog actors or like to be adopted pups?


Q:

this year I had people approach me to ask how much I'd charge for them

Sounds like you're doing something right! It's dependent on a lot of factors- # of pieces, your relationship to the person, how much the ingredients will cost, etc. With my experience as an executive pastry chef I had a pretty good idea what "average prices" were, and I knew that I was making a better than average product and priced accordingly.

A:

Nope no actors in this crew. These are all adoptable puppies from shelters across the USA. We have 78 in total this year and they are all between 3-6 months of age and need loving homes!


Q:

What percentage of cacao in dark chocolate do you consider the "sweet spot"?

Also obligatory rant. Reddit is confusing. This is a solid AMA so far but has few upvotes. Meanwhile the tea AMA turned to a shit show and has many upvotes.

A:

What's your favorite dog breed?


Q:

For me it's right around 75%, although I occasionally like the super bold stuff (we make a really good 88% that I'm quite fond of) - I'm a milk chocolate guy at heart though!

A:

As PB Ref I have to remain FAIR and IMPARTIAL ... in other words, I can't show favoritism to one breed. That said I grew up with dachshunds in my family so have always had a soft spot for them...


Q:

Favorite movie?

A:

Are you a supporter of dogs in cowboy hats?


Q:

Godfather I. Or II. Never III.

A:

Not just in cowboy hats, I'd like to see them in boots and spurs too.


Q:

I hate myself for missing your lecture at FSW. Will you be doing it again?

A:

Hi Dan! Big fan. I've watched the puppy bowl since it started, and I've been wondering: how long is each puppy typically on the field in real time? Has any puppy had to be benched before her time was up? Are there any behind-the-scenes stories about "benched" puppies?

Follow up question: Who's your favorite to win this year, and why is it Team Fluff?

Thanks!


Q:

That was a great night. I don't have anything scheduled at the moment but would certainly be interested in doing something similar in the future.

A:

Great question. We break our puppy groups down by size usually. Big breeds like sheepdogs wouldn't mix too well with toy poodles on that tiny field! So each "group" of dogs - there are usually 4 - is probably on the field for 60-90 minutes tops. More than that and they get too tired / hungry / etc. As for benched puppies, yes there have been a few that were too rambunctious to stay on the field - it was a safety issue - so we had to pull them before they even starting filming. It stinks but we have to make sure the other dogs are safe.


Q:

Oh man I am so jealous! Can you imagine anything more wonderful than to work with chocolate? All the smells, all the creativity, the artfulness of the beautiful little chocolates. Is it as wonderful as I imagine? Or is it a drudge like running any other business? Or is it all shitty employees, boring bookkeeping and inventory, chocolate gets old, too many long days and not enough time off?

A:

Hi Dan…..love you and the Puppy Bowl…have watched it since the beginning! Any behind the scenes secrets? Are there any pups that are too aggressive and get thrown out of the game? Any pups ever get hurt? Do you own dogs yourself?


Q:

I haven't ran any other business, but I still have the passion for chocolate/pastry/dessert that I did when I first started out in this business. There's long days and the monotonous essential tasks that you'll find in any field, but every day I have the chance to create - and not just to create, but to create something that makes people happy. FOOD! So yes, there are aspects that are as boring as you can imagine, the conference calls, haggling with suppliers and all that, and there's also the fact that I get to smell fresh baked croissants every day and that I have the luxury of spending hours in the kitchen tinkering with new recipes for however long I like. And as far as employees go, ours could not be more talented, hardworking, or wonderful to be around. They're awesome.

A:

Thanks for watching! our family fosters dogs - that way we can help get them ready for their forever home and help out our local shelters. Right now I do not have a foster bc I am busy with Puppybowl but I plan to foster again next month! As for behind the scenes secrets, here's a good one: sometimes our crew members need to put some peanut butter on a stick and have the dogs chase it so we can get them to walk down the tunnel for the starting lineup!


Q:

One of my clients sends me a box of your chocolates for Christmas every year. I really look forward to it.

A:

I'd like to feel like I'm getting in on the action. How about putting a camera on a puppy and hooking it up to vr?


Q:

So glad to hear it! Any favorite pieces?

A:

we've done something similar...First off mounting a camera on a puppy is very challenging..BUT our Puppybowl VR experience does show you the POV from down low on the field, so that is a lot like being the actual pup!


Q:

Have never tried or heard of your brand, although I lived in Tampa, FL. for 10 years. I am wondering what you would suggest as my first taste of your product? I saw you like the salted caramel but I am more of a fan of mint chocolates, or plain chocolate flavors.

I am going in for a c-section on the 21st, I may be able to talk SO into getting me a taste! Unless, of course, you'll ship me a free sample. 0:-)

A:

What are some of your memorable moments?


Q:

Congratulations!! Boy or girl? My first granddaughter was born a few weeks ago!

Message me after the Valentine's Day insanity winds down and I'll see what I can do! I'd recommend either our chocolate bars (simple but good flavors like cookies n cream, turtle, etc) or if you're feeling a bit more adventurous one of our signature boxes. These chocolates are kind of our calling card, and while the flavors are a bit more exotic (we have pieces like white chocolate raspberry and tiramisu, but also classics like peanut butter cup & milk chocolate - also a PB&J piece that I eat about 5 of a day) they really help you get a sense of what we do as a company. Not every piece is for everyone, but I'm confident you'd find something you'd like!

A:

Most memorable recently was meeting Drew Carey from the Price is Right who is HUGE fan and had us on the show to give away puppy themed prizes. That show airs tomorrow 11am EST on CBS!


Q:

Have there been any puppy brawls that have gotten out of hand? How do you deal with it if it does happen?

A:

They are rare, but if puppies really are brawling during our shoot we immediately have them separated, often taken off the field. There are a lot of people on hand, professionals who take safety very seriously (Humane Society reps, vets, etc) and they do NOT play around!


Q:

Have there been any puppies that don't work well with the other puppies? What happens to them?

A:

We try not to mix breeds based on size. Keep big dogs with big dogs, small with small. Within each group there are sometimes pups that are either (a) too aggressive or (b) too scared. Those guys are given a little time off the field and then brought back in later.


Q:

Are you worried about dog concussions?

A:

I have been an advocate of putting helmets and pads on these guys for YEARS! We just can't seem to get them to stay ON the pups..