The Penultimate Pop Culture Podcast: Episode Zero

Being an adult and maintaining friendships with other adults can be hard. When you’re a kid, you tend to shake interpersonal difficulties off with an ease that you lose as you age. Things have a way of stacking up on you. When I ran into my old friend Jeremy Hicks for the first time in years, a mutual friend encouraged us to record a podcast (without realizing our somewhat checkered personal history), it seemed like an interesting opportunity to compare notes on where we were, where we are, why it had been so long, and have a good old-fashioned airing of grievances.

And we recorded it. Because why not?

This is, hopefully, therapeutic for anyone who has ever been in the same predicament.

I proudly present to you the Penultimate Pop Culture Podcast.



39 Things I Know at 39


I’ve tried to move away from writing in the first person the last few years. The older I get, the more it strikes me as the behavior of just one more egotist with an internet connection. However, today is my birthday, people seem to like these, and everyone deserves to be self-indulgent on their birthday. So, here we go:


1- I’ve never been big on James Taylor, but he had a quote I like: “Young men survive ages 15-25 by the grace of God.” I had no death wish, but I sure didn’t think I would make it. All I ever wanted was to reach adulthood, but it seemed unlikely to me, like one thing or another was bound to get me. I’m glad I was wrong.


2- I had a friend whose big philosophy was that people do what they want to do, and they don’t do what they don’t want to do. No matter what anyone tell you, no matter what you tell yourself, you do what you want and you don’t do what you don’t want. The people you mean to catch up with, the dietary change, the books you keep putting off reading, career changes, whatever, if you’re not doing anything about it, you don’t really want it. Likewise, if someone keeps saying they are going to do something, with you, because of you, or most especially, for you, and they’re not doing it, they don’t want to. They might not even know they don’t want to, but they don’t. Or they would. My friend didn’t seem to really be applying this philosophy to his own life, but I have ruthlessly applied it to mine, and I find that I’m much more content having done so.

3- You know that thing where you’re walking towards someone, and you do that doe-see-doe where you try to get out of each other’s way? I just point left or right and say “I’ll go that way” as soon as I see it coming. I feel like I’ve saved collective hours of my life by doing that.

4- I’m a creature of habit and not big into change, which is why I held a job working at and then managing a music store for a large retail chain for over a decade. I did interesting things with it and most of my friends even today were people who used to come in there, but I realize now that was an insanely long time to do that job.

5-All that time that I refused to get a cellphone, it was a part of me intentionally trying to keep my world small and manageable. Now that I keep up with the pace of the world, I see how much I was lagging behind.

6) The color of the dead cells that sprout from the top of my head never meant anything to me, but it meant plenty to other people. It’s got nothing to do with anything as far as I’ve ever been concerned. I learned a lot early on about the arbitrary judgments people often make about others based on complete nonsense.



7- I never like it when people say things were “just meant to be.” That’s a very easy way to look at the world when you’re pretty sure your next meal is guaranteed, no blood is coming from any of your orifices, and your greatest fear is that you won’t find true love or whatever. Instead, I like to think about the narrative that emerges from things that happen in your life after the fact.

8- The country is a mess and there’s no signs of improvement, but if you worked in retail for a long stretch and dealt with the public on their terms, it might surprise you that it took us this long to unravel in earnest, based on the things you encountered.


9- Turning 30 didn’t really bother me, but turning 25 did. That was because I was halfway to 30, and my life didn’t really look like I wanted it to. I had a job that didn’t pay, friends that I had a very adversarial relationship with, a girlfriend that was disengaged. I made the necessary changes in the next few years to get things better, and it wasn’t really like I put some kind of plan together and executed it. It was almost unconscious.

10- The greatest thing about the internet is that it gives just about everyone an equal voice. The only problem is, it gives just about everyone an equal voice.

11-  Being a writer often feels like you’re putting a bunch of stuff down on paper, rolling it up, cramming it in a bottle, and hurling it into the ocean. I recommend that if you write, or create any kind of art at all really, you get used to the idea that you’re doing it for yourself first. Sometimes I draw little pictures and tuck them away, even throw them away, and never show them to anyone.

12- Whoever really first said “it’s better to burn up than to fade away” could only perceive themselves through the eyes of others. I hope I’m still around in 40 years, if the earth is still habitable and life isn’t completely awful. And if I do make it that far, I won’t particularly care if anyone thinks the things I created were worthwhile or not. I have creative friends, and a few of them are in that “I will die for my art” bag. I hope they outgrow it. No audience deserves your blood, literally or figuratively.

13- The most valuable thing in your life isn’t your money or your belongings. It’s your time. I love leisure time. A day in which my time is my own to spend is a great day indeed.

14- I can’t speak for the rest of the world because I’ve only ever lived in the USA, but it’s astounding how often the answer to any given question is “because there’s money in it.” It cuts across all political strata. “Why can people buy military grade weapons and kill the shit out of people with them?” Because there’s buckets and buckets of money to be made from selling them. “Why don’t people say Merry Christmas anymore?” Well, people still do, and will always. Employees at stores or other businesses will say “Happy Holidays” because Jewish people, Atheists, Muslims, and whatever else still spend the same green dollars, and there’s no use in alienating them. How did we get so far gone that we forgot that stores aren’t the same thing as our neighbors? The true religion of America is capitalism.

15- A store and the people that work at a store -I was one for most of my life, over 20 years- exist to create an imaginary land where you feel comfortable enough to spend money on things you probably don’t need to survive, and to do so at a premium price. I’m not cynical about this, I actually really enjoy marketing despite its evils, but I like to remain pragmatic about it.

16- It’s impossible to avoid entirely in times like these because it feels like we’re at the brink of something horrific all the time, but I still believe there’s 4 things you don’t discuss in mixed company if you can avoid it. Politics, sex, religion, and money.

17- Somewhere in the last quarter of the 20th century, we lost sight of politeness and the implicit dignity in basic decency. The pop culture I grew up in told you, through TV shows and the commercials for products woven in them, that being rude is really cool. This new bubble gum is rad, and you don’t need to sit nicely through dinner anymore, because your parents are LAME. Looking people in the eye when you talk to them, firm handshakes, dressing like you give a damn, caring about things unironically, not expecting to be made to feel ashamed for being earnest, being polite, all of this used to just be the baseline expectations for being a human being. I saw the tail end of a society where things worked that way.

18- Did I say I love marketing? Maybe it would be more accurate to say that I find it fascinating, because it’s certainly got a few negative features. One of the biggest ones is that it’s made everything so much more crass, and that’s all down to advertising’s deification of youth. Craig Ferguson went off on it once, and he was killing me softly, because I had been saying what he was saying for years. Only he was saying it on TV, even if it was in the middle of the night.

19- I don’t mind aging. I like it. I always wanted to be an adult. Even as a kid I didn’t like kids much. I was often thinking “Why are you doing that? Stop it.” I hated when things were over my head. I wanted to know as much about everything as possible.

20- Even so, I was always deep into my imagination. Everything I did, I imagined that I was a soldier or a spy or a warrior or a superhero when I did them. Even if I told no one. I always liked to elevate the mundane. I still do.

21- Adulthood for me is about how I conduct myself; the entertainment I’m attracted to, the way I move about the world, how I dress, how I talk. I don’t want to start a family, I don’t want to own a house. Still live in my starter apartment from when I was 20 or 21. When I moved in, I was surrounded by middle aged men who had just gotten divorced and lost all their shit. I figured it was best to skip the middle man. Since I haven’t done and don’t want to do the major things that usually cement our status as adults, I do tend to revel in the smaller things.

22- I love the medium of comic books and so many of its creators, and a lot of science fiction, and I love toys. Especially old ones. I’m nostalgic not just for my own childhood, but the childhood of people much older than me, because I grew up seeing old ads and hearing about stuff like G.I. Joe with the Kung-Fu grip. It took a very long time before I was uncloseted about this enthusiasm. It came from a couple of different things. One is that geek culture has become so mainstream that it no longer feels like anything anyone can really use against you. Two, I figured out that it’s all under the umbrella of “Pop Art.” A-ha! It’s art! How grown-up! I don’t mind speaking to that, or even defending it.

23- That said, I have little use for modern fandom. People will spend loads of money and consider it a badge of honor and privilege that they spent hours in line so some crummy actor will take a picture with them while the writer and/or artist that created the character that actor is playing sits at a table, where they are visited by a small handful of fans will stop and speak to them. I feel like we like the same things but for very different reasons, and it makes me feel gross. Luckily, reading and looking at art is something you don’t need to do in a group setting.

24- Although I use the term for shorthand, I don’t really want to be a “geek.” I don’t really want to be an “anything.” I think the only thing we can safely think about all people is that they just want to be thought of as individuals. I don’t care to be considered a white, straight, red haired, late thirties-aged American male who lives with bipolar disorder. None of those labels define me in the least. I don’t think I’m a typical anything, and I don’t think anyone is.

25-Belief is not a choice. You do or you do not.

26- The key to life is balance.

27- Your parents name you, but they have no idea who you will be. Your friends nickname you because they know exactly who you are.

28-  If you don’t feel like drinking for whatever reason but still want to be around people who do, be prepared for some sideways glances. The only way I’ve found to get around heavy conversations when you just want to hang out is to say “I’ve had enough” when offered. That could either mean in your lifetime or today, but it sounds hardcore enough that followup questions are unlikely.

29- There’s what I think, there’s what you think, and there’s the truth.


30- In the court of public opinion, a person who generally does good things can do a single bad thing and become a pariah, and a person who generally does bad things can do one good thing and become a saint.

31- As I’ve gotten older, personal relationships have become much more valuable and I’m more inclined to work at maintaining them. As a younger person, I was much more likely to write people off who displeased me. That’s no way to be, and it cost me a lot. I try to forgive people for doing the wrong things, because I have a hard time forgiving myself, and it seems like the only way to eventually be less hard on myself and let shit go is to grant everyone the same amnesty. Within reason, of course. Just being sorry counts for a lot. To me, an apology means that you’re stating that if you had something to do over again, you would do it differently. I’m not a fan of “I’m sorry, but…” or saying you’re sorry for something you keep on doing. “I’m sorry” is powerful and it can be sacred. It should be held in the same high esteem as “I love you.”

32-Never hesitate to say “I love you.”

33- Music is like food, and you wouldn’t just eat egg salad sandwiches for the rest of your life. We put a lot on “genre” like it matters. Genres exist so that record labels can sell you more shit. Musicians don’t care what bean counters and critics are going to call what they make. Nobody names the baby while they’re screwing.

34- A sure sign of untreated mental illness is wearing clothes entirely inappropriate to the weather.

35- Karma may or may not be real as a cosmic concept, but consequence is no coincidence.

36- Being friends with people you really admire is a rich and rewarding experience. You’re continually cognoscente that they loom larger in your life than you do in theirs, but they provide the strongest advice…if only because you’ll actually listen to them. You only have to make peace with the fact that you will always think of them more frequently than they think of you, because your work didn’t change their life like theirs did yours.

37- When someone is silent or says little, or even if they just say things that aren’t expected of them, others will tend to project their own subconscious will, or desires, or insecurities upon them. It’s a funny trait of human nature.

38- Self-awareness is immensely important. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t know who they are.

39- As my life progresses, I find that I value kindness and integrity as personality traits above all others. That may seem corny, but it’s absolutely true. I’m not afraid if the things I’m earnest about make me come off as square. I’ve spent enough time with irony and cynicism and trying to seem cool. Cool is about being relaxed, and I’ve never been more.