PY396 - Stop Podcasting Yourself

This show is hosted by Graham Clark and Dave Shumka with guests John Roderick and John Hodgman, recorded live in Vancouver.

Margaret Atwood once had a robot book signing pen, because she was in Biodome and couldn't come to her signings. If the hosts of this podcast would choose to to that, it would be out of pure laziness and desire not to touch other people, which is what podcasting is.

Alton Brown, the Food Network host, had a list of things he will and will not do during book signings. Graham is telling the story as if Alton Brown is a monster, but John actually knows him personally.

John reading magazines (PY396)

John reads magazines in the bathtub and he is prepared to utterly consume them. When he leaves the bath, the magazines are destroyed, because each page is wetted. The information goes into him and its corporeal essence dissolves. He has subscriptions for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Old House Journal, and Saveur Magazine.

Different retailers in Canada and the United States (PY396)

They talk about the Turduken with some extra birds added, about Canadian Thanksgiving and about voting in the Canadian election. Thanksgiving holiday was only federally recognized in 1957, probably only because of proximity to the United States, but it is unclear why they didn’t do it on the same day. Maybe because winter comes earlier in Canada? They continue to talk about which holidays Canada and the US do and do not have.

John Hodgman sees Canada as a model nation for the future, because they are a multicultural nation that doesn’t seem to be too hung up about itself. They have free healthcare, jetpacks, and Vancouver is a space city of the future with all buildings made of glass. They also have a geodesic dome, maybe even two. There is a steakhouse chain called The Keg.

Red Robin is a Seattle company, but it also exists in Canada. There are ”No Name Brand” grocery products, like evaporated milk. John Hodgman continues to talk about different products by No Name Brand that he has seen for example in a supermarket in Toronto. He left Toronto with the dream to rent a store front in Brooklyn, import those products and line the shelfs with those yellow graphics.

Because there is no Trader Joe’s in Canada, there is a store called Pirate Joe’s and the owner drives down to Bellingham, Washington, picks up a bunch of stuff from Trader Joe’s and sells it in Canada. They have been sued, but they know what they are doing.

John noticed that they now have a Nordstrom in Vancouver, a store like Hudson’s Bay, except they don’t sell axes, which is a big deal because it is also a Seattle company. Frederick and Nelson has been lost to the department store wars. It was a classic department store where you could buy an axe, with a restaurant at the top floor where ladies wearing white gloves has lunch.

John is a minor Filson brand ambassador. Sometimes they pitch him some free stuff. They are a canvas and leather company with bags, luggage and wool clothes. John Hodgman once had a Filson bag and there was also a Cowichan sweater in this house. They talk about the store The Sporting Gent in Charlotte, North Carolina that John Hodgman discovered once when he was preparing for a TV show. They had Yeti branded coolers for keeping your beer cool at festivals and they had Filson bags. The owner, Marc with a ”c” was from Quebec who found that having this store in North Carolina was the right way to live.

Millennials not being not pre-occupied with authenticity (PY396)

In Charlotte you can walk around in a bow tie every day without it being considered an affectation. The bow tie has come back again, but John can’t get inside a Millennial’s head enough to know how much they know about what they are doing. Do they know what it meant or do they only know what it means now? If you had a bow tie in John’s young life, people would say ”What’s up, Bow Tie Guy? What are you trying to pull off?”

Those things don’t have narrative significance for Millennials because they can access culture at whim and on demand. They get whatever they want from wherever they want whatever year they are taking it from. The previous generation learned the story of how Depeche Mode came to be, John actually has it written down in a Moleskine, and their history was understood in the context of a particular time and a particular music- and fashion movement. You associated yourself with it or you didn’t, whereas the children of today sample from whatever they want.

GC Magazine had a link on Twitter to a story about ”Can you wear your Timberland boots with a suit?” Obviously yes, because George Costanza did it. Also: ”Finding the right hoodie for your body type”, although a hoodie is the one thing you can wear regardless of your body type. The blue jeans, once a purely functional item of workwear, is now a very fashionable item with a lot of different cuts and styles. A hoodie requires a zipper, because without it, it is just a hooded sweat shirt. It is the cardigan aspect of it that makes it a hoodie. Millennials don’t give a shit about all this, but they wear whatever they want.

Very early on in John's Rock’n’Roll career, right around the time when all the young writers were saying that they don’t know what kind of music this is and whether this is good or not, a young female pop writer described John as Bob Dylan in a Hoodie (see RW39 and RW75) and John walked on air for a week until he realized that no-one else was thinking that except this one girl. It was still one of the best reviews John ever received.

Millennials are not pre-occupied with authenticity as previous generations who said ”You can’t rap this unless you have this background” or ”You can’t be this unless you understand this music” or ”You can’t wear a hoodie that doesn’t have a zipper” When they found out that The White Stripes had been lying about their relationship, everything went out the window and how could they still like their music?

In High School, John had a bright-orange 1950s fighter pilot suit with zippered pockets all over it, basically like a Ghostbuster. They continue to talk about fashion mistakes where they bought something they thought was cool, but couldn’t pull it off.

Braille Playboy, no more nudes in Playboy (PY396)

On the day of recording this episode, Playboy announced that they would have no more nudes. Their current CEO is a woman. Somebody came to them and told them that they were under a rebranding. They were the magazine who did it first, but now there is the Internet and they don’t need to do it anymore. It is still going to have pictures of ladies, though.

If your magazine is the last purveyor of nude content and you are not for sale in a lot of stores and even if you are for sale you are in a plain wrapper in the back and people have to ask behind the counter while everyone on Earth is putting up pictures of their junk on the Internet for free, you are not in a competitive environment anymore if you have to sell paper with pictures of boobs on it.

We are entering a world where people are handcrafting carpentry nails and they are hand-building all the shit we thought was obsolete and selling it to us as artisanal at a premium. Playboy is getting out just in time as some disruptor group of Millennials is going back to nude content where you don’t see any pink, but ladies in expensive lingerie. The guy in The Sporting Gent should have some 1977 Playboys on his steamer trunk that he is using as a coffee table in his store.

Three days ago, John went on the eBay and wondered what it would cost to get every issue of Playboy from the year he was born. Those are readily available, but he didn’t buy anything because he got shy and he does already have a very prominently displayed Playboy item in his home and he wasn’t sure if he could have two. John has an issue of Playboy in braille. Because it takes a lot of space, one issue extends to 4 volumes, each being a square of about a foot, a beautiful item that you can sit with.

Everyone’s first question is if they describe the girls or if it would be textured like a topographical map, but John doesn’t read braille and it remains a mystery to him. John Hodgman suggests that John should hire a beautiful woman who is either blind or otherwise knows braille and have her read the Playboy for him.

In Seattle there is a braille library with a staff of trained braille librarians and John could probably go down there and find exactly that person, invite her to a party, tell her to wear her best pencil skirt and read this Playboy to him. John is an aficionado of the classic Playboys from the 1960s and into the 1970s, the best years, but his braille Playboy is from 1997, which would not interest John otherwise.

Thinking about taking over John Hodgman’s space (PY396)

If John could occupy John Hodgman’s space, he would be very happy. That might even have been his plan for a while. John would get rid of the geriatric cat, though, which as it turned out, fate has taken care of already about a year ago. The 19 year old cat Pete passed away by him bringing it to place to have him professionally poisoned. You don’t want to go to the amateurs, like the artisanal poisoning places in Brooklyn storefronts.

His mouse had hovered over the Amazon page for the DIY-pet-euthanasia-kit, but Pete deserved better. It was just a hammer and he would have had to buy gloves as well. Pete was on its last legs for many years and he was just hoping he would do it himself by just laying down and dying. He might actually have been dead about a year before he was poisoned, he might have been a Nosferatu cat for the last year of its existence because he never saw him eat any food and he was just wandering around the house, yelling at ghosts eating moonlight.

Overheard (PY396)

John Roderick

In the mid 1990s John had a band practice space in Seattle, on of those hive practice spaces with bands over here and bands over there. It wasn’t the New York Style where the drum stays, but you bring your own cymbals, which is the worst. They had their own spaces that they would sometimes share with other bands, but they were allowed to put up Christmas lights and make it their own. The place had a fairly good Grunge history, the Murder City Devils were across the hall and there various bands were trying to reinvent Rock, as they did in Seattle at the time.

Seattle has sacrificed itself many times: Thank you Seattle for doing the heavy lifting! Flannel? That’s them! At the time, all the guys in Pearl Jam had gone on to live in Hawaii or on a silver surfboard in space, but one of them never left his own community: Jeff Ament, the bass player of Pearl Jam. He continued to get breakfast at the Green Cat café. They were the biggest band in the world, but he was still a local guy.

His costume was high-top tennis shoes, basketball shorts over long john bottoms, some kind of basketball shirt and a gigantic floppy mushroom cap of a hat with a Guatemalan fabric pattern and some earflaps. He had a different hat every day and the hat was to him like the glasses to Paul Shaffer. Grunge fashion in Seattle encompassed a lot of different things, but the hat was always his alone. When you saw someone rocking a hat like that, you would say ”No! That’s Jeff Ament’s thing!”

John's practice space had a lot of graffiti on the walls and there was the writing ”Bring me the hat of Jeff Ament” It collapsed John with joy at the time! It has even become one of John’s catch phrases, but it has never registered with a single person in almost 20 years, it never even a raised an eyebrow. This is the first time John is telling this story.

There is a quote from Jeff Ament: ”I didn’t write the song, but someone else was talking in a room, and I just wrote down everything they said” The greenrooms and band practice spaces have a lot of inside baseball graffiti. There is a greenroom in Europe somewhere, maybe at the Rotown club in Rotterdam, where there is graffiti on the ceilings and down the walls, and John has added some great graffiti to this room.

John Hodgman

One time he was in Los Angeles and there was at a very glamorous party in his hotel that he could hear from his window, but he was not invited. It was the day of the Golden Globes in January of 2015 and he was staying at the Chateau Marmont. As he checked in, they told him that there were the Golden Globes that day and they will be closing the lobby and the court yard for Amy Poehler's private party. Hotel guests are usually also invited to those parties if that happens, but they were not very clear if that would be okay in this case or not.

He is acquainted with a number of people who were going to be there and his hopes were high he was going to be able to get an invitation. He sent out a couple of emails but did not hear back from anyone until he eventually concluded that he was not invited to this party. Hitting rock bottom, he called the manager and the answer was ”If you go downstairs, I don’t think anyone would stop you”, which was not acceptable at all because he would be there as an interloper and Amy might see him and she would know whom she had invited.

It was one of these moments where you just realize that sometimes you are not on the list. The other morning, as he went down to have a coffee, there was a group of doctors from Iowa next to him, they were in their middle age and they had somehow gotten rooms in this hotel by accident together with their wives. They said they just went to this party last night, grabbed a champagne off the thing and nobody stopped them.

Dave Shumka

While he was in line to vote yesterday, there was a couple behind them and she was explaining to her man-friend what a cakewalk is. She said that if you really want to do well there, you get there late because there are always cakes left over and fewer people to compete for them. He didn’t have that where he grew up, but he did have zucchini races, where your mother would spend the summer growing the biggest zucchini she could and on the day of the zucchini race you would bring it to school and attach some wheels. In his day he had won many zucchini races!

Graham Clark

Graham was in Rotterdam for a comedy festival for 2 days, doing his show called ”Graham Clark reads the phonebook”. He slept one night at his friend's house in London. The show always starts with him literally reading from the phonebook for the first couple of minutes until the giggles have completely vanished and people are really uncomfortable. The Dutch audience had zero time for this conceit and after he read about 3 numbers a dude from the audience yelled ”We get it!”

John had actually somebody in a Dutch audience yell ”We get it!” to him, like ”We get it, you are Bob Dylan in a Hoodie”

The next night Graham asked the audience a question ”Is anybody here married?”, and a guy in the back shouted ”No!” He took a poll and had assigned himself leader of the audience.

Steph in Minneapolis

At a Karaoke bar some guy was singing ”I will do anything for love, but I won’t do that” by Meat Loaf. He was mediocre and while he was appropriately energetic, he didn’t quite have the rhythm of the song. About two thirds of the way in he just said ”Oh, there is a girl part?”

Ian from Issaquah

The postal worker behind the counter at the post office was reading the address label on a box handed to him by a young man in his early 20s. He said it was an interesting name and asked where the name came from and the guy answered ”From my dad’s side!”

Jill N from Parts Unknown

He asked her ”So what do you want to do now?” and she said ”I’m going to go look at the other side” and ran across the bridge. ”We already looked at that side!”, he said, trailing behind her with a sigh in a defeated parental way ”You just want to look at the dead raccoon again!”

Derek from Indiana

At Wendy’s, late at night when he was hungry. A lady works there who is always super-frazzled and hurried even though he is literally the only person at the restaurant. Today she said ”Thank you for coming to … Wendy’s” She had to take the hat off her head to look at the logo.

Kaly from Toronto

Three people were discussing their Muppet Halloween costumes, talking about Miss Piggy, but a guy interrupted them and said ”I don’t know with the green face. Is it going to be offensive?”

Casey from Columbus, Ohio

He saw a cowboy crying under a bridge.


John Hodgman is currently performing his one-man comedy monolog called Vacationland in Canada and the US. He is also the host of Judge John Hodgman on the Maximum Fun network.

John Roderick has a podcast called Roderick on the Line with Merlin Mann, not part of the Maximum Fun network, but close friends. Podcasting is kind of exploding right now, but one of the underrepresented corners of podcasting is still two white guys talking. There should be more of those and John and Merlin have done it for a while, so they got it pretty well down. The don’t do any edits, they don’t make it sound better, but they just leave it in its raw naked state. It is a great program and they talk a lot about Hitler.

John also has a new podcast called Roadwork with Dan Benjamin of the 5by5 podcast network, because there are still not enough two middle-aged white guy podcasts and they needed to fill this yearning chasm. Dan also does a show with Merlin and their new show together is only seven episodes in. They talk less about Hitler, but more sex talk and stuff you want to hear from two guys in their 40s.

Graham and Ryan Beil have a once-a-month wrestling comedy show called Ring-a-Ding-Dong-Dandy. On the 30th he will be hosting a show called Instagraham.

There is a blog recap of this episode.

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