Podcasting — Especially Crooked Media– Needs To Grow Up

by Shelt Garner

I listen to a lot of podcasts on a regular basis and it’s embarrassing how many big-time podcasts continue to have their hosts read advisements. The worst instance of this is Crooked Media.

It’s very jarring to hear people from Pod Save America reading ads when I come to them for reasonably objective, fact-based information. I understand them doing this when they were a scrappy start up, but they’re rather well established now.

It’s embarrassing for them to do something as dumb as to half-heartedly read an ad that they don’t even believe in. The Crooked Media hosts to read this ads definitely don’t take the job very seriously. They need just bow out of reading their ads altogether.

Of course, no one listens to me, so this is all a lulz. But podcasting is no longer a fringe form of media. It needs to reflect it’s mainstream status by establishing a Chinese wall between content and advertising.

Crooked Media Needs To Grow Up

by Shelt Garner

I’ve enjoyed listened to the Crooked Media podcast network since the beginning, but it’s beginning to have some growing pains. I’m talking specifically of how it continues to have the core Crooked team of hosts read their adveristments.

Would you take media advice from this ding-dong on the right? (Me.)

This made sense back when they were a plucky startup, but now…not so much. Time to put on your big boy pants, guys. Hire someone to read the fucking ads, your lackadaisical approach to something as important as reading ads is starting to be embarrassing.

What’s more, it just doesn’t make any sense for Crooked to use its hosts to read ads. There needs to be a wall of some sort between editorial and advertising, just like in a traditional news organization. If it’s not just you and your bud doing a podcast, but rather an actual company….maybe hand off reading ads to professionals?

As an aside, I wonder if maybe Crooked Media would be interested in merging with the Vox Media company. Seems like that might be a very complimentary merger. But, what do I know. Whatever. No one listens to me.

Well, That Was Pointless

by Shelt Garner

I’m pretty much left of center and a fan of the Crooked Media podcasting network, but the latest “Offline” episode made me feel like picking up a pitchfork and charging the nearest ivory tower.

So, Jon Favreau was talking to this dude from Washington University about how horrible social media is. I totally agree with that premise, but there were times when the conversation really sounded like a smug liberal circle jerk.

“Oh, if only we could limit how much the Plebes could annoy us on social media,” seemed to be the gist of what they were talking about at times. The reason why this annoys me is I know that I am, despite me agreeing with them politically in general terms, just the type of person they would love not to have to deal with.

The guy even said at one point, in a wistful way, how great it was back in the day when there were three TV networks and an established “reality” where people like him could just tell people like me what to think. I also found amusing that he would explain exactly what he wanted — a return of traditional gatekeepers — then turn around and poo-poo the idea that that was exactly what he was talking about.

It seems to me that what was really going on was the guy was using everyone’s general distaste of social media as a cover to mentally masterbate about how great it was when Plebs knew their place in society and did not really have any way of talking to people like him in a practical manner.

The cat is out of the bag when it comes to social media and rather than looking back to an era that will never come back, I would much rather want to know how we can make social media better without letting smug pointy headed academics limit my ability to express myself online.

This post is vague because I’m lazy and don’t feel like doing the basic research necessary to make it more specific and I don’t feel like having to risk catching the guys attention and having him complain in The Atlantic about how a bonkers drunk like me picked on him.

There’s Definitely Something In The Air

by Shelt Garner

While the use of the term “vibe shift” was done in a dramatically different context when it was first used in The New York Times, I like the phrase because it’s an easy-to-understand explanation for what’s going on.

It definitely seems as though now that we’re all “over” COVID, that we’re all ready for a new era — a vibe shift. We are now in the post-Rona era, even if Rona is very much still around, and so the “wind of change” is floating around pop culture.

I’ve given it some thought, and it seems to me that given what’s going on and how mature most of the Internet is, that the vibe shift will be heralded by a podcast network suddenly blowing up out of nowhere. It’s just too difficult to organically grow a blog like the old Gawker and Silicon Valley is very much cool to any new social media networks.

As such, it seems to me that if you had a bunch of really interesting young people in your social circle — in, say, NYC or LA — you could probably find a surprising amount of success with a podcast network that was in the tradition of Spy Magazine and Gawker Media.

But I suspect it would need to be a network, not just one podcast. Maybe six podcasts that were tightly focused on a variety of things. In my imagination, it would be a lot like Crooked Media mixed with TMZ mixed with the old Gawker Media.

You would need young, hip on-air talent that were very in tune with the vibe of youth culture in New York City and LA. I would suggest you scoop up a klatch of the more interesting, poised Tik-Tok people to populate your podcast network. But, alas, no one listens to me.


But there is a vibe shift. I would say late 2022 to early 2024 is going to be very be a totally different pop culture animal to what we had before the pandemic. Once late 2024 rolls around, we’re all going to be so focused on the existential dread of autocracy or civil war that we won’t be all that focused on pop culture anymore.

‘Wind Of Change’ & The Novel I’m Developing

by Shelt Garner

I really liked Crooked Media’s podcast “Wind of Change.” But I must confess, I didn’t listen to the last episode because I was so engaged by the mystery that I didn’t want to be let down by finding out a downer truth. (If it was a downer.)

But listening to that podcast has, however influenced the novel I’m developing in the sense that it confirmed my general belief that spooky stuff is a far more human endeavor than you might think. The surreal scenario I’ve come up with for why spooks might be interested in my Heroine isn’t all that surreal, afterall.

Or, put another way, I’m within shouting distance of there being little, if any suspension of disbelief about what happened and why. I first came up with the spooky angle to this concept out of laziness — I had a problem I couldn’t solve without some high tech gadgets.

The rest took care of itself because it helped with the over-arching motive of my heroine.

But I don’t know. I have no idea what I’m doing.

I’m just trying my best, working in a vacuum and seeing how things work out.

Believe In Yourself — No One Else Will

by Shelt Garner

The thing about someone like Crooked Media’s Erin Ryan is I can mean as well as much as I want — she simply will never accept me for who I am. I’m always going to be a middle-aged loser who is a member of the patriarchy. I only mention this because, well, I’m going to draw upon what I know about her to think up my novel’s female romantic lead.

I am honestly rather indifferent to Ms. Ryan one way or another — live long and prosper, lady. It’s just a little annoying that I can paint the most pleasant picture of her I want via my female romantic lead and she will never, ever return the favor for any reason. It would be bad for her “image” to simply give me an empathetic assessment should some reason arise.

Anyway, I believe in myself when it comes to this novel. I try to bend over backwards to be as empathetic to wide-range of types of people. I want to be as representative as I can possibly be. In fact, I’m a big believer in representation in art. But, again, lulz, nothing matters. I’m a loser to people like Ms. Ryan. I’m not perfect and I’m not some sort of ideal feminist ally. All I can do is try to write something entertaining and see what happens.

Though I will note that pretty much this entire novel gets its energy from my white-hot rage against MAGA. I fucking hate MAGA with a white hot rage. Since I’m a man of peace, a man of ideas, all I got is a novel. All my venting about MAGA is diffused to such an extent in this novel that hopefully you’ll see my hatred of MAGA is more about my hatred of extremism than anything else.

I don’t mean to whine, but the whole thing can grow frustrating. I can’t help who I am. I can’t help my age. I can’t help my background. I can just try to write the best novel I can and see what happens.

‘Muh Novel’

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelt Garner

I’m developing a novel and it’s going quite well. But there’s a problem — it’s meant to be an allegory of the Trump Era in the guise of a very snappy, accessible thriller. I’m growing a little nervous that while I will finish it, when I try to sell it, the context of the market will be profoundly different than I might ever expect.

The novel I’m developing has zero literary aspirations. It may if you realize it’s meant to be me screaming — in a very diffused manner — about how much I hate extremism, but, lulz. I just want everyone to have a good time. Ok, maybe not MAGA, they can suck it. But everyone else.

I really like this novel because of how character-driven it is. I really enjoy the characters I’ve come up with — especially the heroine. She’s a lot of fun. While she’s a bad ass who will kick your ass as need be, she’s not dark and unlikeable like Lisbeth Salander. She does have a pretty warped background like Salander, but I want you to like her. I want you to root for her.

Of course, I have to balance that will the risk of her coming off as nothing more than yet another sexxxy slutty assassin. I have to make her dark enough and complex enough that women (the audience) like her, but attractive enough that the marketplace (men) can hang their sexxy time fantasies on her in their minds. It’s a very complicated artistic balance.

I just hate the idea that I have to sacrifice my heroine’s likability or sex appeal in some ideological quest to make her a feminist icon. I mean, there IS sex-positive feminism, as Emily Ratajkowski makes clear on a daily basis. (Whoa buddy.)

All that doesn’t even begin to address the issue that because of identity politics I could do exactly what I set out to do and STILL “trigger” people because, well, lulz I’m a man and I should just fuck off. An example of this is a little Twitter tussle I got in with Crooked Media’s Erin Ryan. I will admit that I was a bit passive-aggressive about this very issue with her and she called me out on it, but I did make a pretty important point: it’s unlikely I will ever be able to placate her in my art. Not only am I not wealthy and / or talk dark and handsome, but I’m exactly the middle-aged white male member of the patriarchy she complains about all the time (albeit a very well-meaning loser version of it.)

I think I’m just going to pause here for a moment and have a pity party about how brutally real this concept is.

Ok, back to writing.

I guess the issue is — I want to placate Ms. Ryan with this novel while not being so preaching (ex: Olivia Wilde’s movie Book Smart) that center-Right men won’t be able to enjoy the novel on the face of it as a thriller. That’s my goal — to write a “woke” tenpole, if you will. But really, it wouldn’t be seen as all that woke because I’m going to rant against “woke” and “cancel” culture just as much fucking MAGA.

All I ask is a pandemic doesn’t make it impossible for me to sell this novel. Please?

The ‘Bustle’ Syndrome: The Agony & The Ecstasy Of Being A Male Author Struggling To Write Complex Female Characters

Thinking of you Ms. Ryan.
Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelt Garner

As you may know, “Bustle” is a Website for women that has a male publisher. In the identity politics era we live in, this has lead to more than a few raised eyebrows. I thought of this after I got into something of a brief rhetorical tussle with Crooked Media star Erin Ryan on Twitter about my person attempt to give her, as a woman reader, complex female characters. She essentially say, “I don’t like your attitude.” But the issue I was trying to convey — it’s unlikely she would even, really, give me a chance if I did develop the type of female characters she demands still stands. I’m a man — a member of the patriarchy — and as such either she wouldn’t read my novel or I would have to work extra hard to prove to her I really was meeting her extremely high demands. I refuse to come to her as a supplicant in search of validation. Either she takes me for who I am as an artist, or doesn’t.

It became clear that her followers were going to rain scorn down on me for not being a sycophant, so I muted the conversation and decided to use the brief encounter as motivation to buckle down on my goal: prove that a man who fits the heteronormative spectrum can, in fact, write women characters for women as part of a tenpole piece of pop art. The issue is, I refuse to be a “soy boy” who fits the feminist narrative. I’m going to be myself –smelly boy attributes and all — and let the chips fall where they may. I really like Ms. Ryan and she’s really is the exact type of person I want to serve with the novel I’m writing. It would be quite an honor if I could do what appears to be the impossible — be both a man and someone who manages to provide a novel with universal truth that she would enjoy the hard work of.

Yass, Queen.

Or, put another way, I want what every artist — male or female — wants: to be accepted for who I am on my own terms because of my art. It’s extremely rare for that to happen. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a recent example of that happening. She has both artistic AND commercial success. In a sense, she’s one of my artistic inspirations since Woody Allen has personal baggage I don’t wish to contemplate. (Wink.)

Anyway, all of this plays into my personal anger about how identity politics makes it more and more difficult to provide an audience universal truth in storytelling. The American Dirt controversy is a prime example of this — apparently only each individual little subgroup has the right to tell their story. Of course, at the same time, when someone like Stephen King is openly dubious of the need to tell non-white male stories, there’s outrage as well. So, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And there’s an ADDITIONAL outrage if you point out the Catch 22. So, in other words, you pick your poison and expect the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I want to write a modern tentpole and, as such, I want to give the female audience what they seem to be demanding — honest portrayals of the female experience.

That’s what I’ve been working so hard on for about year now. Whatever the consequences of all that hard work may be, I am prepared for.

Pod Save America & A Potential Radical Resistance Movement

by Shelton Bumgarner

I’m decompressing a little bit again from developing the thriller I’m trying to write and as such I have a lot of urge to write about something near-and-dear to my heart right now — the possibility of a Radical Resistance and its ideology.

The main problem, as I’ve mentioned, is time.

The economy is doing too well and generally there’s no political will-power to do anything about Trump’s treasonous, felonious illegitimate and tyrannical regime, so I guess we’re stuck with it for the forseeable future.

Having said that, if the guys of Pod Save America might gently broach the subject of a Radical Resistance to their multitude of listeners, maybe the idea might strike a cord. Just because 37% of the electorate are in a lobotomized MAGA cult, doesn’t mean the rest of the population has to lie down and cover itself with leaves.

Right now, I feel a lot of high information voters feel like me, but they don’t quite know how to articulate their ideology. If the people of Pod Save America were to say if you want to say fuck it, demand Trump is impeached immediately, regardless of when it becomes politically viable under the cover of the magical mystery Mueller Report then you a Radical Resistor.

That’s it, that’s your ideology for the Radical Resistance.

It’s not violent at all. I’m thinking a lot less Weather Underground and a lot more, maybe using Rage Against The Machine’s Renegades of Funk or John Lennon’s Power To The People as protest anthems during the course of massive rolling — and peaceful — protests across the country.

Really, that is where Crooked Media sure could come in handy in making this vision a reality. Simply saying don’t be afraid to call yourself a “radical” in the sense that you are a one-issue voter for the immediate future — impeach Trump NOW.

We really need to channel our inner punks and AOCs and stop being, like, uh, Joe Biden? We need to say fuck the Establishment, fuck the Powers That Be. We need a radical centrist movement that simply says enough is enough — Trump, at the very least, has to be impeached by the House immediately and any Democrat who doesn’t support doing that risks being primaried by the base in 2020.

Though if Trump lasts to 2020, we really are fucked.

So, I guess if I could get a “many people are saying” reference on PSA, that would rock.

Not that it’s going to happen.

A Call To Arms: Someone Design An Organization & Mobilization App For The Resistance

by Shelton Bumgarner

Things have grown so dire in just the last few days, that we need to think outside the box. We have to be ready now for the inevitable clash that Trump is going to provoke in his rapacious quest for absolute power. If the recent change in Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy has show anything, it’s that pretty much the only part of our democracy that is working is the part where public outrage actually has some sort of affect.

Other than that, we’re on our own.

I suggest someone, say Crooked Media, design an app that is specifically invented to facilitate mass organization and mobilization on the part of The Resistance. It could do everything from facilitate people registering to vote, to ride shares to protests to how to get in touch with local Resistance leaders who might be planning a protest in the first place.

It can’t possibly be that difficult. I would do it myself, but I have no money, can’t code and don’t really want to learn. But Crooked Media seems to have the means, motive and opportunity to designed the type of app I crave.

Too bad things are going to have to get a lot worse before anyone takes me up on the idea.

Shelton Bumgarner is a writer and photographer living in Richmond, Va. He may be reached at Migukin (at) gmail (dot) com.