On My Radio

September 4, 2012

This fall, HILOBROW’s Joshua Glenn will appear semi-regularly on two excellent radio shows/podcasts.

Benjamen Walker’s show TOO MUCH INFORMATION airs Mondays 6pm – 7pm EST on WFMU. On August 6, Glenn made his debut on TMI playing “Joshua Glenn,” a fictional character who happens to be — like the real Glenn — a freelance semiotic brand and culture analyst.

How best to describe the ethos of TMI? In 2004, Glenn interviewed Walker about his earlier show, THEORY OF EVERYTHING, and what he said then is true of TMI as well: “In public radio there is this received notion that you have to keep fiction and nonfiction segregated. But these days the news sounds like a conspiracy theory, and bloggers promote their own version of events. Objective reportage isn’t working! So I’m pioneering ‘investigative fiction,’ in which a mix of formats — from interviews to radio drama — will reveal the truth about the world.”

In the August 6 episode (“Hot,” beginning around 15:15), “Joshua Glenn” explains how the Olympics have been rebranded in order to convey a message about the emergent meaning of affluence and success… and the role that he and a now-prominent businessman and politician played in that effort.

One hears through the grapevine that the semi-villainous “Joshua Glenn” will next reveal to TMI the role he played in the rise of Romney veep Paul Ryan.

Here is the soundcloud page for the episode; and here is TMI on iTunes.


Boing Boing’s GWEEK podcast — about “comic books, science fiction and fantasy, video games, board games, tools, gadgets, apps, and other neat stuff” — is hosted by Boing Boing founder Mark Frauenfelder. On August 14, Glenn made his debut on GWEEK (episode 64), where he was interviewed by Frauenfelder about Significant Objects, the book he co-edited with Rob Walker, which was published by Fantagraphics this month; and Unbored, the kids’ field guide to serious fun coming from Bloomsbury this fall, which he co-edited with Elizabeth Larsen; and also about this website’s HiLoBooks project, which he’s heading up.

Joined by the terrific cartoonist Ed Piskor, whose first solo graphic novel, Wizzywig, appeared this summer, Glenn and Frauenfelder went on to discuss their favorite recent books, movies, websites, and gadgets. The conversation was so engrossing that they picked it up again on August 20.

Glenn is a much bigger geek than even we suspected! His next scheduled appearance is later this month. Rumor has it that he will appear on GWEEK on a monthly-ish basis, for at least the remainder of 2012.

Here is GWEEK on iTunes.

Hear, hear!


PS: We forgot to mention, back in July, that Glenn was profiled in the New York Times. In, of all sections, Home & Garden. Here’s the story. Wondering why Glenn’s childhood is mentioned so often? Because he was angling to get his forthcoming kids’ field guide to life UNBORED mentioned in the story; but at the last minute, UNBORED was cut.


He had dropped out of graduate school in sociology and earned his master’s in teaching instead. Then he tried and failed to find work as a middle school teacher, and fell into a job as an editor at the Utne Reader, in Minneapolis, where he had moved with Ms. Roe when she was offered a job there.

Later, Mr. Glenn joined an early version of Tripod, the blog-hosting Web site originally intended as a lifestyle guide for his generation. But it was the blog hosting that took off, and when Lycos bought Tripod in 1998, Mr. Glenn was awarded stock options worth about $80,000, he said.

This cushion allowed him to focus on Hermenaut, an indie philosophy zine-turned-bound-journal that he had cooked up in the ’90s, which had a steady circulation of 5,000. (Articles included “Smells Like Teen Reification,” a takedown of Sassy magazine written by Mr. Glenn, and features that celebrated “outsider intellectuals” like Bruce Lee and Oscar Wilde.)

But when he was offered investment money from a friend who had AOL stock, just before the Time Warner merger, Mr. Glenn began doubling the frequency of his magazine in anticipation of a windfall. “You know how that turned out,” he said ruefully, adding that he went into serious credit card debt.

That’s when a friend hired him to help with a new marketing business, doing semiotic brand analysis. As Mr. Glenn explained it, he and his peers put on their Roland Barthes hats to analyze texts and images from the pop culture universe (everything from packaging and advertising to women’s magazines and contemporary films) and prepare reports for marketing companies on how a product or idea means. Not what, but how.

It’s a job uniquely suited to someone like Mr. Glenn, who has an appetite for intellectual shenanigans and is unbound by an academic career. Also, it pays well (enough so that he can work half the month for his marketing clients and devote the rest to his publishing ventures).