By: Joshua Glenn
December 25, 2021

To idle is to work on meaningful and varied projects — and to take it easy. The series title refers to this self-proclaimed idler’s inability to take it easy.

HILOBROW is a noncommercial blog! The info below should not be construed as a vulgar advertisement for SEMIOVOX, UNBORED, THE ADVENTURER’S GLOSSARY, MIT PRESS’s RADIUM AGE SERIES, SEMIOFEST SESSIONS, LOST OBJECTS, GO WEST, or any of my various more-or-less profitable projects. It is merely an update on my doings and undoings — in this case, during 4Q2021.

MORE HYPOCRISY: 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022 | 2023 | 1Q2024 | 2Q2024 | 3Q2024.

Also see: HILOBROW 4Q2021.


THE ADVENTURER’S GLOSSARY, my third collaboration with the philosopher Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth, was published in September by McGill-Queen’s University Press. HILOBROW friend Matthew Battles recently sent me this photo from the great indie bookstore Brookline Booksmith.

Here are a couple of TAG’s 4Q2021 publicity moments:

  • I was interviewed for the Dec. 10 episode of Travel Commons, a podcast whose motto is “It is more about the journey than the destination.” Excerpt: “JOSH: There is kind of a secret philosophy woven through this alphabetized list of words, which is this idea that we should try to break out of the ordinary and see things in a new way and expand our horizons, whether it’s through travel or other ways. And that there are certain qualities that we need to cultivate in ourselves to be good adventurers — whether that’s a sense of humor, whether that’s wit, whether that’s courage, grit and so forth.”
  • The Literary Review of Canada had some nice things to say. Excerpt: “Glenn and Kingwell don’t merely define different types of adventure — they offer one to their readers. Literary theorists may appreciate this clever embodiment, a sort of meta-thematic parlour trick. Though that’s not to imply that only a scholarly crowd can enjoy it. Indeed, the book could prove a handy reference for vaccinated adventurers now emerging in greater and greater numbers.”
  • At BOING BOING, Mark Frauenfelder described The Adventurer’s Glossary as “a treat for the eyes and mind,” and advised: “Looking for a gift for a word nerd and/or lover of adventure? Your quest ends here!” BOING BOING also published a series of AG excerpts: A-OK thru ALERT | CHANCE thru CLOBBERIN’ TIME | GAMBIT thru GO FOR BROKE and KAPUT thru KING MIXER | MacGUFFIN thru MURPHY’S LAW, RAFFISH thru RONIN, and WILSON thru WU WEI.

I’m grateful to the MQUP publicity team for their efforts. To see the AG’s 3Q2021 mentions and reviews, click here.


HILOBROW is published by King Mixer LLC; I’m the editor. To see what we’ve published during the past three months, please check out the HILOBROW 4Q2021 post. Here, I’ll just mention the following two 4Q2021 series:

NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM is a 25-part series dedicated to some of our favorite nerdy obsessions. Sample NERD installments: Lucy Sante on PSEUDO-AMERICAN PSEUDONYMS OF FRENCH PULP WRITERS DURING WWII | Nicholas Rombes on OLD GEOLOGY SURVEY BOOKS WITH MAP INSERTS | Vanessa Berry on NEWSAGENCY AESTHETICS | Kio Stark on LOC CLASSIFICATION CODES. I’m very grateful to Peggy Nelson, the series editor.

PROJECT:OBJECTIONABLE is a 25-part PROJECT:OBJECT series devoted to personal objects that sparked alarm, outrage, and bewilderment. Sample OBJECTIONABLE installments: Lynn Peril on BABY’S FIRST ASHTRAY | Elke Claus on URINAL SHRINE | Lauren Curtis on NAILED IT! | Crystal Durant on LICENSE TO SHOCK. I’m very grateful to Adam McGovern, the series editor.

Here’s what’s coming up, at HILOBROW, in the next few weeks and months: SNEAK PEEK 1Q2022.


Josh conducting research in the field.

I’m co-founder of the semiotics-fueled branding consultancy SEMIOVOX. Our unique methodology provides insight and inspiration — to brands’ marketing, design, innovation, and consumer insights teams, as well as to agencies and other stakeholders — regarding the unspoken “codes” that shape perceptions and guide behavior around product categories and/or sociocultural territories. We often combine our projects, which tend to be global in scope, with consumer research directed by our sister agency Consumer Eyes.

In October, Semiovox wrapped up a study of the ready-to-drink (RTD) Coffee and Tea categories in Japan, and participated in a client workshop that involved everyone from R&D to Consumer Insights and Marketing. And in November we kicked off a multi-market study of Beverage Packaging forms — including can and bottle silhouettes, functionality, textures, recyclability, etc. — in China, Japan, the UK, and the USA. We are very grateful to our talented commercial semiotics partners and consumer research partners in each of these markets.

In mid-December, Semiovox kicked off audits of the Luxury Jewelry category (in China), the Business Insurance category (in the USA), and the Personal Care and Beauty Benefits space (in the USA).

Spreading the gospel of the G-Schema

In November, I spoke about my commercial semiotics practice with Laura Woolpert’s Market Insights class (within the Master of Design: Design Innovation program) at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. MassArt’s Design Innovation, which trains service designers, experience designers, design strategists, and innovation leaders, seems terrific.

I was interviewed about the same topic, in November, by J.P. Kuehlwein — a former client, when he was CEO of Frederic Fekkai. This interview was conducted for the benefit of students in the Cosmetics and Fragrances Marketing and Management Master’s Program at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I’d planned to visit FIT in person, in December, but circumstances conspired against me….


Josh (left) and Rob hard at work on the LOST OBJECTS book.

This spring Hat & Beard Press will publish LOST OBJECTS, a print version of Project:Object’s series of that title first published here at HILOBROW. Rob Walker and I are the book’s editors; there are nearly 100 talented contributors. The book’s design is by my frequent collaborators at Leone Design Associates.

There were a lot of moving parts, but during 4Q2021 we made good progress. We’ll ship the book to the printers in January. Tentative release date: April 5.

Hat & Beard are planning a series of limited-edition LOST OBJECTS posters — half of the proceeds from which will go to the authors and artists involved. I’ll keep you posted on this and other fun publicity stunts.


As mentioned above, I’m the cofounder of the commercial semiotics consultancy Semiovox. I’m also editor of the consultancy’s eponymous website, SEMIOVOX.

During 4Q2021 SEMIOVOX continued to offer a glimpse into various audits we’ve done — via new installments in our series CODE-X. Recent CODE-X installments include: LIVE LARGER| JOIN THE TRIBE | DRINK ME | SMOKY SOUL | BELLY UP | INTERRUPTED FLOW | BUSTING LOOSE | GET ’ER DONE | IN THE NAME OF LOVE | WE FEEL YOUR PAIN | LOYAL & HONORABLE | ACTION-ORIENTED | IDEAS-ORIENTED | JUSTICE-ORIENTED.

Other 4Q2021 series include: BEAVERISH and OBJECT ORIENTED.


As previously announced, the first four titles in the RADIUM AGE series of reissued proto-sf (c. 1900–1935) narratives, a brand-new MIT Press publishing project that I’m heading up, will appear in Spring 2022. In November, Publishers Weekly reviewed one of the Spring 2022 titles, the story collection Voices from the Radium Age. Here’s an excerpt of the review:

The significance of these seven stimulating early 20th-century tales as what editor Glenn terms “proto-sf” lies in their foreshadowing of the golden age of science fiction, with both famous and obscure authors developing important science fiction tropes still popular today. […] For early SF buffs, this will be a substantial delight.

On March 15, Annalee Newitz — who has contributed an Introduction to another Spring 2022 title, E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man — and I will talk about the series in a virtual event hosted by Chicago’s Madison Street Books.

For more info about MIT Press’s RADIUM AGE series, visit this HILOBROW page.

Cover designed & illustrated by Seth

During 4Q2021, I approved the back covers of the Radium Age series’ Spring 2022 titles (click here for an example), and I approved copy edits for the following Fall 2022 titles: Pauline Hopkins’s Of One Blood (with a new introduction by Minister Faust), J.J. Connington’s Nordenholt’s Million (with a new introduction by Matthew Battles, and a new afterword by Evan Hepler-Smith), and Rose Macaulay’s What Not (with a new introduction by Matthew De Abaitua). Later this winter, I’ll proof these books’ layouts and the team and I (including Seth) will finalize their back covers — including blurbs/endorsements.

I’m very grateful to MIT Press editors Liz Agresta, Judy Feldmann, and Ginny Crossman for their assiduous efforts; and of course to Minister Faust, Matthew Battles, Evan Hepler-Smith, and Matthew De Abaitua for their erudite and entertaining essays.

This fall, I’ve received and edited the new introductions to the Radium Age series’ two Spring 2023 titles (TBA), and I’ve written an afterword for one of these. Connecting with scholars and aficionados of this neglected era in science fiction’s history has been a real pleasure.


During 2021, I volunteered to help convene a monthly series of informal online gatherings under the auspices of the applied-semiotics conference Semiofest.

SEMIOFEST SESSIONS is a means not only to surface and disseminate the best of applied semiotic thinking but also to strengthen the ties of friendship — during an isolating and divisive global moment — within the international community of semiotics practitioners. Here’s the 4Q2021 lineup of sessions:

  • THE HIGHS & LOWS OF SEMIOTIC PRACTICE: In October, we dedicated a session to small-group and whole-group discussions of the following questions: How did you find your way to doing semiotics? What major challenge(s) do you struggle with as a semiotician? What advice would you give to young person about the highs and lows of an applied semiotics practice?
  • THINKING WITH OBJECTS: In a November session dedicated to the analysis of objects in order to reveal hidden aspects of social reality, Sónia Marques (Portugal), Lucia Laurent-Neva (UK), and I shared our approaches to thinking with objects… and we invited attendees to tell their own object-oriented stories, too.
  • THEORISTS IN PRACTICE: C.S. PEIRCE: In December, Mariane Cara (Brazil), Chris Barnham (UK), and Hamsini Shivakumar (India) shared examples of how they’ve applied the pioneering US semiotician C.S. Peirce’s frameworks in their own practices. This was the first of what will hopefully be many more Semiofest Sessions devoted to theorists of Semiotics.

As of January, I’ve stepped down from my role as the Sessions’ convener. But I hope to return…. I’m grateful to Semiofest board members Hamsini Shivakumar, Lucia Laurent-Neva, and Chris Arning for inviting me to play a role in this fun endeavor.


Here at HILOBROW during 4Q2021, I published the following posts.

  • K-TEL TRUCKER TAPE — for the PROJECT:OBJECTIONABLE series. Excerpt: “I slipped 20 Great Truck Drivin’ Songs into the deck and pressed PLAY. Instantly, I regretted doing so.”
  • ARDUIN — for the NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM series. Excerpt: “At the tender age of 11 or 12, I was confronted with a nerd-halakhic conundrum. By what particular textual authority was the Dungeon Master empowered to adjudicate? Which set of D&D rules ought one to internalize and enforce?”

Looking ahead to January, I’ve written a four-part installment — in Matthew Battles’s BESTIARY series — on the subject of frogs in 20th century pop culture. And I’ve written an introduction to a 1Q2022 series, KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM, on the subject of sidekick tropes.

PS: Every day for one hour I convene via Zoom with a few writer friends in THE SPACE. During that time, we chip away at our various writing projects. I’m very grateful to my fellow space explorers for their comradeship.


During 4Q2021, I assembled a preliminary list of HADRON AGE SF titles — science fiction adventures, that is, from 2004–2023 — that I’ve begun to read (or, in many cases, re-read). Eventually, as part of the ongoing BEST ADVENTURES project, I’ll name my favorite 75 titles from this era.

Beginning in January I plan to post one installment per week, naming a favorite sf novel or comic from the years 2004–2013, to a HILOBROW series titled HADRON AGE 75. Other SF-specific installments in the BEST ADVENTURES project include the following: 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES.


I continue to manage daily operations at GO WEST, the coworking space that I co-founded in Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood. It’s a pleasure to share this space with small businesses, remote workers, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and NGOs including Archipelago Strategies Group, Leone Design Associates, Performant Software, Uncut Lab, Modern Renaissance Legal, among others. We’ve worked hard to stay safe; so far so good.


In addition to the ADVENTURER’S GLOSSARY and MIT PRESS RADIUM AGE SERIES shout-outs mentioned above, here are a handful of 4Q2021 emanations.

  • In October I was interviewed by Bloomberg Technology’s FULLY CHARGED newsletter. Little of what I said ended up in the item, which was about Facebook’s turn to the metaverse… but at least I was compared to Kurt Andersen’s journalist-turned-marketing impresario character Zip Ingram. Yay?
  • “Lots of really smart in-the-know people are reading HILOBROW, edited by my frequent collaborator Joshua Glenn,” said Rob Walker in an October interview with the WHY IS THIS INTERESTING? newsletter. “But not enough people are reading it. So everyone who isn’t should start.” I strongly agree.
  • As mentioned previously, Rob and I show up once or twice — talking about our Significant Objects experiment — in Vin Liota’s new documentary Objects. The film’s world premiere was at DOC NYC on November 14.
  • Liota was interviewed in November by David Brancaccio of NPR’s Marketplace Morning Report. Here’s a question about Significant Objects: “Now some of this is that these objects are not just things, they’re really stories. You met these folks who’ve been doing a project for a number of years. What do they do, they buy a bunch of worthless doodads, gewgaws, tchotchkes and then what do they do?” LOL.
  • This fall at the University of Arizona, novelist Ander Monson’s English 404 (Advanced Fiction) class put their own spin on the Significant Objects methodology. Fun to see…


Susan and I joined a bike gang — the Jolly Bells — and during October spent some lovely days exploring New England, both on- and off-road.

Things went a bit pear-shaped in November. It wasn’t the easiest time for my mother, health-wise. But Max visited for a long stretch, which helped.

December has also not been the easiest month ever. But we loved having Sam and Kayla here; and, on Xmas itself, Max and Diana too.


On to 1Q2022…

MORE HYPOCRISY: 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022 | 2023 | 1Q2024 | 2Q2024 | 3Q2024.


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