: OK, here's the big news that I was teasing last week: Since I started working on Follow Friday in late 2020, it's been pretty much a solo operation. If you listen to the credits every week, and you should, then you know that Yona Marie sings the theme song and Dodi Hermawan draws the illustrations of all of our guests. And I have a couple freelancers who I pay to help me edit the transcripts over on FollowFridayPodcast.com. But otherwise, it's just been me ... until now!
Starting this week, I'm delighted to say that I'm going to have a social media producer. Ironically for a show about social media, I am not very good at keeping our social accounts updated, especially Instagram, which I neglect because I'm old, and I don't have a personal account there. But that all changes, starting today with our social media producer, Sydney! So please go give some love to @FollowFridayPod on Instagram
, that's @FollowFridayPod.
Speaking of love, a huge shout-out to our lovely patrons over at patreon.com/followfriday
. Their donations help me keep this podcast going, and they also unlock extended-length interviews with our guests.
You're listening to the public feed of Follow Friday, which means you'll get four follow recommendations from today's wonderful guest, Josh Fruhlinger. But Josh and I actually talked about a fifth account he loves, and you can hear all about it by going to patreon.com/followfriday
and pledging any amount, starting at just one dollar.
And now, here's the show.
: I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday, the podcast about who you should follow online.
Every week, I talk to creative people about who they follow, and why. This is a guided tour to the best people on the internet, led by your favorite writers, podcasters, comedians, and more. If this is your first episode of the show, take a moment now and please follow or subscribe in your podcast app.
Today on the show is Josh Fruhlinger, also known as The Comics Curmudgeon. Every day, Josh plucks out the best of the worst newspaper comics and adds his own commentary at joshreads.com
. He's also the author of the book, The Enthusiast. You can follow him on Twitter @jfruh
. Josh, welcome to Follow Friday!JOSH FRUHLINGER
: Oh, thank you very much for having me on.ERIC
: It's so nice to meet you. You were recommended by a previous guest on this show, Alexandra Petri, and ever since then, I have been reading the Comics Curmudgeon. I've been following you on Twitter, and I want to talk about Comics Curmudgeon to start.
Tell me if this is wrong. I think there's three types of comics that you write about: One is comics that are supposed to be funny, but aren't. Then there's comics that are not supposed to be funny, but they are, unintentionally. And then there's the ones that aren't funny in any dimension, but they're doing something kinda interesting. Is that a good way of summing it up? You're the expert on this, how'd I do?JOSH
: I think it's probably a fair breakdown of the different types. And one of the things that I feel like I've learned from doing the comics is that humor is very culturally specific. And we often think about that in terms of where you are in history or different cultures, but even within the US, what different people and different subcultures think is funny is very different. So clearly, the jokes written in the comics are for somebody, but often are not for me. That's one way of looking at it.
Then there are definitely ones like the soap opera scripts that aren't supposed to be funny. But they're very, I would say, po-faced some of the time, like they're supposed to be serious, but I think the ultimate intention is to be kind of campy, at least in the year 2022. And yeah, sometimes there are ones that are kind of weird and interesting, and not amusing at a joke level per se, but definitely someone's doing something interesting with.ERIC
: I remember when I was a kid that I would read the comics page, but I would always skip over the soapy strips, I would just know automatically to ignore Mark Trail or whatever. Although I guess maybe to my detriment. Alexandra was saying there was a storyline involving smuggling drugs and fish, so clearly I missed out on that.JOSH
: Yeah, I mean Mark Trail is definitely one of those that if you start letting yourself get pulled into it, then you very quickly become part of its world. I feel like all the soap opera strips are like this. And I didn't read them as a kid, but I moved from Maryland in 2002 and the newspaper at the time had like a bajillion soap strips, so that was when I got sucked in.ERIC
: Right, so since you started reading the comics religiously, have they been consistently like this, or has the shift to more people consuming webcomics and other stuff online changed the way the comics look or the way that they are written?JOSH
: There are a few different answers to that question. There is a certain amount of ... And this is true in every creative endeavor and it's not less true for the comics that there is now a shorter circuit between you and your audience, which can result in some weird feedback loops.
So in Mary Worth, one of her ancillary characters is this guy Wilbur Weston, who's sort of a short bald guy who is irritating on a number of levels. And there was a recent story where Wilbur was on a cruise with his girlfriend, who he does not deserve, who had tried to break up with him because he got into a fight with her cat. It's a long story. That's a classic Mary Worth bit.
And Wilbur, I wouldn't call him an alcoholic, but he is prone to self-medicating with alcohol at times. They were on a cruise, he got into a fight, they got into an argument and then he got liquored up and fell off the cruise ship. And there was a long stretch where people were like "Wilbur's dead!" But it turned out he had just washed up on a party island after a week of everyone mourning him and then he got to show up being like, "I'm still alive!"ERIC
: Still sloshed.JOSH
: Still sloshed. And so that storyline almost felt a little bit like it was baiting internet people who read Mary Worth, by which I mean me, specifically, and many of my readers. And clearly I enjoyed it, it was a big moment in Mary Worth fandom. It used to be that you were just sending stuff like that out, especially comic strips, you were just sending it out into the world and got an occasional letter to the editor, but couldn't get the immediate feedback that you get from it now. And I think that does affect the way they're created.
Now I think some of the other creators are not online at all, and God bless them. I think they're just doing their thing and not paying attention. I can't imagine that any of the people working at the workshops that create like Beetle Bailey or Garfield, no one cares what people say online about them.ERIC
: I was going to say, Beetle Bailey seems to be the perfect example of a strip that is frozen in time. It has never changed, right?JOSH
: You know, the funny thing is that's not quite true. The way it has changed in time is that every six to eight years, they realize something is going on in the world that they need to add a character to address, and so they do. And then that character just sort of sticks around, exactly like they were. For instance, in the 50s when the so-called "rock and roll" was becoming big, they introduced a character named Rocky, who was their Rebel Without a Cause guy. And he's just been there ever since, exactly the same.
They also added a Black character in the 70s, they added an Asian character in the 90s, and they added a computer programmer specialist in like 2003. And so all those guys are exactly like they were when they were introduced. The Black character still has a giant afro, the computer guy's name is Chip Gizmo and clearly none of the people writing jokes for him use computers. So in that sense, it's like a series of frozen-in-time moments, with Beetle Bailey in particular.
The overall thing about Beetle Bailey, and talk about being culturally specific that doesn't really relate, is that Beetle Bailey is a product of a period where there was a draft, but there wasn't any war, like basically between the Korean and Vietnam Wars. So you would have a military where there would be people who didn't really want to be there, but also were not in danger of getting shot at. However, it of course has continued to exist through huge changes in our society and in how war is fought and how the military works, socially and otherwise. So it's a very strange comic at this point.ERIC
: And yet it endures.JOSH
: And yet it endures. And if you took it out of the newspapers, the people would complain. Primarily, even the people who read those comics, probably a lot of them, if not a majority, read them online. And for the most part, it's the newspapers that are paying the syndicates for them, so it's the people who read the newspapers who they care about most. So if the shrinking and aging newspaper demographic specifically doesn't like your comic, then you're in trouble, even if you are popular online.ERIC
: If you've lost the over-80 set, then you've also lost the whole ball game.JOSH
: Seriously, and those are the people who are gonna get mad. And the comics page is fascinating from an economic standpoint. It's like the only job in America that you can just give to your children because obviously, these people have been working remotely for decades. They work in their workshops or their homes and they send it to the syndicate. And so it is super not-uncommon for the creator to be like, "Hey, is it okay if my son takes over the strip? By the way, my son has been writing and drawing this for the last 10 years, and I just didn't tell you, so it would be weird for you to say no at this point."
Or sometimes it goes from the person to their assistants, and so it depends. Some comics are still owned by the creators or the creators' families, or the creators' LLC that they created at some point. Then some of them are owned by the syndicate, and the syndicates sort of hire people to do the gags and the drawing, and that's a little different dynamic.ERIC
: Keep the IP alive, yeah.JOSH
: Yes, so it's wild and apparently some of these strips are still making enough money that they can have workshops with people and multiple people work on it. And some of them are just sort of like labors of love for one person.ERIC
: Yeah, all right. Well let us briefly escape from the newspaper comics, and go online, the place where the Beetle Bailey artists dare not venture, and find out who Josh Fruhlinger follows. You can follow along with us today. Every person he recommends will be linked in the show notes and in the transcript at followfridaypodcast.com.
Josh, before the show, I gave you a list of categories, and I asked you to tell me four people you follow who fit in those categories. Your first pick is in the category "someone who's an expert in a very specific niche that you love," and you said Numble, which is on Twitter @numble
. And their bio says "I read LA Metro documents for fun." So to start off, why don't you explain what Numble does and why you love it?JOSH
: So just a background on me and why specifically I love this, I live in Los Angeles and I don't drive, which is a sort of unusual combination. I have a driver's license, I had a whole series of accidents and near accidents in my late teens and early twenties. And I was like, maybe this isn't for me.
And my wife and I have a car together, so it's not like I'm never in a car, but when I get around by myself it's often by public transit in LA. Which is, I always tell people it's not as bad as you think. People are like "No one takes the bus in LA," but actually a million people take the bus in LA every single day, but it's not as good as it could or should be. It's not a great public transit city.
And so Numble is a person who, their entire persona on Twitter is to find documents from LA Metro, which is the county agency that runs the public transit in Los Angeles county. They are very laser-focused on this. You can get a sense of their personality through some of their commentary and stuff, but it's really not clear, are they a Metro operator? Are they within Metro somehow? All the stuff they find is publicly accessible, but it's often in very obscure corners of the Metro website.
So LA, to its credit, is trying to expand and improve its public transit network in a lot of ways. And there are multiple construction projects going on right now, all of which at this point are quite delayed. They will find documents talking about when is a particular line going to open. How much money are we making from this tax that we voted for ourselves to fund public transit? What are the priorities?
One of the big problems they're having now is that they can't hire enough bus drivers,. just because it's a sort of thankless job and it doesn't pay great. And so they have goals of how often buses are supposed to come and they can't meet them because they don't have enough operators. I sometimes wonder if Numble is a bus — operator, in lingo — a bus driver, because the profile picture is a person sitting behind the wheel of a bus looking at some documents unfolded on the wheel. But that also just could be some random picture they took of a bus driver, so I don't know.ERIC
: And you said that you can get a sense of their personality from the way that they tweet, what do you mean by that? Are they angry about the state of transportation, are they funny about it? How would you describe their personality?JOSH
: I don't know if this counts as a personality. People, including myself, have been accused of making public transit their personality online. I would say that they are interested in LA having a better public transit system than it does, but are also a little bit detached and amused by some of the flounderings that go on to make that happen.
One of the running bits is that ... So there's the Crenshaw Line, which is a new line that's gonna be running out by the airport that is supposed to open in 2019, and now the best guess is hopefully it will be open by the end of this year. And whenever they post the updated construction reports ... it's been "99% done" for like a year and a half, and usually by the time the reports are be made public is like a few weeks old. And so every report "we expect it to be handed over to Metro for testing on this date." And then Numble will say "They did not hand it over for testing on that date." The fact that they say it the same way every single time is now just sort of this running joke.
So it's a person who I follow very closely and therefore feel like I know, but don't know anything about. And that's one of the things I find interesting about them is how anonymous they are. When I started my blog, I actually didn't put anything about myself on it and I had this idea that I was gonna do it very anonymously. That lasted I think five weeks. And then I was like oh no, I gotta start posting about myself and now my face is on it.ERIC
: Yeah, it's difficult to write around yourself in that way. I get that. I'm up in San Francisco and so our version of the Crenshaw Line is the Van Ness Improvement Project, it's a bus lane...JOSH
: Oh, yeah!ERIC
: ... you know about this? It's famous, I guess.JOSH
: Yeah, I lived in the Bay Area years ago, so I keep up on it. I keep up on public transit worldwide, but ...ERIC
: OK. Exactly. Yeah, this is a bus lane that they have been building for about 10 years. It's a lane of the highway painted red that, as of this recording, I don't think is still open to buses, but it looks like it's finally getting there. I think within the next decade, they will have it.JOSH
: I actually read it's supposed to be opening by the end of the week, or at the end of the month or I think.ERIC
: Oh my God, by the time this podcast drops they may be open. My mockery will be in vain.JOSH
: Might be taking those Van Ness lines. What about the Geary Street lines, also is something that's been working on forever.ERIC
: Yeah, I think at one point they were trying to build a new connecting streetcar line and they built it pretty much all the way. And then they realized they had the wrong size railing, so they had to rip it all up.JOSH
: That's about right, yeah.ERIC
: In my previous life as a tech podcast producer, I got to meet your mayor, Eric Garcetti, in LA. And he was saying at the time — this was several years ago — he was talking about transit and he was really excited about the Hyperloop, Elon Musk's future tunnel project thing.JOSH
: [sighs] Oh, Eric Garcetti...ERIC
: I am telling from your sigh that you maybe are not the biggest fan of Hyperloop?JOSH
: No, and I could go on a great length about this, to bore everybody, but the thing is there's nothing about train technology that is difficult or hard or new. It can move thousands of people very quickly. And the Hyperloop stuff moves fewer people; I don't think it's particularly cheaper to build.
They haven't even really built it. Elon Musk was gonna build one for the Las Vegas convention center but ended up building a tunnel that Teslas drive through. It's just a matter of the geometry of how many people can you move? And I'm not gonna say that the way that we build public transit in this country works because it clearly does not. What's most frustrating is that in Europe they build it — Europe, a place that is not known for having low labor costs or anything like that, builds it much cheaper. And people in the US just won't learn from it. You never hear about people going over to figure out "Well how do you guys do things?" And they're just like well that's different, right? They're just different.ERIC
: I got the chance to go to the World Expo earlier this year in Dubai. And we went to the China pavilion where they're bragging about this year building 30 new high-speed rail lines across the country. And we were saying "boy, it'd be great to have high-speed rail and democracy." I feel like we should have both, but apparently, it's an either-or situation.JOSH
: But you can! Again, France and Spain are countries that are built on a bunch of high-speed rails. In my sort of lefty social Democrat heart ... not to pick on Belgium, but I feel like you could argue with Americans by saying, "are you saying we can't do the things that Belgium does?" In anything. "Are you saying Belgium has universal health care and we can't? Are we gonna let Belgium show us up that way?" No offense to our Belgian listeners, but yeah.ERIC
: Well anyway, that was Numble, which is on Twitter @numble
. Josh, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for "someone you have followed forever," and you said Katie Notopoulos, who is on Twitter @katienotopoulos
. Katie's a reporter at BuzzFeed News, and you told me that you've been following her work since I think before she was at BuzzFeed, since the 2000s. Explain what you associated her with before she was a journalist.JOSH
: I wanna say the mid-aughts — have we've settled on aughts as the name of what that is called? So in the middle of the 2000s, the aughts, whatever you want to call it, this was the high point of blogs before social media took off. And you would find a blog and put it in your RSS reader, for your old people out there.
And I don't even remember how I found them, but it was just a collection of blogs that were very anonymous. They were only about one thing and the person didn't reveal much about themselves. And there were quite a few. The two I remember best were "Sorry I Missed Your Party
," which were all Flickr pictures. Remember Flickr? Like, you used to be able to post, and they would encourage you to post in a way that would make them shareable for non-commercial purposes.
Katie, who's the person behind this, would find the goofiest pictures and post them, sometimes with a caption and sometimes not. And then there was another one that was called "Bad Questions for Yahoo Answers
," which for those of you who remember Yahoo! Answers, it was sort of a proto-Quora, which was even dumber. One of the most famous Yahoo questions was "How is Babby formed?
" I think has become a sort of legendary meme. And I think maybe that might have been first on Katie's blog.ERIC
: Wait, Katie is the one who popularized How is Babby Formed?JOSH
: Don't hold me to that, it seems the sort of thing that would have been on her blog, but it might've also gone viral in other ways. But eventually, after a while, I started to realize that these were all from the same person. She might've actually just made it clear at some point, but I was like, oh, this makes sense. And then she went on to BuzzFeed and did a lot of great internet culture stuff on BuzzFeed.
One of my very favorite things, that article that should have won the Pulitzer that year was ... So on the Wikipedia article for grinding, the dance, there is a truly amazing picture that just has extremely powerful Bush-era energy of some people standing up on a bar and sort of grinding on each other.ERIC
: Oh my God, I just found the photo.JOSH
: Oh yeah, it's still there, and one of them is wearing a Jamiroquai hat. If I remember right, some of their eyes sort of have that flash, like it's clearly taken with a flash photo. And anyway, she found all those people and wrote an article that was basically like behind the music of that photo, and it was incredible. I think it's called, an oral history of the grinding article on Wikipedia.ERIC
: "The Definitive Oral History of the Wikipedia Photo for Grinding
: Yes! That's it. And she's a person I followed on the internet, but also has a sort of relation with the internet that I really appreciate. And she used to post a lot on Twitter and now she doesn't, presumably because she has become more mentally healthy than I am. But I think she still works for BuzzFeed.
Weirdly also found out when I moved to LA, I also found out that she was one of my wife's cousin's best friends in college. So it's very weird, but I'm like maybe someday she'll come out and visit and I'll finally meet her. Anyway, she's someone I followed forever and I think I also put her in the category of people who should come back. She hasn't disappeared forever, but I do wish she would post more, and I get it, she's got other stuff going on.ERIC
: Some balance in your life. You can't spend this all day on Twitter, just 23 hours, right? But no, I started following Katie later than you, when she and friend of the show Ryan Broderick were hosting a podcast called Internet Explorer, an internet culture podcast.
And she and Ryan and their colleagues would also do these lists for Buzzfeed every year about the worst things on the internet of the year, which was one of the best things. They were disgusting and they were cringeworthy and it was expertly curated. I was always impressed by her and her colleagues about what they were able to dig up online. Are there any other specific projects or stories that you remember that Katie's been involved with that jumped out at you as, wow, this is an important voice on the internet? Stuff that you really liked of hers?JOSH
: That's sort of the high point. There were a couple times recently where, I wouldn't call it a stunt ... I remember when Facebook had their appliance, that was gonna let you do video chatting through Facebook. She might have done the glasses, too. She basically was like, "here's this thing everyone's been making fun of because it's terrible, I'm gonna use it and tell you how it goes." And she did it in a very interesting way of simultaneously engaging with it on its own terms as an object that you might use. But also being aware of the larger context of Facebook being a terrible company and so why on Earth would you want to do this? So I thought those were kind of interesting.ERIC
: The headline of her article, I think this is the review you're talking about, "I Love Facebook's Video Chatting Device Because I'm Drunk On Dumb Bitch Juice.
: Yes, that sounds right. I hope I'm not getting this completely wrong, she might've done one where she was like "I love this and no one should use it," that might be another one.ERIC
: I think you're right. But a recent thing that she tweeted that is right up your alley where she says "Trying to think of a similar IP to Garfield that is so widely beloved, yet it's actual cannon, the daily strips, are so bad."JOSH
: I assume you probably have opinions on this tweet here, but full disclosure, I was the Garfield kid. I was the one in elementary school who had all the little collected books of Garfield comic strips; I was obsessed for many years. So I cannot take any moral superiority here.JOSH
: Well the thing about Garfield that's interesting is that I do think it is a perfect machine aimed specifically towards 9 to 11 year olds. It's not for me, and I'm okay with that, it's like, you're learning what sarcasm is, and Garfield is kind of sassy and sarcastic, but it's still fine. I was on the bus the other day and there was a mom and her son who was about 9, sitting in the seats in front of me. He was reading a Garfield collection that clearly was taken out of the library, and he had several of them and it just warmed my heart. Like, in five years you're going to be like "Garfield is dumb and it's for babies." And then in 20 years you're going to be, "Garfield was pretty good for me when I was nine."ERIC
: Exactly. Well, the last thing I had written down here about Katie was that recently she's been doing a lot of reporting about cryptocurrency, NFTs, Bored Ape Yacht Club, and a lot of other things that I'm sick of hearing about. But the harsh truth is there's a lot of money flying around, a lot of big cultural players, so I feel like I should pay attention to all this stuff. And I think it's good that someone like Katie is taking it seriously and is reporting on it. Are you following any of this stuff or at least Katie's coverage of it?JOSH
: Yes, I'm actually minting my own coin based on Garfield, I'm gonna drop this now... No, I'm following it to the extent that I can read about it, to the extent that it makes me not recoil. It's probably something I should get over, but it just all seems so dumb and pointless to me.
I love that they're calling it web3, like I've been around the web since web 1 or possibly web 0. And there is a core of the technology that I'm sure is useful for something. But it just seems like so much of it is just money sloshing around and becoming a pyramid scheme of people putting money in. And you just need more people to keep the money in so that you can get your money out eventually. I have not read Katie's stuff about it. I'm sure it's great, just makes me mad reading about it and presumably I'm gonna get a bunch of emails about this telling me how I'm wrong or whatnot, but I don't care. I don't care. Sorry.ERIC
: Good. Be brave, hold that ground, hold that fort. That was Katie Notopolous who is on Twitter @katienotopolous
. We are going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with the Comics Curmudgeon, Josh Fruhlinger.
: Welcome back to Follow Friday. Josh, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for "someone you're jealous of," and you said Annie Rauwerda, who is on Twitter @anniierau
. I had not heard of Annie before, but I could tell right away that I'm gonna get hooked on a project of hers that she runs called Depths of Wikipedia. It's on Twitter @depthsofwiki
and on Instagram
@depthsofwikipedia. Do you wanna explain this project?
: Yeah. So, Annie is someone who is a Wikipedia obsessive, which I very strongly identify with. And it is not complicated, she finds the weirdest and funniest stuff and surfaces it and talks about it, and it's great. She has a very funny attitude, a very funny take on it. She also does some digging.
I actually found out, not unlike Katie's deep dive into the grinding photo, another very classic Wikipedia photo are the people on the high-five page who are acting out the high-five, down-low, too-slow sequence
: Right! Yes!JOSH
: And at the time she tracked them down, it's probably 15, 20 years later and found out at that time they were in a sort of an ambiguous, romantic relationship, and then they broke up and now they're married and they reproduced the sequence for her on her TikTok.ERIC
: Oh, my God.JOSH
: So in terms of framing it as someone you're jealous of ... my friend Connor Lostoka and I, for a while had a Tumblr that was called Citation Needed
. And we were doing this as a zero commentary bit; everyone was just like a quote from Wikipedia, that was patently absurd. And it's popular for a while, we did some quickie self-published books out of it, and then we sort of lost interest. And so Annie is surfacing ridiculous Wikipedia content for the new age. And I am slightly jealous that she's the one who gets to do it, but also she's very conversant in Instagram and TikTok in a way that I'm not. And so I'm very glad that she's doing it and it's getting very popular. So, I'm in a Facebook group that is not related to her that's called Cool Freaks Wikipedia Club.ERIC
: I used to be in that, yeah.JOSH
: Yeah, and I learned about her because a couple of people posted a couple of articles and someone would be like, "you're just copying what's on Depths of Wikipedia." So clearly she is an influencer within the Wikipedia obsessive community, and I appreciate and respect that.ERIC
: This may be obvious to folks who like us have spent a lot of time on Wikipedia, but maybe since you have some experience here, why do you think it is that Wikipedia has a specific tendency to get into these things that can be made fun of? If that makes sense.JOSH
: No, it can. I simultaneously think that Wikipedia is a really valuable resource — in most cases is as good or better than what would've been in an ordinary printed [encyclopedia] — and also just has almost limitless amounts of nonsense and insanity. It's kind of interesting. And my pet theory about it is that one of the biggest reasons is that there are no limits on how much you can have on Wikipedia.
So it encourages people to be able to create articles about any topic they want, including topics that would not normally get an encyclopedic treatment, and then treat them with the seriousness that an encyclopedia deserves, even if the subjects themselves are strange or absurd. And so there's a certain kind of idiom to it. It's a very serious scholarly voice that is captured with varying degrees of fidelity by different editors. And some people are not good at it at all, but they're almost always trying, which is very endearing to me.ERIC
: They're working toward an encyclopedic voice, even when the subject matter is ridiculous.JOSH
: Even if they're not particularly great writers, they're often doing what in their mind is a sort of ponderous and "smart person" voice. Even if it doesn't come across that way. And of course, a lot of them are pulled from what's in other Wikipedia articles, so it becomes a sort of feedback loop of what's it like?
And of course Wikipedia is full of drama because there are deletionists and completionists, there are people who are very strict about "I don't think this deserves a Wikipedia article" and there are some people who really think it does. A fun fact is that there's a Wikipedia article for the Comics Curmudgeon
, which if you put my name, it redirects you to it, and it has been deleted at least twice and then recreated, and then there have been a not-insignificant number of attempts to request deletion, which have failed.
And following the rules of Wikipedia, I have never edited my own article and I've never participated in it, but of course I watch it. And I'm constantly amused by seeing every once in a while the drama that flares up around it. It's been a while since anyone's tried to delete it, so I guess I'm OK. Either that or they stop caring about me, one of those two things.ERIC
: I just checked, the sections are content, impact, awards.... There's no personal life, no controversy or criticism sections. I think you're doing OK for yourself.JOSH
: There was a point where there was more about me personally, that I think got deleted and someone was basically like "this is about the blog, not the person." I'm like, I respect that, that's fine, no one needs to know that I was on Jeopardy in 2008, why would you care about that? Not interesting to this blog.ERIC
: I saw that on your website you have the answer to one of the questions you missed on your website.JOSH
: Golda Meir, I should have known it. It was the Final Jeopardy, but you know. C'est la vie.ERIC
: Have you seen the online store that Annie has made for Depths of Wikipedia?JOSH
: I have. I'm trying to remember what sort of stuff is on it.ERIC
: I was looking at this earlier, it's at depthsofwikipedia.com
and I already have too many mugs, but I almost bought like four mugs from this store. I would highly recommend going to it.JOSH
: This "bisexual lighting" mug skeleton
: Yeah, and they have a mug for high five variations with the original photos of the couple doing "up-high; down-low; victim misses; 'too slow' with finger guns."JOSH
: This is one of the things about Wikipedia, of course, that encourages this kind of stuff is that it is all licensed. In order to contribute to Wikipedia, you have to license it to be reused by whoever wants to use it, it's very open source in that way. So yes, if you wanted to, you could print out all of Wikipedia and sell it to somebody, or you could make a mug featuring the bisexual lighting skeleton and sell it on a page and no one can stop you.
I met someone online ... There's some really interesting old photos on Wikipedia that are from the 70s. And I'm not really clear about what the copyright status is. But there's a picture, I think on the Halloween page, of a little kid, there's a picture of them dressed as a skeleton that's kind of creepy and evocative.
Anyway, I somehow ran into the person online who that's a picture of, and he said that he's a big fan of that fact, and that he's met people who have tattoos of it.ERIC
: Of that specific photo?JOSH
: Of that photo. I'll find the picture for you and send it to you after that.ERIC
: Please do. If you find the link, we'll put it in the show notes and in the transcript. [here it is!
] All right, well that was Annie Rauwerda, the creator of Depths of Wikipedia, which is on Twitter @depthsofwiki
and on Instagram
We have time for one more follow today. I think I saved the best for last. Josh, I asked you for "someone you just started following," and you said WHH Haters Posting Their L's Online, which is on Twitter @WHHHLsonline.
And some context, if you don't know what this meme, there are lots of novelty accounts about people's wins and losses (W's and L's), usually screenshots of those people winning or losing internet arguments, or maybe saying something that reveals their own shortcomings if it's an L. So Josh, who are the WHH Haters and why are they posting their Ls?JOSH
: Well, the people who are WHH Haters are people who needlessly hate on our ninth president, William Henry Harrison. You might remember him as the guy who caught pneumonia because he refused to wear an overcoat during his inaugural address in the pouring rain and died 30 days after he was elected — both destroying his reputation, making it so that that's the only thing anyone remembered about him, also elevating his vice president John Tyler to be president who is undoubtedly one of the worst presidents in American history. The only American president who later served in the Congress of the Confederacy and managed to alienate both his party and the opponent.
The point is, William Henry Harrison has a bad rap, but this Twitter feed tries to restore his reputation by engaging in vicious fights against his non-existent haters. And there's not a ton of active anti-William Henry Harrison haters on the internet, but he will definitely find them and yell at them. And also do a lot of memes about William Henry Harrison.
The thing about William Henry Harrison is that like many 19th century white men, he wasn't a great guy: Slave owner, Indian genocider, etc. But he happened to have a good enemy who was Andrew Jackson, who was probably even worse. So there is a lot of anti-Andrew Jackson content on this feed as well. And also a lot of pro-Whig party, because Harrison was the first president elected for the Whigs. So a lot of pro-Whig propaganda.
Which is always sort of fun because we sort of are so married to what our current set of political concerns are, and obviously they are very important. But it is kind of interesting to remember that there are periods in history where the partisanship was just as intense and it was about things that nobody cares about now. Like "should we be building canals into the Midwest?" The whigs cared a lot about it and people got riled up and now we're like "I guess, I don't know." So yeah, I'm a big fan of it. It's definitely based on the sort of meme type of account where it'll be Men Posting Their Ls or Conservatives Posting Their Ls Online and putting a very funny spin on it.ERIC
: It's also kind of a parody of folks on social media, and Twitter specifically, who do what's called name-searching. I think it's a controversial practice where you are looking for your own name for tweets that are about you when you're not mentioned. So basically when the tweeter didn't necessarily want you to see that they were talking about you.JOSH
: They didn't tag you.ERIC
: Yeah, they don't tag you. Here's a recent tweet from WHH Haters: "I sometimes search William Henry Harrison's name and all I see is 'he died in office' and 'he was a war criminal.' And I think about how no matter how big our following is, our work will never be done. I think we need missionaries or something to get to these people before they do."JOSH
: Yeah, and I'm sure if you search for William Henry Harrison on Twitter, all you'll find is people talking about how he died in 30 days. And this guy will retweet a lot of those things and yell at them, so I respect it.ERIC
: So did you have a particular attachment to WHH before you found this account? Did you have any particular feelings about him?JOSH
: I'm into history, so I knew a little bit about him, but like most people, I think the primary thing I knew about him was that he died after 30 days in office, in a kind of stupid way. I'm sorry WHHHLs online anonymous tweeter, but he should have worn a coat. He was an old man and it was raining and his speech was very long.ERIC
: It was like a two hour long speech, yeah.JOSH
: It was a very long speech. And I heard there was some sort of controversy about maybe it wasn't actually pneumonia. I have not followed this up, so I could be wrong. But anyway, the point is that I didn't really think that much about William Henry Harrison before following this Twitter. And now I only think of him in terms of like someone being mad at Andy Jackson, which I support, and also occasionally promoting whig ideology, which I'm like why not bring back the whigs? I like canals. Does Ohio need more canals? Maybe only one way to find out.ERIC
: Start digging, yeah.JOSH
: That's right, exactly.ERIC
: Canal infrastructure is just the ancestor of public transit in LA, it's all connected.JOSH
: They're like subways of the sea, let's call them that. In Venice, California, the reason it's called that is because there were originally a bunch of canals that they built houses next to. Now almost all of them have been filled in, but there are still a few.ERIC
: Wow, I had no idea. But yeah, I like the meta-joke of this account, which is just how everything can become an argument on the internet. As you're saying, they're digging up these tweets about people just making jokes and quote-tweeting them, putting them on blast. And I would hope that this may give followers some pause about whatever fights they are choosing to start online.JOSH
: Yeah, one of the things that he constantly retweets is there's a Simpsons where ... I don't even remember the context within the Simpsons, but I think they were at Disney and they go to the Hall of the Lesser Presidents. And then there's a musical review. And one guy is like "There's William Henry Harrison, I died in 30 days." And so he always will post big accounts that are supposedly screenshotting this, even though of course they're not, really. He has one of Joe Biden supposedly screenshotting it, and he's like "I'm sure that's just a coincidence. Like Martin Van Buren, Joe Biden is a Democrat!"ERIC
: Oh my God, it's amazing. This is one of those things where I'm so glad that the internet is weird sometimes, that someone is committed to this bit where they are just every day in the trenches defending William Henry Harrison, just what a good use of their time.JOSH
: I always wonder how long can this bit go on with these. Because I'm looking at the account now and I can see it was started in September 2021, which is almost six months at this point. That's a pretty good run for something like this. For me, I've been doing my blog for more than 15 years and that's way too long to be doing it, but I'm going to keep doing it until they stop making comics. So I respect someone who commits, that's all I'm going to say.ERIC
: And then after that, you can move on to webcomics. You can go and dive into the history of overdramatic webcomics.JOSH
: All right. Well that was WHH Haters Posting Their L's Online, which is on Twitter @WHHHLsonline
. Josh, thank you so much for sharing all these follows with us today. Before we go, let's make sure that listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you?JOSH
: Well you can go to my blog, which is at joshreads.com
. If you just want comics content, that's all I do there. If you want my every thought that I ever have, you can go to Twitter, which is @jfruh
, is my Twitter account. I will also post links there to things that I write.
I also do live stand-up shows in Los Angeles that's called The Internet Read Aloud. I don't know when this one's going out. I have one on April 1st, the first Friday of every month. That's at the Clubhouse in Los Feliz, so I'll post links to that there. And if you mostly just want to see pictures of the feral cats that I feed that live in my backyard, you can go to @joshreads
: Perfect. Follow me on Twitter @heyheyesj
, and don't forget to follow or subscribe to Follow Friday in your podcast app. If you like this episode, then check out the past Follow Friday interviews with Broti Gupta from The Simpsons
, Ryan Broderick from Garbage Day
, and Samir Mezrahi from Zillow Gone Wild
Follow Friday is a production of LightningPod.fm, hosted and produced by me, Eric Johnson. Our theme song was performed by Yona Marie
, our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan
, and our social media producer is Sydney Grodin. Special thanks to our Big Fri Patreon backers, Jon and Justin. Visit patreon.com/followfriday
for an extended-length version of this interview, featuring a bonus follow recommendation from Josh Fruhlinger.
That's all for this week. This is Eric Johnson reminding you to talk about people behind their backs. And when you do, say something nice. See you next Friday!