Hello! Captain Herzog here with a brief announcement. After an exhaustive search on eight continents, four planets, two solar systems, and the outskirts of Cleveland, we finally found the perfect editorial assistant in one Trace Woodgrains, a homosexual furry who says that his fursona is a “golden jackal.” We obviously prefer our canines to be curly-haired and muppet-adjacent around here, but we’re thrilled to have Trace onboard even if he does shed and eat garbage.
Trace will have several jobs, including reading your emails. Here’s how that’s going to work, compliments of an anonymous poster.
Now, let’s meet Trace.
Trace, who the hell are you?
I am a gay, furry, left-handed, ex-Mormon gamer, providing near-maximum diversity while still being a cis white male and therefore cancellable if I get out of hand. I have a pretty small online presence, mostly within Reddit's rationalist-adjacent communities, where I spend most of my time whingeing about things like education, misleading research, and the ever-increasing tension and divisiveness in U.S. politics. If someone has heard of me outside the context of Blocked and Reported, it's likely from my adversarial collaboration on education guest-posted on Slate Star Codex, the subreddit /r/theschism that I co-founded as a home for respectful political discussion, or my account of my journey out of Mormonism. I've also posted a grandiose and lengthy self-introduction elsewhere for the morbidly curious.
How the hell did you learn about this podcast?
I've spent altogether too much time online following the same stories and arguments you and Jesse do and had previously appreciated some of the sanity both of you were willing to inject into insane controversies, so I couldn't help but notice the podcast as soon as it launched. I liked your chemistry, senses of humor, and willingness to carefully approach difficult topics, so I kept listening and, well, here we are. My first time as anything more than a listener came when I tipped you off to the abortion bounty hunter hoax story, figuring you'd be the perfect journalists to give it the amused-yet-baffled cover it richly deserved. You seemed interested and did a great job with the story, so I kept reaching out with more, and, well, here we are.
Why the hell did you want this job?
You know that urge after you learn about something bizarre and outrageous to inflict it on someone else? I feel that urge every day. To put it simply, I'm a pathetic online obsessive who spends much of my free time scouring the internet for culture war rubbish, then writing in-depth journalistic pieces on it unpaid and for a niche audience. How could I not want this job and the opportunity to get paid for something I spend altogether too much time doing for free? I think every young child has daydreamed about becoming a Podcaster's Apprentice one day, and now I get to live that dream.
What's the weirdest internet subculture you've come across?
Oh, boy. It's got to be tulpamancers. Tulpamancers aim to spend hundreds of hours crafting something between multiple personality disorder and elaborate imaginary friends, coming up with a character and aiming to imagine it so vividly, over such a long period of time, that it becomes (per their self-reports) an independent voice within their minds. Their "tulpas" tend to be characters either from their own stories or from popular fiction, and the subculture really became a thing online when 4chan's My Little Pony board dug the topic up and decided it would be fun to share their minds with pastel ponies like Twilight Sparkle or Rainbow Dash. Vice wrote a decent piece on them once.
While I enjoy joking about bizarre online subcultures as much as anyone, in all seriousness, I'm glad there are people out there willing to explore this stuff. Reality is weird, and I have a lot of respect for people willing to experiment within peculiar niches and report the results to the rest of us. I try to approach weird online subcultures and stories from an angle of appreciation, even as I love digging around in the strangest drama they have to offer. May a thousand bizarre niche subcultures bloom.
What do you really think about Jesse?
Jesse? Isn't he that horse guy? I dunno, I try not to think about him too much.
A big thanks to everyone who applied for the job. We got so many amazing applicants that the decision was agonizing, but Trace has already helped make the show weirder (Alt-right furries! Reborn dolls! Libertarians losing their shit!) and we’re very grateful to have he/him/it on board. Everyone, say hi to Trace!