20 Questions Tuesday: 198 - Justin Robert Young

Another opportunity has made itself available, and I am nothing if not opportunistic.  This week’s 20 Questions Tuesday is the vocabulist known as Justin Robert Young.  Justin is the cohost of the wildly successful podcast NSFW found on the TWiT network.  He is the cohost of the infinitely enjoyable Weird Things podcast.  He does some other stuff, but those are the things I care about, and this is my blog, gotdammmit!  Justin Robert Young, JuRY to his friends (of which I am not one… yet), has a way with words… more to the point he is a metaphor machine wrapped in a simile coupled with an ironic paradox.  I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Young (see? not friends, or I would have called him JuRY) at an Andrew Mayne (See 20 Questions Tuesday: 196) speaking engagement in Columbus, Ohio.  He was surprisingly quiet at that event, but I did meet him briefly during a bidness transaction…  take from that what you will.

So without further ado….  20 Questions with Justin Robert Young….

I typically start out with a question about your geographic history, but I think I will get to that later.  The people demand to know this information (I have a consistent 20 people who read this, so keep that in mind when you think about phoning in your answers)Question 1:  Cake or Pie? What kind and why?

I am WAY more of a cake person. Specifically because it has the option for ice cream inclusion. Pie with ice cream is a separate thing. You never see Ice Cream Pie. BUT you see Ice Cream Cake all the time. I feel like this is a tie breaker that nobody pays attention to.

Cake FTW.

Oddly, I think you are the first person to bring ice cream and cake into the mix. Some people have tried the pie a la mode method in the past, but this is the first inclusion of ice cream cake.  Well played, well played indeed.

So, now that that is out of the way… I was born near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was moved to Montgomery, Alabama when I was 3.  Migrated up to Birmingham, Alabama and stayed there until I went to college in Kent, Ohio.  I followed my fiancee down to Columbus, Ohio and have been living there ever since.  Question 2:  What is your geographic story?

Okay! Born in Fort Worth, Texas moved to Orlando, Florida moved to San Diego, California moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. All those were due to my Dad shuffling jobs. He was part of the cellular communications boom through the 80’s and 90’s and took advantage of plentiful opportunities coupled with an uncanny knack for getting fired.

Then! Moved to Syracuse, New York for college moved Hoboken, New Jersey and commuted to NYC for work after graduation before coming home to Fort Lauderdale to work with my friend Andrew.

And THERE we go.

So the movement from place to place because of the cellular boom of the 80’s and 90’s seems to closely resemble to migration patterns of a military family. Interesting. The first 3 moves in my chain of residences were due to the Air Force, but then I spent 14 years in the Birmingham area… The military could have picked a better place for my dad to retire, if you ask me.

Question 3: What drew you to Syracuse for college, that is quite a hike from Ft Lauderdale?

Journalism. I wanted to be a newspaper writer because I like to know the business of other people. The Newhouse School was well regarded and I applied thinking I would not get in.

I applied to four schools. Syracuse was my #1. I also applied to NYU, Boston University and my safe school the University of Florida. My first response was Syracuse, which I got into. I was pumped. Then the others came. Rejected. Rejected. Rejected.

That took the edge off my ego a bit.

I understand that.  I found that going well the hell away to school fit with me very well.  My acceptance to Kent State was helped along by the fact that 6 people from my extended and nuclear fam over the course of 3 generations had graduated from there, so I got a great alumni scholarship.  One of the few times my extended family has been helpful.. at all.  They are typically an anchor trying to drag me under the icy cold waters of despair and… but wait, this isn’t about me. It’s about you.

Question 4: So, going from Alabama to Northeast Ohio was quite the weather culture shock.  What was the biggest difference for you traveling from South Florida to Upstate New York?

Snow. Lots of snow.

South Florida has gorgeous winters but brutal summers. Aside from the horrifying amounts of snow, Syracuse had amazing summer weather the few times I got to be there for it.

Cuse did have my least favorite weather phenomenon: freezing rain.


Freezing rain is quite crappy.  I found that the summers in Kent were delightful, but I was in Alabama in the summer… and the winters in Bama were mild, but I was in Kent for that.  Horrible scheduling if you ask me.  Learning to drive in the snow was something that had to happen.  Alabamian in the snow!  Run for the hills!

Question 5: So how did you fall in with the magicians? and how did your family react when you brought those dirty dirty tricksters into your life?

I’ve been friends with Andrew since high school. He ran an after school critical thinking group that I was a part of. I kept in touch with him through college and then got a chance to work with him about six years ago. Part of that was writing the iTricks blog, that was where I met Brian.

And yet, from my understanding you do not really do any kinds of magic. That in and of itself is an interesting thing, if true.  So… Question 6: What drew you to/keeps you in the gigantic varied fields of magic? Which part of magic is most interesting to you?

I’ve always been a fan of magic, particularly the Blaine specials that were very big when I was a kid. The Copperfield specials as well.

It’s true that I’ve never learned to perform magic. Since I started writing about it, that kind of became an angle. I write from the perspective of a spectator. Which is rare in the magic field.

Magic is an interesting art. Mysterious by nature but there aren’t many innovators in the field. Those that truly evolve it as a performance art tend to be recognized but they are few and far between.

I don’t have a particular “favorite” kind of magic. The best magicians shuffle through many different genres. I just like great entertainers.

I find that I really enjoy really well done close up work. Magician Carroll Baker does magic for the kids Sundays at a BBQ place in town.  I know how he does many of his tricks in the academic sense of knowing, but his ability to do them without me seeing his slights of hand makes them all the more enjoyable. Plus, he makes my kids smile.  

Question 7: So, with all the Internet based entertainment that you do, which I am sure does eat up much time at all /sarcasm,  what do you do with your free time?

My podcasting stuff is really what I enjoy doing.

But aside from that I like to watch sports. I always purchase the NHL Center Ice package so I can follow the Penguins and I’ll make a weekly pilgrimage to a sports bar to watch the Steelers during football season.

That’s pretty much the only thing that doesn’t on some level factor into a podcast or blog.

It is amazing that when you are really “into” something it tends to consume most of your time.

Question 8: Why the attachment to the Pittsburgh athletic teams? Your geographic story doesn’t really jive with an affinity with that city.

Through middle and high school me and my brother were raised by my mom’s boyfriend who is from Pittsburgh. During that time we pirated DirecTV. This meant Pittsburgh sports were a constant. Steelers, Penguins and, ironically, the Pirates.

Sports is a great storyline generator. If all story is about conflict than sports is the ultimate series. Every seasons is made of games every game is made of plays every play is made of strategy. It really is such a amazing source of constant conflict.

Pirating the Pirates does have a nice ring to it… So you were pirating from the Pirates and stealing from the Steelers. You were not, however, penguining from the Penguins, mainly because I have no ideas as to what that would be.  I think your point on sports being an amazing source of constant conflict seems like it might be an underlying impetus behind the FSL Tonight podcast.  A delightful little romp that was this past year.

Well, let’s get on to something completely different.  Question 9: You clearly have a way with words… analogies, comparisons, metaphors, absurd paradoxes… when did you start to notice that words, written and oral, were your particular milieu?

I’ve constantly been clamoring for attention. My family has a lot of funny people in it and I’d always looked up to them. Having rock bottom self esteem also helps. You constantly see other people who are better than you and you become consumed trying to make yourself better.

That’s something I strived to kindle even as I’ve grown more confident in myself, which is also necessary to grow.

As for the crazy metaphors, they’ve kind of always just been a great way to get a laugh. It helps that they are so evocative.

Confidence is completely overrated.  I have found that my incredibly bloated sense of self has only been a hindrance to my success.  When one has as bloated a sense of confidence, one often has a raging sense of entitlement.  It is difficult to search for a job when people should just give them to you. But enough about me, let’s keep exploring you.

Fill in the blanks: Question 10: "I find that I am mostly _____________." "Others find that I am mostly _____________."

I feel I am mostly distracted. Others feel I am mostly loud.

There isn’t really a significant difference between how you perceive yourself and how you feel others perceive you.  That either means that you either have a fairly accurate opinion of yourself or you are completely delusional.  And now we are on the downward slide, it is all kittens and unicorns from here on out.

Question 11: Between your work on Weird Things, and the NSFW Show you have to deal with boatloads of Internet wackiness (Double Complete Rainbow, Adrian Brody, NyanCat, crappy bigfoot vids, etc) is there a particular piece that you can’t help but find hilarious every time you see/hear them.

What I love about memes is that we are perpetually either madly in love with them or looking back nostalgically at them. There are so many that we can always love them in one of those unique ways.

Of them all… the Shit’s Going Down in Clay Class meta-NSFW meme is probably my favorite. —Editor’s Note:I cannot find the link to this, I will look again later—

It is amazing how short the lifespan of a meme truly is, and how few explosive meme’s actually get to make it into the longer term cultural zeitgeist. It is also amazing how often I try to fit the phrase “cultural zeitgeist” into everyday conversation.  I often fail miserably at that. At my current job I got called “Wordy McSmartpants” for saying the phrase “cognitive dissonance.”  I have a better time fitting in the words “Yard Gnome” (another daily word challenge I give myself).

Question 12: Since, at your heart, you are a writer, is there a novel within you that needs to get out?  And if so, what is holding you back from creating it, even just for yourself?

I don’t know if I have a great fiction novel in me. But I think I have a few good non-fiction stories I could help tell.

What stops me? Time and momentum. The second is more important than the first.

Momentum is definitely a big stumbling block.  I have found myself having fits and starts with creative projects, and momentum behind those creative projects is what ultimately killed those projects.  Killed those projects dead.

When I was a high school kid I had a specific ritual associated with getting ready to play a soccer game.  This ritual primarily was a very precise sequence of donning my socks, shin guards, and cleats.  Sadly, the ritual did not involve a live chicken or anything like that, but it was used to get my mind in the right frame.  I was well aware that this process was more akin to a meditative process and not really believing in a ritual bringing about a superstitious outcome.  It was a process of letting go of the non-soccer things going on in my life and getting in the right frame of mind for the game at hand.  Question 13: So, since we are on Question 13, and in light of what I consider a “ritual,” do you have any superstitions or rituals?

Playoff beard is probably the biggest of them. But even that is more of a fun way to show I like the team.

I wonder how many actual rituals associated with modern and ancient religions started out as the equivalent of the “play-off beard.” Is the Papal Tiara in truth a “Rally Cap?”

Since you are a skeptic… Question 14: Do you think there is intelligent life out there in the cosmos?  And as a follow up, If it does exist, do you think intelligent life will ever make contact with other intelligent life? and as a third follow up, because this is my blog and I make the rules here, do you consider humanity part of the intelligent life in the cosmos?  Multi-part question… that’s how I roll.

I am a big believer on knowing the limits of your knowledge. So my best answer to the first question is “I hope so.” I really don’t know enough about the probabilities to say for sure one way or another. But we are lucky to live in an age of constant surprise, I hope that’s one of them.

That being said, I think our concept of making contact with intelligent life is really just us wanting to talk to our future selves. We want to fly around the stars, we want to explore the cultures of foreign planets. How frustrating would communicating with completely alien intelligent life be? My guess would be very.

What we really want is to become a multi-planet species and visit each other. So yes, we are intelligent life.

As I stated with the Andrew Mayne 20 Questions, I do think there is intelligent life out there, however I do not think it will ever intersect with our particular brand of intelligent life.  I don’t think people really understand the vast distance that is space, the solar system, the galaxy, the universe.  The distance between places is crazy, and near insurmountable.  I think, at best humanity will be able to send photon postcards to “neighboring” civilizations… But no one has ever asked me this.

Question 15: Speaking of skepticism and the like, is there a particular genre of “Weird Things” that you hope is possible?  Cryptids, aliens, psychic powers, paranormal entities (ghosties, etc…).  I personally want bigfoot to be real.

I love cryptids. Largely because they are the crossroads between myth and biology. We already have some crazy looking animals running around and yet we invent these others. Are they elusive or just fiction? And if they are fiction, will they EVENTUALLY exist?

Ooh, I hadn’t ever really thought about genetically engineering cryptids.  I love that idea.  I guess Ogopogo and Nessie and Mokele Mbembe would be straight up dino clones,  but what would need to happen to make a thunderbird or a yeti?

Question 16: Is there anything I have not asked you yet, that I should have asked, or that you are surprised I have not asked?

I am sure there are still questions to ask, but that’s your job right?

It is indeed, but some folk get huffy when I don’t ask something they feel is obvious. So Question 16a: What would you dooo-oo-oo for a Klondike bar? There. I asked it.

Unspeakable things.

Seriously?  Right?  I mean Klondike Bars are sublime and require unspeakable things… so many unspeakable things.

Question 17: What is the main way that your myriad of podcasts (NSFW, Weird Things, FSL Tonight, Andrew Mayne Stories, all of the audio books, guest appearances on other podcasts, Good Lord! you are podcasting all the damn time) have changed your life.

The biggest way the podcasts have changed my life are the listeners. The #chatrealm /<> phenomenon is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. It’s so amazing knowing that there are people willing to listen or read things you’d like to put out. It’s so freeing creatively.

I think your ability to connect to the chat room/realm /<> changes this mode of media from purely generative to something significantly more collaborative, and that is truly amazing.  

Well, here on 20 Questions Tuesday, we understand (royal we) that turnabout is fair play, so for 1 question and 1 question only, you can ask me something (as long as it is not “What do you do?” I get that waay too often.)

Question 18: After all these questions, is there anything you want to ask me?

What’s your favorite Prince song?

That’s an easy question.  Seven from Prince’s “Love Symbol” Album.

Ah the penultimate question… Question 19: What have you learned during the course of these almost 20 Questions? What are you taking from this that you did not bring in with you?

That I only had to be reprimanded twice to continue answering questions. I thought I had a WAY shorter attention span.

You make me out to be a vicious taskmaster and at best a harsh mistress.  I do hope I was not too pushy about doing me the favor of answering questions. I hope to not be an over-bearing interviewer.  I am afraid you will forever refer to me as the Katie Couric of 20 Questions and you as the Sarah Palin of interviewees.

Question 20: What’s next?  Take that to be as open or as specific as you want.

Oh no good sir, you misunderstand my meaning. Keeping my attention on any one thing is a true challenge. Your questions are engaging and awesome. If anything you are the David Frost to my Dick Nixon :)

What’s next is a move. When we started this line of questioning I had to to interview with The Go Game. Now I have accepted a job and I am moving out West. It’s very exciting. I’ll be back living in California for the first time since second grade.

And alas and alack the 20 questions is over.  This is one of the best yet.  I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and cannot wait for others to partake in the glory that is this 20 Questions…  Congrats on the new job and I hope success follows you as you travel west.  As a bonus Question 21: Can I call you JuRY?

You can call me JuRY, and baby when I call you I will call you Al.

Seriously folks check out Justin Twitter, his co-hosting duties on NSFW Show, and Weird Things, his audio book podcasts of the Andrew Mayne books, and his new podcast Andre Mayne Stories.  But don’t forget his top-selling comedy album, Night Attack. Seriously, check his shit out.

To recap:
THAT just happened
Seriously, that JUST happened
So Wifey left for San Francisco on Sunday afternoon
She got back Monday night at 11:20
Whirlwind… she is a whirlwind… an anti-cyclone of travelling fury
I have many things to do around the house to get it ready for the selling
Back on the market soon
Little Man had a nasty cough this weekend
He was better on Monday
2 more weeks until the 200th 20 Questions Tuesday
I am trying to do something interesting with 200
Not sure exactly what
199 will be more typical
201 will be more typical
200 will be atypical…. atypical
The feet are feeling great
I think some running might be in order
Other than that, nada
Have a great weekend everyone