Good People, Cool Things
Good People, Cool Things

Episode 16 · 2 years ago

16: Journalism Jobs and Punk Rock Karaoke with Janet Jay

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Journalist Janet Jay joins the podcast to talk about her fantastic career, her penchant for upcycling, and the best tunes to choose for punk rock karaoke.

Welcome the good people, cool things, the podcast featuring conversations with entrepreneurs, writers, musicians and other creatives. I'm your host, Joey held, and today's guest is Janet J, who has some of the most fascinating writing clips out there. She's done a deep dive into how you can make yogurt with your vagina and she's written about being a Cyborg come to life. It's very, very fantastic stuff all around. Janet one of the first writers I met back in when I was just getting started in my writing career. I don't even know if she knows it, though, but we're going to get into all of that in this episode. So, Janet, take it away. We'll start real, real simply. How did you get into writing? Oh, Jeez Um, it was always something. I've always been a huge nerd. I've always loved reading really from from as long as I can remember, and as I started kind of growing up and getting into high school and getting involved with school papers and stuff like that, which I was never the kid that was like the editor or were super into it, but I got to write some really cool stories in well, not cool stories, have some cool journalism related experiences in high school that kind of crystallize that it was something that that I was interested in. I had one story. The really that the story I'm thinking of was my high school spent a bunch of money on a new millions of dollars on a new security system the year after Columbine happened, and it was incredibly wasteful and useless equipment and I wrote this story about it that this guy gave me what work for Security Office, gave me all these quotes and when it was published, the head of security office came in and said, Oh, this guy has denied giving any of these quotes. Your reporter made it all up. You have to retract the issue and tear out that story and reprint it. And I went home and got the recorder and like sat it down on the table in front of him was like Hey, click, here's the interview. Look at all the stuff the guy told me that I didn't use, and he shut up and backed off and we published the story and it was a really cool feeling of like Oh, things I do can actually have an effect on the world around me and that's a cool, cool feeling. I feel like that's straight out of a movie right. It seems it's very like, yeah, I actually did just go home in the middle of the school will day and think, because it was still back in the time when we had recorders with those little tiny tapes in them that you had to use every time you you did recording of anything, and I...

...had almost recorded over that side of the tape a couple days before. So that goodness I did not. Yes that that would have been devastating to come back and be like, listen to this push play and it's like me playing the piano or something. Totally wear the Delly. Wear that fantastic. But yeah, and then I kind of I hurt my back real bad in high school. That really has restricted the the amount I've been I can't I've never been able to work a like forty fifty hour a week proper job. So because I hurt my back. And so when I went to college I started thinking about what kind of stuff can I do that's a little more flexible, and hey, freelance journalism. So said, focus on that. Fantastic, and that's how we met. was through you pod from yes way back in the day. Oh yeah, which, for listeners that don't know, is just a pretty substantial group of writers across both the US and the world. I know there's a lot of overseas folks there as well, and just sharing advice resources. It's always amazing to me how someone will come in and be like hey, you know, I'm working on a story and I need someone that is a professional juggler but also a single mom and these six children and they need to be between it is a three and twenty four. They also need to have avocado toast at least once a day. Like three people have different sources for that. I'm just like yeah, it's such a crazy extensive network of people and I remember you being one of the first, like door name is one of the first names I remember like seeing and being like, oh, like, this Janet's got some good stuff to say. That's awesome. Yes, and then, like I looked into that group. Honestly, Oh, absolutely, yeah, me, so helpful to me in so many different ways, and it literally was just a person I met in a coffee shop and started talking about writing to was a member of the group and they're like hey, this is your jam, you really should get in on this. It made a I mean it really affected the course of my career. I think being in that group, the amount of opportunities of people just being like Hey, I'm the new editor of Blah, Blah Blah and I'm looking for pieces on Xyzq and you know, I can write about X Y Z exactly. And I had a similar sort of thing where my sister, who's a few years older than me, was working in PR and I had recently graduated college and she had been pitching an editor about something else and she was like, Hey, I think you should like call him and say that you're interested in writing and, you know, just see what he has to say, like pick his brain on a phone call. And I said, all...

...right, let's do it, and so I called him and of course this was you know, I had written in college but didn't really know what it took to be a freelancer or anything like that. Yeah, just kind of probably it was an extreme waste of time for him to talk with me because I had very little prepared. A few real generic question but towards the end of the call he was like, Hey, here's what I would do if I were you. He's like there's this group called you pod. That's just what writers he's like, go in there and check it out. He's like I post every once in a while, but I'm mostly, I'm just a lurker and kind of, you know, see what people are up to and why. I think back then there what? I don't even know if there was a questionnaire or anything. I think you just applied to doing the group and fortunately my facebook profile made it obvious enough that I do some writing and I was. I was in there and agree. I think like I've found so many either opportunities or sources or just like gotten to read some really cool things that I never probably would have stumbled upon otherwise. Yeah, learn about a lot of just straight up wisdom of people that in the field for long enough and like some less interesting like business type of ice has been really helpful for people that just like are in the in the weeds and doing the nitty gritty of getting those jobs and keeping those jobs and finding other jobs. You know exactly they're doing. The tough one for us. My first national clip was directly because of you, pod like I published from a book piece in Maxim like ten years ago, Fifty Patn't hell, I don't even know what it was. Not long after. So, let's see, probably probably about ten years ago about you remember anonymous, the like Internet group. Oh, yes, yes, did all the the high jinks. Yeah, so I wrote a little piece about them for the November issue. So it was for Guy Fox Day was the tie in. So I wrote like, Oh, what was the head? It was like the Asshole Ometer, the asshole scale or something. It was like different things anonymous had done on a scale of zero to asshole. Now was my first national club. Well, I know that is a very good maxim piece. It was fun. It was a lot of fun to write and it was directly because somebody in that group was like I heard that maxim is looking for front of book pieces that are tied into like history events or, you know, something timely. Blah, blah, Blah Blah. And just like you said, it was like a bunch of different, you know, boxes that had to be filled and it just so happened that I had had enough clips in whatever they were looking for that it all worked out. So it's I'm very thankful for that group, for sure, fantastic. Well, that was your first national clip and but I...

...dare say probably not your most popular, because I think you such a wonderful mix of clips. I've been all over the place. And yes, and there are two that I definitely want to cover, but if you'd like to give shoutouts any others, please feel free to do so. And I'm sure you know which too I'm talking about. But the first one is your foray and to making Vagina Yogurt. I. Yeah, that's always the that's definitely the most popular one. Yes, still tickles me to this day. I page views. Yes, I'm gonna just apologize again to Thee Celia Westbrook, who had her life completely disrupted when that thing went crazy. And she is an actual doctor who actually does actual doctor things, whereas I am just a goofy freelance writer that that told her goofy story. But yeah, so it this was just a story that started as like bullshitting in an Internet chat room, basically not a room. It was on like facebook group that we were all in. And Yeah, I mean it says in the story about basically somebody found a cook book that was like a seat cooking with semen and was kind of clowning on it and people were like, well, is there an equivalent one for women? Know, well, why not? And somebody brought up the fact that like, Oh, ce Celia brought up the fact that it's actually the same like microphone. The same stuff that's in your vagina is the same stuff that you put in milk to make yogurt, basically scientifically. So yeah, it just kind of went from there to like hey, I wonder if it would actually work and like well, I'm making yogurt anyway, so why don't we just see? And it was just a really I thought it was a really neat experiment and looking into it really showed like how little we actually know about vaginas in a lot of ways, which I didn't really expect. But yeah, so all wish that story in vice and I was actually my first vice motherboard piece too, and did not expect I mean, I write goofy stuff all the time and it does not out the bonkers viral like that one did. But who boy did it. That's always yeah, so a he's amazing to me. Like what like resonates with the Internet, and I'm sure you got some lovely comments and messages from that. Do are there any in particular that still stand out to you? What is this five years later? Oh Geez, yeah, well, it was they was weird.

Is They talked about it on TV, on TV a few times, which was very bizarre for me. There's a daytime talk show that like Sharon Osbourne is on with, Oh Gosh, I just blanked on the other one. But like Sharon Osbourne talked about the story and defended it to the other women on this daytime talk show as like well, that sounds kind of interesting, and everybody else grows and having a Google alert on Vagina Yogurt is an interesting experience, I'll tell you that, because I had to keep an eye on it, like for myself and for Sea Sea, since I have messed her world up. But yeah, so I had it for and four months. It was just like I would get ten podcasts a week that we're clowning on it. You know that I had to and clowning, you know, on the scale of of well, not even clouding. Like on one end you have the fact that it actually led to people did research because of that story, like sock like actual science experiments were done based off of questions that were brought up in it, which I think is the coolest part. But that all the way to you know, these Trad Fam assholes. It's like there were at least a couple podcasts of like dudes in their basements wearing masks talking about how women were the end of all, you know. So, yeah, turns out you right about anything involving like women and people. People are interested in various ways. Let's say that sounds like it certainly ran the Gammeut of both positive and weird. We're guys under basement were yeah, it was. It wasn't experience, let me tell you. Of course. You know, everybody in my life wanted to. You commented on it, just like, just like when I was interviewed in playboy, which is, I guess, maybe something else that you saw when you look through my clips. But yeah, I mean everybody's got a joke and everybody's and you know they're usually pretty funny. But it was very weird seeing like my very conservative Kentucky family being like Hey, I saw your story, congrats, just being like cool, yes, to talk about vaginas now, such as life. You know, you gotta write it, such as life. Yeah, and I think that's a good mindset to have generally. Is I mean both from a perspective of everyone's got a comment to it to I agree. I think that there was actual science coming out of this is such a cool thing to hang your hat on and you pretty much helped set that all emotion. You can CEC making making that happen, so that's super cool. Yeah, I mean...

I always feel like I've been privileged to do a lot of science writing and science adjacent writing and for me just to be able to tell the story of somebody's research or somebody's experiment in a way that kind of communicates that is a real privilege and I'm so impressed by the people that actually do the work that I then work to tell about. You know, that's so much more more important, I think, than than what I do, and it's really gratifying to see people, you know, actually advancing knowledge because of again, like a sort of goofy story that came out of clowning around in a chat room and somebody doing an experiment just for their own like just to see if it would work, and I think that's really cool. So I think a lot of the best ideas come from anyway is like hey, this is a silly thing, and I wonder if I mean that was to give a shameless self promotion to my old youtube channel, JK creations. Very, very similar to your calamity Jake Creations, which we see it. Let me touching on that on a lull. But but just a friend and I, I would say, arguably the most popular video on my channel was a friend and I one day we were just like, Hey, what a like? What would pokemon moves look like in real life? And we just all the ones in generation one and and did all and of course some are very easy to pull off, some we had to do some puns for, others had to throw a little post production magic in there, but it just a weird for Ay. And Yeah, like that's what what's the most popular? It's always weird. What you work, what you spend the most time on, and what the most people read. Are Not the same stories, the same pieces. Yeah, but I don't have to look that up when we're done here because I'm curious. Oh absolutely, I will. I will share it with you everyone, because it is one of my finest moments to suppose taking such minimal life. That's awesome. So we'll move from one story that you were the author of to a little bit of a transition of you being the story, because I also think you're becoming a CYBORG. Oh yeah, just fascinating things as well. So you would mentioned, I'm that you had back injuries earlier this. This kind of led you becoming a Cyborg. So how did how did all that happen? Yeah, well, I heard my back in high school, in my sophomore year in high school, so pretty early on. And...

...unfortunately it never I never really got a diagnosis or an explanation for what was wrong or why it was wrong. I just all of a sudden was in constant pain and couldn't I couldn't go to school full time. I got I'd made it through high school with my class, but I was excused from a lot of absences and I missed. I missed a lot of school going to doctors and hospitals and stuff. So yeah, that has definitely couldn't strained me and kind of forced my life and in a certain direction, which, you know, it's been a great life. I don't regret it, but it definitely affected the choices I made professionally and I've been, you know, going to doctors and hospitals and stuff for now twenty years. So, all that said, I've been, you know, kind of had my career alongside that and then, as you said, they kind of converged which there was this new type of pain management option, whereas I was on, you know, opiates every month, which I absolutely think should be an option for people and and sometimes is the best option for people. But my pain doctor that I go to said, Hey, you might look at this as a possible idea. And what these spinal stimulators are basically is a pain signal. Pain is just an electrical signal that your body sends your brain and for whatever reason, sometimes there's a real injury that it is tied to. Sometimes your body can just get mixed up, basically and have pain signals going where there's not actually an injury. Either way, the spinal stimulator, they implant this thing and it basically drowns out the pain signals on your nerves. Is the is the rationale. So I was gonna do this anyway, just as a person and then as a writer, I thought it was really cool, and of course I was, because I me, I've been going around making cyborg jokes and decided that that might be something that people were interested about hearing the process. So as I was getting insurance approval, I was pitching it to people as hey, I'm going to take pictures and kind of record how this process is. Do you want me to write about it? So and I got to write about it. It was a it was a really neat. Again, it was a it was a cool science story that got picked up and really help people, which was so cool to hear people hear about something that could...

...help them and which is not in payment. The world of pain management, like there aren't that many options, so having a new option out there that that maybe I got some people aware of was was really cool. Was a cool experience. That is awesome. It's always nice to hear that your story has helped someone in some way. At it and in that kind of helping a lot of people, especially with something that's not as widely known, and opening up their eyes to something new. So excellent work. Thank you. But yeah, I've got my my actually, my ipod that controls my spine is right on the table in front of me. I just got a new one. So look at you upgrading. Yeah, well, the but you know, it's an ipod. So the battery died. I had to get a new one. Planned obsolescence a deal. So I choose this a little earlier. But would love to also chat about calamity J creations. Yes, so let's dive on it. Calamity days just a, you know, a goofy nickname that I got along a long time ago. This is so doofy, but it was actually the I've been to burning man once and calamity was the name that they made up for me there. So I actually thought it was a cool nickname. So when I try it was trying to figure out a name for my my craft nonsense. I decided to go with that. So, yeah, I've always been real crafty and I like making stuff. I look up cycling, kind of making stuff out of other stuff. So I decided to kind of try to put it together, try to put together period into a blog and unfortunately I really I kind of got it, got it started and then had one of my discs in my back herniate and I had to go to the hospital and have surgery. So I've not done nearly as much with it as I wish I had and in fact I am using this this time in my house, having all sorts of fun being here by myself for two two weeks now counting. My hope is that I can get that back up and running a little bit better but yeah, I you know, I'm I have a lot of content for it that I just really need to get ready to get up there. But I love, yeah, I love kind of goofy. I'm sitting here looking at my big stack of record clocks that I've made that are winning to either sell or to give to people. There's just a lot of really cool stuff out there and it's not really it's not hard to make neat stuff out of it and I just figured it would be a fun way to kind of get out there and use my crafting...

...abilities for for good, excellent, as opposed to for evil. Well, for evil, well, you know, I keep the evil on the deal. Excellent, excellent, except for when I do podcast. I'd mentioned it, I suppose, but you know it's okay, we can bleep it. So okay, excellence. Feel like I've promised to believe all rock people. Really, I've ever follow up this tbd if it'll actually be bliped. And speaking of Bleeps, another thing that you introduced to me but I have not yet partaken in, which is truly a disappointment, is punk rock Karaoke. I know we're gonna have to realize. I know we've said if I had a dollar for every time we said we would do punk Rock Karaoke, I could pay for a drink at punk Rock Karaoke, I know, but we really should. We will make it happen once the world returns to a at least where you can be less than six feet away from each other. State. Yeah, a Google hang out punk rock Karaoke, I don't think would really be quite the same, unfortunately. I agree, and I have certainly been keeping up with my punk rock listening, but would love to just hear as a a someone who is done Karaoke. I'm always a big karaoke fan, but have never done punk rock Karaoke. What makes for a good punk Rock Karaoke selection and or performance? HMM, that's a good question. I think Punk Rock Karaoke is a lot more about your your vibe and your performance that it necessarily is the song, which I think is true for Punk Rock in general. And a lot of times it's not that passion getting up there and just going nuts, whereas regular karaoke, you know, sometimes it's about how good your voice is or whatever. I don't think that really it doesn't matter so much that the PUP ROC Karaoke. Think I'd do very well then, because that's typically what my normal Karaoke persona is is I not I'm not always going to hit all the notes with perfect pitch and Timbre, but why not make it entertaining? Those are the ones I think people remember better, anyway, at least for me. I know, like I couldn't even tell you half the songs that some of the most memorable performances I've seen our it's just I remember something about the person. Like I remember a guy singing Frank Sinatra. Who knows what Frank Sinatra Song, but he stepped on the tables to like serenade people. He was just like, Oh wow, the tables. I was like, this is amazing. You are truly a braver soul than I, because I would fall down. No, yeah, that's incredible. Like Kuda. I hope he was just the right amount of drunk to pull that off that he didn't dress. He yeah, he managed to stay...

...up right. I didn't even see him stumble, so very, very well done. He also went to a place I regularly frequented. This was back in college and we never saw him again after that. So I feel like like I'd like to imagine that he just went from town to town and he only did Frank Sinatra, but he had perfected it so well that, you know, his next week was in Orlando and then Atlanta. I really like that idea. I'm going to believe that too. Yes, our Rink Sinatra in the wind. The only time I did punk Rock Karaoke. I was completely hoarse the next day, which I did not expect at all, but apparently I had been screaming, screaming, scream singing so much as you do with the Punk Rock, the PUNK rock. Yeah, that I woke up horse the next day, but it was all all worthwhile. Oh Yeah, of course, absolutely fantastic. Okay, so everyone go out listen to your favorite punk rock song after this, but first we got to wrap up with our top three, which are the top three nonfiction pieces that you love. Let's have them, all right. So the first one is one of the things that we did not touch on in my in my background, but that I wanted to highlight. It's called the murders at the lake. It is a long form, long form piece by Michael Hall that came out in Texas monthly probably five years ago. That was about the murder case that I've been involved with my entire life, which is an entirely other long conversation. But basically, when I was in when I was in elementary school, I met a guy who had been framed for murder and spent time on death row before beings onorated, and through him I got involved in this case that I ended up doing my honors thesis on in College and then getting involved with this whole story and Fred Dan and who's the reporter that worked on getting these guys out of prison, and it's a whole whole big thing. But this is the long, firm piece about. It was a triple murder in Waco and the late s that these four men were framed for and one was exonerated, one was executed by the state of Texas and to plot out and died in prison still protesting their innocence. So it's a crazy story and it's something I'm really passionate about. So the murders at the lake by Michael Hall. That'll be number one, I guess. And so the other two are stuff I was not involved with. But I don't know if you've ever have you ever read any lesser bangs? I have not anything. Oh, man, I'm gonna...

...have to send you some laks. But one really formative like thing for me in terms of me as a writer was reading this piece that he wrote. I think it's just called astral weeks in one thousand nine hundred and seventy nine, and it's the second story in the it's called psychotic reactions incorporate or Dung, which is the it's of the book. That's like the first collection of lust for bangs pieces and it's the second piece in there. And I very distinctly remember going going down to the Virgin Mega store to buy CDs in high school. If that dates me a little bit, tells you how old I am, that we went to buy CDs, but down to the the the cool virgin story and I picked up this book and was flipping through it. I started reading the story and it's a story about a record that I had not even heard, and the story was so just beautifully written that it really kind of punched me in the gut like, Oh my God, this is what you can do right thing about music. This is like this is the level to which this can be taken. That's amazing and I you know, I spoid a lot of my early career writing about music and I think in in large part because I thought that was so absolutely brilliant, and the record is also absolutely brilliant. So it's a really amazing piece. But it in it it's not just that it's amazing, it's he lesser bayings writes about this album and says at one point. You know, then Morrison claims that this song is about X Y Z, for he's obviously wrong. The song is obviously about this and not the other and you can tell because this and he's wrong. You know and he and you believe him, you agree with him that that that the guy that wrote the song is wrong when he says when it's about. I don't know. It's just it's a very well written piece about an incredible album that I think everybody should check out. So that's number two. And number three is, can you say hero by Tom do not, which is the they recently made a movie about it, but it's the Mr Roger, Mr Roger Story that they just made a movie about. I have not seen the movie yet, but the piece. I have forced I don't even know how many people I have forced to read that story over the years. I read it in college in a creative non fictional class, and so I graduated college in Two Thousand and seven. I have read it probably conservatively like thirty times since then. I don't think I've ever once gotten through it without crying, and I am not really like, I don't really cry...

...at movies all the time. But yeah, that story like gets me right where, right where the cheers come. It's just it's brilliantly written and absolutely beautiful and again something that I read and immediately was like, Oh my God, this is what you can do with creative nonfiction, this is what you can do with the profile, and it really, you know, inspired me to try to be better. I think those, both of those, so the astral week's piece as a as a music writer and somebody of all music, and then can you see hero as as writing profiles, both were just like Holy Shit, you, if you try your whole life and and do as best you can, maybe some day you can write something, you know, in the same ballpark as good as these things are. And if I can ever do that I will be so, so pleased with myself if I can write something within like the same ballpark. is either of those two pieces. They're both just brilliant. So there's my three boom, fantastic. And of course will include links in a show notes, so people over them and all too marvel and I wonderful they are. Yes, and don't link to your pokemon dancing? Yes, of course, of course that will, and there as well. Fully expect it's an adulation for all of that. Well, Janet, you're officially off the hook. Thank you so much for helping on the PODCAST. Thank you. I had a good time. Excellent. That's what I like to hair. And if people who want to find you and your work online, where can they go right now? They can't go a lot right now. Your best bet is, unfortunately, just either googling stories or my twitter is at Janet K J Jay. I am between websites right now. I'm transitioning from I was at Janet J online and now I'm going to be at Janet Kjcom, but it is not up yet. So this is an unfortunately time podcast interview. But yeah, you know, friend me on twitter and when I have the new site up I will let you know and it will be great, but right now I don't have a website. That's okay. We will certainly update the show notes once you do and yeah, just just fall on twitter in the meantime. You're totally fine, you know. We do have, though, is a Corny joke to cram thanks up. I love a purney jobs. Make a little music theme, since we had a little punk rock discussion. What at the drummer name his to twin daughters? I don't know, and I one and I too good. After today, People Chang.

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