Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: Stack of Dimes

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Vital stats:
Format: dudeversation, I’ll call it
Duration: 30m-1h30m
Frequency: biweekly
Archive available on iTunes: last 30

“This is the food episode,” said either J.D. or Thunder. Though this only happened on one particular installment of their podcast, Stack of Dimes [RSS] [iTunes], every single other I heard had something to do with comestibles as well: halloween SweeTarts, sketchy fish restaurants, pizza cupcakes, the malt liquor energy beverage Four Loko. This might be a coincidence, but damn.

In any case, Stack of Dimes isn’t a food podcast. Describing what it is requires me to drag out of the mothballs that dreaded designation, TTWGBAC: Two Twenty/Thirtysomething White Guys Bullshitting About Culture. I have been uncharitable to these in the past — never without cause, I would submit — but have more recently resolved to look a little kindlier on podcasting’s dominant format. That’s good news for this show, whose Thirtysomething White Guys almost purely Bullshit About Culture. Whether the issue happens to be food, drink, television commercials, jeggings, or awful late-eighties kids’ movies, J.D. and thunder have opinions. If you subscribe, they will tell you them.

I admit that this is just the kind of show — the kind composed equally of disposable Gen-Y references and sheer complaint — that once would’ve sent me to straight the bathroom. (Then it would send me back to the iPod to replenish myself with the nourishing manna that is In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg.) But it’s recently dawned on me that they’re necessary — a strategic national resource, even. This realization came, as a result of writing up Dong-il Shin’s film My Friend and His Wife.

That movie has a lot to do with the distinctive nature of dude friendship, and thinking about it led me to the uncomfortable realization that few dudes really get into friendships anymore. As I wrote in the aforelinked post, none of the young male products of middle-class America I know really even have friends. They might have had their circle of dawgs in childhood and adolescence, but sooner or later they get siphoned off by girlfriends and wives and then descend into private hells of isolation where nothing can possibly satisfy except the next unsatisfying woman to come around the bend.

That’s where a podcast like Stack of Dimes comes in. One of the hosts seems to hold a day job in commercial radio, so it’s sprinkled with an enjoyable dusting of satire (or just plain jabs) at that sad industry. Both of the hosts are based in Seattle, so a listener like myself who happens to have grown up there will thrill to the constant name-dropping of marginal Washington state places like Everett, Yakima, Leavenworth, Chehalis, and Lake City Way. But the general value is all in the rhythms of dude conversation and the hard-to-describe but deep moments of recognition they deliver. Even when I wasn’t into the topics under discussion — and they’re usually so trivial that they’re probably not conventionally get-into-able — I appreciated being able to listen in on such talk. Really, I just appreciated that it was going on at all. For some listeners, I’m sure it’s the only connection to dude discourse left them.

[Podthinker Colin Marshall also happens to be the host and producer of public radio’s The Marketplace of Ideas [iTunes], the blogger of The War on Mediocrity and the writer of The Ubuweb Experimental Video Project.]