In a small, cold room with only a single overhead light, the Tables have turned for Agent Palmer. His ongoing series of interrogations have run so long that he now finds himself in the hot seat. This time he’ll be answering the questions. This time he’ll be the one sweating.
Agent 76 enters, slaps a folder onto the table and takes a seat across from him. Palmer reaches for the folder, Agent 76 slaps his hand away, then opens the folder. In other circles 76 is known as Bill Sweeney, host of The Wicked Theory Podcast, but here and now, he has a different role to play.
He scans the pages….
Who is Agent Palmer? Why does he run this blog? What’s up with all the podcast stuff?
76 sighs, and starts with the basics….
Agent 76 : Current City, how long have you lived there?
Agent Palmer [AP]: I won’t disclose much more than I’m in Pennsylvania, and I’ve been living at my current address since July 2013.
: What town did you grow up in, and what impact did it have on you?
[AP]: I grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania until the age of 10 when we moved from there to Honesdale. I don’t think your town has an impact on you until middle school at least, if not high school, so I can’t say much for Bethlehem, but Honesdale, it’s not a bad town, it’s just too small for a teenager, despite the fact that it probably isn’t.
: If you had to describe that town with one word?
[AP]: Magic, as in Magic: The Gathering… Honesdale was not where I first learned the game, that was at summer camp, but as serendipitous as this may be, after I first learned of the game away at camp in 1994, maybe 95, I returned home to my town to find a gaming shop had opened… I was one of the first customers in the door, and from then on I was one of the last to, leave. It lead to my first job being there. But aside from the job, the gaming lead me into other gaming, and when we had computers people could buy time on, there was more to do, but always something I would have been doing anyway. But it all started with Magic (the Gathering).
: Lived anywhere else longer than two months?
[AP]: Jerusalem, Israel for a four month study abroad program. This may or may not have been covered to some extent during my episode of The Stranger Conversations…
: Ever considered moving/ living somewhere else? Where?
[AP]: Yeah, I’ve considered it, but I think I could probably move anywhere. I’ve always been much more of a cabin in the woods than cabin on the beach person, so I don’t think it’ll be by the coast, but I’m not rooted down at the moment, it’s just where I happen to be.
: What is your current profession and do you have any side jobs or professions?
[AP]: I currently work in Marketing and IT for a small non-profit organization. Side jobs? Well, I do build websites, and assist logo creation and design with a friend of mine. I also do some marketing consultation and well, there’s this blog “Agent Palmer” and I am slightly involved in podcasting… Are those professions? Maybe not, but I do take the blog and the podcasting seriously, despite all the fun.
: Was there ever another career option?
[AP]: I fell luckily into my current job. After seven years in retail hell, which is the reason I incorporated my own web/design/marketing firm on the side, I got lucky to get out of that retail mire. I do enjoy and I’m relatively well suited for IT and Marketing so overlapping as this job is works, but I had dabbled with the idea of journalism for a while, marketing and IT were the only other things I pursued.
: If you could have any other job in the world, anything, what would you do for work?
[AP]: Agent Palmer… No, seriously as much it is a persona, it turned or morphed into a brand. That was a happy accident. But with the blogging, and the podcasting, and the producing, and the editing, and the brainstorming, and the marketing, well, there’s a reason I’m still doing all of it, after the day job is done.
: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
[AP]: There were three things I wanted to be. A paleontologist, an aerospace engineer, or a baseball player. And I might have been well on my path to at least the sciences, until one great English teacher in High School, turned me from the path of sciences to arts, and I’m sure that has a great influence on why I’m not in the sciences, though I am still intrigued by them…
: Personal heroes?
[AP]: Mom and Dad for sure, as well as, Cal Ripken, Jr.
Mom started her own business and has been at it on her own successfully for most of my life, while I’ve taken the “always working on something” genes from my father (and that whole side of the family). Both have taught me a lot about work ethic. Which is why Ripken is on here. Yes, as I grew up he was one of my favorite players on my favorite team, but it’s that Iron Man Streak, of doing your job day in and day out that gets me. Do I take sick days? Sure, but my Iron Man streak isn’t about anything more than making sure I am productive at something, anything, day in and day out.
: You’re a writer, what got you started on that?
[AP]: I think it goes back to when I would spend a week with my grandmother “retired english teacher” who was never retired for her grandkids. In addition to going to the pool or playing at the park we were required to pick out a book from the library and write about it. So from a young age, writing was somewhat ingrained. Additionally, writing letters with her was also a thing, you were guaranteed a response and $1… Incentive is incentive. That’s the start, or the origin, but then somewhere along the time of that great english teacher I spoke about.
Around that same time in high school I started hanging around Jason Zapata, who was a writer, and we started bouncing stuff off each other, mostly bad poems, but short stories too. Then in college, I took a more serious approach to writing while I was on the school paper, but I didn’t stop with the poems and short stories…
Now that does skip one small thing worth mentioning… I did actually keep a daily journal during my four months overseas. I still have them, and until I started the blog, that daily writing was the most disciplined I have ever been about it… Truthfully, it probably still is the most disciplined I’ve ever been about writing, I mean that was every day, not just once a week!
: What made you start the blog?
[AP]: I just wanted to get back into writing. I wanted to tell stories and to share them. But I think what started it, was just getting back into the habit of writing again. I was well out of college and well removed from regular writing, even on my own. So, starting the blog made me focus, and made me write. It was an exercise at first, and when you look at the dates, you’ll notice, I wasn’t consistent either… But over the last few years, it’s been at least once a week, consistently and that’s important to me. Are they all winners? I’ll be the first to admit some of my posts are better than others, but I’m doing this for me as much as I am for the readers, so I’m sure those who follow understand the ebb and flow.
: What is the most productive setting for you to accomplish your writing?
[AP]: Setting is irrelevant most of the time. Sure it would be nice to have on some ambient music and proper lighting while sitting in a comfortable chair at a nice clean desk, but the absolute truth is that if I’m inspired, or when I am inspired that’s the most productive I can be… That isn’t to say I can’t force my way through, because I have, but it’s my mental state and setting that make the impact.
: Ever considered writing a book?
[AP]: Yes, I have considered it. When I wrote a post looking back at my “Year of Content” I counted that during that year, the purpose being to consistently write at least two posts a week, I totalled 223,846 words. That’s more than the word count of Moby Dick, so I know I can not only write, but can focus enough on a project, like this blog, to get it done. So, I’ve considered what that would be and I’m not against it, but I just don’t have that one singular story, or even a series of short stories, to set the whole thing in motion. That said, I have edited an independently published book of poetry for my friend Jason Zapata titled “Nocturnal Wanderings,” and I’m working as his editor on a novel he has completed the first draft of.
I have to say that having pushed him as his editor and friend at times during that process, I don’t think that any “book” no matter what type or subject matter can be done without being surrounded by those who believe in you. I think at this point, I do have such a group of close friends, I just don’t have the spark to light the fire at this time.
: You’ve also found your way from a listener of podcasts to a producer of them, let’s cover some ground there. What was the first podcast you listened to? How long ago was that?
[AP]: The first podcast I ever listened to was Nerdist 250 with Alton Brown… And it would have been on the first Saturday after it’s release which thanks to Google I know to be August 29, 2012, so I first listened on Saturday September 1st, 2012. Why? I have no idea, but that’s what it was. Through friends I moved to SModcast and Maron, before diving into more independent podcasts with 7 Days A Geek, which opened the door to The Stranger Conversations and so many others… Funny thing it was only a little over four years ago…
: Would you say you got hooked pretty quickly on the format as entertainment?
[AP]: I don’t think I would… I would say I wasn’t hooked until January of 2015. It wasn’t the format of entertainment that hooked me, it was the interaction with the hosts of 7 Days A Geek that hooked me on the more independent podcasts. Sure I still listen to the big boys, the Nerdist, Maron, and SModcast, but it was and still is the interaction with the hosts and talents of these smaller shows that hooked me even more.
: How many shows do you subscribe to?
[AP]: 30 shows on two separate playlists… 19 of those are on the Main Playlist, which means they are shows that I listen to every time they post, although not necessarily when they post, and the other 11 are shows I pick and choose episodes from here and there. But I do make a valiant attempt to follow the group of podcasters and friends that make up Shumway Industries when they venture out as guests on other shows. I also listen to a few that I don’t subscribe to that pop up on my radar from time to time, to hear what other people are doing and for a different perspective. It helps me to assist the shows I’m helping, with things that I can borrow or adapt to those shows.
: How did you end up behind the scenes on some of these shows?
[AP]: I don’t know, happenstance? Truth is, I know from talking to them about my involvement that it’s much more mutual than you’d presume. I enjoy helping as much as they appreciate the help. How it happened? Each scenario is the same and yet the timing is different. I started listening, then started communicating, and then a friendship started. From there, it’s not a big jump to talking about the show, and from there it’s just suggestion. What they call me, if I get a title or if I’m on air is up to them. There are just as many shows that acknowledge my involvement as there are those that don’t and I’m completely alright with that.
: Does that equal out to a lot of time each week?
[AP]: Honestly, let’s just call it a lot. I don’t think I would want to know what the math adds up to on it. But it’s enjoyable and that’s the point, isn’t it? To listen and be entertained as well as to help behind the scenes in a fulfilling way. At least, that’s how I like to think of it.
: Have you considered doing your own show?
[AP]: I have considered it numerous times… But I keep coming back to the same thing… I want to do something that is comfortable. And I should probably have a co-host, plus the tagline that you gave me fits too well… “Palmer doesn’t need his own podcast, he has yours.”
: How do you,or don’t you, manage your time/schedule?
[AP]: I do have a blog schedule, and I do use to do lists to prioritize…
: Sounds like quite a workload, do you think you manage it well?
[AP]: But coming up with the to-do, or the to-write, or the to-anything list is always a relatively easy thing… The time management, that has never been consistently balanced or well managed. But I make do and being productive with that workload isn’t something I really see as work. It’s something I enjoy doing, and it keeps me busy and out of trouble.
: Favorite ways to spend your free time (or hobbies).
[AP]: I enjoy partaking in media; movies, books, podcasts, all of it. Stories are important. I also, from time to time have been known to go for a run, but that’s relatively seasonal and always based upon having the time to do so. And the thing I also enjoy to do, but spend the least time doing is playing video games. If I ever find a way to balance my time better, it would be great to sit down and game a little more often. Same goes for playing Magic: The Gathering and D&D. I just don’t physically have the friends around me to do so, because they’re all spread out over the continent. And I still enjoy both of those things much more in person, I just can’t seem to get the hang of some of the online versions.
: Any long term goals for the blog or for your role in podcasting?
[AP]: Growth. Not astronomic, I’m on top of the world growth, but I’d just like to be better than I was, month to month, year to year, and the same goes for readers on the blog and listeners to the podcasts I have any role with. Just positive continual growth. I won’t say that hitting it big is a bad thing, but it’s not my goal. I just want to keep it going, not blow it up.
: Professionally, or in your side projects, what are some of your big successes, public or behind-the-scenes?
[AP]: There are a lot of things I’m proud of, PodtoberFest and all of my podcasting relationships, but honestly it’s this blog. This blog is the biggest success I’ve ever had. Not because of the readership, although I’m happy it’s continually growing, but because I’m still here, five years after I started it, and it’s still going. I still have a passion for it, and I continue to get better. I started it out as an exercise, but it became something more and to me, that’s the biggest success I’ve had.
: If you could have a full-on career in writing or podcasting -but only one- which would you choose?
[AP]: I don’t think I’d ever give up the blog, but for a full on professional career, I would choose podcasting. Now, the writing is for me as much as it is for my readers, but I think a career in podcasting, specifically or preferably behind the scenes as a producer, would be more fulfilling. It’s not just that writing, for me, is more of a solo or solitary thing, because I’m alright with that, but for a full on career, to get to work with other people on a day to day basis to create something to entertain or inform or a little of both would be absolutely a dream.
: Do you think your life will be vastly different in 5 years?
[AP]: Vastly different? Not really. I would hope to have another five years of blogging under my belt. I would hope to keep being involved in podcasting. And I would hope I continue to find projects like blogging and podcasting, that fulfill my desire to be both productive and creative.
: Do you WANT your life to be vastly different in 5 years?
[AP]: A little bit yeah. It would be nice to not be single, but there is a caveat to that. I’m hoping to find, “the one” like everyone is, but I also want someone I can share my passions with. Not necessarily in fandom, but definitely within the creative pursuits I have chose, such as writing and podcasting. That’s the key. Because I have my close friends who both assist and push me, but to have that person who could live with me, while I do these things, but to have them share in and push me as well, would be something that could only help me in life beyond my creative pursuits.
: Speaking of pursuits, let’s get into your free time interests, your favorite things, pop culture and otherwise.
: What are your favorite books?
[AP]: The Fantasy of Clive Barker (Galilee, The Great And Secret Show, Weaveworld, Coldheart Canyon), Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, The Source by James Michener, Anything written by Chuck Klosterman, The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, The IPCRESS File by Len Deighton…
: Favorite Movies?
[AP]: Wizards (but all the Ralph Bakshi movies could probably end up here as well), Real Genius, WarGames, Fanboys, Iron Man, Beowulf (1999) because it’s so cheesy it’s good, Marx Bros Movies, The IPCRESS File, The Italian Job (69), Sleeper, Dr. Strangelove, The Big Chill…
: Favorite TV Shows?
[AP]: The IT Crowd, Everything Aaron Sorkin has put on TV (West Wing, Sports Night, Studio 60, Newsroom…), Futurama, Gilmore Girls, Archer, and a good selection of the stuff I grew up with in the 80’s like Airwolf, A-Team, etc…
: Favorite Music?
[AP]: There’s the classic and 80’s rock, Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, GNR, etc, the out there greats like TMBG and Jonathan Coulton, and scores of Movie Soundtracks and movie and video game scores…
: Favorite Sports / Teams?
[AP]: Baseball in general, but specifically the Baltimore Orioles, College Football, Soccer, I’ll watch pretty much any sports, and if I could get more of it Aussie Rules football because that is just insanely high action all the time…
: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
[AP]: You know, the only thing that comes to mind is from a video game (Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of a New World) which is “Courage is the magic that turns dreams into reality.” It’s cheesy, I know, but if you don’t have the courage to take that first step, you’re not really headed towards your dreams. I’ve had that quote on the notes dashboard of my blog for a long time now, and since I’m in there quite a bit, I see it all the time. I don’t need it for the blog anymore, but it’s good to see for the sake of any new things that may come my way.
: And the best advice you could give to someone?
[AP]: Surround yourself with the best people you can find that not only have common interests, but common creative goals. Maybe you don’t have a drive to be creative, that’s cool, do your thing, but if you are, you need to have driven creative people around you to keep you inspired, because you can’t do it all yourself, I mean you can, but it won’t be nearly as good, most of the time.
: As a quick way to close out this Q & A, finish these sentences: “People who don’t really know me too well all seem to think I’m
[AP]: “always too busy.”
: “People might be surprised to know I”
[AP]: “I can cook.”
: “People probably need more _________ in their lives.”
[AP]: “Creative productivity”
Agent 76 closes the folder, makes a notation on the cover.
Palmer leans forward to see but 76 pulls it further back, then stands.
: You’re free to go. All your answers seem legit.
[AP]: Thanks, considering this is my interrogation room.
Satisfied that Agent Palmer poses no real threat to the general public, Agent 76 releases him back into the wilds of the internet. There Agent Palmer can continue to consume and comment on pop culture & mass media… and at times, create his own.
Agent 76 is Bill Sweeney, host of The Wicked Theory Podcast and Preacher Vs Preacher: A Comparison Companion Podcast.