The Anthropocene Reviewed — Reviewed

The Anthropocene Reviewed cover, made by a collaboration between WNYC Studios & Complexly: Source

The Anthropocene: the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

The Anthropocene Reviewed is a podcast written and created by John Green, where he reviews facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale. This past week’s episode was centered around mortification, something probably everyone has experienced. Mortification is defined as “great embarrassment and shame”, where its stories can be seen as “that’s not so bad” to “okay, ya, that was bad.”

Mortification wasn’t always a word defining embarrassment, so John ends up in the rabbit hole discussing where the word mortification comes from, and why it inevitably came to be defined as “humiliation, embarrassment, and shame.”

John ends up discussing some of his brain’s favorite mortification episodes to play for him before he sleeps, some of which are from over 10 years ago. He discusses these in very short length, so if you want to really be entertained, listen to a bunch of Dear Hank and John episodes to get the full picture of these mortification stories, where he discusses them more in-depth. When re-telling these stories for those who ask about them, people end up saying things like:

“Oh well, that wasn’t so bad.”

“You’re thinking into it too much.”

“No one cares but you.”

Exactly; no one cares but yourself. These feelings of mortification are long-lasting for you and short-lived for those who were around you at the time they happened. That doesn’t make them not horrific experiences, and it’s difficult for those you retell the stories to, to understand that.

While listening to this episode on my DoorDash route, a memory instantly came into my head that I haven’t thought of in years; it was lost in the depths of my brain, but something John said, made it come to the surface, though I wish it hadn’t.

Personal Mortification — Reviewed

A selfie of me with blue hair — context for when the story below takes place

In college, I was severely depressed; a fancy couple of words for suicidal. I had no friends in college, but one day a group of people in the common room noticed me and called me over to say hi. They were incredibly friendly towards me, and I was really happy someone noticed me and made me feel better.

Through this group of friends who I opened up to about my troubles, I met this girl named Nicole. Nicole didn’t go to school here, but snuck in every so often to hang out with the friend group. She was shorter than me and had long blonde hair with blue tips. At the time, I also had blue hair, so we bonded over that, and she sat in my lap; this was the first time a girl had done that, as surprising as that is.

We hung out a couple of times before becoming friends with benefits. Everything was going great; we would hang out in her room watching movies, go downstairs to play on her Nintendo Wii, and then discreetly mess around with the Mii Channel music playing in the background without her parents finding us.

Then comes this one night.

We always just hung out in her bedroom or the basement, just chilling and doing our normal thing, so this time, she said we should get some Chinese food. We drive to a place she knows down the street. We go inside, order food, I pay, then we wait at a table; this was more of a take-out only place, but had tables you could sit down in if you wanted to, kind of pizzeria style, but for Chinese food.

We started talking about different bands we liked, and other normal topics of conversation. She said she wanted to take a look at my driver’s license photo just for fun, but as I go to hand her my license, she takes my entire wallet and starts taking out cards here and there and going through it like it’s her own.

As a very organized person with OCD, this made me incredibly anxious and even though I told her to stop, she thought I was being funny, and kept going; she only gave me back my wallet and all my things when the food was ready.

We drive back to her place, get out of the car, and then she says something that I don’t remember (this was 5–6 years ago, I honestly forget what the initial conversation was like out of the car). I responded with something similar to “well I paid for it”, in a joking tone, and then she yells something at me extremely loudly, which was very unlike her, basically calling me a jerk.

We bring food into her room. I try to make conversation, but she is silent. I decide to just go with it and eat a piece of beef teriyaki. I struggle to bite off a piece of it like the animal I am, and then chew in silence with her staring off into the distance, looking pissed off. After I swallowed, I just sit there in silence until I say, “I’m sorry. I-”, I’m cut off.

“I think you should get out of my house.”

I tried to fight it, but of course, I couldn’t. I walk out her front door, she slams it in my face, I walk back to my car, and drive home, never hearing from her again.

As depressing as this all sounds, I was more mortified than anything. Mortified from what I said, mortified from my OCD, and mortified from sitting chewing a piece of beef teriyaki on her bed in silence as she looked off into the distance.

I give Mortification: 1-star.

Finding Fulfillment Without The Praise Of Others

John has employees that could research and write The Anthropocene Reviewed episodes for him, but he doesn’t want to outsource this. You can tell by the way he speaks in the podcast, and how he speaks about it outside of the podcast, that he finds the research and writing about certain topics extremely fun and fulfilling.

John gets to go down the rabbit hole of the smallest topics like broken femurs, and the board game, Monopoly, to find there’s something more to find than just boring facts. There’s mystery, drama, and connections that you would never even think about being related to something as little and seemingly meaningless as the board game, Monopoly.

John puts his heart and soul into writing each episode, and you can tell that even if no one was listening, he would still find this project fulfilling, bringing him happiness without needing to hear the acceptance and praise from others; however, it deserves the praise.

This seemingly meaningless, fun podcast about reviewing things from Diet Dr. Pepper and the Candian Goose, to prom and the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, has proven to be something more than that. John takes facets of the human-centered planet, and tells the history and mystery of each of them in their own distinct way, while also giving you personal insights from John Green himself.

John just announced on a live stream, his new book coming out in May 2021; it will be called The Anthropocene Reviewed, his first book of nonfiction. It’s something he’s been working toward for the past 3 years. He came out after Turtles All The Way Down that he wanted to write another book, but doesn’t want to be stuck in the same genre, because that’s all he’s been known for.

John writes young adult novels because he loves to entertain and help that generation of Nerdfighters, it’s a genre he enjoys writing, and he’s admitted that YA novels sell the best. Getting out of a comfort zone is something everyone has trouble with, especially those that feel they’ve been backed into a corner to stay where they fit best.

I’m happy for John for coming out with a new book that he’s proud to share with the world, even if it’s not the “type” of book they’re looking to read. He wrote the book for the same reason he writes The Anthropocene Reviewed podcast; it’s because he wants to, and it brings him joy and fulfillment.

It’s not for money, fame, or praise. If no one reads it, it will still be a success for him, because it’s what he wanted to write.

Bring joy and fulfillment to yourself before you bring it to others.

You don’t need acceptance or praise from the outside world.

I give The Anthropocene Reviewed: 5-stars.




I’m a Writer, Photographer, and lover of food and bad puns.

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Justin Bennett-Cohen

Justin Bennett-Cohen

I’m a Writer, Photographer, and lover of food and bad puns.

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