Hey, Cool Life Is The Perfect Podcast For An Anxiety-Driven Age

Photo of Mary H.K. Choi by Jon Snyder

Thrum along with Mary H.K. Choi

There was a little while there where I thought "tender" might be the word I wanted to define 2019 (or at least my 2019). But then I heard Mary H.K. Choi say the word "thrum," and it was like everything else fell away and I knew, for certain, that "thrum" is the word of right now.

Where did I first hear Choi say "thrum?" I can't remember if it was on her new mini-podcast, Hey, Cool Life, or if it was when we were talking on the phone about Hey, Cool Life. I know she wrote it in an email to me, and maybe that came first? I'm not really sure, but I also don't really care, because the important thing, to me, is that once "thrum" was identified, then suddenly—as is the case in those moments when you slither through its sliding doors just before your subway leaves the station or you text a message to a friend just as they're texting one to you—things make a perfect, precise kind of sense; you can, for a moment, peer inside the operating system of the world, and feel the hum, the thrum, of its engines.

Here's why "thrum" is a good word for right now: It vibrates with alternating qualities of anxiety and comfort. It speaks to the idea that everything is alive and constantly moving, even if nothing is really growing or going anywhere. A thrum doesn't have to be productive; a thrum can just be. A thrum doesn't require a ton of energy to exist; a thrum doesn't burn out, or even fade away. It soothes in the way of an ASMR video, in the way of someone else's heartbeat, felt through your hand, your head.

Choi feels these thrums coming from a perhaps unexpected place: voice memos. "The whole thing," she explained to me when I asked her about the genesis of Hey, Cool Life, "was inspired by sending my friends voice memos... I just loved and really thrummed to the vibrations of voice memos."

The resultant mini-podcast (each episode is usually between 10 to 20 minutes long) was launched on January 2, and Choi records a new one every day. It's described as a "#micropod about mental health and creativity," and Choi covers topics ranging from "emotional hangovers," to addiction recovery, to harm reduction, to communication difficulties with family, to burnout.

These topics could feel unwieldy to cover in the span of 15 minutes, but Choi is, as she tells me, "incapable of small talk," and so is unafraid to immediately go to places others might be afraid to confront head-on. There are ways in which this could feel counterintuitive; Choi says to me, "I am a deeply private person," but she adds: "This is really different. I really like having honest conversations about struggling."

And, as pretty much everyone alive right now knows: The struggle is real. Our cultural narrative right now seems to seesaw between people talking about how to be as productive as possible and—often those same people—searching for ways to better take care of themselves and soothe their weary minds and bodies.

Choi understands this dichotomy, and it's why she's focused this podcast around it. Choi is a writer, both a journalist and novelist; Emergency Contact, her debut novel, was on the New York Times Best Seller list last year (she was also featured in NYLON's Book Club), and she has a forthcoming novel, Permanent Record, coming out this fall, as well as an as-yet-untitled third novel in the works. And as someone who works in a creative profession, Choi understands the impulse toward feeling like there's no end point for her work, like she could just keep going and going; it's the way things have been set up, and it's leading to huge numbers of people feeling like they can't keep pace with the world around them, and that even if they do achieve their goals, they don't know how to stop moving.

"When you're living in this time of instant gratification," Choi says, "with this notion of completion, what happens when you get there?" Choi feels like we're constantly being fed ideas of who we're supposed to be, what we're supposed to get done, and what we're supposed to buy to make it all happen. She says, "Who decided that we have to get so many things done in a day? We've been sold a really weird bill of goods, in terms of stuff we're supposed to want." Choi adds that this directly affects how we feel about ourselves, saying, "I keep concocting different ways for me to feel inadequate."

It's a vicious cycle that can feel impossible to break, but that's precisely what Choi is trying to do with this podcast; it's a generous act, meant to offer listeners proof that they're not alone in their anxieties, and the ability to accept their weariness, learn from it, and not be so hard on themselves. This is Choi's intent, and it's remarkably effective. I find that when I'm listening to Choi's frank discussions about everything from the troubles she has relating to her parents on a visit home or her experience with having an eating disorder, that my own anxieties quiet down, their thrum becomes distant, drowned out by the tones of Choi's voice.

Choi records Hey, Cool Life in the morning; she says, "It's daily and unrehearsed. It's just this iterative, super-organic thing, remarking on stuff I notice while I'm in this dilated space. I feel like a ham radio." And there exists within it a real feeling of openness, of new day-ness, of the sense that any worst-case scenarios we might be dreading have dissipated with the dawning of the sun. It doesn't just feel generous, it feels generative; it's not that Choi is relating the tools she uses to deal with life in a way that's prescriptive, exactly, but more that, as she says, she records these thinking: "Is there a way to frame things that I use [so that they] might work for you?"

But more than anything else, this podcast feels like an opportunity for listeners to be kind to ourselves, in part by questioning why we feel the need to do things in the way our capitalist, teleologically focused society demands. Choi thinks we should stop worrying about the arbitrary things that now define success and just let ourselves exist. She asks, "Where is this mythology [that we must always be working] coming from? I really believe in the universe being benevolent. Who decided every one of these actions will move the needle?... It's like we're moving in the slowest rapture ever, and I'm the one who's like, 'Where are we even going?'" Choi explains. "The only thing that's complete is the day. Everything else is continual."

It's difficult, of course, to break ourselves out of the mindset that being productive isn't the only, or the best, way to be; it might even feel impossible. But what I've learned from taking the time every day to check in with Choi's podcast, and to check in with myself, is that it's important to reframe the conversations within my own head, tweak my perceptions of what I should be doing with what I want to be doing, until that new perception becomes my reality. It's also inspired me to start recording voice memos, little straight from the mind-heart-gut snippets of conversation, to share at will. Which, in the end, might be what Choi wants from this podcast most of all.

It was, after all, the happy thrum of voice memos that led her to start Hey, Cool Life, and, as she says to me, those voice memos are still important. She says, "I really want people to send voice memos to each other. If it does nothing else but remind people that maybe they're tired and maybe they're doing their best. All of this is to see if we can be compassionate with ourselves." We could all use a little more compassion in our lives, and a lot more thrumming.

Download and listen to Hey, Cool Life here; and buy Emergency Contact, here.

Photos by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

This photo proves that they are the chillest onscreen family

Sophie Turner just posted a photo of herself, Maisie Williams, and Isaac Hempstead Wright—aka the Stark siblings—to her Instagram, showing just what the three used to get up to when the Game of Thrones cameras weren't rolling.

The photo shows Wright looking quite pleased with himself while sitting on a makeshift throne, wearing no pants. As he should be, seeing as (spoiler) his character, Bran, won the Iron Throne this weekend. Williams, meanwhile, is looking way too cool to be involved in the shenanigans, wearing a pair of black sunglasses and staring absently off-camera. As for Turner, she's looking away from her onscreen brother, too, nervously smoking a Juul.

"The pack survived," Turner captioned the photo.

This photo just goes to prove that the Stark siblings are the chillest onscreen family. (It also proves, yet again, that Turner's social media is an absolute delight.)

We're actually a little sad that this footage didn't make it into the final season, considering how many modern-day objects have been spotted in the show's last few episodes.

Photo via @mileycyrus on Twitter

Meet Ashley

Miley Cyrus shared the trailer for her forthcoming Black Mirror episode, and it's basically Hannah Montana set in a dystopian future. Cyrus is a pink wig-wearing pop star named Ashley who is rolling out an in-home virtual assistant, named Ashley Too, that looks like her and shares her voice. But, as is the case with every Black Mirror episode, this technology is not as cute and fun as it's advertised to be.

In the trailer, we get the idea that Ashley is all about wanting fans to "believe" in themselves—but underneath that pink wig, maybe she doesn't feel that same self-love. After Ashley Too introduces herself to fan and new owner Rachel, promising to be her friend, we get a look at Ashley's darker side. She's depressed and tired of the pop star life. A record label executive says to several people in the room, "She doesn't understand how fragile all this is." As they consider upping her dose of medication, Ashley's life is on a downward slope. "It's getting so hard to keep doing this," she voices over glimpses of a police car chase, performances, and breakdowns backstage.

But back to the technology: Does Ashley's breakdown also mean the breakdown of Ashley Too? Looks like it. We see Rachel's virtual assistant screaming, "Get that cable out of my ass! Holy shit! Pull it out," breathing a sigh of relief as soon as they pull it out. A title card then reveals the episode name, "Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too."

Watch the full trailer and get a full view of Cyrus' cyborg-esque pop star look, below. Black Mirror returns to Netflix on June 5.


Photo by Paras Griffin / Stringer / Getty Images.

Several actresses allegedly had "issues" with him

Lena Waithe's Showtime series, The Chi, just lost one of its main characters. Jason Mitchell, who was also set to appear in the Netflix film Desperados, has been dropped from both projects following multiple allegations of misconduct. He has also been dropped by his agent and manager.

Hollywood Reporter heard from a source "with knowledge" of The Chi, who says that Tiffany Boone, the actress who plays Mitchell's girlfriend on the show, is just one of several actresses who had "issues" with him. She eventually told producers at Fox21 that she could no longer work with him after filing several sexual harassment complaints. Apparently, her fiancé, Dear White People co-star Marque Richardson, would join her on set when she would shoot with Mitchell.

While news of Mitchell's alleged misconduct is just now beginning to surface, it looks like the ball started rolling on the fallout weeks ago. He was dropped from Desperados and replaced by Lamorne Morris before filming began. A source from the production team said that the producers received "specific information" that they reviewed and acted on quickly. Similarly, a source familiar with Mitchell's former agent, UTA, said the decision to drop him a few weeks ago was very quick following the allegations.

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Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images

Prior to the college admissions scandal, she said she doesn't "care about school"

Apparently, Olivia Jade wants to go back to school despite all those YouTube videos that suggested otherwise. Back in March, it was revealed that her mom, Fuller House actress Lori Loughlin, and dad, Mossimo Giannulli, had scammed Jade's way into the University of Southern California. Now, Loughlin faces jail time, and Jade lost out on plenty of lucrative ad partnerships.

According to Us Weekly, "Olivia Jade wants to go back to USC," per a source. "She didn't get officially kicked out and she is begging the school to let her back in." Another source though ousted Jade's real motivation to the publication. "She knows they won't let her in, so she's hoping this info gets out," they shared. "She wants to come out looking like she's changed, learned life lessons and is growing as a person, so she for sure wants people to think she is interested in her education."

Jade previously shared in a YouTube video she's in college for the "experience of like game days, partying" rather than the education. She also said, "I don't know how much of school I'm going to attend... I don't really care about school, as you guys all know." Though these statements were made prior to the scandal coming to light, her brand partnerships didn't come into question until her parents were indicted.

Right now, despite previous reports that Jade and her sister would both be dropping out of USC, Jade's enrollment has been placed on hold—meaning she cannot register for classes, or even withdraw from the school—until her parents' court case comes to a close. Then, the school will make its own decision as to how Jade will be affected. I think, either way, she should have to pay off a few of her classmates' loans for all the BS she pulled.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

He'd previously said he wanted to punch Jackson's 'Leaving Neverland' accusers in the face

Aaron Carter has been one of Michael Jackson's fiercest celebrity advocates in the aftermath of the Leaving Neverland documentary in which two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, alleged that Jackson sexually abused them when they were children. In a new clip from People, however, he seems to walk back his defense.

People reveals that Carter will be joining the upcoming season of reality TV show Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars Family Edition with his mother. It's noted that he will be revealing more thoughts regarding Jackson following the documentary and the sneak peek specifically sees him alluding to a negative experience with the singer.

Carter, who has previously said that Jackson was never inappropriate toward him, says that Jackson "was a really good guy," though he does note that this is only true "as far as I know." "He never did anything that was inappropriate," he continues before stopping himself, as though remembering something. "Except for one time. There was one thing that he did that was a little bit inappropriate."

Carter does not provide any more detail after this statement. He has previously said that he would stay at Jackson's Neverland estate and sleep in the same bed as the much older star when he was 15 years old, though he hasn't seemed to understand then just how creepy that is. He also said earlier this year, in a clip from TMZ, that he would be telling a story of something that happened between them in an upcoming book about his life.