My Internet: Charles Holmes
The writer-podcaster recommends a charcuterie board of TikToks.
Every Friday, we quiz a “very online” person for their essential guide to what’s good on the internet.
Today we welcome Charles Holmes, a writer at the Ringer and host of the podcasts The Midnight Boys and The Music Show. Charles says being able to afford The New York Times Cooking app was like getting his Roc-a-fella chain, and wants to shout out all the local libraries doing their thing, because they’re more important than the internet could ever be. —Nick
EMBEDDED: What's a recent meme or other post that made you laugh?
CHARLES HOLMES: “Teach your man how to squabble” is the funniest reaction video of the year.
EMBEDDED: What type of videos do you watch on YouTube?
CHARLES HOLMES: One Piece is my favorite piece of art in existence. I've faithfully read a new chapter every week for most of my adult life. One Piece is a manga created in 1997 by Eiichiro Oda and one of the most popular comics of all time (yes, it's competing with Batman).
We finally found out who Joyboy is in the manga, which is a mystery that's been going on for years. So I'm pumping breakdown videos into my veins. And yes, this was a long way to convince the readers of this esteemed newsletter to read One Piece. If you don't want to invest in this journey financially, I implore y'all to take advantage of your local library and get them interlibrary loans poppin'. Shout out to all the local libraries doing their thing. You're more important than the internet could ever be.
EMBEDDED: Do you use TikTok? What shows up on your For You page?
CHARLES HOLMES: I don’t use TikTok in a strategic enough manner to feel like my For You page sums up my being. So instead, I’ve put together a TikTok charcuterie board of videos that have made me laugh:
This dude who makes soccer balls out of stuff.
These kids mad that they’re grocery shopping.
Luigi whooping Shadow’s ass.
EMBEDDED: What do you use Instagram for?
CHARLES HOLMES: I'm not a bastion of self-esteem, so I abort mission every time I try to get into the platform.
EMBEDDED: Do you tweet? Why?
CHARLES HOLMES: This question seems fraught considering our new overlord. And while I could be snarky, I still use Twitter in my professional life. My career in media started because editors noticed my tweets.
Now that I’m a podcast host at The Ringer, my relationship with Twitter is evolving. I tend to post less for a couple of reasons. Once you talk for four to five hours a week, most of the funny thoughts you’d turn into tweets were said on mic. More importantly, listeners spend hours of their lives consuming your podcasts every week. It’s a level of intimacy I have to remind myself not to take for granted. Also, since I spend most of my life debating on-air now, I think there’s a tendency for people to read the tone of my tweets as argumentative when I’m mostly just trying to make myself laugh. So besides promoting my work, I mostly tweet when I get annoyed about something.
EMBEDDED: Have you ever had a post go viral? What was that experience like?
CHARLES HOLMES: Going viral is like winning a ticket to the world’s worst and most elusive daily party. I vividly remember the feelings associated with going viral, but don’t recall the actual contents of the posts. It’s very addicting having hundreds of people laugh at a dumb joke you made, but once thousands of people start pouring in, it becomes unbearable. The best and most elusive type of virality is when some news event happens and you’re the person in the digital bar with the best one-liner.
EMBEDDED: Who's the coolest person who follows you?
CHARLES HOLMES: Everyone who follows me is cool. Yes, I’m dodging this question.
EMBEDDED: Who's someone more people should follow?
CHARLES HOLMES: I’m gonna be real; I don’t know.
EMBEDDED: Which big celebrity has your favorite internet presence, and why?
CHARLES HOLMES: Recently, Rick Ross terrorized an American city by yelling, “you want to be a business partner with the boss” to random pedestrians. When a confused older white gentleman doesn’t answer, Ross proclaims, “he turned his back.” Of course, the Wing Stop mogul uses this as a teachable moment on why you should never ignore Ricky Rozay.
EMBEDDED: Where do you tend to get your news?
CHARLES HOLMES: *sigh* Can we still say Twitter?
EMBEDDED: What's one positive trend you see in media right now? What's one negative trend?
CHARLES HOLMES: At my most idealistic it’s encouraging that there are more platforms for writers to build an audience or diversify their skill sets (e.g. newsletters, podcasts, TikTok) and hopefully make more money. But all of those avenues feel like plugging holes in a sinking ship.
I’ve been a full-time journalist for five years and most of the jobs that helped me break in are non-existent. Unless you have an editor (shout out Brendan Klinkenberg) invested in your long-term career, transitioning from news writing or blogging to a staff writer gig seems to occur less and less. I was blessed with the opportunity to grow from news writing to Q&As, profiles, and eventually cover stories in a methodical manner. Staff writing positions gave me the time and money to learn new skills like reporting or hosting videos. That pipeline still exists, but it seems to get smaller every year.
EMBEDDED: What does "cancel culture" mean to you?
CHARLES HOLMES: It’s hard for it to mean something when I don’t think it’s real.
EMBEDDED: Do you subscribe to any Substacks or other independent newsletters? What are your favorites?
CHARLES HOLMES: I have a compulsive need to get my work inbox down to zero. That should tell you everything you need to know.
EMBEDDED: Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
CHARLES HOLMES: The podcast dominating my feed right now is A More Civilized Age, which I usually listen to before I start my mornings. Each week, the hosts rewatch an arc of the 2008 kids show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which fills in the gaps between the maligned George Lucas prequels, 2002's Attack of the Clones and 2005's Revenge of the Sith. Talking about the same thing week after week in an engaging way is challenging and making an entertaining show based on wildly inconsistent source material from various mediums is almost impossible. A More Civilized Age is the rare podcast that achieves both. The four hosts will joke about the sexual innuendos of heavy lightsabers and then how the series tackles War on Terror politics.
I also would like to shamelessly plug my talented colleagues, who make good stuff:
Real Ones (Logan is one of the best humans)
The Ringer-Verse (Van, Mallory, Joanna, Steve, Jomi, Arjuna, and TD changed my life)
Weekends with Wos (More people should have Wos’s energy)
The Watch (Whenever I get dejected about reviewing superheroes every week, I check-in with Chris and Andy and they make me smile)
EMBEDDED: Do you use Twitter Spaces or Clubhouse? What for?
CHARLES HOLMES: Not a chance.
EMBEDDED: Have you ever been heavily into Snapchat? Around what age?
CHARLES HOLMES: My first job out of college was as a social media manager for a sneaker company. So most of my memories of Snapchat are tied to my bosses asking how we can sell more shoes on it. At 22, Snapchat was just another stone I failed to squeeze water out of for a company I won’t name.
EMBEDDED: When was the last time you browsed Pinterest? What for?
CHARLES HOLMES: Similar to the above question, Pinterest was also something my bosses thought would help their bottom line. My social media career stopped about six or seven years ago, so that’s the last time I went on Pinterest.
EMBEDDED: Are you nostalgic for Vine or Tumblr? Why?
CHARLES HOLMES: Much to the dismay of my loved ones, I find it hard to be nostalgic about anything. Tumblr was fire, though.
EMBEDDED: Are you in any groups on Reddit, Slack, Discord, or Facebook? What's the most useful or entertaining one?
CHARLES HOLMES: No, absolutely not.
EMBEDDED: Are you playing any games right now?
CHARLES HOLMES: Elden Ring is a religious experience. I'm terrible at the game, but something about the futility of struggling against bosses the size of skyscrapers keeps me coming back.
I also play Slay The Spire on my Nintendo Switch daily, a roguelike where you build a deck of cards to defeat monsters as you climb a tower. It's one of the rare games I can play while listening to podcasts.
EMBEDDED: What's something you might want to do in the metaverse? What's something you wouldn't want to do?
CHARLES HOLMES: The metaverse needs a new publicist. Despite reading multiple articles on the metaverse and being assaulted by those creepy Facebook ads, I’m still unsure what it does. From my layman’s understanding, y’all will never catch me on a virtual reality Zoom call.
EMBEDDED: What purpose do you see in NFTs?
EMBEDDED: Do you think Web3 will mean a better internet?
CHARLES HOLMES: I have little to no faith in humans. But I have plenty of faith in our capacity to make every environment we touch progressively worse over time.
EMBEDDED: Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?
CHARLES HOLMES: Voice notes are texts masquerading as phone calls. I’d rather chat on the phone for five minutes than get a voice note dropped in my lap. Although, getting obnoxious and random voice notes from my significant other is hilarious. I laugh every time.
EMBEDDED: Do any of your group chats have a name that you're willing to share? What's something that recently inspired debate in the chat?
CHARLES HOLMES: My least creatively named group chat is The Midnight Boys (after the podcast I host at The Ringer). The chat is meant to prep for the show, but often devolves into arguments and squabbles about everything. Recently, we got into an hour-long debate about the MCU Disney+ shows and whether it’s unfair to expect them to live up to the quality of the movies. Unsurprisingly, the argument made it to the podcast.
EMBEDDED: What's your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
CHARLES HOLMES: I like this dude “😑.”
EMBEDDED: What's a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve listened to a lot lately?
The album I’ve listened to most this year is fishmonger by underscores. It’s my cooking and walking to the gym music. Check out: “Kinko’s field trip 2005.”
Pusha T’s “Dreamin of the Past” sounds godly. Yes, yes, I know I’m washed. I’m embracing it.
I’m in awe of “Hentai” by Rosalía. It feels so minimal, like it would cease to exist with one less element. Also, I’m immature and laugh at the title.
100 Gecs is performing this new song “757” at live shows and I’m kind of nervous that the CDQ version won’t be as good.
Ranking of Kings is one of my favorite shows of 2022 and its theme song, “Boy” by King Gnu, is a big reason for that.
EMBEDDED: Do you pay for a music streaming service, and if so, which one? When was the last time you bought a music download or vinyl record, CD, or tape?
CHARLES HOLMES: I pay for Spotify. In terms of physical music, I already have a manga addiction that takes up enough space in my apartment. So I can’t imagine how getting into vinyl would go over with the partner.
EMBEDDED: If you could only keep Netflix, Disney, HBO Max, or one other streaming service, which would it be, and why?
CHARLES HOLMES: HBO Max has the worst user experience and I’d still pick it over any of its competitors. Name another streaming service where you can do a double feature of The Raid and Jerrod Carmichael’s Rothaniel special.
EMBEDDED: What's your favorite non-social media app?
CHARLES HOLMES: My boujee-ist moment in the past few years was realizing I could finally afford the NYT Cooking app instead of hoarding the same five recipes for months. I don’t know what getting a Roc-a-fella chain is like, but I assume the feeling is close to me getting off my first chickpea and spinach soup recipe.
EMBEDDED: What's the most basic internet thing that you love?
CHARLES HOLMES: Tabs. It’s the best love/hate relationship in my life. Every day is a war of attrition between me and my lil buds. There are hundreds of articles and video tabs on my iPhone alone. I act like I have a deep and intimate bond with them, but spend six months consuming almost none of them. What is life if not a series of short-term connections you open and close depending upon your mood?
EMBEDDED: Is there any content you want that you can't seem to find anywhere online?
CHARLES HOLMES: There probably is, but I’m afraid I’ll curse myself if I think about this question for too long.
EMBEDDED: Do you regularly use eBay, Depop, or other shopping platforms? What's a recent thing you've bought or sold?
CHARLES HOLMES: I’m very cheap, evidenced by the fact that I still look at the NYT Cooking app as a luxury. So I stay away from eBay, Depop, and most shopping platforms.
EMBEDDED: Have you recently read an article, book, or social media post about the internet that you’ve found particularly insightful?
CHARLES HOLMES: I’ve been thinking a lot about a Quinta Brunson quote in The New York Times Magazine. The interview is supposed to be about her hit show Abbott Elementary, but the most insightful part is about Twitter warping TV: “I’ve read that the show doesn’t sound like a Twitter timeline. People were tired of seeing their Twitter regurgitated back to them through their viewing. A lot of shows had started doing that. But people still want stories.”
EMBEDDED: What's the last thing that brought you joy online?
CHARLES HOLMES: This comment section.
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