Posted in Podcasts

“The Anthropocene Reviewed” A podcast reviewing the human-centered planet

Podcasts have a foothold in the zeitgeist right now, and as such we are seeing a lot of them crop up in unexpected places. A lot have even found mainstream success, like Serial and other productions from public radio. Internet creators, too, have embraced this medium, and there are podcasts that have been ongoing for almost a decade. I have been listening to podcasts since acquiring my first iPod shuffle in 2005, and fell in love with Mugglecast, a show made by the mugglenet.com staff. I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting podcasts, and I have already discussed my love for John and Hank Green’s joint venture, Dear Hank and John, but I’m a relative latecomer to John’s podcast, The Anthropocene Reviewed.

Green’s podcast isn’t really what I’d call “talky” although it features pretty much only talking. It’s more like a tiny nonfiction blog post, read to you in the comfortingly low tone of a bedtime story. The topics are interesting, although I have sometimes read the episode titles and thought “Ugh, Hawaiian pizza?” and been closed-minded going in, but then found myself both surprised and impressed. While I have favorite episodes, the podcast is so well-written and of such universal good quality, I have found myself re-listening to every episode. The quality of production is also great, which is to be attributed to Rosiana Halse Rojas, the producer of the show and one of Green’s frequent collaborators.

What makes The Anthropocene Reviewed so special is the personal nature of the show- for someone who has made hundreds of YouTube videos, Green is a relatively private person. In a recent episode, he told a story about his daughter, who has never appeared in Green’s social media. What is different about this podcast is that Green welcomes the listener into his world, not just showing us his day-to-day, but telling deeply personal stories about his life, specifically his early adulthood.While the show purports to be one that reviews aspects of the human centered planet, it feels more like a carefully curated collection of short poems interspersed with interesting facts. Each episode, only about twenty minutes, feels like a small gift Green is giving us, a little window into the soul. “I made you a present,” he’s saying, “I hope you like it.”

I do.

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You can find The Anthropocene Reviewed wherever you get podcasts. There are thirteen episodes, which are released pretty regularly once a month.

Posted in Podcasts

“Dear Hank and John” A Comedy Podcast About Death

Dear Hank and John is a podcast by duo Hank and John Green, also known collectively as the Vlogbrothers of Youtube fame. They began the podcast in mid 2015, and have been releasing them weekly ever since, with some brief intermissions and occasional guest hosts replacing either brother.

I came to the podcast since my job requires a lot of manual labor that is relatively mind-numbing, and requires some sort of soundtrack to make tolerable. As such, I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts and have plowed through hundreds of hours of audio in the last year. I have been a vlogbrothers subscriber since 2012, and I started listening to the podcast a month or two ago. I have since listened to all eighty-five episodes of the pod, and it’s very engaging.

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Hank and John (or John and Hank, as John prefers) have awesome chemistry, and hearing them talk to each other directly rather than through alternating video blogs is weird, but they have a really entertaining back-and-forth. They also manage to be both serious and silly, which is a hard spectrum to nail, and they clearly enjoy making the show together and talking to each other. The brothers dispense what they refer to as dubious advice (and it usually is) for the first forty minutes of the show, and then for the last ten or fifteen they talk about their personal interests, Mars and the British football team AFC Wimbledon. The beginning of the show starts with light banter, and John reads a nice short poem. There are a lot of inside jokes in the community Hank and John are part of, but the show has inside jokes inside the inside jokes.

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I personally enjoy the pod so much that I use it as white noise when I do work, or walk around. I would very much recommend it, it’s definitely one of my favorite talk-y podcasts at the moment. You can find it wherever podcasts are dispensed.

Posted in Podcasts

“The Thrilling Adventure Hour” A Star-Studded Adventure

While the Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast has been ongoing since March of 2005, they have only recently been posting their segments to iTunes and the Internet, and have quickly become quite popular. The podcast is initially recorded monthly, and then released online weekly as separate segments. These include Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars and the fan favorite, Beyond Belief. Typically, every show includes Sparks Nevada and Beyond Belief, and an additional segment, such as The Adventures of Captain Laserbeam, Amelia Earhart: Fearless Flyer, Desdemona Hughes, Diva Detective, or Jefferson Reid, Ace American. The format of the old-school radio show lends itself well to short stories featuring the recurring characters fans love.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 11.27.25 AMWhile the show has not had a lot of press, many stars have lent their talent (and voices) to its stories. Some guest stars have included Amy Acker (Dollhouse, Much Ado About Nothing), Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Angel), Emily Blunt, Misha Collins, Jorge Garcia (Lost, Once Upon a Time), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who), Colin Hanks,  Neil Patrick Harris, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Aimee Mann and even the great Weird Al Yankovic. One of the best known frequent recurring guest stars is Nathan Fillion, who voices the titular Jefferson Reid in Jefferson Reid, Ace American,  as well as characters in Beyond Belief and Sparks Nevada. Fillion is a critically acclaimed actor for his role in Firefly, various other Joss Whedon productions, and Castle, on which he plays the titular character. Patton Oswalt is another frequent guest on the show, the comedian has played a few different characters on Beyond Belief, including a hard-boiled detective known as Pterodactyl Jones.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 11.27.46 AMAside from a host of incredibly talented guest stars, the show regulars are simply delightful. The dashing Paul F. Tompkins and  lovely Paget Brewster play the hilarious duo of Frank and Sadie Doyle, Park Avenue residents who are just as comfortable with the affairs of high society and the nether realms. Brewster and Tompkins are simply hilarious as the married mediums, who solve paranormal mysteries, although they would prefer their own company and that of alcoholic beverages. Beyond Belief is by far the fan favorite segment of the show, though Sparks Nevada, covering the adventures of a space cowboy, is also a funny and interesting journey. His relationship with his martian companion, Croach the Tracker, is an ongoing joke by the writers, and they are not afraid to tackle the sexual tension. The show is breath of fresh air, and a great listen. Since podcasts have come back into vogue, hopefully The Thrilling Adventure Hour will become better known.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour does monthly shows, for tickets go to their website, thrillingadventurehour.com. A concert film is currently in post-production.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Podcasts

Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale is an ongoing podcast from the mind of Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, a bimonthly podcast in a radio show format. The “voice of Night Vale” is Cecil Baldwin, a radio host who gives Night Vale‘s fans the details of the unusual happenings in the desert town. As this show has recently had its second birthday, and the fan base is only growing, I thought I would make a list, in no particular order, of great things about this show and why you should love it.

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1. Prominent and active female characters

Although the main character is Cecil, there are a lot of really compelling female presences on the show, including the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home, Intern (now Mayor) Dana, Intern Maureen, Tamika Flynn, and Old Woman Josie. These women take action, have positions of power, and have gripping narratives. They are all voiced by interesting and talented actresses.

2. Celos or Carcil? (Carlos/Cecil)

The Carlos/Cecil ship is too amazing to sink. It also was the plot catalyst for one of the best episodes, “First Date” (episode 27.) Cecil and Carlos have an adorable and mutually supportive relationship that is seen in multiple episodes to be just the cutest thing. Also, they are a great representation of a biracial relationship in popular media.

3. Racial Diversity

While people like to ignore the white-washed TV shows that are still very prominent, Night Vale takes this problem on by creating compelling characters of multiple races. Tamika Flynn is an interesting, driven and intelligent African-American woman, played by an African-American woman. Carlos is a bright latino scientist played by a latino actor. While race isn’t a huge factor in the show’s plot, it’s still really important to have a diverse and representative cast.

4. Sexuality

While shows like Glee have more than a few characters that have huge plot points revolving around their sexuality, Night Vale is far more casual. Cecil Palmer, the main character, is a gay man. He works in a professional environment, has a steady relationship and is a productive member of society. The show doesn’t march out with confetti cannons about it, but it makes it very clear that Cecil’s sexuality is part of who he is. AND THAT’S DAMN BEAUTIFUL.

5. The Weather

A creative excuse to play interesting and usually unusual musical selections. What’s not to love? Also, it makes the live shows more interesting. The weather is never anything you would hear on the radio, and is one of the most popular segments of the show.

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 11.12.13 AM6. Merch

A lot of shows just do merchandising to make money, but Night Vale subsists mostly on money donated by listeners and money from the numerous tours. The merchandise is awesome, from rotating shirt sales to a Night Vale flask.

7. Live Shows

I personally have attended one of Night Vale‘s live shows with a close friend, and the atmosphere was amazing. Everyone was incredibly friendly, the sheer amount of cosplayers was unbelievable, and the show was pure genius. While listening to the show is great anywhere, there is nothing like the joy of being surrounded by a crowd laughing just as hard as you are. It was totally worth it, and I highly recommend going to a show if there is one in your area.

8. The Fans

Initially, as the show is free on iTunes, Night Vale was completely supported by its listeners and creators. Now that its popularity has skyrocketed, the show is more financially secure, and the community made up by people who love it has only become stronger. Fans cosplay, make Tumblr pages and write great fanfiction. Building an organic community like this one is an unusual and special phenomenon, and just one of the reasons why Night Vale is so awesome.

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9. Supernatural phenomena

One of the most compelling facets of the show is the tenuous balance between fiction and reality. The coolness of  five-headed dragon running for mayor cannot be quantified. The Glow Cloud (ALL HAIL) is hilarious. The mixture of scientists and random supernatural events is one of the best and most interesting parts of the show.

There are a bunch of tour dates in the near future, so if you haven’t seen them live yet, you should definitely see if they’re playing in your area. http://commonplacebooks.com/live-events