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Podcast: OCT31: The Wicker Man

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Join Jurd and I for a micro-review of 1973’s “The Wicker Man!” Bees not included.

Click HERE to listen!

This podcast originally appeared at Skinner.FM on Monday, October 16th, 2017.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: The Adventure Zone, Revisited

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The Adventure Zone
Hosted by Griffin, Travis, Justin, and Clint McElroy
http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/adventure-zone

The Adventure Zone Flat_7

When I originally reviewed The Adventure Zone in January of 2015, it was still in the midst of its first arc. Having just finished the first campaign of the show 69 episodes later, I wanted to go back and give it a second look. The show went from a enjoyably funny Dungeons & Dragons podcast to something altogether different, and I think there’s a lot to talk about here.
Serial storytelling is a thing always in motion. TV shows change show-runners. Comics change creative teams. Target audiences drift. Even when the artists stay consistent, real-world events swirl around them. Tastes are fickle. Long-running concepts have to be adaptable. The Doctor regenerates. Batman shifts from swinging sixties Caped-Crusaider to Frank Miller’s gritty vigilante and back again. Podcasts are no less susceptible to these changes. But I never expected four goofballs sitting around a microphone and joking about role playing to make me cry.
The Adventure Zone’s first campaign was a train that constantly picked up speed. The McElroys are comedians at heart. The podcast started as a goof, and it was entirely in their oeuvre. It was a lot of fun, but one of the characters was named Taako, and his quest was to invent the taco. This was a big part of the early episodes. But something happened along the way. Often, when something becomes popular, it is considered the downfall of the enterprise. It gets too big, expands beyond the original concept, or the creators get overwhelmed or carried away. But that isn’t what happened to “The Adventure Zone.”
Fans loved the podcast. They made fanart, they wrote letters, they tweeted, and crated animatics from the audio. And in showing how much they loved these silly adventures, the McElroys worked harder. They gave their creation depth and emotional resonance that it didn’t have for them, because they knew that it was there for the fans of the show. It’s a bit of a trite statement to say that a media property is ‘for the fans,’ but it’s rare that something is so beautifully communicated between creators and an audience.
The Adventure Zone didn’t abandon the goofy aesthetic so much as it became more sincere in it. Seeing the reaction fans had to the show, the McElroys put in the work. Production got better. Griffin produced an intricate plot that slotted in seamlessly to the pre-made adventure they started out with. He also composed entire soundtracks, and sculpted lush sound environments. The players carefully weighed their decisions, because, they realized, the characters were no longer just theirs. The Adventure Zone became something better than its beginnings because the creators and the audience respected one another in a way that’s rare in our media sphere. The results are remarkable, and worth listening to even if you’ve never opened iTunes or rolled up a character sheet.
The Adventure Zone recently finished it’s first campaign, “Balance,” with episode 69. If you haven’t listened to it, I recommend going back and starting from the beginning. It’s a long road, but the transformation along the way is truly special. Art isn’t created in a vacuum, and sometimes, it sneaks up on you from the most unlikely of places. Just like three goofy heroes who wind up saving the world.

Thanks for reading this article. If you enjoyed it, please share it. You can also support me on Patreon for fiction, podcasts, and other goodies!

Hugh Likes Podcasts: The Shared Desk

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The Shared Desk
Hosted by Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine
http://www.theshareddesk.com/

I can’t believe I haven’t covered this one before. Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine are the husband-and-wife team of authors behind The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. They are also long-experienced solo writers and podcasters, so obviously they have a writing podcast together in which they discuss the craft of writing and collaborating as a couple.
I will confess that Pip and Tee are dear personal friends and fellow Smoky Writers. One of the things I love about them is that they have an amazing energy as a couple, and that totally comes through on the podcast. They are a joy to listen to.
When they began the podcast, they were both working together on their Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences steampunk novels, now that the series has wound its way down, they have split off to their own projects again, but still gather to discuss the events of their lives, interact with their active fanbase, and opine on writerly discourse of the day. While the show began as a look at the shared creative process, it has morphed into a writing podcast focusing on work/life balance, how to comport yourself as a writer, particularly online, and of course, lengthy diversions into nerdery, video games, and beer, all topics near and dear to my heart.
One of the things I really like about it is the balance between work and play The Shared Desk has. Tee is never far from his soundboard of drop-ins, and they’ve had beer tastings, chatted with special guests, dissected tv shows and movies for writing craft, and even divvied up Loot Crate boxes on-mic.
Writing is usually a lonely business, but “The Shared Desk” revels in the parts of the job that aren’t, and the fun and friends you make along the way. Check it out at www.theshareddesk.com, in iTunes, or your podcatcher of choice.

Thanks for reading this article. If you enjoyed it, please share it! You can also support me on Patreon for more goodies!

Hugh Likes Podcasts: The Monster Society of Comics

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The Monster Society of Comics
Hosted by Elle Collins and Kieran Shiach
goodeggpodcasts.com

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You belong in the Monster Society of Comics. That is the central tenet of this new podcast, hosted by veteran podcasters and former Comics Alliance writers Kieran Shiach and Elle Collins. Once a month, the hosts and two guests each present their top comics pick from the last month. It doesn’t have to be a comic that was published in the last month, just their favorite thing they read. Each comic is carefully considered by the panel. They also discuss comics news and read listener submissions of favorite comics for the month.
Two episodes in, The Monster Society of Comics is off to a great start. Unfortunately, it is plagued by audio issues that I hope are resolved in further installments. The most glaring of these is the recording levels of the participants. Elle’s audio in particular is very loud, while Kieran’s is often too low. Leveling a podcast recorded over VoIP is always a challenge, but the podcast needed almost constant adjustment.
That issue aside, The Monster Society of Comics is shaping up to be a great forum for positive and intelligent criticism, which is something that the internet sorely needs in the wake of Comics Alliance shutting down. You can find it online at GoodeggPodcasts.com and in the podcatcher of your choice.

Thank you for reading this review. If you enjoyed it, please share it! You can also support me on Patreon for more goodies!

Hugh Likes Podcasts: 2016 Top Five

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: 2016 Top 5

In no particular order, here are my five favorite narrative podcasts of 2016. I listened to a lot this year, and there seemed to be too much to really judge, but these five stood out as gems in the podosphere.

Six Stories Told at Night
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K T Bryski and Blythe Haynes are a dynamic duo of podcast fiction. The writer/narrator pair have worked together on a variety of projects, from the audiobook Heartstealer to the Nightvale-esque Coxwood History Fun Cast. I think this is the apex of their collaboration. A six episode podcast about Canadian Folklore, “Six Stories” blurs the line between myth and reality, story and storyteller, and history and the present. It is an amazing work, commissioned by the Ontario Arts Council.

Gosh-Darn Fiasco
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A live-roleplay podcast of Bully Pulpit’s Fiasco which started in 2015, this is a mix of roleplaying and improv that works just right for podcast. The episodes are a bit on the long side, with each running at least an hour and often running longer, but hosts Angela Webber and Richard Malena, as well as their recurring guests, are always surprising and hilarious. The playsets are well chosen, and lots of fun. Where else are you going to hear about secret muppets and Antarctic rock bands? No place, that’s where.

Alice Isn’t Dead
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From the creators of “Welcome to Night Vale,” Alice isn’t dead is a one-woman audio drama about the long, strange gaps of rural America, the things that inhabit them, and what, precisely, makes us human. The narrator’s search for her presumed-dead wife, and the strange and terrible things she finds along the way are the stuff of American nightmare, compelling and frightening.

The Hidden Almanac
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A micro-cast written by author and illustrator Ursula Vernon and produced by her husband Kevin Sonney, The Hidden Almanac is a look into the hagiography and domestic garden life of a world not our own. But more precisely, it is the adventures of the long suffering Rev. Mord and his saintly and drunken companion, Pastor Drom. This year they braved the dangers of a library catacomb, fought off an inter-dimensional invasion, and covered a fraught local judiciary election between a revenant used car salesman and a charismatic chicken.  Five minutes a week shouldn’t be this effective, but it is.

The Voice of Free Planet X
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Jared Axelrod continued their run on this highly polished spec-fictional version of This American Life by visiting a city with amnesia, covering a funeral for a pulp heroine, and helping to preside over a rap battle for the fate of the Earth. Jared is an incandescent wit and talent, and I’m just glad they’re on our side.

Hugh Likes Podcasts: Six Stories Told at Night

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Six Stories Told At Night
Produced by K. T. Bryski
Performed by Blythe Haynes
KTBryski.com
sixstories_album
“Six Stories Told at Night” is masterfully written and produced Canadian meta-fiction.  It is the story of Sam and Joelle, two college-age friends in Toronto.  Joelle is an artist and folklorist who suddenly disappears.  Concerned, Sam goes to her apartment and finds a note.  Joelle claims to have left for Fairyland, the place all stories come from.  Sam struggles to find her, using Joelle’s notes and their own personal history as a map.  But getting to Fairyland isn’t the same as getting in, and Joelle has already told her all the stories she knows.
The product of a grant from the Ontario Arts Council, the podcast examines some famous Canadian folktales and the nature of storytelling.  Each episode tells a different Canadian folktale, and also follows Sam as she searches for Joelle and recounts a little bit of their history.  It is effectively and subtly done, always connecting the historical tale to modern characters in a way that doesn’t feel moralistic.
The audio is well-mastered, with editing by Bryski and original music by composer Alex White.  Blythe Hayne’s performances are both fantastical and evocative as she switches between anxious, clipped Ontarian Sam and the languid, artistic Joelle, and between the present, and the past.  Haynes’ voice is as subtle and varied as the story, and the two are an excellent match.  “Six Stories” is a creation perfectly tailored for audio podcast, and it shows in the way that Haynes’ and Bryski’s work mesh so seamlessly.
The tales themselves are a collection of chilling ghost stories and supernatural encounters.  They are a perfect treat for a chilly autumn night.  You can subscribe or listen online to “Six Stories Told at Night” at KTBryski.com.  I highly recommend it.

Thank you for reading this article.  If you enjoyed it, please share it.  You can also support me on Patreon for more writing and podcasts.

Hugh Likes Podcasts: Hello From The Magic Tavern

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Hello From the Magic Tavern
Produced by Arnie Niekamp, Evan Jacover, and Ryan DiGiorgi
Hosted by Arnie Niekamp, Adal Rifai, and Matt Young
hellofromthemagictavern.com
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Hello From the Magic Tavern is a difficult podcast to explain.  It’s kind of like The Lord of the Rings with less wandering and more poop jokes.  Half improv, half interview show, the podcast is hosted by Arnie Niekamp, playing himself.  The premise is that he fell through a magical portal behind a Chicago Burger King and landed in the magical land of Foon.  He still gets wifi through the portal, and hosts a podcast interviewing locals along with his co-hosts, a talking badger/shape-shifter named Chunt, and Usidore, a wizard of less than legendary talents.
The interviews with guests are improvised, but each one becomes canon for the podcast, and episodes build to form a larger story.  It’s a neat premise, that has resulted in a lot of pop culture jokes and references becoming ongoing bits.
The producers are also a part of the creative team at Jackbox Games, who create indie party video games like “You Don’t Know Jack” and “Fibbage.”  The signature humor of those games is on display here as well, so fans of their video game work will be well at home with “Hello From the Magic Tavern.”  The ongoing story line, which involves Arnie’s fervent wish to return home, but utter lack of action, and the land of Foon being menaced by a Dark Lord simply referred to as “The Dark Lord,” get stranger and more complex with every episode, but it is one heck of a trip.
You can stream Hello From the Magic Tavern online, or find it in iTunes or your favorite podcatcher.

Thank you for reading this article.  If you enjoyed it, please share it, or leave a comment.  You can also support me on Patreon for more content.

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