Hugh Likes Podcasts: Alice Isn’t Dead

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Alice Isn’t Dead
Joseph Fink/Jasika Nicole/Disparition
America can be a weird, lonesome place.  This is something the creators of ‘Welcome to Night Vale,’ no strangers to weirdness themselves, learned firsthand while touring with a live version of the hit podcast.  Co-writer Joseph Fink was inspired to write a new show based in part on his experience of traveling across the country.  But like the original, ‘Alice Isn’t Dead,’ takes place in a world much stranger and scarier than our own.
While ‘Night Vale’ uses its off-kilter atmosphere for humor, Alice is a straight-up horror story, with a fair bit of mystery thrown in.  The podcast follows a truck driver, played by Jasika Nicole, as she travels the country in search of her missing wife.  Along the way, she tells her story into her CB radio as though it were a letter or a diary.  At first she just wants answers, but she quickly becomes embroiled in an inexplicable conspiracy, and attracts the attention of The Thistle Man, a supernatural impossible serial killer.  From there, things only get worse.
Produced by Disparition, each episode is a rich soundscape.  I expected the CB chirps and engine hum that provide the basic sound floor to take me out of the story, but they are expertly mixed, and rather than distract, they provide a sense of realism and tension to the performance.  Set on the lonely highways and the weird nowhere towns of the American imagination, “Alice Isn’t Dead” is a creepy mystery that proves that the Night Vale creative team have real chops behind their satire.  You can find the show in iTunes, or at nightvalepresents.com.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: Journey Into Misery

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Journey Into Misery
Hosted by Helena Hart and Keiran Shiach
Comics continuity can really suck.  With the  wrong writer, it can be a confounding mess that ruins favorite characters, and even in the best hands, it creates a barrier of entry for new readers.  But as media becomes more and more serialized, continuity becomes more and more omnipresent in entertainment.
Fortunately, The Journey Into Misery podcast is here to help.  Each episode, Keiran Shiach introduces a new character, event, or creator run of superhero comics to his cohost and partner Helena Hart.  In the wrong hands, this could come off as a dour, mans-plainy mess, hence the title, but the pair make every show a delight.
First of all the chemistry between the pair is immediately evident.  They each bring something to the podcast that makes it more than the sum of its parts.  Keiran’s breakneck descriptions are lightning-fast but still easy to follow.  He’s both patient and skilled at explaining some of the weirdest bits of DC and Marvel continuity.  And Helena’s enthusiasm and interest are infectious, elevating even the worst of comics concepts.  The pair has covered all sorts of topics from Batman: Knightfall and The Spider-Man Clone Sage to Runaways and Final Crisis.  They even did a delightful April Fools Day episode where they turned the tables and Helena explained the plot of one of her favorite bits of pop culture, Les Miserables.
Catching up on comics continuity can be a joyless, gate-keeping slog, but with podcasts like Journey Into Misery, you can still enjoy the ride.  Visit JIMPodcast.com or subscribe in your preferred podcatcher.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: Into It with Elle Collins

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Into It With Elle Collins
Hosted by Elle Collins
A podcast for all the things you love, Into It is an interview podcast in which host Elle Collins delves deeply into a piece of pop culture with a guest who is a dedicated fan.  It’s similar to Jackie Kashian’s The Dork Forrest, but more tightly focused on pop culture ephemera than unusual hobbies.
Host Elle Collins invites a guest on each week to share something they love and talk about why they love it.  Topics are usually quite nerdy but Elle and her guests do their best to approach each episode with a perspective that outsiders can enjoy.  It is a podcast about sharing, after all.
Episodes range from Pokemon to pro wrestling to an excellent three-episode retrospective on the Star Wars trilogy.  Guests are often other podcasters or media critics, and this show can be a gateway drug to a host of other cool, nerdy podcasts.  They’ve included Jay Rachel Edidin, Chris Sims, and DJ Benhameen, all of whom have other excellent podcasts in a similar vein.
For a nerdy, offbeat podcast that shatters the conventional stereotypes of nerd culture while embracing true nerdiness, give Elle a listen.  You can find Into It with Elle Collins in iTunes or at intoitpodcast.com .

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: The Flop House

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The Flop House
Dan McCoy, Stewart Wellington, and Elliott Kalan
The Maximum Fun Network

It should come as no surprise to regular readers that I’m admittedly kind of a podcast hipster.  I love shows about nerds telling jokes about bad movies.  I’m even a member of one.  It’s a nerdom that for me goes all the way back to watching MST3K on the Sci-Fi Channel Saturday mornings.  There are a lot of bad movie podcasts out in the wilds of iTunes, but The Flop House is special because it brings so much more improvisational humor, lightness, and camaraderie to the recording.
Hosted by veteran Daily Show Producer Dan McCoy and writer Elliott Kalan along with their friend Stewart Wellington, each episode examines a different commercial bomb.  They talk about the aspects of the film and decide whether or not the flop is as bad as it seems or if it deserves another chance.
What sets The Flop House apart is the second half of the show, in which the hosts open up the mail bag, accompanied by an improvised and surprisingly long song by Elliott.  I can’t think of a way to appealingly describe it, and they seem like they should be terrible, but they are in fact delightful and charming.  That’s the best way I can explain the podcast as a whole.  The hosts are knowledgeable, funny, and have a real sense of friendship that is brought to the fore.  The Flop House is a podcast that seems like it shouldn’t work on paper, but is in fact a wonder that is more than the sum of its parts.
It also has a huge back catalog.  The Flop House recently celebrated its 200th episode, so there are plenty of old episodes to go back and find a movie you’d like to hear them discuss.
The Flop House is hosted by the Maximum Fun Network and can be found online at flophousepodcast.com.  It can be downloaded from iTunes and other podcatching services.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: Retronauts

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Hosted by Jeremy Parish and Bob Mackey

For a long time, video games have been trying to rise as a medium from frivolous entertainment to serious art form.  Some notable successes have been achieved, but also success hasn’t been universal.  Something similar can be said for video game podcasts.  While many gaming podcasts fall into the ‘bro-gamer’ subculture that seems to permeate the internet, Retronauts rises above the field by mixing intelligent analysis with nostalgia.
Nominally hosted by gaming news site USGamer.net , Retronauts covers games from the dawn of the medium up to about ten years ago.  Hosted by two veteran game reviewers and bloggers, the cast is in-depth and smarter than it needs to be.  It not only provides a dose of heady nostalgia, but historical analysis and design critique as well.  The main show updates every two weeks considering topics such as specific games or series, but also topics like a retrospective on the career of Final Fantasy score composer Nobuo Uematsu.  These episodes go in-depth with three or four guests, running one to two hours.
Alternate weeks update with shorter microsodes that focus in deeper on more obscure, but none the less interesting topics like the groundbreaking but often overlooked survival horror adventure ‘Clock Tower,’ or the music of the SNES port of Sim City.
Host Bob Mackey and Jeremy Parish, who is also the talent behind Game Boy World, really know their stuff, and have plenty of anecdotes and inside information that really sheds a light on the game design and development process.
As someone who spent much of his childhood with an NES controller in hand, but usually couldn’t afford the latest generation system, I am a dyed-in the-wool retro gamer.  This podcast is my jam.  If you prefer pixelated nostalgia over the latest shooter, Retronauts might just be the gaming podcast you’re looking for.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: The Hidden Almanac and Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap

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The Hidden Almanac and Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap
Kevin Sonney and Ursula Vernon
Hiddenalmanac.com and http://kuec.libsyn.com

“The Hidden Almanac” and “Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap” are two very different, gloriously odd podcasts from Hugo Award-winning author Ursula Vernon and her husband Kevin Sonney  While Ursula is a children’s author these podcasts, particularly the later, are not for kids and they are two of my favorite new additions to my podcast playlist.
“The Hidden Almanac” is a micro-fiction podcast staring Immortal plague doctor Reverend Mord, played by Sonney in a delightfully creepy monotone, and his assistant, the enthusiastic and rarely sober Pastor Drom, played by Vernon.  Every few days, a five-minute or so episode drops, in which Mord intones the historical importance and Saint’s feast of the day from a world that is very much not our own.  He also fills the listener in on the status of his garden, which is filled with plants both fantastical and mundane.  Drom assists in much the same way that gasoline assists a campfire.  Episodes are written by Vernon, and the humor on display is similar to her popular comics.
“Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap” is a much longer podcast in which the couple test out a variety of prepackaged instant food and snacks.  If you can’t stand the sound of chewing, this podcast isn’t for you.  However, the presenters, particularly Ursula, are hilarious in their reviews and so colorful in their language that sitting through these two-hour episodes is a joy.  Ursula recently described one food choice as tasting ‘like an independent bookstore.’  The couple often goes on smart, funny tangents that are as entertaining as the food reviews.  Running the gamut from ‘healthy’ snacks including organic and gluten free items, to the most basic instant fare, these two food critics are sure to entertain with their common sense wisdom and curmudgeonly wit.
Whether you prefer your podcasts in short bursts or marathon sessions, check out these selections in itunes or your preferred podcast player.

Hugh Likes Podcasts: We Got This With Mark and Hal

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We Got This With Mark and Hal
Hal Lublin & Mark Gagliardi
Maximum Fun Network
“We Got This” is a podcast that sets out to settle the very small questions.  Hosted by Thrilling Adventure Hour regulars Hal Lublin and Mark Gagliardi, it tackles the cultural debates that hover over bar rooms and gaming tables.  From what state has the best barbecue to Best Star Trek film, they hash out the data and come up with a definitive answer to life’s least pressing debates.
One of the things that makes this show really work is the chemistry between Mark and Hal.  As cast members of the long-running stage show and podcast “Thrilling Adventure Hour,” their camaraderie and friendship is in evidence.  And as working actors and bonafide nerds, their pop-cultural cred can’t be questioned.  While many of the show’s topics are suggested by fans through the Maximum Fun Reddit page, there is a sense that they are returning to arguments they have hashed out before over backstage drinks and diner food.
But where one of them is lacking expertise, they never fake it.  There is a genuineness to this podcast that is quite charming, even when you want to shout corrections into your player.  They have had an excellent set of guest experts as well.  A recent episode debating Star Trek vs. Star Wars, which was recorded live, featured Mythbuster Adam Savage and Internet Judge John Hodgeman, for example.
Thrilling Adventure Hour may be complete, but Hal and Mark are still making great podcasts.  If you’ve missed your Work Juice Player fix, this is a great show to pick up.  And even if you have never heard of the hosts before, their charm and sagacity is sure to delight.  So if you have some niggling pop-culture question, check their archives.  Chances are, They’ve got this.

Hugh Likes Podcasts: Nerdy Show

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Nerdy Show
Hosted by Cap Blackard, and others
Nerdy Show is a podcast that spawned a network.  Originally a college radio show ran for and by central Florida geeks, Nerdy Show has expanded into a network of podcasts, videos, streaming music, and articles that strive to cover every bit of fandom and nerd culture.
The central podcast has changed formats a few times over the course of its run, but currently consists of a podcast feed with a titular main show every two weeks, and a variety of additional programming.  These other podcasts include Flame On, a podcast about gay nerd culture, Wicked Anime, an anime fan show, Dungeons and Doritos, a popular role playing live reading/audio drama, and even a book club!
One of Nerdy Show’s strengths is that it is inherently positive about nerd culture.  The podcast casts a wide net and has a little bit of everything, but still seems to find the good.  Geek culture is about having an unabashed love for something, and that love shines through, whether the topic is Star Wars, tech news, or voice actors of the eighties.  As their motto says, if it’s geeky, they’ve got you covered.
Their fan community an outreach is also really well maintained.  Through their own forums, social media, and even now Patreon, Cap and his crew have an amazing outreach to their fans, and their fans keep them afloat.  Nerdy Show is as much a community as it is a podcast, and even has their own unofficial headquarters in Orlando, Florida’s nerd-themed hang-out The Geekeasy.
Nerdy Show is a team of geeks creating their own network of geek entertainment, and delivering a high quality set of shows.  No matter what your nerddom, there is something there for you, so go check them out at nerdyshow.com.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: International Waters

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International Waters
Hosted by Dave Holmes
International Waters is a lot of fun.  Ostensibly a panel quiz show, host Dave Holmes pits teams of American and British comedians against each other to determine which country is better.  In reality, it’s a thin rationale for pop culture and current events jokes, it is still a joy to hear.  You cold think of it like ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’ without the NPR respectability.
While the humor is often lowbrow, Holmes is a charming host, and the guests are usually quite witty in between the poop and dick jokes.  The show is divided into three rounds.  First, the panels answer current events trivia.  Then, there is a round of games in which the guests try and answer questions about odd bits of the other country’s pop culture.  Finally, there is the last and most important round which is a creative challenge of some kind, where the comics have to defend the worst bits of their own culture or attack something beloved of their opponents, such as Doctor Who or Spider-Man.  There is a nice variety to the games, and they are quite entertaining.
International Waters is available from the Maximum Fun network and comes out twice a month.  It’s a great addition to stand-up fans, Anglophiles, and ex-pats alike.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: Writing Excuses

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Writing Excuses
Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler and Dan Wells
Writing Excuses is a master class creative writing course broken up into bite sized chunks.  Hosted by three best-selling novel writers and one of the internet’s most successful cartoonists, each episode goes surprisingly deep on a topic of craft in a very short amount of time.  Their tag line, “Fifteen minutes long because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart,” is falsely modest.  Each one is packed with useful tidbits from leading spec-fic authors.
Essentially secrets of the pros for those struggling to make it, Writing Excuses is on its tenth season and has a huge back catalog covering a wide variety of writing related subjects.  The current season has been examining the process of creating a book from outline all the way to revision.
In addition to being useful, this podcast is also surprisingly entertaining.  The four hosts have an excellent rapport with one another, and they also have a great stage presence.  They also have frequent guest authors for more perspective.
In addition to the topic, each episode ends with a writing exercise or homework assignment to further illustrate the lesson.
Writing Excuses is like the greatest creative writing course you never took, taught by a quartet of engaging experts.  If you are looking for an informative writing podcast, this one should be at the top of your list.

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