I love podcasts!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I'm a person who can't seem to do just one thing at at a time.  When I'm watching TV or movie with friends or family, I've got something in my hands all the time--a bit of wire, a pen and notebook filled with doodles.  When I'm doing laundry or washing dishes, I've usually got music blaring and I'm singing along (loudly. Sorry, neighbors!). And when I'm working in my little studio, I've always got something happening besides the project in my hands.

Lots of craftsy types I know are the same way. Some wire-working friends watch TV while they weave, and just about everybody I know makes music a part of their work.  For me, it depends on the type of work I'm doing at the moment.  If it's something mindless and repetetive, like making chain or weaving some Viking knit, I like to have something visual happening, Netflix or Youtube videos.  If it's something more involved, I need something I can just listen to, without having to glance up to see what's happening.  Being a giant book nerd, I love audio books.  A lot.  And lately, I've fallen in love with podcasts.

There's a new trend in podcasts recently: the serial narrative podcast.  These are like TV shows for your ears. Until not too long ago, most podcasts involved a bunch of people sitting around talking about a given topic; personally, even if I'm really interested in the topic, that's not my cuppa.  But in 2014, Serial was created; it follows one story, told one week at a time. Serial is non-fiction; the first season follows an investigative journalist as she explores a murder, its circumstances, and the fate of the young man convicted of the crime.  The format makes it feel relevant and immediate, and It's freaking addictive!

The show won awards, and lots of listeners. And other podcasters started to take notice.  And since podcasting is a wildly democratic form of entertainment--you don't need a whole studio of equipment, a cast of name-recognized actors, or corporate sponsorship to get started--lots of them have been popping up.  And it's wonderful.  

Quality of production and writing varies quite a bit, but the ones that are good are SO GOOD!  Here are a few of my favorites (be warned: I'm a sci fi, fantasy and horror junkie, so you're about to enter a Nerd Zone).

Welcome to Night Vale

This show actually predates Serial by quite a bit.  It's positively venerable, by podcast standards: it's been running now for four years, and has spawned live performances of the show, and one book so far.  From the show's website:  "WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.

Turn on your radio and hide."  

It's surreal and funny, and completely delightful. 

Alice Isn't Dead

Alice Isn't Dead is brought to you by the same folks who make Night Vale, and there's some of the same surreal feeling.  But where Night Vale is funny, Alice is creepy.

The description from the show's website: "A truck driver searches across America for the wife she had long assumed was dead. In the course of her search, she will encounter not-quite-human serial murderers, towns literally lost in time, and a conspiracy that goes way beyond one missing woman."

It's beautifully written and narrated. I mean, serious beauty happens in the words of this show. I can't recommend it enough--but if you're easily creeped out, this one might not be for you.

The Black Tapes

The Black Tapes takes the fomat that worked so well for Serial and applies it to fictional characters and events--ghosts, demons, and the dark things that haunt the night, in this case.  This show follows an investigative journalist as she explores paranormal mysteries.  There are some very creepy moments, and the characters are excellent.  I binged the whole first season within a couple of days.  This show has a very X-Files feel, and from a die-hard X-Files fan, that's serious praise. 

Tanis

Tanis is made by the same folks who make The Black Tapes, and there's some crossover of characters, though the story lines are entirely separate. This show follows the main character as he investigates an obscure bit of mythology, which becomes less mythical more immediately dangerous as the show progresses. Conspiracies, hidden signs and clues, a magic cabin that appears and disappears in the woods--I still haven't figured out exactly what's going on, but I'm definitely enjoying getting there.

Limetown

Limetown follows (yet another) investigative journalist as she tries to solve the mystery of 300 men and women who vanished from a small town in Tennessee. I don't want to give too much away, but I will say this one leans more toward science fiction than toward paranormal or horror.  There's only one season so far, and while the creator says he's planning to make more, there's no word yet on when.

Archive 81

Archive 81 takes a different approach from the "investigative journalist" point of view that's so popular. Instead, the narrator of the show is a young man who has disappeared, and what you're hearing are the tapes he sent his friend just before he went missing. It's intriguing, and often funny, and quite creepy.

There are lots more excellent podcasts out there, but these are the ones I keep returning to. 

And as always, I want to know: what about you?  Have you listened to any of these?  Any others I should know about?  What do you like to do  while you're working? 

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