More Podcasts for the Uninitiated; or Free Things Made by Talented People

A few months ago I wrote a starter’s guide for those interested in the wonderful, portable world of podcasts. Today we revisit that fertile field, where dozens of shows live and die by the day, to bring you half a dozen more shows that are worth your time post-haste. Whether you’re already up to date on the last set or just looking for a new set of options (that you’re sure is going to last more than three episodes), I think I’ve got something for you here.

But, I mean, you’re already listening to Night Vale, right?

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A Beginner’s Guide to Podcasts

There are regrettable times of day when I am required to disconnect myself from the internet and interact with human society for the purpose of maintaining things such as rent, social bonds, and the dog next to me (who is currently making unsubtle sad eyes about his unscratched ears). I imagine this experience would be a good deal more disturbing if I didn’t have a constant stream of voices winding their way into my ears, running the gamut from nebbish shut-ins discussing internet justice to nebbish shut ins discussing popular culture to throat spiders.

I’m here to bring the good news of podcasts, is what I’m saying. Not the Kevin Smith, ‘y’all should all get out and make a podcast because it’s creatively freeing and easy’ good news (though that’ll probably come up some day down the line), but the ‘why are people even bothering to listen to music when they could be taking in information and stories on almost anything.’ But then I realized that ‘almost anything’ is a pretty intimidating notion for anyone who’s never even bothered looking outside the music section of iTunes.

A podcast, for the uninitiated, is a downloadable audio file. That’s it, by its broadest parameters. The medium has its roots in radio (particularly talk radio, with Ricky Gervais being one of the earliest to put his show on the bandwagon), but nowadays a podcast can follow any format, subject, or approach and still find a niche group of fans. For the purpose of keeping things contained, we’ll take a look at three fairly broad subgroupings: Infotainment, BS, and Scripted.

[Note: while they’re a thriving entity, I’m avoiding talk of podcasts dedicated to specific shows: they tend to be both in the moment and even more niche than general subject podcasts, and I find they’re better found by being a fan of the show in question rather than just looking for a new podcast.]

And remember: this is only a beginning guide. There are all sorts of podcasts I’m discovering on a daily basis.

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Five Forgotten Gems: Thrillers

Were I operating in an uncharitable mode, it might be accurate to call thrillers the skim milk of the horror genre. At least, that’s the image that the official definition – a genre whose main purpose is to induce fearful excitement – conjures. But thrillers are really just a strange duck all over. By their label their modus operandi is to elicit an emotional response, and yet thrillers are most often plotty ventures: from the paranoia thrillers of the 70s to crime-colored mystery thrillers like Silence of the Lambs to high-concept thrillers with one foot in science fiction.

If horror is meant to help us work through our fear of inevitable death, a kind of catharsis through observed helplessness, then thrillers tackle the uncertainties of living. They give their main characters agency, and more often than not the choice to run after the terrorizing thing in search of some kind of enlightenment – peril with an escape hatch, risk with a reward beyond breathing for another day. While there might be a mystery at the heart of a horror film it tends to be beside the point, something the hero happens to learn in the process of trying to survive. In a thriller, the ‘why’ is the entire point, the film not concluded until the protagonists have solved the quandary or died trying.

On the subject of surviving history: a scary movie at its peak can let us observe the fears of the human heart on a deep and visceral level (The Fly! The Birds! Misery!), but anything less than that pinnacle probably isn’t going to age very well – they show their seams, lose the ability to shock, and in losing emotional response lose their meaning as creative endeavors (it is no coincidence that in sussing out the difference in ‘horror’ versus ‘thriller’ a great many well-aged but no longer viscerally scary horror films had to be considered).

All of which is an extremely long preamble to this: some thrillers that could use a little more love.

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Vrai’s Favorite Things: Anime (5 to 1)

Numbers 20-16
Numbers 15-11
Numbers 10-6

Here we are – the end of the countdown. The anime that are nearest and dearest to me. The ones that I’m quite happy to proselytize with all the spare air in my lungs  and talk about until the sun comes up. (I feel almost as though I should give brief mention to the anime that almost-but-not-quite made the list. Eh, perhaps another day).

If you’re of legal age and in the mood for a quick bout of stomach pumping, feel free to take a shot with every glowing superlative I bust out this week. Your liquor cabinets will be as empty as my heart is full.

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Vrai’s Favorite Things: Anime (10 to 6)

Numbers 20-16
Numbers 15-11

In honor of the one year anniversary, this month’ll be blocked out for a conversation on Awesome Stuff. This time around, I’ve divided out my top 20 favorite anime. By its nature the list is always in flux, particularly those at the high end of the countdown (I haven’t managed yet to touch Spice & Wolf or Mawaru Penguindrum, for example). But! Whether or not they move off of the formal list in the future, these are all series that captured my imagination, that showed me something new, creative, or different in idea or execution, and that I fully stand behind recommending.

Let us continue!

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Vrai’s Favorite Things: Anime (15 to 11)

Numbers 20 to 16

In honor of the one year anniversary, this month’ll be blocked out for a conversation on Awesome Stuff. This time around, I’ve divided out my top 20 favorite anime. By its nature the list is always in flux, particularly those at the high end of the countdown (I haven’t managed yet to touch Spice & Wolf or Mawaru Penguindrum, for example). But! Whether or not they move off of the formal list in the future, these are all series that captured my imagination, that showed me something new, creative, or different in idea or execution, and that I fully stand behind recommending.

Let us continue!

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Vrai’s Favorite Things: Anime (20 to 16)

In honor of that anniversary, this month’ll be blocked out for a conversation on Awesome Stuff. This time around, I’ve divided out my top 20 favorite anime. By its nature the list is always in flux, particularly those at the high end of the countdown (I haven’t managed yet to touch Spice & Wolf or Mawaru Penguindrum, for example). But! Whether or not they move off of the formal list in the future, these are all series that captured my imagination, that showed me something new, creative, or different in idea or execution, and that I fully stand behind recommending.

(And if you want to lay down bets as to what the coming weeks will bring, please do be my guest).

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