Review — Hello Internet

Hello Internet has been a podcast that’s been on my radar for a long time, but the infrequency of post, lack of concrete topic, and length of each episode has made it a very low priority. Since I’ve had more free time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts, though I’ve been perusing them.

To sum up what the podcast is, it’s simply two guys, Brady Haran and CGP Grey talk about a myriad of topics, be it a piece of news that happened, a book they’ve both read, or a funny story one of them has to share. There’s little consistency from episode to episode, though each consecutive podcast touches on stuff that happened on the previous episode to follow up on community feedback or updates on the story.

Really, the only reason to listen to this podcast is for their personalities. They are pretty interesting people, which makes that prerequisite fine. Brady is what one might consider to be the “typical” person. He is pretty smart, but for the purposes of the podcast he serves mostly as a foil for Grey. Grey, however, is obviously different. I would describe him as a robot. He doesn’t like decorations in his house, because they serve no purpose, he doesn’t like attention (on the podcast, Brady calls him Grey, his internet persona) despite his being a public figure, and he is very careful about the things he says and the way he lives his life.

CGP Grey makes some awesome educational YouTube videos that are very informative, but I’ve found that they offer little insight to who he is as a person.

On one of the most recent episodes, he mentions that he has a whole alias for Starbucks. An entire second identity that he knows so well he can instinctively respond to this fake name, just to obfuscate any unnecessary attention he might receive. It sort of serves as a filter to the outside world. (I’ll admit, I definitely identify more closely with Grey than Brady. Part of me seriously considered making an alias for spam purposes.)

So, if you have time on your hands and you’re looking for stuff to listen to just for the personalities, I’d recommend Hello Internet. The two of them work very well together because they obviously know each other very well and like each other a lot, but their personalities are so different it’s an interesting dynamic to experience.

It’s worth noting too that they talk about some interesting things. They talk about controversial news stories and then add their own thoughts, so it’s not simply a reiteration of something we’ve already heard, and they’re introspective with themselves so they can often explain their own reasonings to their logic.

I would go so far as to say that this podcast would be the closest one resembling a podcast I would make, if that ever did happen. Just me and another person/other people talking about stuff. It’s a hard sell—the litmus test to see if you like this really is just “do you like the people”. I’d recommend watching some CGP Grey videos and if you think the topics he covers are interesting, that’s a good start.

Review — Welcome to Night Vale (Podcast)

The last few weeks I’ve been listening to the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, knowing very little about it other than what I could conceivably guess based on the title. As it turns out, even there I was mostly wrong. I assumed it was a story about a dark fantasy place, which I was correct about, but I also expected a continuous story along the lines of a typical web comic such as Homestuck. (I have not read Homestuck, but am more or less familiar with the premis.) Instead, Welcome to Night Vale is written in episodes with the intent that one can simply jump in and listen with no context required. So, what is it? Well, it’s a Lovecraftian comedy—a radio news broadcast from the fictional town of Night Vale.

Before I jump in, though, I have one thing I need to say: It should be Nightvale, damnit. One word! I have no logical argument to back that up, it just looks more aesthetically pleasing like that! (Also, it’s annoying to have to write Night Vale, because it’s more work, and I am as a matter of course opinionated against the reason it is more work to write.)

Because my job allows me to listen to podcasts all day, I get through audio content very quickly, so even upon learning I could start wherever, I of course began with Episode 1, and have just finished (with episode 130) today). To summarize, the podcast most frequently takes the form of a (bi)weekly news broadcast in the town of Night Vale. The news is often related to creepy things, such as SCP objects or Lovecraftian horrors. I would liken Night Vale to a “modern day Innsmouth”. The radio host, Cecil Palmer, never really acknowledges the dangerous horrors this town seems to have a very long and deep history with, and thus the combination of the eldritch combined with a lack of logical concern creates a humorous show.

Overall, it’s pretty solid. I’ll admit the punchlines are rarely amazing. I probably laughed out loud about once every 10 hours of content. Not bad, I suppose, given that I’m alone and at work during that time. Nonetheless, the humor is consistently amusing. I’ll say that one thing the podcast does very well is remain consistent with the information it gives you, even if it’s all over the place. A small factoid about a minor character will suddenly become important three years (real time) later, and you’ll find out that it was actually because of X all along! It seems clever, but really I would bet that it’s importance was decided later. It’s done flawlessly, though, and it surprises me how much of a “knowable” ecosystem Night Vale eventually becomes after a time. It transitions from random factoids about a place you’ve never heard of to characters and people with rich histories interacting based on events that did or did not happen long ago in the podcast. And even if you didn’t see that episode, it doesn’t matter because it’ll explain that history when it becomes relevant.

Of course, the podcast isn’t without fault. In my opinion, it has three. The first is that there are characters and events I actively dislike, so whenever they’re given stage time I get frustrated. (I’m also not a fan of it whe  it leans more towards radio play, where other actors are involved. I prefer the episodes of just radio broadcast and host. No guests, no phone calls, no live investigations. In fact, the character I liked the least becomes mayor of the city at some point! That was pretty disheartening.

The second major downfall is that by nature of what this podcast is, the punchlines can get pretty predictable. Even if you don’t know what the exact joke will be, you start to be able to sniff the setup a mile away, which does sort of kill the fun of the experience.

Lastly, for every 25 minute episode, there is probably 6 minutes I skip. The first 2 or so are self-promotion/sponsors, the middle chunk is a 3 minute song that is, almost always, terrible. and the last minute is more self-promotion. It’s annoying because the easiest way for me to skip on Castbox is by 30 second chunks, and I listen on 1.4x speed, so when I was listening to the podcast, I would literally have to pull out my phone every 10ish minutes to press “Skip ahead 30s” a bunch of times. I can’t imagine other people would have major issue with this in particular, but in my specific circumstance, it was quite annoying. Nothing like the hour long podcasts I’m used to that have a single 30 second ad in the middle or at the end.

What I will say, though, is that as time goes on the episodes become two or three-parters, so you eventually get stories that take an hour of content to see the completion of. I do like that, because it gives me something to attach to and it gives the sense that bigger things are afoot.

Me– Aug ’18 Update

With the onset of the fall semester comes The Wave™, and I’m pretty scared that I’m tackling too much at a time. As I’ve already talked a bit about last week, I’m expecting to count hours of free time in the single digits every week, but I’m thinking of it as setting up for an awesome 2019.

So as always, here’s the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

Currently, I’m not planning any blog changes. I expect I’ll be able to churn out blog posts in between classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I’m not that worried about my ability to post nonfiction three times a week. It’s the short stories I’m more concerned about. As it is, I’m already posting them six hours late (usually), and I expect my restrictive schedule to make it even harder to post those on time, if at all. So while I don’t want to stop writing fiction for a few months, it might be an inevitability. Especially considering I’m even going to miss a few months of my writer’s group because of scheduling conflicts, and thus won’t have any real reason to write.

I’m also a bit nervous about writing plans. I won’t get into it now, but for the past few months I feel great about my stories whenever I’m away from my computer. In fact, when I’m in the shower thinking about the story I intend to write in the next 20 minutes, I can’t wait to sit down and get going. But as soon as I stare at the screen, suddenly I need to vacuum or do laundry, or check my email. Anything to get me away from the screen. What’s worse, Xelfure’s story is getting bigger and bigger in my head. What was once a more dedicated short story is now threatening to be the prequel spinoff novel to the Nacre Then trilogy I’ve refused to think about for years, and that terrifies me, especially since I’m going to be the busiest I’ve probably ever been in my life very soon, and thus won’t have time to focus on anything big like that. So, stay tuned for what may or may not ever become a thing.

New video game news, for once. I’ve still been playing lots of Heroes of the Storm, and I have plans for reaching level 10 on every hero by October (though that may be a bit optimistic). But when I have larger chunks of free time I’ve been playing NieR: Automata, and I also recently bought Pyre because it was on sale and I’ve been looking at it ever since it was announced. Haven’t touched it yet, but it is downloaded!

I’ve finished all the audiobooks I’ve had backlogged, and have recently been binging Welcome to Nightvale. It’s a bi-weekly radio broadcast of a fictional town called Nightvale, and the podcast is basically just Lovecraftian horror. Imagine a regular news broadcast of Innsmouth if it was actually a comedy. It’s been interesting, and I intend to review it once I’m caught up. Maybe next week.

Oh boy, school. My semester’s going to be pretty busy, but not as busy as I had anticipated. I found out today (yesterday, as of this posting) that a class that would have taken 16 hours a week is redundant on my schedule, so my weeknights are now mine again. My current tentative schedule has me on campus about 24 hours per week, with me actually in a class for most of that time. If all goes well, I might actually also be directing a short play that I wrote, but that’s a bigger thing, so more on that later. So, with that in mind, I’ll be on campus a lot, so who knows what else that might lead to, time commitment wise. That said, I’m hoping this will be my second-to-last semester, so if that’s the case these super busy fall and spring seasons are almost at an end.

As far as other things go, I don’t have much to say. I’m tentatively hyped for the near future for a lot of reasons, but most of those are tenuous or too distant to be relevant for me to mention now.

Eyes on the horizon folks, and hey, maybe we’ll get lucky and it’ll cool down before November.

Me — Back to Audiobooks!

I’ve recently started going through audiobooks again—before that I had been listening to Jukebox the Ghost almost exclusively, and about 7 weeks later their charm is only just starting to wear off on me. So, I thought I would tune that down while I catch up on books.

Well, back at my old job at Target this worked pretty well. I worked night shifts, generally, and being cart attendant meant I was outside in the quiet dark a lot. So, two or three nights a week I’d listen to 4 or 5 hours of an audiobook and I made good time.

But now, I’m working full time and listening to audiobooks for pretty much all of it. At 1.4x speed, so, well, that’s about 50 hours of content a week, or 4 typical novels. Problem is, I only had about 6 books to catch up on, so here we are. I’ve still have 2 to go, and by the time I’m through with Friday I expect I’ll only have half a book left.

Now, in this circumstance my preference is certainly audiobooks, but if I kept at it at this rate, that would be over $200 a month of new books. Now, don’t get me wrong, if I was overflowing with money, I would love to do that. At 4 books a week, that’s over 200 per year, which, if I keep up this rate for all of my working career (which I certainly hope I don’t), would be about 8,000 books, and on the clock to boot. Nevermind the $80,000 that audio library would cost me.

No, no. Podcasts are what it will have to be for the foreseeable future. Which is fine, I have no shortage of these, either. I have Hello InternetWelcome to Nightvale, and if I find them as interesting as a brother does, My Brother, My Brother, and I as well as the half a dozen other D&D campaigns he follows. I’m sure all of those podcasts combined is well over 1,000 hours, or, 18 weeks if I can make good time.

This is part of the reason why I love my job. It’s sort of complex—there’s a lot of nuance that goes into it, but for the most part lately it’s just been a lot of things that take a lot of time, I’m not bouncing around everywhere. I’m not talking to customers and I don’t need to talk to coworkers all that much, and so it’s a prime environment to listen to stuff.

I love that fact because it means I can multitask in the most efficient of ways: gaining money while also working on what I consider to be self-improvement. Maybe I’m a little crazy in thinking that podcasts are about improving the self, not a mere replacement for music, but that’s what I think of it as. Maybe less so the D&D related podcasts, but you get the idea.

In other news, the fact that I’m going to be listening to so many new things in the near future means more meaningful Review posts! I’ve just finished the first book of the Belgariad as well as the first book of Dan Wells’ Mirador series. By the time Tuesday rolls around, I expect to have at least another review candidate! Maybe the next few Thursdays will be more Reviews rather than Me posts.

 

Me — June ’18 Update

Well, here we are. I’d like to thank the academy for this astounding accomplishment. Spring 2018 semester is over. The Summer (and hopefully my penultimate) semester is fast approaching. I have big news (for me), too. As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my friend’s apartment in Oregon, after having flown for the first time in seven-ish years. This is the first “vacation” I’ve ever had to myself, but I’ll get to that.

So as always, here’s the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

Alright, I finally have some blog news: I will be resuming the weekly fiction portion of my blog! Every Sunday I’ll be posting a flash fiction based on an image writing prompt. I intend to also record them and upload these videos to YouTube around the same time they post to my blog, but we’ll see. I don’t intend to be posting chapter excerpts of anything, though. Just the weekly flash fiction. Plus, that way, you won’t need to have read anything else of mine to enjoy them.

As for writing plans, well… that’s why I’m only posting one thing of fiction a week. I’m still not really devoting any effort to any larger project. Lisa Stenton has once again found herself in a muck of irreconcilable conflicts too large for me to enjoy writing her stories. I just… don’t know how to make technology and urban fantasy marry without copying other writers or making it stupid, and frankly it’s hard to hit the exact right chord I was going for with her stories. I think “The Last Laugh at the Lake of Lava” was pretty good, though. Spear Gate’s new outline is still on the to-do list, but it’s honestly not that interesting to me anymore. ‘Cause, you know, that’s what new writers do. We love something until it’s hard and then find a new passion project. So, as for now, still no bigger project. Oh well.

Lately I’ve been playing almost exclusively Heroes of the Storm and World of Warcraft. Less so HotS because I’m kind of burnt out on it, but I did calculate that in about 600 games (or about 200 hours) I’ll have reached level 10 with every hero in the game. Problem is, all the heroes that are under that cap are because I don’t enjoy them much. So instead I’ve been playing WoW, mostly as a way to pass the time while I listen to podcasts.

Speaking of podcasts, I’ve finally caught up on Story Break! This means I’m caught up on six of the eight podcasts I’m interested in. After that I intend to listen to podcasts I have no hope of being caught up on. Ones that have hundreds upon hundreds of hours of content. I also have some unread audiobooks on my phone, so I still need to dive into those.

As I said, the Spring semester is over. I’m almost done getting two Associate’s Degree’s though. I just need about six classes total, so that’ll be great. I have tentative plans for what I’m going to do after, but nothing concrete. So after the Summer and Fall, I should be done… ish.

Okay, so Oregon. I’ve only been here for about 18 hours as I’m writing this, and roughly half of that has been asleep, but oh my gosh. So many trees. Living in So Cal means that I’m used to sky lines being rocky mounds of… you know, rock. But Oregon is swarmed with trees, I’ve never seen so much green in my life. There’s just… so much. It’s honestly pretty much the same (it’s less than a thousand miles, after all), but at the same time, so different. I’ll talk about it more later.

One thing I didn’t account for on this trip is the fact that I’m introverted. Being around friends for nearly 72 hours straight is… well, let’s just say I’m tired and it’s taking a lot out of me. I want to have fun, but it’ll be a struggle to keep my mental energy running for that long without burning out.

Also, the Tuesday and Wednesday blog posts will be late. I won’t be back home until late Tuesday night.

Review — Story Break

In my quest to get caught up on all the podcasts I want to listen to (5/9 done!) I’ve been listening to a lot of Story Break, RocketJump’s podcast where three screenwriters try to adapt a famous or unadaptable concept into a TV series or movie. Throughout each one-hour episode they take a concept and flesh out what the narrative of that story should be. Each episode is basically a huge brainstorming session as if they actually had the rights to these properties.

Their second episode is about giving Jar Jar Binks his own movie, and their first rule was that they wanted to make a movie that redeemed the character instead of it being one of those trash movies people pay to see because it will be so bad.

I’ve watched roughly two-thirds of the episodes that have aired so far, and I love the podcast for two reasons. The first is their primary goal—very often, they (seem to) do a really good job and plot out a movie I would love to go watch. Obviously a screenwriter’s vision isn’t necessarily what ends up on the big screen, but you get the idea. Their knowledge of the narrative structure is pretty solid, so it isn’t a question of whether they can forge a good plot, it’s whether or not they can hold true to the original ‘feel’ of the thing they’re drawing from. If they’re making a movie about Monopoly, they aren’t just plugging in the keywords, they’re trying to make something that feels like a live action game of Monopoly. They don’t always knock it out of the park, but the constraint of staying true to the origin is admirable.

The second amazing thing about this podcast is the side effect (intentional or otherwise) of drawing the audience into the brainstorming session by drawing from media and concepts that they are already familiar with. It means that I can have my own ideas spinning around in my head and be ecstatic when they get to the same ideas, or I can be amazed when they come up with this idea or plot thread I hadn’t thought of. It isn’t as though they’re making things up because they’re drawing from established “universes” (if you can call the collective Kellogg’s brand cereals an EU).

I’m really enjoying the podcast because brainstorming and pulling together plots is something I love doing. I won’t get into it here, but it taps into that strange contradiction where I hate outlining my own stories but love plotting in general. Seeing these guys have fun doing it is an inspiration, and it is a good foundation for what outlining plot is. In later episodes they also act out elevator pitches (with sound effects and… acting… and everything).

Overall, it’s a great podcast. It’s a weekly, hour long podcast just like everything else, but they do a great job on an episode-to-episode basis. The one thing that I don’t like, and there probably is no fix for, is that when they fail to come up with a good story I’m really disappointed, and I feel like I’ve wasted that hour of my time. Trouble is, there’s no way to know beforehand if they fail, so you can’t just skip those episodes.

That doesn’t happen a whole lot, though. Maybe four times out of the forty episodes I’ve listened to.

Me — April ’18 Update

March has been interesting in a number of ways, and I’ve been a little stressed given the amount of things I’ve been trying to tackle lately. My Spring Break just ended, and while I had been hoping to relax, in reality I relaxed the first two days and then realized how large my to-do list was, and then never had a moment’s rest. That’s primarily why Lisa 3 isn’t done. But anyways, let’s look to the future, not the past.

And as always, here’s the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

No immediate blog changes on the horizon. I do want to start a weekly Research a Random Thing project and then make that the topic of, say the Wednesday posts, as I’ve discussed in a recent post. No plans for that yet, though, because I want to do that properly (and when I have less on my plate). Maybe that’ll be more of a summer thing.

As for writing plans, I obviously have to finish the second half of Lisa’s March story. That’s my immediate concern. I’m also going to try to use April as a test-run to write Lisa 4 in more bite-size chunks, as in writing 1,500 words every week. That way, when it’s published, I’ll be posting stuff that’s been done, not stuff that I cranked out the night before. As for the Sunday posts, I still have no idea what I’m going to do with them. I’m not ready to revisit Spear Gate, so I’ll probably just keep writing Spark snippets, because that’s fun. Not actively working on a “Big Project” feels weird, but I’ve just got too much right now.

I’m mostly playing Heroes of the Storm right now. Not competitively, though I do want to try to hit Diamond again this season to see if I can hit it consistently. Mostly, I just haven’t had any time at all to do anything, though I did pick up an old phone app I used to play: Skyforce. It’s a bullet hell game, but with long term upgrades, and upgrades are my favorite thing.

Having caught up on Writing Excuses, Critical Role, and Voice Acting Mastery, I’m currently binging a new podcast when I can: Story Break. It’s a podcast by the writers at Rocket Jump, and each episode is them tackling a famous IP and trying to plot out a movie or TV series for it. These IPs aren’t easy topics, like a Jar Jar Binks movie, a Sonic the Hedgehog movie, a Kelogg’s Cereal movie, etc. Surprisingly enough, they usually do an amazing job, and watching professional writers at work has helped me learn how to outline stories much more effectively. Maybe for my next Big Project I should try my hand at outlining again…

School hasn’t been hard so much as time consuming. I’m basically at the college for twelve hours straight on Mondays and Wednesdays, so it takes a lot out of me and I have to be careful to manage my energy levels. I cannot go into a school day tired, because I will die from exhaustion. Especially if it’s a Monday. Not much else to say about school at the moment, though I’ve since learned that if I take about 18+ units (don’t know the exact number) next semester, I’ll be able to transfer with two AA degrees, which is nice.

The only other thing I have to mention is my unsuccessful job hunting attempts. I’ve been applying to places I think I’ll enjoy working at, but in a lot of the interviews I’ve had, they aren’t really satisfied with my availability of “only Thursday-Sunday”. It sucks, because while the interviews have been going really well, I can watch the interviewer look at my availability and frown, which basically just means I didn’t get the job, regardless of how great a candidate I am. It’s a little frustrating, but there isn’t a whole lot I can do to change that until the semester ends next month.

I may also have some D&D stories coming on the horizon. Stay tuned!