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  1. If you've been a nerd in the last ten years, you've had at least glancing contact with Penny Arcade. Rising from among the filthy, multitudinous hordes of video-game related comics, Penny Arcade laid claim to a golden dominion that continues to expand. Through their career, writer Jerry Holkins and illustrator Mike Krahulik (represented in the comics as Tycho and Gabe, respectively) have built a realm that now includes not only a brilliant comic, but several published collections of their work, a video game, a convention, and a charity that has raised magnificent amounts of money for sick children. The talent of Holkins and Krahulik have been sought after for creative advertising projects for video game releases (true), honored by the state of Washington (true), and encapsulated in a sugar-coated cereal (not true).

    But now the Penny Arcade empire is complete. I present to you Downloadable Content, The Penny Arcade Podcast.

    "Holkins: There is no way for us to make a comic strip where we simply name country songs and that's too bad.
    Krahulik: Yeah.
    Holkins: This is a case where we have been ham-strung by the medium we have chosen.
    Krahulik: Yeah, people are always like, "Aw man, if you want to get popular just make a comic strip about teh [sic] video games.'"
    Holkins: They don't know how we suffer!
    Krahulik: They don't know that if you're making a strip about video games you can't make a strip about country music songs.
    Holkins: We have got hot material! We have got hot, country song material. And there's no venue for it.

    excerpt from The Broodax Imperiate
    I assume the original premise of this podcast was to reveal the process through which a Penny Arcade comic is created. What has actually been brought forth is the product of what happens when you place two long-time friends in an enclosed space and force them to work towards a common goal. Usually the comic is written within the first five minutes of the podcast, the rest of the time filled with the banter of Holkins and Krahulik as they talk shop about the video game industry, share stories from their lives and insult each other only to eventually meander back to their original idea.

    It is fascinating to listen to the development of each punchline. Usually inspired by a website's headline or video game related event, one of the pair will offer a rough idea, which the other will latch onto and expand until they are able to pin down their traditional three panel procedure.

    "Krahulik: It's the juxtaposition-
    Holkins: I know about positions!
    Krahulik: Do you know about the jutx?
    Holkins: The juxta?
    Krahulik: Have you ever juxta a position?
    Holkins: Juxta'd? Yes.
    Krahulik: Cause what I'm talking about is juxting a position, in such a way-
    Holkins: Yeah you know about position.
    Krahulik: What I know about is juxting.

    excerpt from Making an Impression, in discussion of
    this comic.

    Relevant Links:
    Download the Podcast here
    Main Website
    My Favorite Comic, Ever
    No, wait, this is my Favorite Comic
    Child's Play Charity Site

    Content Rating: Explicit. You may want to point your headphones elsewhere if you cannot abide by words such as 'twat' or worse.

    Average Episode Length: Podcast length ranges from 12 minutes 52 seconds at the shortest, to one hour, three minutes at the longest. All the rest fall somewhere within these two times.

    Drinking Game: None that I can unearth via Google search. May exist in the Penny Arcade forums or a lost society's oral history.

    Release Schedule: Whenever the hell they feel like it, apparently. Do not expect regular releases. I suggest treating each new podcast much like you would a secret whispered to you by creatures most fae. Treasure them!

    Music: While actual music is non-existent, listeners are occasionally graced by the vocal talents of both hosts. Krahulik is especially talented at recreating hits from the 1980s.

    Unintentionally Good Part: Holkins and Krahulik's insatiable quest to go to lunch. They are never not hungry, unless pumpkin bars (episode In the Love Nest of the Har'akki, 1:20 mark) are involved.

    Unintentionally Bad Part:
    Should you come to enjoy this podcast, the erratic post schedule will cause you to fall to you knees and cry out mournfully.

    The Adventures of Acquisitions Incorporated. What boils down to an advertising campaign for the latest edition of Dungeons and Dragons becomes a hilarious series of actual-play recordings (games sessions recorded with minimal editing) in which both Penny Arcade creators take part in. Please, please, if you have ever had a fleeting interest in D&D, listen to these so that you may be enlightened to the experience that is Jim Darkmagic.

    Get to it! And leave me comments!

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  2. This American Life

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    "From WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life, distributed by Public Radio International, I'm Ira Glass."

    The heretical, the sophisticated and the ridiculous. If a human can or has experienced it, This American Life is willing to explore any situation to find a good story to tell.

    Each episode of This American Life centers around a theme and is broken into several different acts that each offer a unique point of view on that week's theme. One week's theme can be entirely devoted to a current event, only for the following week to surround the mystique of comic book culture. Previous themes include: "Classifieds", "Remember Me" and one of my favorites, "Poultry Slam." For each theme, contributions are given in the forms of interviews, short stories, investigative journalism, monologue, stand-up comedy routine or any other imaginable way that a story can be passed through your ears.

    The Featured contributors run the gamut from authors such as David Sedaris, comedians including Mike Birbiglia, rabbis, bus drivers, lawyers, coaches, victims, day-dreamers and that girl you lived next to when you were in elementary school. Some contributors are erudite experts in their field, quite a few are hilarious, many are touching, all are genuine. They tell their story the way they want it to be heard, and the interpretation is left up to the listeners. When the same story is told from various points of view it becomes a strange game to try and decipher who, if anyone, is speaking the truth.

    What I consider to be This American Life's most important value is its authenticity. This podcast is simply life presented in a more interesting format. The stories are incredibly engaging; as I listen at my cubical at work, I have been forced to perform the awkward and painful "silent laugh maneuver," I have clenched my iPod in anger, shaking it as I formed retorts in my mind and I have also probably made a lot of strange faces in reaction to This American Life which have disturbed my co-workers a great deal and I really should explain but then it may be easier to just remain "that girl with the headphones" rather than "that girl with the headphones who keeps talking about pods."

    I believe you will also enjoy the dulcet tones of Ira Glass, host of This American Life. However, be aware that if a beloved author is a featured guest, you may be shocked by how they actually sound (I'm looking at you, David Sedaris). Be aware that your internal narrator's voice may be changed forever.

    Relevant Links:
    Download the Podcast here
    Main website
    Wikipedia Page
    Store and Donation pages (you just try to ignore the pleas of Ira Glass during pledge drives, ain't gonna work)

    Content Rating: Generally safe for work and all audiences with a caveat: many of the topics discussed (including religion, abortion, death, sexuality) may be considered explicit by some listeners. Also, there may be some swear words tucked into a story.

    Average Episode Length: One hour.

    Drinking Game: None yet invented.

    Release Schedule: A new podcast is available every Monday. They do not offer an accessible archive, but previous podcasts can be purchased at their store.

    Music: Non-intrusive background sound and interludes between acts, usually with some relevance to the episode's theme. I have no memory of any "bad" music occurring, and many songs played on This American Life will eventually find their way into my mp3 collection.

    Unintentionally Good Part: The feeling you get from listening to NPR.

    Unintentionally Bad Part:
    The feeling you get from listening to NPR.

    How to find your NPR name:
    "Take your middle initial and insert it somewhere into your first name. Then add on the smallest foreign town you've ever visited as your last name." - Jon Friedman [Originally found here].

    Also: I do realize that This American Life's original format is a radio show, but hey, this is a podcast blog. So shut up.

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